How to make a design wall (for quilting sanity): 3 easy ideas

You’ve just finished a pretty pile of quilt blocks—you’re ready to put your quilt top together! If you’ve ever tried to twist and turn blocks on the floor or on a table until they’re just right before you join them, you know it can be a hassle. Add a couple of kids breezing by and a pet who just wants to be near you, and all of a sudden your blocks are a jumble. If you remembered to snap a pic of your layout, you’re lucky!

There’s a better way to build your quilt top, and that’s by using a design wall. You can buy ready-made design walls, but they’re easy to DIY—so why not give it a try? Whether you want to make a design wall for small quilts or build one for bed-sized quilts, one thing we know for sure: once you start using a design wall, you’ll wonder how you ever quilted without it!

We’ve rounded up three step-by-step tutorials on how to make a design wall for quilting to make it easy for you to give it a try:

1. Install a permanent design wall with Christa Watson of Christa Quilts:


Christa attached her design surface to the wall with screws and decorative washers. (Actually, her sweet husband did that part!)


2. Use adhesive hanging strips to hang a design wall with Samantha of Aqua Paisley Studio:


Samantha’s tutorial offers ideas for a three-piece design wall and a larger one-piece wall.


3. Make a foldable, portable design wall with Becky of Patchwork Posse:


Becky’s way of making a design wall is super simple—once you have your supplies you can get it whipped up in an hour or less!


>>> For NINE more ideas on how to make a
design wall for quilting,
visit this post. <<<


How do you decide which blocks go where before you sew your quilt tops together?

  • Design wall all the way!
  • I use the floor—good exercise, right?
  • I lay out my blocks on a table.
  • I love making blocks . . . no quilt tops yet!

Tell us in the comments!


51 Comments (leave a comment)

  • Design wall using a flannel backed table cloth that cost me less than $5.00.Works great.

    —Joanne O'Neal on May 14, 2018
  • I use the living room floor. The kids have learned to walk around it!

    Barbara Johnson on May 14, 2018
  • I bought two sheets of pink foam insulation board from a big box home store. They are super light – and they are each 4′ x 8′. I then use thin, long finishing nails and tacked them to the wall, so the finished piece is 8′ x 8′. I covered it with the gridded flannel that Kaffe Fassett uses in his workshops (I’ve also used a very cheap flannel king sized top sheet in prior houses). I used pins to pin the fabric to the sides of the foam board, cut off any excess fabric with scissors, then covered the pins and rough edges with a wide decorative ribbon that I pinned to the board with decorative thumb tacks. It looks very nice and works great. Also so light and easy to do, one person can put it up in no time. If you want me to send a picture, let me know.

    Hi Diane, we’d love to see a pic – sounds like a great way to get a design wall up! You can send a photo to jenny@martingale-pub.com. Thanks for sharing! –Jenny

    —Diane Pickett on May 14, 2018
  • Love my design wall. I used Foam insulation boards covered in batting and attached to the wall with command strips.

    —Elaine Mast on May 14, 2018
  • I bought 3×4 framing foam core and wrapped it with cotton batting. I hung that on the wall, but will probably make another for bigger or multiple projects. I also made small 15×15 & 18×18 boards that I use for individual blocks. I can cut & piece in one room, sew in another, or in a class. And move the boards without the pieces falling all over.

    —sharon lammlein on May 14, 2018
  • I use the floor and so often mess up, I end up with new designs; wrong designs. I have given away quilts and find later that it is wrong. I don’t recommend anyone using a floor. I don’t have a wall. Windows, doors, book cases – no walls. I am thinking I can use the closet double slide doors.

    —carol on May 14, 2018
  • I use a table! Would love a design wall so I wouldn’t b shifting blocks to side when I needed to cut other things

    —Glenda Hyde on May 14, 2018
  • I use a .50 cent flannel -backed vinyl table cloth, bought on sale that stays up permanently. For a large quilt, I put up cotton batting on the wall, or for smaller quilts that are bigger than the table cloth, I use the bed surface.

    —Rene on May 14, 2018
  • I have a small fold up design wall and a really big piece of insulation board left over from a construction project. I need something in the middle!

    —Joel Sellers on May 14, 2018
  • I use a double bed but these ideas make we want to change my ways. I would like to make a couple: one to stand up on table top or lay down and carry project and another to put up in front of storage shelving as I have no wall space left BUT I love my windows and storage cabinets.

    —Vicki on May 14, 2018
  • I lay the blocks on the floor, I use to do them on several tables put together until one day I opened the window and to say the least it was very windy only a few blocks left on the table, from then on I put my quilts together on the floor.

    —Sue Bruhn on May 14, 2018
  • A few years ago, Hubby mounted a curtain rod over the closet door in my crafting studio and I hung a flannel-backed tablecloth from it to use as a design wall. It’s pretty handy because I can take it down or slide it to the side when necessary. Here’s a link to a blog post that includes a photo of it … http://www.handiworking.com/2014/08/unsinkable-quilt.html

    What a quick-and-easy idea, thanks for sharing it Jane! Super cute baby quilt too 🙂 –Jenny

    Jane @ Handiworking on May 14, 2018
  • I lay my quilt blocks on the bed in the guest room. This gives me the added benefit of exercise by walking from my quilt room to the guest room to get blocks to sew together into rows then sewing the rows into the quilt top.

