I have always wanted to have my own quilt design wall in my sewing room.
If you’ve never heard of a quilt design wall it is basically a ‘wall’ or board that is covered in a material that will let you stick quilt blocks, fabric swatches, or in some cases even entire quilt tops to it.
Quilters use it to test or ‘audition’ fabrics and quilt blocks next to each other before actually sewing them together.
It is a useful design tool for both modern quilters and traditional quilters. Whether you make crazy improv blocks or intricate double wedding ring quilts, any quilter can benefit from a design wall that helps them consider block placement before actually sewing!
Materials Used – Quilt Design Wall
- Thick cardboard or foam core insulation board (mine was made of thick corrugated cardboard – see below for more options)
- Duct Tape or Gorilla Tape
- Batting (see tests below – I used a thick polyester batting)
- Flannel or Flannelette Sheet (see more options below)
- Heavy Duty Velcro (sometimes called command strips) – Optional
You can watch my design wall come together in my YouTube tutorial below or follow the written steps below.
Quilting Design Wall – Video Tutorial
Step 1: Decide what size to make your design wall
I had a very specific design wall space in mind behind my sewing table.
I wanted more white in the room (I know I could have painted the walls white!) and the space behind my chair was just the biggest bit of wall space that could take a design wall.
Mine has turned out to be pretty much a permanent design wall (although I will explain how you could make even one on the wall movable).
It is perfectly possible to use the same method I used on a smaller scale to create a more portable design wall too!
So I measured how big I could make it and came up with a maximum of 60″ wide and the height was more flexible but I knew there was no point trying to make it fill all the way to the floor as I would be sitting in front of it with my chair. So I opted for a half-height of about 36″.
If you have the right board size you can follow the method below for a large design wall too.
Step 2: Choose and/or construct your backing board
I used some leftover packaging (extra thick corrugated cardboard) and duct-taped the pieces together to make one big rectangular-shaped board.
Other options for your board:
- several layers of thinner cardboard taped together
- thick insulation boards (often called foam core insulation boards or just foam insulation board (the stuff that has a silver side) – available at hardware stores and home improvement stores)
- thin plywood if you have it (you could then use a staple gun instead of duct tape to attach your batting and sheet)
- no backing board – some people do just attach batting or a flannel sheet or both to the wall and call it done. I wanted something more solid so I opted not to go that route!
Step 3: Attach your batting
Once you have a board of the size you want you need to cover it with some sort of material that will help your quilt blocks stick to it without pins.
I did some tests before I decided what to put on my design wall as I had tried the ‘just hang some batting on the wall’ technique a month or two ago and I picked the wrong kind of batting and it didn’t work!
So for the first time I tied making a design wall, I had used some fusible batting (the kind you iron to baste) and my quilt blocks stuck at first but fell off quickly within a few minutes – so I discounted fusible batting this time.
I tested cotton batting, polyester batting, and a flannelette sheet I bought from amazon.
All three held the quilt blocks great over a 40-minute test and the ones I chose to go with in the end have been holding my blocks up for several days now.
Flannel sheets are the material you get told to use for design walls most often (and some people swear by using a vinyl tablecloth with flannel on the backside) but I am in the UK and ‘flannelette’ was all I could find.
Turns out it works just as well!
Options for covering your design wall:
- Batting – I tested 100% cotton and 100% polyester and both worked
- Flannel sheet
- Flannel backed table cloth (obviously flannel side out!)
- Flannellete Sheet
- Design wall sheet with grid lines – these are sold as ready made design walls but they are essentially just a thick sheet. They won’t have any backing board or sturdiness but they are very light weight. Many people love these and they can be a very easy option (you can hang them from a curtain rod I believe).
- A combination of two of the above.
I used polyester batting first and then my flannelette sheet on top.
This wasn’t because having two layers would make it extra ‘sticky’ – it was because you could see the cardboard through the batting if I used it on its own and I liked the idea of having a padded-looking board.
I basically wrapped the front of the board with the batting – leaving enough overhang so I could tape the ends down onto the back of the board using my duct tape.
I didn’t want to use a large piece of batting (because hey that could be a quilt!), so I pieced together two leftover pieces of batting to fit the size of my design wall board.
I then did the same with the flannelette sheet – cutting it to size first.
I bought a fitted sheet rather than a top sheet because it was cheaper so I basically cut out the middle and I’ll use the rest for other projects.
I used duct tape to attach it rather than staples like you would if it was an upholstery project because I know from experience that cardboard doesn’t hold staples!
Pull the batting and sheet as taught as you can across the front side of your board before taping in place.
This is what it looked like before I attached it to the wall – sorry the lighting wasn’t great when I took this photo!:
Step 4: Attaching the Design Wall to the wall
Note: this bit is totally optional – you can absolutely make a design wall free standing if you like. Below is how I approached attaching it for those of you interested in more permanent design walls.
The other thing I know about cardboard is that a lot of ways you could attach it to the wall will make it move around a lot – so hanging it like a picture wasn’t going to work.
I also had this grand idea that I could make this a semi-permanent design wall and take it off and on the wall and maybe even hang a quilt in its place.
I’ve discovered that probably isn’t going to work but in any case here is how I attached it.
I used some heavy-duty velcro. The kind that holds up to 7kg of weight. This stuff is strong.
It’s a bit fiddly to use for hanging because you have to have the side that will be on the wall stuck on with nothing on it for at least 15 minutes before you hang it.
Which basically means….you can’t just stick both sides to the back of the quilt design wall and wack it on the wall.
So I did have to do some measuring, get out the spirit level, and still kind of end up putting it up with one corner a little higher than the other.
Here is why I used the velcro:
- I didn’t have to drill any holes in the wall – it is just sticky back on both sides
- I know that nails and screws and hanging strings wouldn’t have let me mount the design wall as steadily as I would have wanted it.
- I had seen folk hanging quilts with command strips of velcro so I thought maybe I could take the design board down from time to time and put up a quilt in it’s place (more on that below)
That third reasoning unfortunately isn’t going to work. I did manage to take the board off of the wall to reposition it a little but the velcro is so strong that if I did that too many times I would end up bending the cardboard out of shape.
So I could have that kind of setup if I had used something sturdier for my backing board than cardboard….so keep that in mind if you want to do something similar.
IMPORTANT NOTE: If you are going to use velcro and you have constructed your board like mine – make sure to attach the velcro to the cardboard on the backside – not primarily on the duct tape and the sheet or batting. I made that mistake the first time and had to reposition the velcro (see the video above for how that turned out!)
And if you are wondering if you can get the velcro back of the wall if you want to the answer is yes you can but you need to do it slowly to avoid damaging paint work. See my video above for more on my experience with that!
Finished Quilt Design Wall
The final size of my design wall is 58″ wide by 36″ tall.
I am loving my quilt design wall. It is so much fun to be able to pop up a few quilt blocks and see how they would look together. I’ve also been using it to keep my weight loss quilt blocks in order before I sew each row together.
I can already see it is going to be so useful for many different steps of the quilting process.
Unlike my fist attempt though I have had no need to use straight pins to hold anything up – everything I have put up there is holding brilliantly!
I do have cats though, so I imagine I’ll be needing to take a lint roller too it on a fairly frequent basis!
I hope my little diy design wall project has given you some ideas for your own sewing space, quilting room or even quilting studio. I’d love to see how yours turns out if you make your own design wall – so do tag me on social media @scrapfabriclove!
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