Design Walls

Pattern BoardA Design Wall is very important when your creating any project. I for one do not have a free wall that I can have a permanent place to design on. I have to use something I can put away. Their are a number of cool design wall kits you can use, but I’m kind of a cheapskate in some regards and prefer to “build my own”. Not that I’m going to get out the wood and saws, but I order alot of stuff, so I have lots of boxes to fall back on. It’s quite easy to take a box, flatten it out and add some creases (so it’s foldable), wrap some flannel around the border, taping the back side of the card board. For years, I used this type of design wall.

Today I use a pattern board that many sewers use for cutting patterns on. This is much better, it’s thicker, and folds easily versus a box which will wear out over time. Pattern Boards do not. In the days prior to rotary cutters, these were invaluable, they laid nicely on a table or the floor and you cut your clothing patterns on them.

By pattern board, this is what I mean:

Clicking the images will open the links..

Pattern Board

it folds out like this:


The cool thing about using this type is that as you can see, it folds out, and folds back in so you could place it in a closet until you need it again. The other side, is if you need to temporarily take it down, fold it up with your project pinned in place, and then when you fold it back out, it will unfold with your project still in tact.

Now, I don’t use this bare like shown, but you could. you would just need to pin your projects on the board. However, if you add some flannel, the projects will stay up nicely without even pinning most of the time. You do have to pin sometimes, but pinning does not need to be heavy with flannel.

To add your flannel to the board, wrap it as tightly as possible bringing the over a 2 to 3-inch overlap on the backside of the board, taping it down with some masking, duct, or some type of permanent fabric glue. (Using glue, you will need to allow it to dry, it could take up to 24 hours). However, I like using binder clips. The small or medium binder clips to attach the fabric to the board:

Small Binder Clips

small binder clipsMedium Binder Clips (Preferable)medium binder clips

I highly recommend you use the Kaffee Fasset Gridded Grey Flannel. It blends with all colors of fabrics and you don’t see the grey when your trying to preview a realistic look for your project. It’s especially nice when your project has a light background, with white flannel, your eye can deceive you and bring the white into the preview of your project.

grey flannelThe best price currently on this is at Hawthorne Threads. However, when it’s available at Hancocks of Paducah, the price is $1.00 less per yard. It is also available currently at The Fat Quarter Shop. It is 44-inches wide. Their is a very nice design wall tutorial located here if you wish to build a permanent one.

However, their is a white gridded flannel that is wider at 56-inches wide available at

EQuilter and Everything Quilts


Using the binder clips, you can easily attach the clips every 5-8 inches depending on the size you purchased. If you purchased the small ones, you will need them closer, with the medium ones they can be around 5-8 inches apart. The medium also gives a better fit should you need to remove them later, the small ones are tigher on the board and therefore more difficult to remove later. You can keep the steel part of the clip outside of the board if you prefer, but on the bottom of the board you will want the steel clip laying in the board so that it sits on the floor properly. When mine is setup, it sitting on an angle in front of a table so that it leans into the table, but the bottom is on the floor.

I don’t currently have a picture of mine, but I will make one when I get my camera back. (I loaned it to a friend who went to Rome for vacation this week).

Next, you will need some “applique pins” whether your piecing or doing applique, these aren’t for use to pin your applique shapes on, but instead to pin into the board to hold pieces on if you need to hold some pieces in place. You’ll need a few hundred of them, look at it like this, the smaller your blocks are, the more pins you will need, the larger your blocks are the less pins you will need. I know, it doesn’t make sense, but it’s true. 🙂

Applique Pins

applique pins

I prefer Clovers, but Dritz also makes applique pins. Applique pins are very short, you want these pins to be short for a reason. When you put them into the design wall, try to pin where your seam allowance is with your pieced blocks and angle the pin in, instead of going straight in. This will keep pins from sticking out the back of the patten board and possibly preventing the ouchies by sticking you when you collapse the board to put it away.

You can also use Sequin pins. Sequin pins tho are very tiny, and difficult to use, but you do want to keep your pins as small as possible.

Eventually you may need to replace your board, but one way to preserve your board well.. not preserve it, but you could slice the board in half if you don’t need a large board, and keep the other side until you need it, or, have two of them so you can keep one project on one board and work on another board with the other half. I cut mine in half only because I don’t have the room to spread out 60-inches, so mine is only 30 x 36-inches tall.

Other Design Wall Options

cherylanns design wall

Cheryl Ann’s Design Wall comes in various sizes at various prices. It is quite expensive but it looks fabulous. It does come with it’s own bag also. I can see where teachers who travel to classes would love this board, but I doubt I’d ever use it in my home.

Fons & Porter Designs Wall

The Fons & Porter Design Wall is nice because it has the same features of mine, it’s will come down off it’s hanger and fold up easily. It’s a fairly inexpensive solution, but the way it’s meant to hang is fairly questionable to me. From the pictures I could find on the web, it looks like it hangs like a shower curtain would. It has the grommet holds in the top of the wall, but my curiosity comes in how would you hang this on a wall, or take it to a class?

Travelling Design Wall

If you are wanting a traveling option, cut a piece of flannel, fleece and perhaps heat sensitive fabric at around 14 x 18-inches, stitch them together, doing a wide quilting across them perhaps 2-3-inch criss-cross diamonds. Bind it, roll it up and add a ribbon around it so it’s like a roll (less ironing when you spread it out) and wala, you have a travelling design wall/pressing board.


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