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Make Your Own Design Wall 
by Rachelle Burleson, York Street Quilting Co.

A design wall is one of the elements that I most depend on in my sewing studio. It is of great advantage to the quilt-maker to be able to stand back and evaluate the flow of colors and the effects of patterns in an ongoing project. 

In the early stages of quilt planning, it is a wonderful help to be able to cut out and mount block or appliqué pieces to see whether the choice and flow of colors will work. I also use it as I progress in the quilt construction by mounting each new section or block as I finish it so that I can see my work in progress and make any necessary changes before it is too late. Many times I make either design or color adjustments in borders based on what I observe about the center of the quilt as it’s hanging on the design wall.

Best of all, a design wall is not difficult to make! Here are some things to consider:

A.  Size of the desired design wall. The larger the wall space the better – the bigger your design wall can be! I have also found it best to have the design wall on a wall that you can stand at least 10 feet away from. You gain the best perspective about an overall design when you are not standing immediately in front it. 

Does your design wall need to be portable or will it remain in one place? Generally, if your design wall needs to be portable, it is best to keep its size as small as possible (36” square). This will make it easier to transport and store. 

Based on these considerations, you will need to decide the size of the optimum design wall for your situation. 

B. Fabric for the design wall. Based on the size of design wall you will be making, you will need to purchase fabric for both the front and the back, and cut it to the desired size. The backing can be from something as affordable as regular muslin, or it can be the same fabric as used on the front. Be careful not to use a heavy-weight fabric. 

For the front of the design wall a white or off-white flannel is a perfect choice. This does not have to be an expensive fabric – save those for your quilts. 

If your design wall is large enough that you will have to seam the fabrics together, consider using a flannel sheet (new or used).

Pre-wash all fabrics.

C. Batting. Polyester is not a good choice for a design wall since it tends to have a good deal of loft and pills. For this particular project, 100% cotton batting is the best choice. You will need a piece the size of the desired design wall.


  1. Sandwich the three layers of fabric, batting and backing together as you would a quilt top. Use safety pins approximately 4” – 5” apart to secure the sandwich.

  2. Mark a vertical line down the center of the top fabric with a fabric marking pen. Mark a similar horizontal line.

  3. Using a neutral thread in the top and bobbin, and a walking foot, stitch on the vertical, marked line down the center of the fabric. Stitch another vertical line 2” to the right of the original line. Continue stitching vertical lines out to the edge of the fabric. When all of the vertical lines have been stitched to the right of the center, turn the fabric, top to bottom, and stitch the remaining vertical lines.

  4. When the vertical lines have been stitched, it is time to stitch the horizontal lines in the same manner as previously described in step 3.

  5. When all vertical and horizontal lines have been stitched you may straighten and square the edges. 

  6. Using a serger, serge around the top. This seals the edges, gives it a finished appearance, and helps keep it from stretching.

  7. You are now ready to hang your design wall and enjoy using it! Simply place pieces of fabrics, blocks or quilt tops on the design wall, aligning the corners and edges with the stitching lines. The texture of the flannel will cause the fabric to stick. There are times when using straight pins, which penetrate the batting, are helpful to keep sections in place. The 2-inch stitching grid which covers its surface will give very helpful measurement references in the design process.

This article is written for personal use only. Permission for any other reprinting must be received from the author. 

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