Tutorial: How to Build a Design Wall for Quilting

When we moved into our new home, the highest priority for me was getting my quilting studio up and running since quilting is my full-time job. I’ve had many people asking me how I built my design wall in my old house, so when we created it again in the new place, I took step by step pictures so I could tell you all about it in detail. So here goes:

Design Wall built by Christa Watson and hubby

My design wall does double duty – I also use it for flat quilt photography.

Materials to Build a 96″ x 96″ Quilt Design Wall

Two Foam Core Insulation boards, 4′ x 8′ each. You can always cut them down if it’s too big. These are available from Home Depot or other home improvement stores. Be careful handling them as they are very fragile and can dent and break easily. When Jason and I purchased them, we had to look through all of them on display to find the nicest, newest looking boards.

Design Wall Boards

Getting the boards home in our SUV was the hardest part of the job! Fortunately they just barely fit in the back of the car with the seats down.

California King Size White flannel flat sheet. Because the design wall is square, you want as much extra room as possible to wrap around the edges. I found a 108″ x 108″ sheet set from Bed, Bath and Beyond. It was easier to purchase the whole sheet set rather than just the top sheet, so I just donated the fitted sheet and pillowcases. You’ll want to iron it ahead of time to get out all of the wrinkles. I did not prewash because I didn’t want it to shrink up.

White flannel sheet for design wall

Be sure to iron out the wrinkles as much as you can.

Supplies: washers, screws, duct tape, screwdriver, level and a staple gun. This design wall is very light weight and attached directly to the wall so no crazy equipment is needed. We used regular 2″ long screws with washers to hold them in place. A level comes in handy, too.

Tools and supplies to build a design wall

Not pictured: duct tape, level, and a hand-held screwdriver.

Step 1 – Tape the Insulation Boards together

The boards we bought have writing on one side, and a silver reflective surface on the other side. We chose the silver side to be the front so that none of the writing would show through on the front. It’s also easy to pin into.

Foam Board Front

One of the boards had a small dent on the front which we didn’t see. Fortunately, it didn’t show up at all, once we covered them in flannel and attached to the wall.

I thought it was funny that the boards say they are specifically for craft projects. I don’t remember that writing the last time I made a design wall for my other house over 5 years ago.

Foam Insulation boards writing

We started off by taping the boards together on top of a couple of tables and barstools pushed together at the right height. But then we realized you could do this on a hard floor as well. My previous studio was carpeted so we needed to do everything on a flat table. This time around, the studio floor worked well for all of the other steps.

Jason taped the back middle seam with duct tape as far as he could reach. We had to be careful handling it because it wanted to fold along the seam. At this point, it’s not very stable, but big and awkward.

Taping the insulation boards together

Step 2 – Cover the Boads with A Flannel Sheet

The reason I chose a flannel sheet is that it’s lightweight, gives an even surface, and fabric and quilts will stick to it. I also think it looks much nicer and cleaner than batting and I can still pin into it if needed. We laid the flannel sheet on the floor first, and then gently laid the taped boards wrong side up on top of it.

Flannel

There was just barely enough width on the floor for the sheet and boards because we installed a floor plug in the middle of the room where my sewing machine goes. It’s important to have a flat work surface when doing this part so it doesn’t dent the foam. I didn’t worry about the top seam in the sheet since it would be wrapped around to the back side.

When this is hung, the seam will be horizontally in the middle so that one board basically sits on top of the other. That will make the seam on the front side less noticeable and will give the whole structure more stability once it’s attached to the wall.

Design Wall in Progress

Very smoothly and carefully, we wrapped the excess flannel around the boards, 2 sides at a time.

Wrapping the board in flannel

First we stapled the “top” and “bottom” sides and then the edges, very close together.  Jason discovered that he had to put a little bit of pressure while using the gun and staple straight down, otherwise the staples would come out easily.

Stapling the sides

After a few staples, Jason drew a straight line so that he could pull the edges taught and even and line up the staples about 5″ or so from the edge. Keeping a little tension on the sheet was important so that it would be smooth and tight across the surface and not sag.

Level for marking

The corners were a bit bulky so I tried to fold them over as best as I could so that it was smooth and tight around the corners. We used lots more staples here. I probably could have cut some of the bulk from the corners, but didn’t want to risk it in case we had to redo something. Fortunately we didn’t and the bulk of the flannel was smooshed flat against the wall, once everything was attached.

On the sides with corners, Jason stapled a few in the middle, then the corners, then worked his way in sections to even out any of the stretch in the flannel.

Lots of Staples in the Corners

We added lots and lots of staples to secure the flannel.

Step 3 – Attach the Design Boards to the Wall

We measured where we wanted to hang the design wall – centered halfway across the room and in between two plugs on the wall. We wanted it 5″ from the floor so we found a box that height that we used to rest the design wall on while we gently nudged it into place.

My job was to carefully hold the design wall against the wall while Jason attached it into place with screws. He used a measuring tape and level to ensure that it stayed straight and square while attaching.

