9 quilt design-wall ideas

Quilt design wall ideas

If you’re designing quilts, auditioning fabrics, or simply want to see how your quilt is coming along, a design wall is a great way to see a completed quilt top begin to emerge. Most of us have used a table or the floor to view the results of our sewing, but a design wall for quilting allows you to stand back (quite literally) and take a look at what’s happening as each block comes off the machine.

Using a quilt design wall
Pictorial fabric squares placed on a design wall, left; framing fabric added, right.

Not sure how to make a quilting design wall? No problem—it’s easy to learn! There are two types of design walls that you can construct: a portable or retractable quilt design wall, and a more permanent one. Portable design walls are great for quilt spaces that do double duty (such as the kitchen table or the corner of a bedroom). Some types are also perfect for classes and retreats. Permanent design walls are a valuable addition to long-term quilting spaces.

Below you’ll find nine ideas on how to make a quilting design wall. We’ve rounded up quilt design-wall instructions that take from five minutes to a few hours to carry out. Whatever your needs, you’ll find a solution that fits the time and space you have. Happy designing!

Portable Quilt Design Wall Ideas

Flannel-backed vinyl tablecloth 1. Try a tablecloth
Idea from Kim Brackett, author of
Scrap-Basket Beauties (image source)
If you don’t have a design wall, you can make a portable version by using the back of a flannel-backed vinyl tablecloth. Just hang it over a door or tape it to a wall with painter’s tape.
2. Hang a flannel sheet
Idea from the
You Had Me at Bonjour blog

This quick design wall is made with a flannel sheet, which is hung with picture hooks. You can roll up and stow the sheet away with your quilt blocks still attached. Find the tutorial here.
Quilt design wall from You Had Me at Bonjour
From Mary Elizabeth Kinch--sew a flannel pocket 3. Wrap a board with a flannel pocket
Idea from
Mary Elizabeth Kinch, coauthor of Small Pieces, Spectacular Quilts and Small Blocks, Stunning Quilts

Mary Elizabeth cut insulation board from the hardware store; then sewed a flannel pocket to slip the board into. She even made tidy box corners! See the full tutorial here.
4. Wrap a board with quilt batting
Idea from the
Oh, Fransson! blog

For a sturdy—but still portable—design wall, wrap insulation board with batting. Insulation board can be found at most hardware stores, and you can cut it to any size, big or small.
Oh Fransson--quilt design wall idea
From Sandra Kaye--trio of quilt design walls 5. Make a trio of design walls
Idea from the
Sandra Kaye Designs blog

If you’re making one design wall, why not make three? Use one for smaller projects; line them up side by side to audition bigger quilts. The insulation board is so lightweight, you can carry all three at the same time. Get the tutorial here.
6. Make Your Design Wall Permanent
Idea from
The Quilting Edge blog

Got space to make your design wall a permanent fixture? Follow this smart tutorial for mounting your design wall (or walls) with removable, Velcro-type hanging strips. It’s permanent…until you don’t want it to be anymore. View the tutorial here.
Quilt design wall from The Quilting Edge

A few final ideas:

7. Empty a closet

Empty closets can be hard to come by, but if you have one, you’re in luck! Pin the top of a large piece of batting around a hanging rod in your closet; then pin blocks to the batting. If your closet has a light fixture, install a bulb that emits natural light. Or simply use the closet door itself as your design wall (see below).

8. Transform a cork board

Do you already have a corkboard that you use for paper items? Turn it into a small design wall by pinning flannel or batting to the cork.

9. Pin it

Mount a large piece of batting or flannel to a wall with straight pins and call it done. The pins leave only tiny holes, and they’re easy to pull out and push back in. Plus, you’ll have a design wall in five minutes flat.

How do you see the forest for the trees—or the quilt for the blocks—when you’re in the middle of a project? Share your ideas in the comments!

