My BIG design board

Last time, I showed you how I made mini (10″ square) design boards for individual blocks. Today, I want to show you my beautiful new giant design board, measuring 8′ (about 2.4 meters) square. It’s one of my favorite things about my new quilting studio space and it was really easy to create and install. I used two foam core boards (4′ x 8′ x .5″), a lot of duct tape, clear packing tape, some artist’s tape, 9 yards of white cotton flannel, and some Command picture hanging strips (I used the large size). The whole project took about half a day. I’ll describe it here but if you want a really good tutorial for making an even better design board, I recommend this one by Samantha of Aqua Paisley Studios.

A small quilt studio
My new quilt studio and design wall!

My studio space is pretty small, but it has a long flat wall that was perfect for the design board. I already had the foam core from another project, and it was scored so that it could be folded and carried more easily. The first thing I did was to open it up and tape the cut edges with the artist’s tape to keep the boards open and flat. If you start with new boards, you won’t need to do that. You can see that my boards are pretty beat up around the edges, but they worked fine.

I cleared a 9′ x 9′ space in the middle of the apartment floor (I was a little amazed that I could clear that much space, to be honest) and I lay the two boards flat and side by side (long sides together). Then I used the clear packing tape to tape them together all along the long edges. I turned them over carefully and taped the other side as well so that they acted like one giant 8′ x 8′ board. Once that was done, I leaned it up against a wall to get it out of the way. Unfortunately, it didn’t occur to me to take photos until I was actually hanging the board on the wall. Lesson learned.

Back of the design board
Blue duct tape secures the flannel to the board

I cut the flannel into thirds (three pieces about 3 yards long each) and stitched them together on the long edges to make one panel about 3 yards by 3 1/3 yards. I lined the selvedges up, used a 1″ seam, and trimmed the selvedges off afterward (leaving about a 1/2″ seam). I pressed the seams open. Then I swept the floor really clean, spread the flannel out with the right side down, and taped it at the corners, the center of each side, the seams, and a couple more points along the edges to keep it nice and flat.

Next, I placed the foam board on the flannel, centering it carefully so the seams would be more or less symmetrical. Then I used essentially the same process as for the mini design boards: tape the corners up, tape each side up starting in the center and working my way out to each edge, keeping everything nice and taut. You can see I’ve used the blue duct tape here in this photo of the corner.

I didn’t tape every inch of the edges, but I did tape most of the edges. And I didn’t use a spray adhesive or anything on the front. Once the whole thing was taped, I leaned the board up against the wall with the back facing out so I could attach the hanging strips.

I should mention here that I had planned to use Command canvas hangers at the very bottom of the wall to create little ledges for it to rest on for support, but I discovered that I didn’t need to. My baseboards are perfectly flat on top and are exactly as wide as the board, so it’s just resting on the baseboards. As a result, I didn’t use a ton of picture hanging strips — just enough to keep the top of the board flat against the wall so it wouldn’t bow outward.

Back of the design wall
Picture hanging strip placement

I enlisted my husband’s help to attach the picture hangers since I’m pretty short. He also helped me fix it to the wall. We peeled off the backing on the strips, turned the board around, got it in position, leaned it flat up against the wall, and then pressed on the spots where the picture hanging strips are. I cleverly left them only partly clicked so that the clicking sound of them interlocking would let us know when we were pressing in the right spot 🙂

And that was it! It’s quick and dirty, but I love my new design wall. It makes it so much easier to plan the layout of a large quilt or a complicated block.

A note about the foam boards: You can usually find them at framing shops, and sometimes at art supply shops. I recommend getting the 1/2″ thick rather than the more common 1/4″ thick boards, especially if you think you want to push pins into the board later. Uline also sells them, but only in boxes of 12. (I’d love six design boards, but I have nowhere to put them.) If you can find five other quilters to share with, you’re in business! If you can’t find foam core, sometimes you can find something similar at hardware stores that’s used for insulation. As long as it’s lightweight enough, won’t show through the flannel, and tape will stick to it, it’ll work.


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