Thursday, February 6, 2014

Portable Design Wall

I've been wanting to add a design wall to my quilt studio after reading about them here, here and here.  I had my quilt room painted last week (love, love, LOVE the color - more on that later!), so it motivated me to clean up, organize and make the space a bit more usable.  I had been using the flannel back of a vinyl tablecloth as a design wall (I had posted about it here), but it turned out not to be as usable as I had hoped because 1) I had a framed picture on the wall behind it (too big to take down and then rehang easily), and it prevented the surface from being flat enough.  As a result, I would mount one block, then a bunch of other blocks would fall off. Not too helpful!  And, 2)  I was tired of climbing up on a step ladder and straining to reach to hang or remove the tablecloth.  So, an improvement was overdue!

 I decided to do a portable version of a design wall instead of mounting a permanent one on the wall because I'm too in love with the new paint color on the walls
(Benjamin Moore, Seabrook #750) to cover it up with a huge design wall.

So, here's how I went about it:

First, since I decided I wanted to make a portable version, I needed something lightweight and sturdy.  So, I chose one-inch thick insulation board.  The insulation board is light weight, and the 1" thickness gives it the sturdiness needed.  I purchased two 4x8' sheets of one-inch insulation board from my local lumber yard.  (I'm so grateful to have such a helpful business just a few miles from my home - I often feel like they are my personal "husband for hire"!)  They were kind enough to cut the boards down to my dimensions (not every lumber yard will do that for you).  I had them cut into two-foot widths; that way I could get them home and manage them easily as well as store them in my quilt studio when I want to tuck them away.  I also had them trim them to 80 high"; that way I can easily move them around the room without knocking into the light fixtures.  And, 80" is about as high as I can reach without standing on a step stool anyway.

There's a myriad of choices when it comes to insulation board, enough to make your brain hurt!  That's why I went to my local lumber yard where there were fewer options.  You don't need a high "R-value" (the R-value rates the insulation properties of the board).  You simply want something sturdy, especially if you want your design wall to be portable vs. mounting on the wall.  I simply purchased the cheapest one-inch board they had, and also selected a neutral color vs. blue; that way the color would be less likely to show through the batting.

I chose to cover my boards with Warm & White 100% cotton batting.  You can use a flannel sheet, but I liked the thickness and nappiness of the batting.  If you go with batting, be sure to choose something sturdy as you need to be able to stretch the batting tightly over the board with out distorting it.  I like the look of the white batting vs. natural.

I cut the batting four inches bigger all the way around; that gave me plenty of  excess to stretch over the one-inch thickness and enough to grab hold of as I stapled it.  I simply stretched and stapled the batting the whole way around with a light weight staple gun and 1/4" staples.  Be sure to wrap the batting around the plain side of the board and keep the printed side on the back - otherwise you'll have some interesting graphics showing through the batting on the front of your design wall!  This particular insulation board was very easy to staple into and the staples held very nicely.  I debated about glueing the batting onto the front of the board because I don't want the batting to sag over time, but I figure I can easily remove the staples and re-stretch it if need be down the road.  Actually, this particular insulation board has a bit of a rough surface and seemed to grip the batting a bit, so I don't think that will be an issue.  I had planned to duct tape the edges down to finish it off with white duct tape, but I was afraid to do that just in case I need to re-staple the batting at a later date.

You'll want to make sure your corners are nice and neat, especially if you plan to permanently mount it on the wall.  I found a double fold at the corners worked best, 

being careful to pull the batting up and away from the corner.

I love the versatility of this version of a design wall!  I can prop three (or all four!) boards against the wall and hang a finished quilt top or quilt blocks,

or just two for a smaller project.

The boards are narrow enough to tuck one behind a door,

and easily store behind my huge hutch for out-of-the way storage if need be.

I have another project in mind for the 16" insulation board scraps.  But for now, the next project on the list is a "Big Board" pressing board!

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