A very merry, temporary design wall

I recently have been able to set up a dedicated sewing space. You have no idea how excited I am. Or maybe you do! It’s still in the very beginning stages, but I’ve got my sewing machine, cutting area, ironing board and several storage areas already set up. It’s not perfect (yet), but it’s organized enough that I can work effectively, leave my project out without it being in the way, and come back and pick up where I left off. Something I’ve always wanted.

I didn’t have many of these options in my old space, and one of the things that really used to frustrate me was planning a layout for a large quilt. I could lay the blocks out on my bed or on the floor, but the vantage point was never ideal. I couldn’t ever look at a piece head-on until it was finished, which kind of defeats the whole design and layout part of the process. Unless all the colors and fabrics in the blocks are exactly the same (mine never are), they need to be arranged and rearranged till the composition makes me happy.

So, I need a design wall.

I have the fabrics and a great idea for them, but I’ll want to see everything before I sew it together, so I need a design wall NOW.

Thank goodness for common household objects! My solution is not permanent, nor perfect, but extremely simple, effective, cheap and easily removable when I decide on a forever design wall. I thought I’d share because it could work very well for those with limited space and budgets.

design wall A very merry, temporary design wall

Easiest design wall ever!

That’s it! All you need is some hooks, some hangers and a flannel sheet. I already had those reusable plastic hooks (If you’ve never tried them, they come in very handy!) and of course I had the hangers too. I bought an inexpensive white flannel sheet and I was done!

Sure, it’s not perfectly flat, but that doesn’t affect the way it grips the fabric patches. And you can see the line where I folded the sheet over, but once all my fabrics are arranged on it, that disappears. I can pin my pieces on if they get too big or heavy, and they will stay put if I need to fold up the wall and hang it somewhere out of the way. Convenient and versatile!

So there you have it. Cheap, cheery and couldn’t be easier. If you decide you want to recreate this, make sure that you position your reusable hooks at least 1″ down from the ceiling so you can easily remove them when the time comes.

design wall detail A very merry, temporary design wall

Position your hooks just below the ceiling so you can remove them if you need to.

My quilt top is coming along very nicely, but I’ll wait to share that until it’s done. The wall has been so useful to decide on my color arrangement, and I’m really glad I thought of this temporary solution. Now I just need to decide what my permanent design wall will be like! Any suggestions? What do you love (or not love) about your design wall?

Since a few of you may go and make your temporary design wall this weekend, you’ll want some fabric to place on it. Why not enter our fabric giveaway? A bunch of fat quarters would look so pretty spread out on that empty space!

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About Gigi Khalsa

Associate Editor at Quilters Newsletter
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30 Responses to A very merry, temporary design wall

  1. Jennifer Bergeron says:

    Oh! This is perfect!!! I was wracking my brain trying to figure out how I was going to lay out my next quilt which had 225 pieces! Usually I don’t use a design wall, so a temporary one is a perfect solution!

  2. Gigi says:

    So happy to help, Jennifer!

  3. jo says:

    I bought a sheet of cork board 4ftx6ft for my design board.
    I covered it with my white flannel and then used drywall anchors to attatch it to the wall.Sometimes pieced blocks do not stick to the flannel because they become too heavy, so I use straight pins through the block into the cork. Works just great using 1 pin in center top of the squares. I love it.

  4. Ellen Sowins says:

    I tacked a flannel backed tablecloth to the wall –not as tidy–but it works……..

  5. Agnes Gates says:

    Love it.

  6. Bonnie Fitch says:

    I did the same thing that Ellen did. Only I used push pins. Works really great till a big breeze comes in the window and all the little pieces go out the door and down the hall way….LOL

  7. JoJo says:

    Love it! This will work better than painters tape in my hotel room at my retreat in a couple of weeks!

  8. Meta Bonnell says:

    I’ve pinned a flannel backed tablecloth over the curtains on my sliding door.

  9. Dutchie says:

    Well, I did buy some of the large block printed flannel fabric at Joanns and covered it over foam insulation sheets that I bought at Home Depot. The fabric with the lines is an aid to keep blocks straight and in line.
    Got enough for three. A great investment. Not expensive…..lasts forever
    They are useful, easy to change fabrics, patterns and also look good as a decoration in my sewing room.

  10. nancy harris says:

    the flannel backed tablcloth works wonderfully, also you can cut smaller squares from one and use it on the table to rearrange pieces in a block to find the perfect arrangement before you start sewing, or to test out different fabrics for the block. take a picture when you are done, then go for it

  11. Yvonne says:

    This is genius! I think it would be good for anyone who needs a design wall. I hope the weight didn’t pull the fabric out of the hanger clips. There should be some solution to that–but KUDOS! Genius!!

  12. Gigi says:

    Thanks for your suggestions, everyone! Looks like I was on the right track. Yvonne – the fabric stays nicely in the hangers, even with my entire quilt top on there.

  13. Linda House says:

    IF the design wall gets too heavy and starts to pull out of the hanger clips…just use the clips that quilter’s use to secure the fabric to the plastic hanger! Wonderful idea! Very portable for retreats too.