45 Comments (leave a comment)

  • I have an odd shaped studio space as my house is a reproduction of a Craftsman home and the upstairs is what would have been the attic. Since I’m under the slope of the roof and every end has windows or doors to the storage areas, I don’t have a full-sized design wall space. I do, however, have a futon and when I need to audition large designs, I drop the futon down into the bed position and use the bed as my big design wall! I have my eye on the space at the bend of the stairs, too, and have thoughts of a large design wall with molding around it. That way, I could sit at the top of the half flight of stairs to get perspective on my quilt-in-progress. In addition, think of the extra exercise I’d get running pieces up and down the stairs!

    Beth Strand on April 9, 2013
  • I just created my own portable design wall using PVC pipe, elbow. straight and T connectors. The pips were cut into 40″ lengths. It comes apart and fits into an old Folding chair bag. I used grey flannel for the wall and when rolled fits in the top of the bag. It was a big hit at the last retreat I went to and everyone used it.

    —Karen Ruetz on April 9, 2013
  • Es uno de los pasos más difíciles de aprender. Imaginar como quedará… después de años aún es complicado de adivinar siempre.

    Translation: It is one of the most difficult to learn steps. Imagine how it will be… After years still is difficult to always guess.

    Jacquelin B. on April 9, 2013
  • I do not have a design wall. However, I like the design of your tables for the sewing machine and the one right next to it. The last picture with the closet. Is there a source of that style. Looks like your machine is low and I’m looking for one with the right height. Maybe some day I will quilt more but for now, there is a kit waiting to become a finished UFO.

    Hi Mary,
    That sewing machine table set-up is made from the Galant series of tables and interchangeable legs at Ikea. They are great because you can choose the size table you want and then choose the legs that work best in your space. I used them in my own sewing area-I chose the adjustable legs so that I could customize the table heights. I have short legs and arms, so it was hard to find tables that were just right for me.

    —Mary on April 9, 2013
  • What a great post…..a solution for every situation. Thanks so much for including my tutorial.

    Marianne on April 9, 2013
  • Great ideas! I only recently made my own design board with a blank canvas frame from the dollar store. Insulation Board isn’t readily available in Australia.

    Here’s my post about it: http://www.sameliasmum.com/2013/04/make-design-board.html

    Thanks so much for sharing your idea!

    Anorina @ Samelia's Mum on April 9, 2013
  • I have two 4×8 sheets of sound board purchased at a big-box home-repair store. I covered them with batting & then a layer of flannel. It works well, but if you can get the large sheets of Styrofoam-type insulation, they are lighter & easier to maneuver.

    —Barbara on April 9, 2013
  • You have some really great ideas here! When I decided to build a design wall, I got a lot of really good ideas on blogs. My husband helped me put this one together http://thequiltjam.blogspot.com/2013/02/design-wall-tutorial.html

    Lisa Lisa,
    Thanks for sharing your idea with us!

    Lisa Lisa on April 9, 2013
  • I often take a photo of my quilt in the making – for some reason I can visualise how it is going to look so much better and if I haven’t sewn it I then have a record of how it should be stitched together

    Nicky on April 10, 2013
  • Perfect post timing! I just rescued a folding screen from a dumpster and am planning on making it into a quilting wall. I need something that can be easily put away when I’m not using it, but sturdy enough to stand on it’s own when I am. I thought of covering a thin board with flannel, then velcro-ing it to the screen frame for easy on/off. I think insulation board will be too thick, and I don’t need its sturdiness–does you have a suggestion for a thinner board?

    Also, would batting plus flannel work better than just flannel? And is there a preference between felt and flannel?

    Hi Amy,

    Since you are just sticking it onto the the sturdy screen, then I should think that some heavy-duty cardboard would work fine and be easy to cover. Or, maybe foam core?

    As for batting plus flannel, that’s definitely personal preference. Putting the batting underneath will give you more of a cushion for pinning, but I think you should try both and see which you like better. The same goes for the felt vs. flannel.

    Those are just the suggestions that immediately came into my mind-if anybody else wants to weigh in on the subject, we’d love to hear your thoughts!


    —Amy on April 10, 2013
  • Thanks Cornelia! I’ll let you know how it turns out. I’d welcome other suggestions too–the more, the better! (It’s the same way I quilt–a little from here, a little from there….)

