Last Updated on March 20, 2018 by wendigratz
I finally have a design wall in my new house and I’m so excited! There really is nothing like being able to step back and see an entire quilt like this!
And I’m going to show you (in excruciating detail) how I built mine – including the specific materials I used. I’ll also show you a pieced board I made for my husband. And I’ll even show you how to do that little cutout around the electrical outlet.
Here we go!
To start with – I like to use foam insulation board. Styrofoam sheets are less expensive – but pinning into styrofoam gives me the willies. It’s a real nails-on-the-chalboard reaction so I don’t do it. Look for the 4 ft x 8 ft sheets of foam insulation board at your home improvement store. I like the ones that have a metallic foil material on one side.
I covered my board with flannel because I want to have both options – being able to pin into it but also being able to just smooth blocks up there and let them cling to the flannel.
Specifically I used Jazz flannel in the color Smoke from Timeless Treasures. Click throgh so you can see it close up. It’s a nice tone on tone print that looks interesting when there’s nothing on the board, but is subtle enough not to distract me from any design I’m working on up there. Later I’ll show you a different kind of option.
For my last design wall I glued the fabric to the board – but that meant I couldn’t wash it, or easily change it if it got faded. This time I did the whole thing with pins.
Start out by piecing together enough fabric to completely cover your board, and wrap around each side with a couple of inches to spare. Press everything nice and smooth.
Lay your insulation board foil side up and cover it with the fabric – getting the fabric as centered as possible.
Start pinning your fabric into the sides of the insulation board. I used these 1-inch T-pins.
Basically – I used the exact same method I use to prepare fabric for framing – just on a larger scale. You can watch that video here.
Keep adding pins, pulling the fabric smooth but not stretching it, until you have pins all the way around your board every 1-2 inches.
Flip your board over so you’re working from the back.
Fold in one corner, then fold in one side. Insert some of the T-pins at an angle so they hold the fabric flaps in place, but don’t poke through the front.
Fold in the other side. Now your corner is nice and neat!
(See how pretty that tone-on-tone Jazz print is?)
Continue around the back of the board, securing the excess fabric with T-pins inserted at a slant. Remember – the side pins are the ones really holding the fabric in place on the front of the board. These are only holding the excess fabric in place, so you only need a pin every 8-12 inches or so.
Use an awl or other sharp tool to poke a hole in each corner of the board (mine is 1 inch in from each edge) and one more in the middle of the longest edge.
This step is important! Don’t think you can just screw right through the fabric. The bit or the screw will catch the fabric and yank it into an awful twist, ruining all that work you did getting everything nice and smooth.
Hold the board just where you want it on the wall and mark through each of those holes with a pencil. Take the board away and insert a wall anchor at each of those spots.
Now screw the board into those wall anchors!
I used these nice stainless steel screws and washers.
You definitely need to use some kind of washer so that over time the head of the screw doesn’t just pull through the soft foam. See how nice these look?
I like to screw it in tight enough that it kind of dimples into the surface of the foam. That way I can skim blocks right over the screws if I want to.
What About Electrical Outlets?
So my first board was easy – but the second one was going to go right over an electrical outlet. And I wanted to be able to continue to use that outlet, so I needed to cut a hole in the board and finish those edges.
Don’t worry – it’s not hard!
Measure your space and cut a hole in your board just a little bit bigger than your outlet cover.
This stuff is easy to cut with a simple X-acto blade.
Now cut four squares of fabric roughly 2-3 inches square. It doesn’t not have to be exact – or even especially neat, as you can see with mine.
Cover the back of one square of fabric with glue.
I used a Uhu glue stick – not my fabric glue stick. I wanted a permanent hold here.
Stick the square right into one corner of your cutout and press it in place, as shown.
Now use a sharp pair of scissors to snip down from the top and up from the bottom – right on the fold created.
You want to cut very close to the surface of the board – with just a few threads to spare.
Now folds those flaps down and smooth them onto the front and back of the board.
Repeat for the other three corners.
Now just cover your board like a showed in the first part of the tutorial. Pretend that hole isn’t even there.
When you flip your board over, you’ll see the back of that fabric through the hole.
Make sure the board is on a flat surface (so you have something to press against) and coat all the fabric inside the cutout with glue.
Now use a pair of sharp scissors to cut an X in that fabric from corner to corner.
Pull those triangle flaps to the back side of the board and smooth them in place.
Sorry – I was using my camera’s autofocus and it focused on what it could see through the hole, instead of the fabric treatment around the hole. But I think you can still see what I did, blurry as it is. 😛
That’s it! This board is ready to hang, just like the first one.
Ta da! I have a design wall!
Tomorrow I’ll show you the small improv quilt I already used it for. 🙂
Pieced Bulletin Board
I needed my board to be pretty simple so it wouldn’t distract from whatever I’m designing on it.
But my husband wanted a similar board to outline his next book on – and he wanted it to have a bit of design. Nothing too fancy – but just a little extra pizzazz.
Here are the fabrics he chose.
That gorgeous gold is Hatch in Citrus and the grey is Sketch in Dove – both from Timeless Treasures. He doesn’t need fabric to cling to his board, so I just used regular quilting cotton instead of flannel.
And here’s his finished bulletin board.
It’s all ready for him to start hatching his next novel!
I love having a design wall again! It makes it so much easier to really SEE the layout of a quilt in progress.