Friday, May 19, 2017

how to mcguyver a design wall in 5 minutes

i posted a quick version of my process for creating a design wall on instagram a few weeks ago, saying i would have more detailed instructions up on the blog later in the day. then didn't post it. man, i don't like when i do that! if i say i'm going to post something, i like to keep my word. even some casual words thrown out into social media land. i doubt anyone has been waiting with bated breath for this explanation post, but it feels good to get it off my conscience anyway.

i also don't like using the same photos here that i use there, but it's all i've got. so be it.

one friday afternoon when the entire family was busy in various other places, i sauntered into my sewing room, ready to work on any of the several projects already underway. then i spied this pile of already cut fabrics which had recently been pulled out of storage oblivion to photograph for the march instagram quilt festival. i was completely seized by the urge to sew up this plus quilt i'd cut out ages ago. the only problem was i knew i would need a design wall to lay it out for piecing and i had no spare design wall space. that darn gypsy wife is still all over the two half design walls i already have.

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one of the two design half walls in my sewing space actually has room above it for another half wall, making a complete, full-sized design wall capable of accommodating a full quilt. i would have just put the two half walls i already have together, but one of them is thinner than the other and i wanted them flush on the wall. (time to stop rambling about unimportant details and focus, wouldn't you say?) i've long meant to complete that third piece but never have. (obviously!) all of the sudden it was time to do that.

i already had batting and duct tape at home, i just needed another wall insulation panel from the home improvement store. that was simple enough to pick up, even if carrying it through the parking lot in a brisk spring wind wasn't so easy.

here, at last, are my instructions for making your own design wall at home.

 gather supplies

  • one foam wall insulation panel of desired size, at least 1" thick (mine is just the standard size available at Home Depot: 4' x 8' x 1")
  • a piece of batting about 4" wider than the height and length of your foam insulation panel (OR scrap pieces that will collectively make this size ***)
  • duct tape
note: my first design wall i made is 1" thick, which allows it to stand on its own without any bending or distortion. 1" thick is a good, sturdy thickness. my second design wall is either 1/2" or 3/4" thick and it bends and wobbles and doesn't stand well on its own. if you are going to attach your design wall permanently to a wall, you can get away with less than an 1". but if you want a portable wall that you can move around, get 1" or thicker. a portable design wall is actually pretty handy. i might make one more of these just to have one i can move around at will.


lay the batting out on the floor and place the foam board on top, with 2" or so excess on each side.

you really want the batting to be able to wrap around the foam board and overlap a minimum of 1" on the backside. with my first design wall i tried to save batting by cutting it about the same size as the board. this was a bad idea because it meant i had duct tape showing on the front of the board in places, which meant i couldn't use pins there or get fabric pieces to stick in those places. so give yourself a good 1" on the back.

starting on a short end, begin pulling the batting to the back of the foam board and taping it down with duct tape.

since i was working by myself and didn't have anyone to help me hold the duct tape and/or batting, i found it easiest to work with shorter pieces of duct tape (about 12" long). if i tried longer pieces of tape, they would stick to themselves before i could get them down and just caused trouble. if you are more adept at working with duct tape than i am, go for it. otherwise, i recommend manageable lengths of tape.

when you get to the corners, miter them like you would do when gift wrapping.

by this i mean fold the end you are finishing in at an angle to the piece you will be starting next, like the above photo.

then proceed down the next side of the foam board, attaching the batting with tape as before.

this whole process took me only a few minutes.

suddenly, i had a new design wall! i put my little sewing slave to work lining the top of the board with pins because i find it handy to have them on the board, ready to go.

we just make a line from one end of the board to the other along the top.

***you can see here that my piece of batting, which was a scrap, was actually a few inches short of the length i needed to fully cover the board. i simply found another piece of batting to make up the difference. i could have sewn them together, but being lazy i just overlapped them by a few inches and taped them down together on the back.

that's how you do it!

any questions?

how did my plus quilt go, you want to know?

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it came together super-fast, thanks to the design wall.