  14. GwenH says:

    I like your idea of using the hangers and tabs, works much better that putting a dozen or so thumbtacks in the wall to hold the flannel up… which is what I did, then when I decided to move my sewing room down stairs so I could have the spare bedroom upstairs for when my Mom or anyone comes to visit, I wanted to re-painted the room but first I had to crack fill all those little holes.
    So now I have 3 (2 x 8) styrofoam insulation sheets that you can cut down to whatever size you want, which I covered with some batting that I wasn’t going to use, they are nice cause I can take them down and slide them under a bed or my quilt frame when I not using them as my room isn’t very big and I don’t have lot of free wall space so these work good cause they are portable. We had a few sheets leftover from when we insulated and put new siding on our house, so they didn’t cost me anything other than the batting which I’m thinking of changing to flannel cause the poly batting doesn’t work the greatest, one thing nice about the foam boards is that I can use a couple of pins to hold up yardages of fabric to audition my borders and no holes in my walls!!

  15. GwenH says:

    That is weird… I don’t know where the smiley face came from, it was supposed to be 2 x 8

  16. I won one of those sheets at a quilt show and have no wall space to hang it, now I know what I can do thanks for the great tip.


  17. Linda says:

    I have done this! Great minds! I also take photos of finished quilts by hanging them on pant hangers. Love the portability and quick take down.

  18. Gigi says:

    Linda, I photograph mine the same way. Great minds, indeed!

  19. Cathy says:

    I have found, by accident and necessity, that if the fabric slips out of the hangers you can sandwich it inside a folded piece of drawer liner and then clip it in the pant hanger. The drawer liner also works to put under your sewing machine foot control to keep it from creeping.

  20. Pam Warner says:

    Thanks for all the good tips! I live in a cottage on a lake and have absolutely NO wall space. All of these suggestions were very helpful

  21. Tracy says:

    I am so happy to see this. I also recently got my own sewing space (daughter moved out), and I’ve been busy gathering info on how to put it together on the cheap (more $ for fabric that way!). I have one wall that I have refused to put any shelving or anything else up against, because I want a design wall. I purchased yardage of flannel that was dirt cheap a while back for this purpose, but wondered how I was going to mount it to the wall. This idea is PERFECT! I already have the 3M Command hooks, and I already use pants hangers to hang finished quilts for pictures (great minds indeed, Linda and Gigi!), so I’m doing this when I get home tonight!! Thanks so much for sharing. These little tips and tricks are just what I need.

    Cathy, I also use the rubber waffle type drawer liner underneath my machine ;) .

  22. KsMom says:

    I purchased 2 bi-fold doors at Habitat. I covered them with scrap batting and then stapled my flannel to each door (4). Hinged the doors together and when not needed they fold up in the corner or under the bed. Doesn’t travel well so I also have a flannel sheet!

  23. kathy says:

    I purchased an inexpensive art easel that I can adjust and covered 2 large foam core boards with flannel, and I have a portable design wall..works great for a workshop or class, and home as well.

  24. Sarah Markey says:

    Wow! What a great idea! I made a ‘portable’ freestanding design wall that I can fold and stand in my closet, but it takes up more storage space than yours and isn’t as big as yours. Since I have just enough room for it, though, I’ve been pretty happy with it. It’s very lightweight, which is good because I carry it all over the place, up and down stairs and so on. Here’s how I made it:

    I bought a couple sheets of styrofoam insulating board at Home Depot (about $5 each). It comes in various sizes and thicknesses, and has a foil lining on one side, which is nice for keeping the foam stable. I used two-2″ thick 2′x4′ boards and covered them with flannel on one side and thick batting on the other. I used a strip of duct tape along all of the edges, and it was wide enough to overlap and hold both the batting and flannel on their respective sides. Having the duct tape on the bottom edge is especially helpful, keeping the board from slipping when you stand it up.

    Then I joined the two covered sheets by using duct tape to make a flexible hinge on the long vertical edges. I added one long strip to each sheet, just fastening half of the width of the tape down. Then I stuck the two free sticky edges together. You can keep adding to this hinge to make it as wide as it takes to be able to fold the two sheets together for storage.

    I made two sets of these so I have a total of 8′x4′ available, but the 4×4 size is very convenient until the very final laying out of the quilt. Since you can have it sitting next to you, you can use it without getting up from the machine, which I find encourages my creativity! Also you can do a couple projects at once, using each side, and you don’t have to disassemble them to put them away. I like the flannel for some projects and the batting for others.

  25. Eugenia Read says:

    I, too, have used cork boards and pinned block pieces together. Then I obtained a couple of styrofoam boards through work. They (2 boards) were used to pack something flat and delicate. I was originally using them to pin and starch crocheted pieces. Then when I learned to quilt I discovered they were great for block designing. I placed a piece of batting over them after taping them together and now spend many happy hours playing with blocks.

  26. Sharon says:

    I have a Fons & Porter design cloth, flannel on one side and plastic with squares on the other. I have no where to hang it so I lay it on the floor, which makes it easy to photograph. I take pictures during the construction of blocks and quilts. Easy to remember where things go and if you really like the layout before stitching.

  27. Dee says:

    Your wall is very good. My “design wall” does double-duty in my sewing room……it is curtains made of flannel material that I had on hand, and the curtains also cover the floor to ceiling shelves my husband built to store my totes of fabric & yarn. I put shower curtain clips at the top, with a curtain rod across, so I can slide the curtain to the side to find a tote, then put quilt blocks on the flannel. I usually pin them on just so one doesn’t get away, but it’s very useful to arrange the blocks, stand back & look at them.

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  29. Linda Waldrum says:

    I hung my flannel strips on the front of my fireplace, securing them with a small pile of books on the mantle at each end. Then I photograph designs as I develop them. If any pieces fall off, I have the photos to go by to reattach them.

  30. MarciaW says:

    we have no design wall and this is perfect timing for making one as my mother has a need for her next quilt layout

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