There comes a time in most quilter’s lives when they come to the realisation that they could really use a design wall when building a new quilt. Over the years I have used all sorts of solutions to deal with this issue. At first I used the bed top in my guest bedroom….a good idea until guests came and I had to pack everything away! For a short while I tried a cork bulletin board and found it way too small. Next, I bought an expensive foldable and portable flannel design wall at a quilt show, but found that I was way too clumsy and heavy handed when positioning my quilt blocks, so it kept collapsing on me, plus I soon got tired of putting it up and taking it down all the time….I think it’s still lurking in the depths of my garage somewhere! And then there was the year I bought a couple of those big office partition screens with feet, but found them way to heavy and cumbersome to move around in the studio, plus it was difficult to stick pins into it. What I needed was something lightweight so I could move it around the studio easily, something sturdy and flat , something that would stand on it’s own and not warp out of shape, something that I could stick pins into, and ideally something covered in flannel so that the pieces of fabrics or blocks I was working on could adhere to it without pinning. So I decided to make my own studio design walls.
I chose foamcore board as the base for the design walls. Foamcore board , or foam board, is a lightweight and easily cut material used for mounting of photographic prints, as backing for picture framing, for making scale models, and in painting. It consists of a board of polystyrene foam clad with an outer facing of paper on either side, In the U.K. you can find it at shops like Hobbycraft, but the bigger sizes of foam core are available online from places like Graphics Direct , which also sell it in bulk at a discount. To make my big design walls in the studio I used 1 box of 10 sheets of the 10mm (about 1/2″ thick) foamcore, each measuring 30″ x 40″. I made two design wall panels, each measuring 40″ x 75″, for a total design surface of 80″ x 75″ when the two panels are side by side. This is a picture of me with my finished design wall in the studio:
The design wall just sits in front of my project shelves, so I can use them and then easily move the panels away when I’m not using them. They weren’t cheap to make (total cost was about £150), but you can see from the smile on my face that I really think they are the bees knees ! That price includes all the supplies I needed, which were: the box of foamcore sheets, the wadding (about 2″ larger all around than panels, the fabric to cover the panels ( I used 4 metres of the Kaffe Fasset design wall flannel by Free Spirit which I found at Lady Sew and Sew in Henley-on-Thames, but it is also available at other quilt shops) , the foam glue ( also available from Graphics Direct ) to glue the foam core sheets to each other , the glue sticks ( I used Scotch, but you can use Pritt Stick if you wish) to glue the wadding over the foamcore sheets, and the tacky glue (I used Berol Marvin Medium) and plastic glue spreader, for gluing wadding and cover fabric around panels. I also used some self adhesive glass fibre tape to go seal the joins in the foamcore sheets and to reinforce the panel edges, plus some pins to line up the cover fabric.
The first step was to glue the foamcore sheets to each other with foam glue to make a double thickness panel . Doubling up on the foamcore provides rigidity and stability to your design wall. For each of the big 40″ x 75″ panels of my design wall I used 5 sheets of 40″ x 30″ foamcore. I cut one of the sheets in half legthwise with my rotary cutter, creating 2 pieces of foamcore measuring 15″ x 40″. I then lined up two of the 40″ x 30″ sheets and one of the 15″ x 40″ half -sheet, then lined up and glued them to the remaining 2 1/2 sheets, reversing them so that the panel joins overlapped each other. I used the glass fibre tape to seal the joins and to line up the two layers of foamcore.
The next step was to add a layer of wadding to the front on the design wall. Do this with a glue stick to adhere the wadding to the surface only of one side of the panel.
Spread wadding over surface only of the panel, allowing at least 2″ wadding extra on all sides . Allow glue to dry thoroughly.
Next, turn the panel upside down, and use the glue spreader to apply craft tacky glue to the 1″ sides of the panel. I cut a little square of wadding off at the corners of the panel to reduce the bulk.
Glue wadding in place, then trim off excess wadding as you go.
Here is how to treat the excess wadding at the corners of the panels.
Here is the panel with the layer of wadding glued in place and trimmed. Allow the glue to dry throughly before proceeding to adding the fabric covering.
Turn the panel right side up, then lay the cover fabric over the wadding so it overlaps the panel by at least 2″ all around. Use straight long pin to position and square up fabric cover.
This is what your panel should look like when the cover fabric is pinned in place all around onto the panel.
Turn panel upside down and use tacky glue to secure the fabric at the back.
Deal with the excess fabric at corners by trimming off a little square of the fabric and then folding and gluing neatly.
Remove the positioning pins, and allow design wall panel to dry thoroughly.
Your design wall is finished, and ready to use ! Please note that for this article I have made a small 30″ x 40″ design wall out of two sheets of foamcore, which I will used when taking photos of my pattern step-outs.
And here is my big design wall in the studio to display my work progress:
The one thing about the big design wall is that it really isn’t for taking to outside classes, but I am happy with all of other features it provides. It’s great to display the completed quilts too when not in design mode .. here is the completed Homespun Harmony Quilt for you.