Measure

Jason measured 1 1/2″ away from the edges using a washable marking pen. Then he screwed the screws directly into the wall with a regular screwdriver, making a hole in the flannel that was covered by the washer. The washer gives a decorative element and also prevents the screw from digging into the foam.

Attaching the screws in the design wall

First Jason attached two screws on either side, where the boards meet up in the middle. This would be the two top corners of the bottom foam board. Then he attached screws in the upper corner of the design wall, and then in the lower corners.

Attaching Top Screws

Then he attached 2 more screws in the lower corners of the first design board – so 8 screws and washers to secure the boards to the wall, holding down all 4 corners of each foam board.

Attaching side screws

We attached a total of 14 screws and washers, evenly across the top and side edges. Here’s what it looks like with all screws attached. You can see the faint line where the boards meet up in the middle, but that softens up over time and will be mostly covered by quilts anyway.

Finished Design Wall

I added a recent quilt finish to the wall to give my room a pop of color that I really love! Now I’m ready to make and photograph more quilts for your viewing pleasure!!

Christa Watson Quilt Studio

The quilt on the wall is from my Rainbow Weave quilt kit.

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial and peek into my sewing room. Because I know you’ll ask – my sewing table is one I purchased from a dealer over 20 years ago. Sadly the dealer is no longer in business and I can’t remember the brand of table it was! But I’m in the process of finding a new table with a built-in side section that forms an L shape – giving me more room to hold up the quilt. So be on the lookout for more sewing room updates, and more fabulous quilts!

Tips on How to Plan Your Quilting, Sewing Room Update

Hi all – I’ve been super quiet on the blog this week because getting my new sewing room up and running has been an all-consuming process! For those following the Blooming Wallflowers Quilt Along, the next post will be up soon, I promise!!

Plan Your Quilting

In the meantime, be sure to check out this informative post about planning your quilting. I shared it over on my buddy Amy Smart’s blog at Diary of a Quilter. It’s an inside look to how I plan my quilting. This will be helpful for those of you quilting along with me, or wishing to figure out how to plan your own quilts!

This week I’m getting my Ikea Sewing room cabinets installed and I can’t wait until they are finished! They are actually from their custom kitchen department but they will work wonderfully for my space! The whole unit will have covered doors with sleek handles so that I can keep the mess out of sight.

Sewing Room Ikea Cabinets

Once the cabinets are finished, the flooring will be installed and then I can start moving my sewing stuff into the space. I can’t wait to share the final reveal! I have to say that working with Ikea, and their authorized partner Traemand installation has been wonderful. There have certainly been hiccups along the way, but they’ve handled everything with such professionalism that I would highly recommend them! Here’s hoping I have room for all my stuff, LOL!

New Home Progress Week 7 – Designing My Quilting Studio (+Free Shipping!)

We are continuing to make great progress on settling into our new home. Most of the big stuff has been moved, except for my sewing room. But this week, I started designing how I want it to look, and I had someone from Ikea come and measure the space so we can plan out a very functional working studio. Here are a rough floor-plan so far:

Sewing Room Floorplan

Sewing Room Floorplan

I basically have two areas – a big open loft and a small corner nook. (The lines in the upper left corner represent open hallways so that’s not actually part of the space.) My plan is to have wall-to-wall cabinets on one wall (#’s 1-8) and the opposite blank wall will be for my design wall. The lower left (#’s 9-11) will be base cabinets with a smooth surface on top for cutting, and I want to add a cozy chair for hand sewing.

The rectangles in the center and the right side wall represent rough placement of my sewing table and computer desk. I never had a work desk in my old studio so I’m excited for the change.

Here’s the rough rendering of the space in 3-D (with the left rectangle and clear rectangle representing room openings):

sewing Studio Floorplan

For so long, most of my furniture has been a mis-match of hand-me downs and ugly plastic storage bins. I’m sooo excited that in the new studio, everything will be behind closed doors in nice, pretty built-in cabinets.

Sewing Room Plan

Designing my space is like designing a quilt – I need to see what it will look like before I start!

Here are the accessories I’ve picked out so far – off white cabinet fronts with interesting texture, silver handles, and a gray counter top.

Sewing Room Look

Things may change as I finalize the design this weekend, but hopefully everything will be ready by the end of February. Fortunately I’m in a lull with my quilting until the end of March, when new sample fabrics start arriving for spring quilt market. (More about that later!) So hopefully that will give me the time and headspace I need to get it all set up how I want.

Free Shipping on All Orders over $25!!

So let’s celebrate another weekly milestone with a sale!! From now through next Tuesday, when you spend at least $25 from my designer shop at Shop.ChristaQuilts.com you’ll get Free Shipping!!

You must use code MOVE7 in the coupon box at checkout to get the deal. So stock up on some of your faves guilt-free (and that means less stuff for me to put on my shelves, LOL!!!)

Sewing Nook

One of my earlier sketches as I was planning things out.

And now, I’ll pretend like I’m sitting in my cozy chair in one corner of my studio, enjoying some relaxing hand binding in a clean, organized and finished home… stay tuned for the next update!!