How to Build a Design Wall (Flannel Board, Bulletin Board, etc.)

How to Build a Design Wall (or Flannel Board or Bulletin Board) - a tutorial from Shiny Happy World

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.

How to Build a Design Wall (or Flannel Board or Bulletin Board) - a tutorial from Shiny Happy World

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.

How to Build a Design Wall (or Flannel Board or Bulletin Board) - a tutorial from Shiny Happy World

Flip your board over so you’re working from the back.

How to Build a Design Wall (or Flannel Board or Bulletin Board) - a tutorial from Shiny Happy World

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.

How to Build a Design Wall (or Flannel Board or Bulletin Board) - a tutorial from Shiny Happy World

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.

How to Build a Design Wall (or Flannel Board or Bulletin Board) - a tutorial from Shiny Happy World

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.

How to Build a Design Wall (or Flannel Board or Bulletin Board) - a tutorial from Shiny Happy World

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?

How to Build a Design Wall (or Flannel Board or Bulletin Board) - a tutorial from Shiny Happy World

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.

How to Build a Design Wall (or Flannel Board or Bulletin Board) - a tutorial from Shiny Happy World

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.

How to Build a Design Wall (or Flannel Board or Bulletin Board) - a tutorial from Shiny Happy World

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.

How to Build a Design Wall (or Flannel Board or Bulletin Board) - a tutorial from Shiny Happy World

Now use a sharp pair of scissors to snip down from the top and up from the bottom – right on the fold created.

How to Build a Design Wall (or Flannel Board or Bulletin Board) - a tutorial from Shiny Happy World

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.

How to Build a Design Wall (or Flannel Board or Bulletin Board) - a tutorial from Shiny Happy World

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.

How to Build a Design Wall (or Flannel Board or Bulletin Board) - a tutorial from Shiny Happy World

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.

How to Build a Design Wall (or Flannel Board or Bulletin Board) - a tutorial from Shiny Happy World

Now use a pair of sharp scissors to cut an X in that fabric from corner to corner.

How to Build a Design Wall (or Flannel Board or Bulletin Board) - a tutorial from Shiny Happy World

Pull those triangle flaps to the back side of the board and smooth them in place.

How to Build a Design Wall (or Flannel Board or Bulletin Board) - a tutorial from Shiny Happy World

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. πŸ˜›

That’s it! This board is ready to hang,Β  just like the first one.

How to Build a Design Wall (or Flannel Board or Bulletin Board) - a tutorial from Shiny Happy World

Ta da! I have a design wall!

Tomorrow I’ll show you the small improv quilt I already used it for. πŸ™‚

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.

How to Build a Design Wall (or Flannel Board or Bulletin Board) - a tutorial from Shiny Happy World

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.

How to Build a Design Wall (or Flannel Board or Bulletin Board) - a tutorial from Shiny Happy World

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.

Happy stitching!


How to Make a DIY Cutting Table

tall table with cube storage underneath

I love my new cutting table!

I cut a lot of fabric for bundles, so I really needed a large table at the right height for working while standing. Standing for hours at a dining table height surface will kill your back!

I used to have some good storage shelves that worked, but the bottoms of the legs got mangled in the move. The exact shelves weren’t made anymore (and the new version was much flimsier) so I needed to find something totally new.

I posted in the Shiny Happy People group to see what solutions other people had come up with and I got So Much Good Information! Click here to hop right to that post and all the amazing comments.

I liked the look of an Ikea Kallax hack, but the height wasn’t right for me standing. I was going to go for kitchen base cabinets with a laminate top – but that was way (WAY) out of my price range. So I was walking around Lowe’s to see if there was anything that might work, and I stumbled across Cubicals from ClosetMaid.

They’re similar in look to the Kallax pieces from Ikea (though admittedly not as sturdy-looking) but the size is different. A piece 3 cubes tall was just the right height for me standing – and they made that configuration!

So here’s what I used.

  • 2 – 9 cube (3×3) pieces
  • 4 – 6 cube (3×2) pieces
  • 1 – 3 ft. x 6 ft. sheet of medium density fiberboard (you’ll need to buy a 4×8 sheet, but you can ask the folks at Lowe’s to cut it down to size for you)
  • 1 piece of trim 1 1/2 inches wide x 3 feet long x 3/8 inch thick (optional – for cutting guide)
  • 2 elevator bolts to hold the cutting guide in place (optional)

Assemble all the Cubicals cabinets.

