Easy Design Wall Tutorial

A design wall is indispensable. I use it every single day. Before I had it, it was hard for me to imagine why I needed one. Now I can’t imagine life without one.

I use it mostly for auditions. Don’t let that word scare you. It just means “to try something out.” I audition fabrics. I audition units like Flying Geese or Nine Patches. I audition blocks, sections and especially borders.

It’s impossible to see how something is going to look unless you can put it up on a vertical surface and stand back from it. Once you begin doing this, your creative decisions become easier and you become more confident. Your quilts improve!

There are just four things you’ll need to make a design wall similar to this.

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Foamcore, also known as foam board

#1. Large sheet(s) of 1/2″-thick foamcore, also known as foam board. I bought three and they were 40″ x 60″ but they come larger and smaller, too. (More on that below.)

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Another view of foamcore. It comes in various thicknesses. The 1/2″ thickness works great for a design wall.

I found them at an art supply store, but don’t let that scare you off—it’s just lightweight paper-covered styrofoam. It’s inexpensive.

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I used the back of a gray cotton knit, similar to a lightweight sweatshirt.

#2. Gray (not white, black or tan) flannel or stretchy cotton knit, large enough to cover foamcore plus about 6″ extra length and width. I found a wide gray print that was the perfect color on the back. The pink flowers on the front don’t matter at all! Prewash the fabric to remove any sizing (so things will “stick” to it more effectively).

#3. Duct tape

#4. Tiny finishing nails about 1.5″ long (they don’t have much of a head)

Decide how large your design wall can be. I recommend making it as large as you can, within reason. There’s no need to make it higher than you can reach. Make it only as wide as the widest quilt you’ll make. If you’re unsure, go big. If you have limited space, just make it as large as you have room for. You’ll still use it and love it.

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Foamcore pieces can be joined with duct tape on both front and back.

Buy enough foamcore to fill the space you’ve chosen. You can patch together several pieces to get the size you need by butting them up and using duct tape on both sides to secure. I bought three pieces that were 40″ x 60″. Two went side by side and the third was cut up and added to the bottom. My finished size is about 80″ x 80″. (I can’t reach the top but since I learned that the hard way, you don’t have to.)

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Lay the foamcore on the floor and spread the gray material on top, right side up. Pin the fabric to the sides of the foamcore with straight pins, stretching as needed to cover it.

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Push straight pins into the sides of the foamcore to secure the fabric before taping it to the back.

Pull the gray fabric to the back of the foamcore and use duct tape to secure it. It doesn’t have to be pretty—it probably won’t be. Remove the pins if necessary (depends on how stretchy your fabric is).

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Position the design wall where you want it and attach to the wall with the finishing nails. The heads will kind of disappear into the fabric because they’re so small.

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It doesn’t take many nails because the foamcore is very lightweight. I used four or five on each side.

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Stand back and enjoy the view!


Have you created a design wall for your sewing space? Have you purchased one? Tell us about it, or just tell us how you think it would advance your creativity to have one. We’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Design your own quilts and fabrics with these excellent resources:

Comments (11)

  • Judy K

    Why did you use grey instead of white?

    September 11, 2018 at 2:51 pm
  • Diane M

    Mine is off white felt that I hung on a rod on my wall. I love it because besides helping in designing it is great for finding mistakes after the quilt is made🙁. I will now look into the foam board or the insulation board at the lumber yard.

    January 28, 2019 at 7:01 pm
  • Sandra E

    How can I get a copy of this project to give to my son? I tried to print, but couldn’t figure out how.

    January 28, 2019 at 8:43 pm
  • Leslie G

    I have the same question as Judy K — why gray?

    January 28, 2019 at 8:49 pm
  • Norma Lee Kerns B

    I am curious too as to why you used gray instead of white.

    January 28, 2019 at 9:09 pm
  • Cici C

    I love this idea. I purchased something to put in my wall and realized I need to be able to make it portable. This is a perfect solution. Thanks for sharing it with all of us.

    January 29, 2019 at 1:54 am
  • Juliet W

    Same as Judy K, I really want to know why you recommend grey and not white. I am moving house soon and can change to grey but I want to know why! Please.

    January 29, 2019 at 10:31 pm
  • Linda K

    I used a white cotton flannel sheet thumb tacked to my wall. It goes all the way to the ceiling and I sometimes use a chair to put quilt blocks at the very top. Color definitely makes a difference, as our local quilt shop (LQS)has a black design wall and I have pictures of my design in progress on both the black wall and the white wall, and it is quite a difference. I never thought about gray before, because I have always used white. My advice is make sure the fabric that you use will hold the fabric on the wall. Whatever is on the back wall at the LQS does not hold blocks, and so every piece has to be straight pinned before stepping back to look. Could not live without my design wall. Good idea shared here today.

    January 29, 2019 at 11:37 pm
  • D. Joy S

    I made a design wall. I purchase wide backing flannel in cream colored and sewed rod pockets on the top and bottom. This was then mounted on the wall with screws. It is to tall for me to reach the top but then I am short, so I use a step stool if I need too. I agree that they are very helpful for auditioning all aspects of the quilting process.

    January 30, 2019 at 7:46 pm
  • Elsie D

    I have the same question.

    January 31, 2019 at 4:59 pm
  • Judi M

    Because I wanted to hang many things (prints, x stitching I’ve done ,photos, and embroidery stitching I’ve done as well as dog items from when I bred and showed dogs) on the walls of my large sewing room, I wanted my design wall to be portable. I bought about 6 yds. of flannel when it was on sale and cut it into two equal sections which I sewed together. I can design up to a king size quilt on this. I then made a pocket and bought two pieces of dowel rod about 3/4″ or so think to slide thru the pocket to the center. In my sewing room I have two closets with a space between them so I placed two double hooks (like you use in bathroom to hang clothes or towels on) on the wall at the corner of each door frame. Then I hung the rods on the hooks so my “design wall” hangs down over that closet section. If I need to get into either closet for any supplies, I can pull the cloth aside to get to it. If I am testing out a block arrangement, the pieces stick to the flannel but for larger designs I’ll use a straight pin or safety pin to secure the piece. When I no longer need to have the wall up, I lift it off, fold it in half, and roll the material around the dowel rod and can stand it in the corner of my quilting closet. The hooks remain and are only noticeable if you are looking for them. After so many years of not having a good sewing room and having to lay things out on the floor or a bed, I am thrilled for this design wall set up and the large room to myself. Easy to set up and easy to store.

    February 5, 2019 at 6:27 pm

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