    —Connie on May 14, 2018
  • I use my bed. I used to use the floor but bending that much is harder to do now. My place is small and I don’t have room for a design wall, but I would if I could. I sometimes use by digital camera to see how it is going to look.

    —Kay Menefee on May 14, 2018
  • I do it all. Floor, bed and design wall, sometimes at the same time. I usually work on multiple quilts.

    —Maggierose Copple on May 14, 2018
  • A design wall makes things SO much easier! Once I get the blocks in a pleasing design, I can just roll my chair over, pick up 2 blocks, sew them together, roll the other way to press, and roll back to put them back up to ensure that I pick the next block in the right order. I wouldn’t be without it!

    —Carol Johnson on May 14, 2018
  • I am glad to have this info. I use a design wall but it is often not large enough and I end up crawling on the floor -groan.

    —Brenda C on May 14, 2018
  • I use the floor. It’s not great on the back or the knees but it’s the biggest space I have to lay out my blocks.

    —Christie on May 14, 2018
  • I go the design wall route every time. With the last 3 moves I’ve made, a design wall is the first thing that goes in my studio. 3 insulation panels (4′ x 8′) covered with felt make a great design wall. It’s permanent and always right there when I need it. I’ve tried the ‘on the bed’ method, but the perspective is always off.

    —Lerlene Nevaril on May 14, 2018
  • I use either the floor or the guest bed – getting too old now for a lot of floor work. It isn’t ideal, but I make do what with having a tiny room that has very limited wall space and barely enough room to turn around.

    —Sandy May on May 14, 2018
  • I have a design wall which usually has so many odds & ends pinned to it – it more like a big bulletin board. Big projects are usually laid out on a big white sheet on a king size guest bed. Additionally sometimes I clothespin blocks to the double window wood blinds in sewing room. You do what you gotta do!

    sonja banister on May 14, 2018
  • I have a design wall (2 pieces of foam insulation framed with 1×2 strips on the back for stability and covered with warm and white screwed in the wall). DSIL made it for me 15 years ago, and when we moved he just took it down and it came with us. It fit on a wall in the new sewing room. Works great.

    —A-Quilter1 on May 14, 2018
  • My preference is a design wall. I have used the floor and a tablecloth taped to a wall.

    —RoseMarie Christie on May 14, 2018
  • I used to put them on the floor. After we built our new home the only spot I had for the design wall was on the bifold doors that concealed the washer and dryer. We made 4 panels just a bit smaller than each section of the door to allow for the bends in the door. When the whole thing is closed I have a design wall that is 72″ by 4′ tall (1/2 the height of the doors to allow for handle use. Would love to have the whole 7′, but it works for me.

    —Linda Ahn on May 14, 2018
  • I am lucky not to have kids or pets so i use my living room floor or, in the summer, use my deck. Sometimes i will also use the floor in thd game room at the office which has been real handy when sandwiching my large quilts for quilting. I honestly dont have a big enough open wall space to hang a design wall. All quilters make do with what they have, right?

    —Sue in Kalamazoo on May 14, 2018
  • My DH made me a four panel folding screen. We used foam insulation sheets cut to insert. One side I covered with thick needled batting (flannel would work too). The other side I covered with a toile fabric. I used short straight pins to hold the fabrics in place, pinning in the thickness edges that were covered when we slid the panels into place. Then there are mirror clips that hold it in place. Idea was to be able to fold away when not in use. My studio has windows all around. No wall space. Trouble is after a few years, my stash grew and now the folded screen is behind ‘stuff’. So now I put the cardboard folded pattern board across the longarm and be quick about it. I agree you can’t pit them up and think about it.

    —Sue Esparza on May 14, 2018
  • Right now I have one 4X8 sheet of insulation board covered with flannel.
    Absolutely love it and thinking of expanding it to two sheets. Need more space 😁

    —ArmyWife on May 14, 2018
  • I lay mine out on my king size bed. Sad thing is I have to remove them to go to bed. 🙁

    —Carolyn on May 14, 2018
  • I mostly used the top of the bed – which required moving it every day at bedtime. Then I decided to lay a large sheet on top of the bed first, then I could just roll up the whole thing and the blocks stayed in place. I absolutely CANNOT crawl around on the floor anymore – plus that would mean having to CLEAN first (too many cat hairs!!) I recently stuck 6 Command Mini Hooks onto the hall wall – then pinned curved quilting pins to a flannel sheet, and hooked the pins onto the mini-hooks. Works better then my previous solutions !! I can stand back in my sewing room and get a view of the whole thing. Only disadvantage is that the hallway doesn’t have enough lighting. Baby steps… maybe someday I’ll get the real thing!