Stand them in a rectangle with the cubes facing out. The two 3×3 cabinets are on the ends. There are two 2×3 cabinets (standing tall, not wide) on each side between each of the end cabinets. There’s some empty space in the middle.

Get everything lined up neatly – exactly where you want it because this is NOT movable) and set the big MDF sheet on top. Drilling up from underneath the table (up through the top of the cabinets) screw the table top into place. We used 1 inch wood screws and put some tape on the drill bit to make sure we didn’t drill all the way through to the top of the table.

That’s my husband – bestselling author Alan Gratz – helping me attach the table top. πŸ™‚

That’s pretty much it – except for a special feature I added to the top for cutting fabric bundles. I don’t know how many of you will need this feature – but you can see it in action in this video.

I sanded the sides and just barely rounded the top edge, and added several coats of pretty purple paint. Those colorful fabric drawers that fit right in the cubes are fun – but Lowe’s doesn’t carry many colors. You can find a bigger selection at Target.

One more thing. They make Cubicals with two different size cubes. These are the smaller ones (each cube is 11 inches). The cabinets with the larger cubes look and feel more sturdy (and more polished), but they won’t work for a table like this because they’ll end up way too tall for most humans. These smaller cubes feel a little less sturdy until they’re all assembled and now it seems pretty super strong.

Make sure you’re getting the right size. πŸ™‚

Have fun!


My Work Table – Before & After

My Work Table - Before & AfterI have four work surfaces in my studio.

I have a very small desk with a fold out work surface. The idea was that I’d stash my computer away at night and close the “lid.” Hah!

I have a nice, wide ironing board.

I have a tall table with a big cutting mat. Sadly – the cutting mat is usually the only empty surface on the table. The other 3/4 of the table is piled high with works in progress.

And then there’s my sewing machine table. It had three machines on it: my machine, Jo’s machine and a serger which I hated.

Jo hardly ever uses her machine – she prefers to use mine and that’s ok with me. We’ll give hers back to her grandmother (for now) because it has a really terrific buttonhole feature. I gave the hated serger away. And I was finally ready to finish that table!

My work table - Before.Here’s the before.

Pretty ugly, no?

It’s actually a terrific table. It’s super sturdy (good for sewing machine work) and nice and big (now that it’s not crowded with three machine and a WIP basket).

It’s an old metal office desk. It had some kind of laminate top, but that was gone by the time I got it, leaving a little raised lip all the way around – perfect for what I’ve planned to do with it from day one. πŸ™‚

I spray painted the sides and legs magenta and left the middle the rough, grey primer. I’ve used it like that for a few years now. Let me just say that a rough surface is not great for sewing on.

My Work Table - AfterI worked in children’s publishing for 20+ years before starting Shiny Happy World. I have a huge pile of pages from some of my favorite children’s books. Some of them are from damaged books I’ve collected over the years. Some of them are from early, unbound versions of a new book that are sent out for review.

I cut a bunch of my favorites into 2, 4 and 6 inch squares. I used one of my clear rulers so I could center some of my favorite images by some of my favorite artists.

Here are just a few I love. . .

I glued all of them down with white glue – nothing fancy.

I tried to go for an even spacing of the different size blocks – and spreading out multiple images by the same artist.

I wish I had known to cover all of them with another coat of white glue to protect the paper. A lot of the paper was already coated – but some of the pages from older books got a little blotchy from the next step. Now I know for next time. And now you know. Lay on another coat of glue.

Let it all dry overnight.

Then I mixed up a fancy resin called EnviroTex Lite.

I got mine (two 32 ounce kits – this is a big table) at Michael’s with a discount coupon and they’ve been sitting on the side of my work table for over a year now.


You need to mix them together really, really well – and use a container that you can throw in the trash. I lopped off the top of  gallon jug that held vinegar.

07 pour resin 1000 pxI poured the resin right in the middle of the table.

Then I carefully spread it out to the edges using the side of my wooden paint stirrer to push it into place.

I only pushed it off the edge once. Glad I remembered to put down a drop cloth under where I was working!

My Work Table - Remake in Progress

This takes a little time. I was worried it would start drying right away – but I had plenty of time to work.