    —Amy on April 11, 2013
  • I wish I had seen this before I made my wall! However that makes me seem ungrateful to my carpenter friend who provided the wooden slats for the tunnels at the top and bottom of my fleecy/ flannel wall – I live in Venezuela and the fabric I found is not fleece or flannel, sort of inbetween and grabs onto fabric just great, I really don’t know it’s use here, blankets or soft toys? If I want to leave some blocks on it for more than a half hour and there is a breeze, I just pin them on too. My carpenter friend also put the giant hooks in the top slat and into my wall, if and when I move I will just unhook it, roll it up and take it with me.

    —Juliet Wood on April 12, 2013
  • Thank you for the 9 quilt design wall ideas information. Two things I like about the post, one it is straight forward and two it does not attempt to promote anyone’s position particularly. Well put Jenny.

    Knitting Journal on April 22, 2013
  • I use insulation board, a tablecloth with flannel backing, and a portable design sheet with frame.

    Keep smiling,

    Lynnita Shipman on April 27, 2013
  • Mine is very portable. I have a vinyl tablecloth backed with flannel. I have attached 4 hangers that have 2 clips each. I have a double window in my sewing room and just hang it on the curtain rod. If I want to remove the wall and save the design, I just fold upwards. The hangers make it very easy to just lift off the curtain rod,take to my table and transfer or pack away for a short time. I have a couple extra table cloths like this and I also have some old flannel that I use. You can get a 4 pack of the hangers for about 5.00. I have also hung it on my living room window. Works for me.

    —Theresa Akin on July 16, 2013
  • i did the same pvc for my quilting frame when i do hand quilting.

    —brenda domer on July 22, 2013
  • I had an old folding cardboard cutting board (the one used with scissors) and covered it with flannel. It folds, light weight, and very easy to carry. I use the top fold and slide it under books on the top shelf of my book shelve. Love it.

    —Dianna on July 22, 2013
  • LOVE the closet door idea….I’m out of wall space!

    —Jenifer on July 22, 2013
  • I use a queen sized flannel sheet pinned to a wall and I love it. Before that I used my bed or the floor or a table but none of those were very adequate.

    —Suzanne Roper on July 22, 2013
  • Love all the ideas. I use the flannel backed tablecloth, make a pocket at the top and bottom. Then I slide a piece of lathe, available at the Home stores, in each pocket. On the top I screw in about 5 eye screws. Then I put small nails up on the wall and slide the round screws over the nails. The design wall is easily taken down when I need the room for guests and the nails aren’t obvious. Amy, a good thin board is 1/4 " Masonite or cork board. Good luck.

    —Mary Herold on July 22, 2013
  • With my husband’s help, I made a design wall with a Queen-sized flannel sheet with a curtain rod in the pocket I made on the top and a piece of PVC pipe in a rod pocket in the bottom to weight it down. It’s hung on curtain hardware that blends into the wood paneled wall. My sewing room is also our guest room, so my design wall needs to be removed occasionally. I am really loving it.

    —Carolyn on July 22, 2013
  • Used a black batting to cover a whiteboard and I want to recommend that this is not a good idea as it shows every piece of thread and it becomes ugly very quickly

    —Pat hove on July 22, 2013
  • I have two. Both are cork bulletin boards with an old flannel sheet stapled around back. One is about 20 x 30 in. for block construction that I stand in a large photo easel, and can lay flat next to machine for sewing. The larger one my husband built easel legs that fold on a hinge to tuck behind the door when not in use. The cork works well for pinning and temporary quilts "stick" ok to the flannel when the easel is at a slant position. I have used these for at least 15 years and they serve me well.

