Create a Portable Wall for Quilt Designs

4 Apr 2012

When it comes to creating quilting designs, one of the most useful tools to have is a design wall. I know I'd be lost without mine (or at least, I would make good design decisions less consistently). There is something about taking your fabric pieces and other elements off the table, putting them on a wall, and stepping back from them that helps you see color and pattern combinations in a new way.

When creating modern quilt designs with lots of white space like this 'Seaglass' quilt from Quilting Modern, it's helpful to work with a design wall.
Unfortunately, not everyone has a studio, let alone space for a dedicated quilt design wall. But there are ways to create a portable design wall, inexpensively, so you need not go without this vital quilt design tool.

All you need is a 20" × 30" piece of foam core board, flannel in a neutral color, such as white or beige (enough to cover the board and 6" extra all around to wrap around the back), and duct tape or heavy packing tape. You could even use a flannel-backed vinyl tablecloth, provided any design on the vinyl side doesn't show through to the back.

These directions are adapted from Quilting Modern: Techniques and Projects for Improvisational Quilts.

1. Place the flannel right side down on a flat surface. Center the board on top of the flannel. Make sure any markings or labels on the board are facing you so they won't show through the flannel when the board is covered.

2. Fold the corner of the flannel in as shown in fig. 1 and secure with a piece of tape. Fold in and tape all four corners.

quilting designs
Fold the corner of the flannel to
the back of the board and secure
with tape.
3. Fold one side of the flannel smoothly over the edge of the board to the back and secure with a piece of tape at the center. Fold the flannel over the opposite side, pulling the flannel taut, and again secure at the center with a piece of tape. Return to the first edge you taped and pull the flannel smoothly and tautly over the edge of the board, adding pieces of tape between the center and corners until the entire side is secured. Fold and tape the flannel on the opposite side, keeping the flannel taut as you tape.

4. Repeat Step 3 for the other two sides of the board.

5. Reinforce the taped edges of the flannel by placing long pieces of tape across each side of the board.

6. Flip the board over and your design board is complete.

Place your design wall where you will have at least 6' to 8' (1.8 to 2.5 m) between you and your design wall. Distance is important to be able to get a good perspective on your design and to see differences in value.

There are many more ideas for design boards as well modern quilting designs, piecing, and projects in Quilting Modern, now available.

P.S. What is your design wall like? Do you have tips for making a portable one? Share your tips with your community members in the comments section below.


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Comments

Grammaclem wrote
on 5 Apr 2012 9:28 AM

My room is not big enough to keep my quilt board up all the time, even if I move it around. I took 2'x4' foam boards and taped them together on one side only, the side facing me. I taped four pieces together to make a 4'x8' design board. Taping the vertical pieces together I taped both front and back.  I then put the neutral flannel on. I can now fold my board in half  to make a 2'x8' design wall and put it away. It is easier to find 2 feet of space than 4 feet.  Works great.

Karen Amelia wrote
on 5 Apr 2012 9:49 AM

As a renter, I needed a free standing design wall. Since I have the space, I used two 4x8" panels of insulation board (foamy stuff) from Home Depot, glued white felt to each and stood them against the wall. They work together for an 8x8" space and make my life easier. And my landlord has no objections.

Karen Amelia Brown

quiltas wrote
on 5 Apr 2012 10:48 AM

When I taught my miniature landscape classes I would provide a folder.  I glued a piece of felt (or thin cotton batting) to the cover to use as the design wall. It worked great, the students could store their little pattern, scrap pieces and other class items in the folder. But best of all during the class they would "build" their landscape on the tiny wall and we would hold them up (If they were okay with sharing!), suggest the maker step back to get a new perspective and we would discuss their piece before they moved on.

I have an eight foot design wall in my studio - love it.

Shar Short wrote
on 5 Apr 2012 2:48 PM

I am one of the lucky people who has a permanent design wall.  But here is a good idea for a travel design wall.  I bought a flannel backed vinyl table cloth and when I am at a retreat or other function, I just tape it up with some masking tape and it works great.  A large project will have to be done in stages, but a smaller project is just perfect.

on 5 Apr 2012 7:26 PM

If there isn't enough room to stand far from your quilt for perspective..... go to your local art supply store and get a reducing glass. Looks just like a magnifying glass but does just the opposite. I love mine.

kathy_b wrote
on 6 Apr 2012 11:44 AM

I made my design wall with 24" w x 36" h sections of foam board covered with a neutral pinwale corduroy scavenged from my sewing "stash". I've connected the sections with safety pins and can fold it for storage.

It's handy for quilting, sewing for grandkids, and piecing crocheted afghans.

kathy_b wrote
on 6 Apr 2012 11:44 AM

I made my design wall with 24" w x 36" h sections of foam board covered with a neutral pinwale corduroy scavenged from my sewing "stash". I've connected the sections with safety pins and can fold it for storage.

It's handy for quilting, sewing for grandkids, and piecing crocheted afghans.

tiredoftoys wrote
on 8 Apr 2012 2:58 PM

I used a queen size flannel sheet and used push pins to put it on one wall in my dining room.  It was off white and no one noticed it at all. If it got stings on it I used one of the sticky lint brushes to clean them off.  If I needed to see how my quilt blocks would look, I just put them on the flannel.  No need for foam board or a place to store it.  

okieLinda wrote
on 13 Apr 2012 11:03 AM

I consider my design wall the best thing I ever gave myself , I am a .... semi hoarder and wall space even in this big old house is nada, but I moved everything off a little walkway wall 9 ft wide picked up a roll of tan upholstery fabric for $5. and my staple gun ,  once up I gridded it out in 1 foot squares with a permanent sharpie , that was probably 10 years ago now and the difference in my quilts before and after was night and day , Ive quilted for 20 years now and if there was one tip I could part to the newbies it is the importance of a design wall ,I only wish I had had it sooner,

okieLinda wrote
on 13 Apr 2012 11:06 AM

I consider my design wall the best thing I ever gave myself , I am a .... semi hoarder and wall space even in this big old house is nada, but I moved everything off a little walkway wall 9 ft wide picked up a roll of tan upholstery fabric for $5. and my staple gun ,  once up I gridded it out in 1 foot squares with a permanent sharpie , that was probably 10 years ago now and the difference in my quilts before and after was night and day , Ive quilted for 20 years now and if there was one tip I could part to the newbies it is the importance of a design wall ,I only wish I had had it sooner,