How to Make a Quilt Design Wall

Seigfried Layda

It's easy to make a quilt design wall. These vertical walls are used to arrange and compare fabrics, small pieces of patchwork, finished quilt blocks, rows of quilt blocks and anything else you want to preview during the quiltmaking process.

Design walls are most often created with a material that 'sticks' to fabric, making it easy to position your work on the wall without using pins or other implements to keep pieces in place.

Design walls are available commercially, but it's easy to make an inexpensive portable or permanent quilt design wall.

Easily Preview Layouts with a Quilt Design Wall

A vertical display area allows you to step back and view the work from a distance. The distance helps you detect layout errors and the stickiness lets you quickly shift components around to experiment with new ideas.

Previewing your work is most helpful when you are making a scrap quilt, a sampler quilt or any layout sewn with multiple quilt block designs in a range of colors and color values.

Can I Use an Empty Wall in My House as a Design Wall?

You can use a typical wall to preview quilts, but be prepared to attach pieces with lots of straight pins — heavier push pins will leave holes in the fabric and the wall. If the wall is made from anything more rigid than drywall, pins will usually break.

Make a Permanent Design Wall

Flannel is a good choice for permanent design walls.

It can be mounted to the wall as is with small nails. Some quilters place the flannel around thin composite boards arranged side by side. Neutral colors ​of flannel, such as white, ivory or beige are usually best for design walls ​since they aren't as likely to detract from the quilt.

Flannel sheets cover large spaces and are often more economical than flannel yardage.

Try a company that sells sheets for massage therapists — Massage Warehouse is one choice, but there are many others.

Sheets of foam-like insulation board are another display wall option. Cover the foam with flannel or leave it bare — it's easy to insert straight pins into the insulation. Lumber companies will cut the sheets to a manageable size, and a series of boards can be arranged side by side on a large wall, with screws holding them in place.

Portable Design Wall Options

A portable design wall might be a good choice if:

  • you cannot leave the wall set up all the time
  • you are working on multiple projects and would like a wall for each
  • you need a portable design area that can travel with you to workshops

Trifold Cardboard Displays

Make a small design wall from a trifold cardboard display board like this 36" x 48" example from Staples. The free-standing boards are available at most office supply companies and stores that sell school supplies.

  • Wrap the board with neutral colored flannel and use duct tape to secure ends on the board's reverse side. Miter the corners as best you can, but don't obsess if they aren't perfect.
  • For easy storage, make sure the sides of the display board still fold inward easily after flannel is attached.
  • You may need to secure large pieces of fabric with pins or drape a portion of the project over the top edge of the board.

Make a Design Wall from a Vinyl Tablecloth

Flannel backed vinyl tablecloths are another option for either portable or permanent design walls. Secure the tablecloth to a wall in several places along its top and bottom edges, flannel side out.

Remove the tablecloth and fold or roll for storage when not in use.

Commercial Design Walls

Quilt shops sell commercially made design walls in several sizes. Some are flannel, with grid lines that help you position blocks and fabrics.

Some types of commercial design walls resemble quilt batting — thicker than flannel, and with a good grip to hold patches in place.

Experiment with design walls to discover which methods work best for your needs.