    —Debbie on July 22, 2013
  • My design wall is the floor. It is also a room in which my children go through to get upstairs. Yes, the quilts gets walked over, the pieces may get out of place and flipped but my children are with me for now so I will be satisfied with the floor design wall. I love all the ideas for the design walls. When the children leave home I plan to move the sewing room to one of their bedrooms, then a more permanent design wall will be in place. 🙂 Author and designer Barbara H. Cline

    Barbara Cline on July 24, 2013
  • My design wall is made from the 4’x8′ insulation boards. Before covering the boards with flannel, I marked a 12″ grid with a black permanent marker directly onto the insulation board. I can see the grid through the flannel. See my design wall at http://www.factsfacts.com/quilts/QuiltingAids/DesignWall.htm

    Jerrianne on October 11, 2013
  • Greetings, I love these ideas but want to give a word of caution about using "foam board" or styrofoam for your design wall. Please keep in mind that these products are flammable and although they are manufactured in the US with some fire-retardant included, they do still burn and do release harmful chemicals in the process. My husband is involved in building safety and recommends using cork board or another material that is a little safer in your home. Thanks!

    —Michelle Meyers on January 2, 2014
  • I bought a cheep flannel backed table cloth. When I am not using it as a design wall I fold it up and put it away. If you want to you can fold it up with the blocks inside, keeping everything together. You can also sew ties on the bottom so you can roll it up and tie it closed.

    —Tina on March 13, 2014
  • I have used a large piece of cheap batting for many years tacked to top of wall. When I painted and carpeted the room recently, I threw away the design wall piece of batting. It was covered with thread scraps. I replaced it with a piece of white fleece tacked to wall , it is perfect. You do not need to pin up your blocks, static cling does the trick. Love it!

    —Catherine Silling on April 8, 2014
  • My sewing room provides a spare sleeping space for rare overnight company. I have a queen-sized mattress leaning up against one wall, The exposed side is a flannel mattress cover which I use for a design wall. When company comes any quilt pieces come off and the mattress is laid on the floor. It has another mattress pad on the other side. Double duty! Of course, that does mean I do have to de-clutter the sewing room for folks to visit. 😉

    Joan Hershberger on April 9, 2014
  • All these ideas are creative! I got my idea from a comment on-line. I use a large plastic picnic type tablecloth. Or two together if I’m making a large quilt. I use push pins to attach them to a paneled wall. By putting the push pins in the spaces between the sections of paneling the pin holes don’t show. The flannel side holds fabric without pinning as long as I need it to be up there. This works well for me until I get my dream studio. 🙂 Thanks for all the great ideas.

    —Linda Boudreaux, retired educ. paraprofessional on April 9, 2014
  • When we were building our house, we turned two bedrooms into one big sewing room. My husband built a Murphy bed so that when we have guests the room is converted to a guest room. The bottom if the Murphy bed is flat and always exposed. Added cotton quilt batting and walah, a great design wall.

    —Ann on April 17, 2014
  • Dianna, That’s a GREAT idea. I had an old one of those cutting boards in my closet and some flannel a friend had given me and it works perfectly! Thank you so much! 🙂

    —Kathy Kumler on July 17, 2014
  • I have two Fons and Porter Design Walls on my wall mounted by nails and they work. I want to upgrade to a larger 120″ x 120″ retractable design wall. My ceiling is 90″ tall. I make larger quilts and need it bigger. Any ideas?

    —Karen on February 5, 2016
  • The sun used to beat in my porch from 1:00 – 8:00 p.m. all through the year. The area recently became my quilting area but had no wall for a design wall. So carpenters have now covered over the window, and then the whole wall. I’m covering it with batting and flannel tomorrow, just in time to start my next project.

    For those of you wanting a portable design wall, I’d suggest making a frame of PVC pipe and elbows. Invest in snap clamps which look like sections of pipe, but they are flexible with ridges to help hold the design fabric to the clamps. They are easy to snap on, and snap off again.
    Amazon has a bag of 10 clamps, 1″ x 4 ". This would give you 3- 4″ clamps on 2 long sides, and 2 – 4″ clamps on the 2 short sides. The first measure tells you the size to match schedule 40 PVC pipe.

    I’ve used these clamps successfully with garden covers and to hold tulle on instant PVC pipe butterfly cages when I was raising them. I never had any cover come off. Further, the tulle was never damaged.

    They would also make it easy to restretch the wall fabric if it stretched loose over time.

