Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Sewing on Display + Design Wall Construction

Earlier this month, I was invited to sew in public for the third year in a row at my community's Day of the Arts celebration. Readers might remember last year when I led a community quilt project. This year, I was asked to demo and lead an activity.

The kids were so interested in my sewing machine and what I was working on. Those who had never seen a sewing machine in use loved watching the pedal and the needle. Also, everyone wanted to know why I was wearing gloves! At the time, I was quilting my now-finished Epic Medallion quilt because I had an ever-coveted two table setup. These well-loved Machingers gloves really helped me keep a grip on this heavy quilt.

For the activity, I set up a Community Design Wall with two large design walls and buckets of scraps. Throughout the day, I encouraged kids walking by to stop and add to the design wall. Some only added a couple of pieces, while others went to town! We chatted about fitting fabrics together, matching/clashing colors, and seeing exciting prints (like animals, interesting stripes, etc.).

Kids are so much more creative than we sometimes give them credit for, especially in this world of standardized testing and resume-cramming. Just like us adult quilters, kids are fascinated by fabric and color, too!

The boards are larger than they look - 45" x 48" each! Constructing them was simple enough, but interesting for sure. I bought a 1" thick foam insulation board from Home Depot. Seeing me carry it across the parking lot would have been worthy of an episode of America's Funniest Videos, because of course, it was the windiest day of the year yet! You would think something so large would be difficult to get carried away in the wind (it didn't actually happen but it was a close call).

I was also falsely confident that it would fit in my large car. A very helpful Good Samaritan saw me struggling, so he volunteered to cut it with his pocket knife. Luckily, all was well after that. Be aware that you will want an extra person around to help you with foam boards! I learned that first hand. :)

I want these boards to last for years to come (hopefully I'll be invited back next year!), so I purchased Kaffe Fasset's Design Wall Flannel in Gray. It's the perfect color for a design wall (neutral and not too bright) and the gridded lines are so useful. However, the flannel stretches a lot, so it was difficult to line up the grid when piecing it together (I didn't cut the boards to fit the fabric, because I wanted them to be as large as possible). It doesn't make much of a difference to me now, and I'm pleased with how they came out. I also used a staple gun for the first time to attached the flannel to the boards. WIN!

Above is my 2nd Sisterhood of the Traveling Quilts bee quilt blocks returned - thanks to the lovely Renee @quiltnfeathers, Michelle @ml_wilkie, Ashley @wasntquiltinaday, and Laura @littleandlots! I am so excited to put it together - this curve-themed quilt will be one of my projects at the upcoming Mid-Atlantic MOD quilting retreat. In any case, the design walls will be put to good use until they are needed by the community again!

All in all, it was a successful venture. Thank you to the Lopatcong PTA and the Warren County Cultural and Heritage Commission for their generous support!

I'd love to know... have you constructed your own design wall? How did you do it? There are a lot of tutorials out there and I'm curious what has worked for you. I'm still using batting on the wall as a design wall, plus these two!

P.S. Don't forget to check your inbox for the next issue of The Wonky Press, due out on Friday morning!


  1. I have no wall space for a design board, so I cut down (2) 2" thick foam insulation boards to 3' x 7' and covered them with batting. I keep them behind a door until I need them and then lean them side by side up against a double closet. Small space sewing.

  2. Very interesting to read about the sew in public and activity day ! Thank you for sharing. Your bee blocks look great.

  3. Hi Jess! Great post and I'm sure you had fun except struggling with the wind! I made my design wall with two (found) board pieces and covered them with fleece. I think the boards are like insulation; they had been advertisements in a big toy shop. They have the 'picture' painted and I had to add white sheet under the fleece so the dark shapes don't show through. Work well for me and those two were great size for my space. x Teje

  4. I just have batting up for my design wall. It doesn't work very well - I still have to use pins to keep the blocks in place. It looks like you had a great time at your community event - thank you for sharing!

  5. Great post! My design wall is an old sheet with batting stitched to one side. I stitched around the perimeter and then down the middle lengthwise and from side to side so the batting doesn't sag. Then I put grommets at the top so I could hang it via Command hooks. My room is our guest room so my wall needs to be something I could put away easily.

  6. Great post! My design wall is an old sheet with batting stitched to one side. I stitched around the perimeter and then down the middle lengthwise and from side to side so the batting doesn't sag. Then I put grommets at the top so I could hang it via Command hooks. My room is our guest room so my wall needs to be something I could put away easily.

  7. That looks like so much fun! I've never made a design wall. I use a table pad that has a flannel backing and have it hanging on my wall. Not pretty (or big enough) but it works just fine. If I ever have a dedicated sewing room you can be there will be a new design wall!

  8. Oh boy, big boards are like giant sails in the wind. I'm so glad it (and you!) didn't get blown away and hurray for helpful Good Samaritans with pocket knives! The event sounds great and I know exactly what you mean about kids and creativity. :)

  9. I an turning my spare bedroom into a sewing room as soon as my nephew can collect the bed for my sister (recycling). A design wall is on my wishlist and everyone has given me food for thought. Thank you for a very timely post.

  10. Ah form board--they don't warn you about how to get it home! My experience was like this: I bought 3 boards that are 1" thick and 2 feet wide by like 84 tall. They didn't fit in our small SUV so we strapped them to the roof. But we didn't take into account the wind shear and as we drove away the top form board broke from the wind stress and went flying behind us. Thankfully we were on a quiet side street, so we stopped and adjusted all the riggings, and with the power of duct tape I was able to put that broken one back together. I totally wish my design wall had a nice grid on it! Look forward to seeing how you put together that community inspired quilt!

  11. Sounds like a great day! I'd love a design wall but there are two problems. My sewing room is big, but lacking in wall space. Secondly, i drive a Mini One. The piece of foam board i could get in it would be fit for a design wall for coasters only!

  12. I bought 2'x4' ceiling tiles from Home Depot and nailed them to the wall, two rows of three. The I used straight pins to secure two yards of felt to the top. It "sticks" very nicely and I just added a few pins along the sides for good measure. A grid would be nice but this works well too.

  13. I recently made a design wall; I used slightly thinner insulation and had the exact same problem with the wind walking from Lowes' to my parents' van. LUckily the pieces fit without having to cut them down. I did end up cutting them down to about 7', but kept the width. I covered my with felt and they are reasonably sticky -- I don't think blocks will stay up indefinitely, but I don't mind a little pin here and there. Right now they live in my spare bedroom and since they are so lightweight I can easily move them out when we have guests. I do really love them -- something about the vertical perspective is so helpful to me.


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