How to Make a Portable Design Wall

Kimberlee Tanner

How to Make a Portable Design Wall

In our previous house, I had two spaces dedicated to quilting, one for my long arm, and one for my domestic machine. This meant lots of space for a big design wall and to have all my quilting supplies set up all the time. Unfortunately with our recent move, it’s meant downsizing and I don’t have those spaces anymore. I’ve found a need to setup more temporary spaces, but I’m not willing to sacrifice functionality. Enter, the portable design wall! This projects is quick, easy, cheap, and creates a space for me to set out blocks, but then easily folds up and fits under a bed when not in use.


What is a Design Wall?

A design wall is simply a space that you can set out blocks as you finish them so that you can see what it will look like when completed. Think of it as a giant flannel board for quilting! No need to have a large flat space on the ground or worry about pets and kids running through your blocks as soon as you lay them out. With a design wall, you can set the blocks up off the floor saving the blocks and your back. After you’ve used one, it will be hard to function without them. You can easily attach the flannel right to the wall if you want, but if you are in need of a more portable version, this one is so simple to make!

Does the color of the Design Wall Matter?

Yes and No. You can easily make a wall out of any color flannel you like, but keep in mind it may affect how the colors in the blocks look. A block  set against white will look different than a block set against black. That same block may also look completely different when put next to a red or green flannel. Since you want to see what the colors will most look like in the finished quilt and not compete against what is going on with your design wall, we like to keep it simple. I recommend using a color that isn’t distracting; white, light cream, or light gray are all good options.

What Supplies do I need to make a Design Wall for Quilting?

You will need flannel. The amount depends on the size of your wall. I’ve included a few different options down below to help you determine what yardage to purchase. For our 4×6 wall I used 3 yards of 40″ wide flannel.

You will also need a sheet of foam insulation board. This is easily found at your local big box home improvement store and comes in different thicknesses. You want one that is thick enough to have substance. We used 1″. You could go a little bigger, but don’t go smaller. Since this board will be leaning up against a wall it needs to be self supporting. A 4×8 board should cost less than 20 dollars.

Velcro. This is only needed if you want to make it so your board will fold in half for easier transportation or storage. I used the self stick kind so I didn’t have to worry about gluing.

Tape. You’ll need tape in two places. If you are making a folding board, you’ll want duct tape or flexible shipping tape for durability. If you aren’t, you can use any kind of thick tape, we used packing tape, but duct tape would work just as well.

A knife and ruler. This will be for cutting the foam board. You’ll need a knife that is big enough to go through the entire thickness of the board. We used a box knife for scoring and a kitchen knife to finish cutting.

How to Make your Design Wall

  1. The first thing you need to do is determine the size that you want. If 4×8 works for you, you won’t need to cut your foam down at all. If you want bigger than 4×8, you’ll need 2 boards. Measure and cut your insulation to your desired finished size. After it’s cut to size, if you want it to fold, you’ll also need to cut it down the center. If possible, make the fold go vertical for added stability. If it’s not possible, we’ll add velcro later to help it stay open.
  2. Lay your two halves next to each other. (if not folding, skip to step 4). Using the flexible shipping tape or duct tape, tape along the entire seam, making sure to only get tape on the top. do not continue the tape over the sides at all.
  3. Turn your board over and attach velcro at a couple points on the back. I split my board into thirds. If you are making a bigger board, You’ll likely want longer and bigger velcro. Cut one side of your velcro and place it on either side of the cut in your boards. Leave the opposite side of the velcro whole and use it to keep the board open as needed.
  4. Layout your flannel. You may need to sew your flannel together depending on your size (see the chart below). If you have a seam in your flannel, place it in the middle of your work space and center your board on top of it. I lined my cut in the boards up with the seam to ensure I would have fabric evenly dispersed around the board. Using packing tape or duct tape, tape the fabric to the back of your board. You can fold your fabric under as needed to achieve a nice finished edge.
  5. Now that your fabric is taped to the board, we need to make sure there is a slit at the fold. We want the fabric to only be sewn together on the front of the board. Cut along the bend in your board on the back and side and secure with tape as needed to keep the edge of fabric from unraveling.

And done! Test it out, set it up on a wall and add your quilt blocks!

What if I want it a Different Size?

You can really make a board any size you want. For different sizes check our fabric requirements below:

  • 3×3 Board: 1 yard of fabric
  • 3×5 Board: 2 yards of fabric
  • 4×6 Board: 3 yards, cut into two 1 1/2 yard pieces and sew together along a selvedge edge. You can also make a 4×4 or 4×5 board from this size.
  • 6×6 Board: 4 1/2 yards, cut into two 2 1/4 yard pieces and sew together along a selvedge edge. You’ll also need two insulation boards.
  • 4×8 Board: 4 1/2 yards, cut into three 1 1/2 yard pieces and sewn together along a selvedge edge.
  • 8×8 Board: 9 yards, cut into three 3 yard pieces and sewn together along a selvedge edge. You’ll also need two insulation boards.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out!

Happy Quilting!

Kimie and Missy

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