09 bubbles 1000 pxIt’ll start to form little bubbles all over the place.

Blow on them.

The carbon dioxide in your breath makes them pop.


It’s less magical when you do it over and over again all over the surface of a large table. Of course – in order to breathe out, I had to first breathe in – and this stuff produced some fumes. Not awful fumes – but my head was definitely spinning after all the deep breathing.

Keep checking for bubbles! They keep forming over the surface for quite a while.

Then let it sit for days. The package tells you how long (it depends on the size of the project, the temperature and the humidity). I did mine before we went out of town for Labor Day weekend so it would be dry by the time we got back.

My Work Table - After Its Makeover!And here’s the finished table! it’s so beautiful! (And also shiny and very hard to photograph.)

I know it’s a little busy with all the different styles and colors, but for me it’s a constant source of inspiration to see these artists whose work I love! And I was so happy to use all those pages I’ve been hoarding.

I still have some left. I wonder what I should cover next. . . πŸ™‚

That's me!

Wanna peek inside my finished studio?

Exciting news… this weekend, I hung the last picture and unpacked our last box from our move! So… do you want to see my finished studio?

Okie dokie! Come in and have a look around!

I’ve set up one of my favorite pieces of furniture: an old icebox from my grandmother’s house (yes! it’s really a wooden box that you used to put ice inside!). I’m using it to store the yarn for my kits:

The next piece that I’m particularly pleased with is an old ladder that I bought while we were in Lancaster County. I’ve used it to store my ‘fancy’ skeins of yarn:

Now dearie (my grandfather’s deer head) has a home! He’s keeping watch over my dry sink which stores already-packaged kits, and has my yarn meter & winder fastened on top:

Moving around the room, I’ve got an open shelving unit that holds all of my boxes for shipping kits, books & finished animals (and keeps my tv and printer on top!):

You can’t have a stuffed-animal studio without keeping some stuffed animals, right? I’m keeping mine in the crib that my uncle made for me when I was an infant:

I’m very lucky to have a closet where I can store all of my stuffing and bulky items. Phew! Then I’ve got another furniture piece where I keep the projects I’m working on, sewing supplies and smaller materials (like eyes and buttons):

And my desk lives in the middle!

Unfortunately, one shelf got pushed out into the hallway (outside my studio door)… my yarn shelf!

Can you tell that I love organizing my yarn by color?

I’m so relieved that my studio is finished, and it’s a great place to work. The only downside is that the lighting isn’t great… so I take all of my photos in another room of the house. That’s not bad going, though!

I hope you’ve enjoyed your little tour of my studio!

A plan for organizing your yarn stash!

A Plan to Organize Your Yarn Stash - from FreshStitches and Shiny Happy World

Every knitter and crocheter has one… it’s called a ‘yarn stash’. And, if left unchecked, your stash can quickly turn into an unkept mess that just seems to keep on growing (on it’s own, of course!). But don’t worry! I’m here with a step-by-step-guide to organize yarn and get your stash under control.

Finding yarn in your stash is the key to using it

How many times have you bought yarn for a project… only to later discover that you had a very similar yarn at home? That’s because if you can’t find a yarn quickly and easily, you’ll forget that it’s there.

So, organizing your yarn so that you know what you have (and know how to get to it) is key. I’m not going to go into details about a specific organizational system (bins vs. shelves vs. baskets), because you have to find what works for you.

I am going to show you how to go through what you own and get your yarn under control.

Step one: drag it all out and sort it

Now, I know that some of you with larger stashes are rolling your eyes right now. But seriously, how can you know what you have unless you actually get it all out and look at it?

You can’t just say, ‘oh, I know what’s in that bin’… because you probably don’t. So get it all out.

Now that it’s out, sort it into piles. You’ll have to pick categories that make sense to you. Mine are: yarn for ‘real projects’ (i.e. yarns I have multiple skeins of), yarn for one skein projects (usually pretty sock yarn), yarn for custom stuffed animal orders (worsted weight yarns that are partial skeins), scrap yarns, and yarn to get rid of.

It’s important to be honest about your piles. Yarns only make it into my ‘scrap yarn pile’ if it’s a partial skein that I would actually use to make a scrap afghan. Nothing under 20 yards. No laceweight. No eyelash. Be honest with yourself!

