Design Wall by Tenar


Home & Decoration


I've wanted a design wall for years, and now that I have an empty area of wall I am finally making one.  It's going to be about 8' each way.  Chances are the top may never be used, as it will be 9' up (I have to start a foot up due to the skirting board and sockets), but this is how the materials are sized. 

It's also going to be made up of six panels, each covered with cream flannel.  This is partly because this is a much easier size to wrangle, and partly because I reckon that when I put a big quilt top up, having six panels will spread the weight much more evenly on the flannel.  The panels will be in two rows of three.

As I often use the Ruth McDowell freezer paper method of piecing, where all the pieces are ironed onto freezer paper templates and then pinned in place over the original paper pattern while I audition fabrics, I definitely need something I can pin into.


  • 24 of A1 foam core board (841 x 594 x 5mm).  I originally ordered 12, but they turned up looking rather dented, and in a few cases had bits of white wax on them.  When I rang the shop, they promptly said they'd send me another batch for free.  Since the main thing I'd worried about with this board was the thickness for pinning, being able to double up the thickness was an unexpected bonus, and I'll just put up with the dents and make sure the stained sides are in the middle of the board sandwich.  I'm honestly not sure what is the best material to use for this.  It depends on where you live, what you can get hold of affordably (UK prices are far higher than US prices), and what size of board you are happy to handle.  Cost: £29.88 for 12 boards (on special offer at Hobbycraft).
  • One super king size flannel sheet in cream.  In the UK, this is cheaper than buying fabric by the metre/yard, but I hear that in the US, it's the other way about.  Many quilters like cream for their design walls.  It doesn't have the glare of white, is still neutral, and harmonises nicely with home decor.  Some quilters prefer grey, but personally I think it looks too dark, and in particular it will show through lighter fabrics and make them look darker than they really are. Other quilters like to use batting, which is stickier and which will also be cream if you get cotton, but that was too expensive for me, plus I was worried that it would get grubby.  Cost: £13.45 on eBay.
  • One 5m x 50mm roll of duct tape (aka gaffer tape or duck tape). I picked silver for the colour, though it just needs to be something relatively light.  Cost: £3.95 on eBay.  I didn't end up using all of it, but it's handy stuff to have around.
  • Some 1" masking tape.  I already had this in the house, and I'm not using more than 6m or so, I think.
  • A few hundred pins.  I already had these.
  • A few hundred 9mm drawing pins.  Make sure you get this size, as anything too big will go all the way through your boards if you're using boards of this thickness.  If you're using thicker boards, then it doesn't matter.  Cost: £2.99 on eBay.
  • Lots of Command picture hanging strips.  I went for the value pack which has 8 medium and 4 small, and bought three of them.  This may be overkill, but these are large boards I'm putting up, and I don't want to discover the hard way that I didn't put enough supports on them.  Cost: £15.66 total from Amazon.
  • Spirit level, big acrylic rulers, graph paper, pencils, marking chalk, dining table, ironing board, iron, the usual.  I used big books as weights, too.