    —JanG on May 14, 2018
  • I take my blocks to the living room floor. I have carpeting there and I don’t worry as much for picking dirt off the floor. Living in a small house does have it’s drawbacks.

    —Althea Klosterman on May 14, 2018
  • I use a white bedsheet hanging on the wall and sometimes I use the floor.

    A. Bouwman on May 15, 2018
  • My design wall takes care of my blocks – and is perfect for taking pictures of finished tops & quilts. It is permanently attached to a wall in my sewing room – 72″ x72″ – good size for most items I make. Was made with insulation board covered with quilter’s flannel.

    —Joy B on May 15, 2018
  • I use the floor. Hard on the knees, but I don’t have a table large emough nor a design wall. I take pictures of layouts so I can compare to see which I like the best.

    —Ginger K on May 16, 2018
  • January!!!!

    —Linda on May 16, 2018
  • I use a inexpensive twin fleece blanket racket to the wall. Blocks stay in place and it can be washed.

    —Joyce R on May 18, 2018
  • I’ve made only a few quilt tops, and they were planned using the living room floor…

    —bookboxer on May 18, 2018
  • I have two 4′ by 8′ sheets of styrofoam insulation covered with flannel. I use them singularly or side by side for large quilts. They’re portable as I don’t have enough wall space to permanently mount them.

    Becky Pike on May 18, 2018
  • I definitely need one of these. Thanks for all the ideas. Have you ever chased a little dog down the hallway that has a quilt block stuck to his butt? Joey thought it was great fun!

    —Deb on May 18, 2018
  • I didn’t think I had a place, but then an idea popped into my head. Move the bookcase across from my bed and hang a piece of batting up. I did that and now I can see my blocks before I go to bed and again when I wake up. I love it! I get restless when there is nothing on it, like now.

    —Sue on May 18, 2018
  • Wall space is limited in a small house, so I use the floor. I try different layouts of blocks, and take a photo each time, then review the photos on my laptop to decide on my favorite layout. My dog is well trained to walk around the blocks during this process!

    —JJ on May 18, 2018
  • I hang queen size batting on the wall. If there is a big quilt there I pin it to the quilt. If not, I pin the batting to the wall and take it down when I’m done.

    —Cindy S on May 18, 2018
  • I originally made 2’ x 4’ flannel covered boards which up north I was able to adhere to my wall with the velcro tape strips. Fast forward a couple of years & we’ve relocated to humid (I LOVE it) Florida. I’ve taken my collection of smaller portable design boards, placed a wood strip along the bottom of the wall & puzzle pieced all my boards together (which hubby then anchored to wall) & I now have a 9 ft high x 8 ft wide design wall in my sewing room. With a couple of small portable one left for taking to classes.

    —Mary Bondra on May 18, 2018
  • I used to use my bed til I put up a design wall made of a large piece of flannel backed vinyl I got from a fabric warehouse….love it and tacked up real easily.

    —Nancy on May 18, 2018
  • oh wow, I really hate to admit it, but I have a design wall, it is so covered up and behind my ironing board I cannot get to it. It has a quilt on it that I started in 2004, therefore I use the floor. And usually have a mess.

    —stephanie woodward on May 18, 2018
  • I used to have a large piece of flannel tacked to the wall in my sewing room, but have had to move into a small apartment, so now I use fold up tables. It’s a pain to put up and take down, but it works.

    —Cynthia Maki on May 18, 2018
  • I use a bed or the floor or better yet, a picture of the end quilt. Love the bins to sort by colors, but I have been sorting and my scrapes need 30 gallon bins. Never enough time or correct size for the pattern.

    —Linda on May 18, 2018
  • For years used the bed as design area. Then I bought a flannel backed vinyl tablecloth for 25 cents in an after-holiday sale. For 2 bucks, bought a package of grommets. ( sp?) Husband and I put in the grommets and nailed it up on the wall. My quilt blocks stick to the flannel just by smoothing them on… no tacks or pins. I did discover to keep the ceiling fan on medium or low. as high would blow some blocks off. LOL I love my design wall!!

    —Marta on May 18, 2018
  • I have in the past used the floor, sometimes the floor in 2 rooms, the dining room table, a blanket nailed to the wall, and a sheet hung over the balcony railing. Lately, I am using my queen-sized bed. I should make myself a design wall that I can reach easily.

    —Linda Towers on May 19, 2018
  • When our family were young, we ’tiled’ one wall of their bedrooms with cork tiles so they could put up as many pictures and posters as they wanted. Now they’re all adults with homes of their own, I reclaimed one of the bedrooms for my sewing space, painted the cork tiles with white emulsion, and voila! I had my design wall ready as soon as the paint was dry!

    —Jan on May 21, 2018
  • Design wall, definitely!

    Pamela D Miller on May 27, 2018
  • My old foam board design wall kept warping, so I bought the largest corkboard I could find (Hobby Lobby, used 40% off coupon, price was way under $20, used the flannel from my warped foam board and a box of binder clips ($1.87, WalMart) to attach the flannel. Love it!

    —Shelia on July 9, 2018

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