Design Wall within Minutes

Often times when you are quilting it is necessary to step back several feet to fully assess the project at hand:  Are the colors working together?  Do your eyes keep moving around the quilt?  Do some fabrics in particular demand too much attention to the detriment of the overall quilt?  Does the design that you sketched out on paper translate to good design when it is a 30” x 40” quilt?

While some people are able to lay quilts out on the floor to make design and color decisions, I need my work vertical.  For many years, I was able to carefully pin flannel to a quilt that hangs in my living room (obviously not a quilt that was dear to me) and use this as a makeshift design wall.  I could step back five to six feet and look at the quilt from different angles and at different times of day as the light changed.  Having the quilt in such a public space also made for a lot of good discussion with family and friends as they offered their input on whatever work was up on the wall!  When we re-arranged the living room, suddenly my design wall was no longer within reach.

The solution has been foam core boards.  In less than 15 minutes, excluding the time it took to run to the office supply store to purchase the boards, I had a new and, I think, better design wall than my old one.  What you need:

  • Foam Core Boards measuring 40” x 60” and about 1/4-inch thick – I purchased two, but you should think about the size of quilts you typically make; you may only need one if you tend to make wall hangings and baby quilts most often. If you generally make larger quilts, then you may want as many as four, but will want to attach them to the wall to make them less unwieldy and more useful.  (If you have a partner in this project, you could staple or tape the four boards together in the desired configuration before covering in flannel.)
  • 36, 3/4-inch binder clips per board – My board is not going to be mounted on the wall and, when not in use, will slide behind a bookcase where little dust bunnies occasionally congregate.  Consequently, from time to time, I will wash the flannel.  If you are hanging the boards on the wall, or have a more permanent place to set them, you may simply want to staple the flannel to the back of the board — although attaching the binder clips before you staple might make the job easier.  As a side note, while I don’t find the black binder clips distracting, I would prefer white ones.  The white ones, however, tend to be packaged in with other colors, so I have added them to my shopping list of elusive items!
  • 5-1/2 yards white flannel per board – This is a bit generous since the board measures just 5 feet, but with multiple washes and a bit of fraying over time, I can trim the ends if they become too raggedy.

Begin by standing the short end of the board up against a wall.  Drape the flannel over the top of the board and work from the center out, smoothing the flannel as you go and attaching binder clips along the top edge every 4 to 5 inches.  Then, working down both vertical sides of the board, attach two clips on the left side and then two directly across on the right side (again, every 4 to 5 inches).  When you get halfway down the board, flip the board so it stands on the other short end and pull the flannel relatively tight over the top edge so that there are no folds.  Attach clips to the top edge, again working from the center out.  Work down the sides as before until you reach the previously attached clips.

If you plan to staple the flannel to the board, you can go ahead and do this now and then hang it, if desired.  If you are hanging more than one board, butt the edges next to each other (unless you have decided to staple or tape the boards together as mentioned above).  Because the boards themselves are very lightweight, you can tack the boards to the wall with several nails (or even industrial strength Velcro strips).  That’s it, the board is ready to use!

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