Building A Design Wall | Lessons

Design Wall: 4’x 8′

Materials and Supplies:
4’x 8′ sheet of building board
Twin-size flat white flannel bed sheet
Staple gun and 3/8″ staples
10-12 1 1/2″ deck or dry wall screws
10-12 1/2″ washers
Two helpers

Making mock-up blocksis the best way to see how individual fabrics work as patches in relation to each other. If color distribution from block to block is important or if color position is important before sewing, a design wall is almost indispensible. Resolving design issues is so much better when you can combine and then view various quilt elements from a distance.

The design wall described here was made by several of us for our Quiltmaker’s Design Studio, where most fabric choices are made for the Quiltmaker quilts that we have sewn. This permanently installed, flannel–covered wall is inexpensive, easy to construct and durable. The flannel holds patches in place for weeks–or months if you need it to-and the strong, porous board easily accepts pins for paper displays and heavier mountings.

Ideally your design wall should be in the same room as your fabric, cutting table and sewing machine, but if this is not possible any available wall is better than none!

A fiber board called building board, 4’x 8′, 1/2″ thick and white on one side, is available at many building supply stores. (Cost in the Denver area is approximately $11.) If you need a smaller size, perhaps the store will cut it for a small fee.

Trim off the wide hem at the top of the flannel sheet along the seam line. (It may now look too short for the board, but the flannel will easily stretch over to the back.)

Spread the sheet out on a large, flat, clean surface. Place the fiber board, white side down, approximately two inches in from one corner.

Working from the center of one short end of the board, pull the edge of the flannel sheet over the fiber board to the back, extending one to two inches, and staple down. Continuing toward each corner, staple the flannel every two inches. Stop six inches from each corner.

Move to the opposite end. Again beginning in the center, pull the flannel toward you from underneath the board until it is taut and then staple it to the back. Continue as you did for the first side. You may now wish to trim away extra flannel to eliminate the bulk.

Staple the two longer sides in the same way, trimming away extra flannel from the back as necessary.

At each corner, fold as shown and staple several times to flatten and secure.

On the wall of the room, measure and mark the height for the design wall in several places. Locate the studs and lightly mark each location above this level. Thread washers onto the screws.

It’s time for your helpers. With two people holding the design wall in position, screw through the flannel, building board and wall into the studs to hold one corner in place. Level the board and complete the installation with additional screws along the top and bottom of the board at the stud locations.

Now you can put patches or quilt blocks on the flannel surface and study the color distribution. Can’t decide? Look again tomorrow, shift a few, check back two days later. Your fabrics will be there, waiting on the design wall, until you’re ready to sew them all together.

Caroline Reardon

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