Now these piles may take up your entire living room. I know it’s scary… but you’re after something better!

Catalog, wind and store

Now that you’ve divided your yarn into piles, resist the temptation to just put it back on the shelf!

Is some of your yarn tangled? Were you able to see it in its old storage space? If not, it’s time to rethink your strategy. Here’s what I do:


Of course, we all fantasize about beautiful shelves that allow us to store pretty skeins in full view. But, many of us don’t have that kind of space, and need to use bins or boxes. So it’s important to take note of what you have.

I love the ‘stash’ tool on Ravelry – it allows you to list the yarn that you have and even list it ‘for sale or trade’ if it’s a yarn that you don’t want anymore.


If your yarn is in full skeins, then it’s probably behaving itself without getting tangled. However, if you have partial skeins, they have a propensity to get themselves in knots.

I have a Lacis Ball Winder that I use to wind partial skeins into cakes (see a how-to-video, here). When wound, the yarns stack nicely, and lay in a bin without getting tangled.


NOW that your yarn is neat and cataloged, you can put it back on your shelf!

Make plans

Sure, your yarn looks neat… but don’t stop there! Do yourself a favor and make plans with the yarn while it’s still fresh in your mind.

When I’ve gone through my yarn, I like to match yarn with projects. That way, when I’ve finished a project and am itching to start another… I already have one (that uses yarn from my stash!) set up. That keeps me from buying more yarn on a whim.

For example, I have 10 skeins of this yarn in a color that just doesn’t flatter me at all:

My plan is to over-dye the yarn in brown and knit a Buttercup. If I didn’t make the plan, I would probably just leave that yarn languishing!

Weigh your yarn for project planning

If you have partial skeins, it can be hard to know how much yarn you have- making it hard to plan a project. A real help is to weigh your yarn. I have an inexpensive digital scale that I use to weigh mystery bits of yarn. By using the information on the ball band, you can calculate the yardage… and plan a project!


Phew! That was a lot of work… but now you can sit back, knit, and enjoy your beautiful stash!

Want tips for organizing and decluttering your whole craft room? Wendi has a great post here.


Try one of our fun crochet patterns! Get the Merrick Monster pattern here.

Organize that stash! 2KCBWDAY3

It’s day three of Knitting and Crochet Blog week! today’s topic is about how yarn is stored…. so, I’ll give you a little tour of my studio!

First of all, I should confess… I don’t have a very big stash. I don’t like having a stash. If I want to make a new item, I’d like to go to my LYS and get the perfect yarn for that project… I don’t want to feel obliged to sift through yarn that I wanted 3 years ago! Since this is my philosophy, my stash is two cubbies of an Ikea Expedit bookcase, and it consists of yarn that I was given (or the rare ball I pick up while traveling) that I’m hoping to use soon. Really.

So, above is a photo of my two cubbies of yarn. It’s roughly organized by weight (lace and fingering in the top cubby, and worsteds and bulkies on the bottom). See that beautiful blue in the lower right hand corner? I’m making a beautiful sweater for that right now… so check back to my blog for progress!

In addition to two cubbies of yarn, I have one cubby with a ‘scrap box’. These are partial skeins of yarn that I feel like I could use someday… but probably won’t make a project all by themselves. I’ve used a fair amount of scraps in making my scrap puppy, and I think I’ll make more in the future. This box is roughly organized by color, so that I can quickly scan how much of a certain color family is available.

Since I make a lot of amigurumi, I need to keep eyes handy! I keep my eyes in this cute little box (that I acquired as part of my sewing-box graduation present, actually). Of course, I only keep some of each color in the box (since I have a LOT of eyes), and the ‘back up eyes’ live in the storage ottoman that I use as my desk chair.

I keep my knitting needles (I mostly use circular knitting needles) in a case that I sewed a little while ago. They’re organized by length, then by size. I own two pairs of double point needles, but they’re tiny enough that they live in a notions box without getting in anyone’s way.

So, that’s my yarn! I also have two bookshelves of books.

My real secret organizational weapon is how I organize my hooks and notions while I’m on the go. Since I work in a yarn store, teach and knit/crochet in public, bringing the essentials with me is crucial. For this, I use my hippo. It contains everything that I need for working on the road, and zips up tight to keep it all safe!

So, that’s how I organize my yarn… how do you organize yours?