  1. Dust and clean your wall.  Get this out of the way first, so that it has time to dry while you get everything else done.  The Command strips say to use rubbing alcohol, which translates to surgical spirit in British, but my friend who uses these all the time said just to use ordinary household cleaner, so I did.  The wall is painted over plaster over brick.  Do check that your wall is up to the job!
  2. Divide your flannel sheet into six parts.  This may be fairly easy depending on how it was folded up when it arrived.  It doesn't matter if you're half an inch or so off either way, so I ended up pinning the sheet into thirds while it was still folded, cutting through eight layers of fabric, and then opening that out and cutting on the handy fold line in the centre.  You don't want to wash the flannel, it's stickier this way.
  3. If you're like me, you'll do one panel at a time, it's quite a job.  Take your first piece of flannel and iron it.  Iron it thoroughly.  Lay it out over the boards and check that the creases really are out, and if need be iron it again.
  4. Clean your dining table, floor, anything in the area really, and make sure it's all dry.
  5. Take your first two boards and put them on the dining table.  My dining table is 135cm x 74cm and a pair of boards fit nicely, being a bit wider and shorter than the table.  See what I mean about a manageable size?  Peel off the shop labels carefully, and then match the boards up so that they're level, long sides together.   Put four big books on them to hold them in place.  Put a line of gaffer tape along the join on one side only.  This will be the back (actually, the middle of the sandwich - it'll go against the next pair of boards).
  6. Take your flannel and put it over the front side of the joined boards, checking that it looks properly ironed.  There will be a few inches of flannel all the way around.  Flip the whole thing over and tape the flannel overhang to the back with masking tape, starting with the centre points of each side and then adding a few in the centre and at the corner.  Make sure the flannel is nice and taut.  This bit is only temporary, by the way.
  7. Take your sewing pins and go around the big board, putting a pin into the edge every 4" or thereabouts.  The length of the pin doesn't matter, as it's not going through the board from front to back, it's parallel with it.
  8. Unstitck the masking tape from the board but leave it attached to the flannel.
  9. Take the board off the table.  Put another pair of boards down and join them again, this time running the gaffer tape all the way down the join at one side and a few inches over onto the other side at each end as well.  The gaffer taped side is also the back, i.e. the side that will go against the wall.
  10. Put your first, flannel-covered board onto the table, and put the second paired board on top, with the gaffer taped side on the back.  Get them nicely centred and weight them down with the books again.
  11. You still have bits of masking tape on your flannel.  Tape them down again, so that now the flannel is encasing both pairs of boards.
  12. Go around with drawing pins and pin through this flannel overhang.  This time you're pinning into the back of the doubled-up board, and it should be enough to pin into the next layer of board but not enough to come out the front.  Some of the pins may be a bit wobbly, in which case relocate them if they come out but don't worry too much.  Remove the masking tape, it's no longer needed.
  13. Go around with gaffer tape and tape over the edges of the flannel, covering the drawing pins, and going right to the edges of the board.  This keeps the whole thing secured, at least I very much hope it does.  I dare those boards to come apart now!  You have now completed one panel.  (Later note: yes, there were no problems at all with this.)
  14. Crawl around on the floor with a spirit level, acrylic rulers and some marking chalk in order to get a horizontal line for where your design wall is going to start, and then vertical lines for where the panels will meet on the inside.  If you have even floors (my flat was built in 1825 and doesn't have a straight line or right angle to call its own), and you are also able to start your design wall right at the floor, then you can skip the horizontal lines and just do the vertical ones.
  15. Work out where you're going to put your hanging strips on the board, depending on where the gaffer tape has come to and remembering that your panels will all vary a bit in this respect.  I gave it a clear 4" margin all the way around.  Mark a small pencil line to guide where to put the hanging strips.  You want them all placed identically, so that if you ever decide to switch the panels around due to pinning one of them to death, they will all have their hanging strips in the same place and will thus be interchangeable.  (Later note: the design wall has been up for a year and there's no sign of this being a problem yet, but hey, it's nice to have the option.)  I put four medium and two small strips on each panel.  It may be more than is needed, but while the weight is relatively low, the area is large and I don't want to go wrong with this.  I'd suggest putting a strip in each corner, and then the other two in the middle.
  16. Click each pair of strips together, peel off the backing from one side only, and put them onto the board, pressing firmly into place.
  17. Put the board up on the wall and press firmly over where the hanging strips are.  Use a table knife to unclick the strips and take the board down again.  This is a bit tricky when you have to try to reach under the boards, but it's manageable in the end.  You should now have one of the strips on the board, and the other half on the wall.  Press firmly against the strips on the wall.  You're meant to give the adhesive an hour to dry, but many people say a day is better.  I gave in after five hours for the first one, though I will try to be more sensible with the rest.
  18. Once the adhesive has dried and the panel is up, repeat this with the other two panels which will be going in the bottom row, and once they're done, do the top row.  Doing them one at a time like this means that you can get them nicely snug next to each other.

Update after finishing: I'm definitely glad I did it in six panels, both for ease of assembly, and because it puts less stress on each individual panel and also gives me a handy line for reference when putting up large pieces of fabric.  I tried fairy lights around the edge, but they looked odd and were taken down.  I now have fairy lights in the big plant beside the design wall instead.