    —Sue Atkins on May 25, 2017
  • PS I used to buy 4 foot lengths, but they seem to be cost prohibitive in this decade. Still, putting one 4 foot snap clamp on each side of the PVC frame would assure it was equally taut on all sides.

    —Sue Atkins on May 25, 2017
  • When hanging the foam or corkboard, how do you attach it to the wall? How do you keep the flannel free from threads?I’ve tried the sticky rollers but they load up from the flannel and leave a lot of thread behind. Isn’t there a grinded fabric available?

    —Margo Berenberg on August 21, 2017
  • I use design surfaces for almost everything, but more "curtains" than walls. On the longest interior wall of my sewing room above 4-foot-high bookshelves I have 2 levels of vinyl-coated wire shelves for smaller bins of fabric. In the slots between the wires I have clips and s-hooks from which I can hang skirt-hangers (freed up when work skirts were "retired") to hold flannel sheets for large quilts or fleece (remnants from the fabric store) for smaller quilts and art projects. By using hangers instead of fixed rods through the sheet facing I can easily take down the design wall when (not if!!) I need to put a project aside for a while to work on a higher priority project or if I just need a break from the project at hand to get a fresh perspective.

    —Jane on May 14, 2018
  • I finally made my own design boards using craft board from the Dollar Store, white flannel and duct tape. I made three and have them leaning from my ironing board. Eventually when I have my own quilting room, I will hang these or make others on the closet door. You can read about my design wall in my post: http://quiltinglearningcombo.blogspot.ca/2018/04/fmq-design-wall-and-quilt-along.html

    Andree G Faubert on May 14, 2018
  • I used a paint roller and liquid starch and ‘painted’ my closet doors and then applied flannel. It’s easy to remove and won’t damage the doors when I finally move! It works great!

    Deb Johnson on May 15, 2018
  • I use an old plastic tablecloth with push pins. Easy peasy. Take it down in a flash till next time.
    Remember the plastic side goes towards the wall.

    —Mary Ann Thompson on May 16, 2018
  • I have a curtain rod with round hooks with clips on the circles. It is hung just above my white board. When I want the wall, I just clip a flannel back table cloth on and I have my design wall. When not in use I have a white board. Wall space does double duty. Got the whole thing at IKEA for under $20.00.

    —Heather on July 29, 2018
  • They don’t mention the Door Viewer for being able to see your Quilt Wall from a close distance. The Door Viewer is available at hardware stores–and it works like looking through the wrong end of binoculars. Puts you further away rather than closer. A Must for use with a Design Wall in close quarters.

    Sally Vedder on June 20, 2019
  • I made my design wall from a big screen. TV box. I lean it on the arms of my high back chair in my living room. Then I throw a white flannel sheet over it and there’s my wall. Of course I take it down when I have guest. The nice thing is I can wash it any time it’s needed. Also a lot of my friends who come by unexpectedly love seeing what I’m doing. The kids and grandkids love making their own designs on my design wall. . Some of my friends are disappointed when it’s not there so I leave it up most of the time.

    —Carol McIlveen on February 6, 2020
  • I just thought of a great party game for kids or adults. Give each person a small bag of precut fabric and let them build a quilt on your design wall. Wow what a great quilt that would be. Working together or taking turns. What fun. If anyone wants to try it we would all love to see how it turns out.

    —Carol McIlveen on February 6, 2020
  • I recently moved finished half the basement as my quilting room. It is huge. I made a design wall on one of the walls. My husband went to "xxxx" home supply store and bought three wall foam insulation boards 48inches by 8 feet with the silver on one side and white foam on the other. They are about an inch thick and great for sticking pins. Each one of the boards was covered with craft felt bought from JoAnn’s. They carry craft felt 72″ wide which can be bought by the yard at a very reasonable rate. Flannel or batting would probably work. I covered the white side of the board with felt and wrapped it to the back, silver side, and taped it all around on the silver side with duct tape. My husband got the good old ladder out and bolted each corner of each board to the wall with a big flat washer and screw. I can design everything on my huge design wall 96 inches tall by 144 inches wide.

    Beryl Newsome on March 17, 2020

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