Update a year later: it's still going strong, and I love it to bits.  The double layer of foam core board gives a good, sturdy base for pinning into.  I definitely need to pin into it!  With my current quilt, I was using a big range of fabrics and relatively large pieces.  I didn't want to have to cut out a piece every time I wanted to audition the fabric, I'd have wasted half the fabric, so I folded the fat quarters down into the square, rectangle or triangle I was auditioning, then pinned through all those layers.  I've ended up with some rather bent pins, because that's an awful lot of fabric to pin through.  By now it's at the stage where the pieces are all cut and the top is half-sewn.  I couldn't possibly have designed this without a design wall.  I'm also definitely glad I did it in six panels.  If it had just been a single sheet of flannel over the whole thing, no matter how taut I would have originally fastened the sheet, it would have started to sag in the centre from the weight of all the fabric being applied to it.


That's the table lamp shade, in case you were wondering
Everything done except putting fairy lights around the edge





This is going to be amazing and I am so excited to see your pictures and follow how this is developing! You are making me want more than my flannel sheet;-)


If your flannel sheet works for you, great! I just really need something I can pin into. This is probably a lot more work than some of the other methods out there, but then I'm really not equipped to deal with a board that's 8' long in any sense.


Tenar well my flannel sheet may work I do love this better! I do use pins on mine as well- the fabric sticks nicely BUT I have four cats who think knocking it around is a fun thing to do! This is just going to be wonderful for your work!


I love the drawing with the stick person and potted plant. This is going to be a great design wall. I had a piece of batting hung up for mine, but then I decided I wanted to actually use it as batting...


I meant that I need to pin by jabbing the pin in at a 90 angle, not pinning as if joining two pieces of fabric. There's too much paper around for that when I'm using freezer paper (look at again). Plus I don't have cats, but I'd be worried about knocking things down as well!


I would like to point out that the stick person is done perfectly to scale. Well, the height is correct, anyway, even if it does have its bottom sticking out. The plant will be sitting on a bit of furniture, hopefully, so that will be in front of part of the wall, as will the dining table. Actually, the main reason for drawing the plant was trying to work out if it would look odd sitting that high up.

Plus I do scale diagrams for everything. Life is not complete without some messing around with graph paper. Please tell me it's not just me?


graph paper .. no I would have to be far too accurate .. I just pretend my 5 on 7 rectangle is a 6" square that represents a 12" block and that the three lines that quarter it are at an equal distance (which they are usually not). Ehmmm please don't tell anyone.


Oh, if you mean rough sketches, then that's perfectly normal. I do that too. But there is an awful lot of graph paper involved in my quilting, both the sort with 5mm squares like this paper, and the sort with 2mm/20mm squares.

Since my attempt to lure people into the chat room is failing, I am going to go and mark up that wall with blue chalk some more. I might even get really wild and tape down the drawing pins on the second panel. That's all I can do for the time being, as I'm waiting for more boards, drawing pins and hanging strips to arrive in the post.


I have been trying to keep my love of graph paper quiet but you have made me feel like it is ok to share this obsession!;-)


I like using graph paper too, although maybe not quite to your extent. And I am also the (very) happy owner of a roll of semi-imperial graph paper (the large squares are 1" but it is then divided into tenths) that a friend nabbed from college where it is was used for one of those graph machine thingys. Wonderful when I am designing chenille waistcoats ;) Looks like you are doing very well with your design wall.


Tell you what, let's start a discussion in the forum about graph paper. Yes, I have that much to say about it. blushes


Second panel is now up, and it's really starting to look like a design wall! It is also illustrating very nicely why I need to be able to pin, and why I need something fairly sturdy. There are quite a few fabrics placed on top of other fabrics there.

This is only a third of the final thing. There will be another panel to the right, and then three more panels on top. This will probably be the main usable area, though. I reckon that I'll end up standing on the table to put tops that I've finished but not quilted at the top, out of the way, and then use the lower, more accessible area as a working surface.


Fourth panel up, fifth panel prepared and waiting. At this rate I think I'll be finished on Tuesday. Then there will be the fairy lights, of course.


It's done! Those wretched boards were cut badly, so there are occasional gaps between the panels, or some sticking out more than other bits, but overall I think it looks OK. Actually, it looks sort of weird, but I will get used to it, and it'll look much better once the furniture is back in position and I have fairy lights running around the edge.

You can download the project as JSON data.Download JSON