Tutorial on Building a Design Wall

My sewing life has been infinitely improved recently with the addition of a new design wall. I can’t begin to describe how wonderful it is to have a place to layout your quilt where neither small children nor cats can run across it and destroy all your hard work. I can easily see where I need to make changes in scrappy quilts (where the colors might be unbalanced, etc) and all the pieces are kept nicely pressed. It also motivates me to work on the quilt on the wall because it is right there…I don’t have to get a bunch of things out, only to put them away at the end of 10 minutes, an hour or the day(!).

However, I doubt that any of you would deny the benefit of having a design wall but the reality is that many of us do not have the room or inclination to build one. So here’s just one way of making a design wall that can hopefully be adapted to many of your spaces. My intention in creating a design wall was to have one that was permanently installed on the walls of my sewing room….I designed the room specifically so I could have this. But in theory, this method can be used to create portable walls or smaller versions of the ones that you see here.

So on with the show!

First off, determine how much room you have for a design wall. I was trying to make mine as large as possible for maximum benefit, but honestly even the tiniest design wall would help most of us! I specifically arranged the furniture in my sewing room so that I would have one “long” windowless wall on which to install the design wall. It is important to determine how high you would like the wall to be and how low to the ground (are you short? even if you have 12′ ceilings, that is probably not a very practical height… is it difficult for you to bend down? then you probably don’t want your wall to go all the way to the floor or moldings.)

I believe that this is really a two person project if you are doing it on the scale that I have done mine. Obviously if you are making a small design wall you may be able to manage on your own…but it is still helpful to have more than one set of hands for this project. So find a helpful friend and rope them into making this with you. Lucky for me, I have quite a handy and helpful husband. 🙂

The base of the design wall is made with sound board. Sound board can easily be found in your local hardware store in 4′ x 8′ sheets. For the space I had, we needed two boards that cost around $11 a piece. Not too bad! We chose sound board for a few reasons. First, it is relatively light weight which makes it easier to work with than drywall board or some other type of wall material. Second, it is made of a material that allows me to put pins in easily if I chose to do so. (for instance I pin the directions for a quilt on the wall with the pieces so that it is all in one place). And third, it is sound deadening. While that may not matter to some, it is helpful for us to lessen the noise coming from the sewing room while perhaps a little babe might be sleeping or I feel inclined to sew in the middle of the night with movies on.

The cover for the sound board can be a material like cotton batting or flannel or curtain lining fabric. I personally chose the batting option because one prepackaged queen sized batting covered my two boards perfectly.

I don’t have pictures of this first step (sorry my husband was too quick!), but you need to cut the board to size. You may be able to have your hardware store do this for you if you do not have the necessary tools at home. Once again, I am a very lucky lady with a very handy husband who did have the correct tools for this. It only took one simple cut for each piece for us. We decided to make the sound board 7′ x 4′ because we only have 8′ ceilings and part of the wall space has been taken up with moldings at the bottom and top of the wall. You may also need to make small cut outs for electrical fixtures such as outlets or light switches. (*my husband tells me that the sound board cuts very much like drywall…you can score it on either side with a utility blade and snap off the cut!*)

Now, onto the pictures!! Trust me there are plenty.

Cut your batting slightly larger than the sound board, giving yourself enough room to wrap the batting around the back of the board. We will be using basic upholstery techniques, so have a staple gun ready. (Remember for my boards I was able to use a prepackaged batting and simply cut it in half. lovely!)


You don’t need to be worried about it being completely flat (a more difficult task with batting at times than other covering choices) but it should be reasonably flat laid out on the floor. Place your sound board, right side down, on the batting, centering it over the batting.



Pull the batting taught but do not stretch it, and staple ONE long edge in place from end to end.


This next step is one of the times where it is particularly useful to have two people working on this project. Lift the board up from the stapled edge. Working from the top center, smooth your covering flat but not stretched over the sound board. The batting easily attaches itself to the sound board so no adhesive is necessary, but feel free to add that at this point if you feel your wall will need it.


As you reach the bottom, you will want to tuck the covering underneath the board so that it is viewable from the back of the board.


Carefully lay the sound board back down on the ground, confident that the batting is laying smoothly. Begin to staple the other long side from end to end.


A closeup of the back…don’t worry if it’s not pretty. No one will see it! We are stapling approximately every 4″ or so.


CAUTION! Tiny helpers may become distraught at the sound of the staple gun!


They may vocalize this more loudly than the noise of the staple gun.


They may cover their ears to block out the noise.


Ultimately, tiny helpers will need to be comforted and removed to another, more quiet, room.


Continue on with your project, stapling the two short ends in place as well.


When working on the corners, feel free to cut away any bulk or extra fabric/batting that is in the way.


Smooth the remaining fabric in place and continue to staple until the whole piece is completely in place.


At this point, you can now work on any special cutouts you may have in the design wall.


Move the design walls to the location where they will be installed.


Without the noise of the staple gun, tiny helpers may feel that they are quite useful once again.


In order to attach the design wall to the wall of your room, it is best to find the studs of the wall and use those as an anchor for the boards. You don’t want them falling down and ripping apart your walls! Here the studs are marked with blue painters’ tape.


Most likely two sets of hands are needed again to install the boards on the wall. Measure in increments where you would like to attach your wall, being sure to say on one of the studs. We chose to screw the design wall in rather than nail it because that will make it easier to remove at a later date with out destroying the design wall if you find you need to do that. We used 3 screws across the top of each panel, 2 across the bottom of each, and 1 on the far side of each panel approximately halfway down the wall.


Take advantage of any “help” that you can get to attach these to the wall.


Be sure to line up the boards around your outlet cutouts.


When all is up in place, step back and enjoy your handiwork! You will be pleased beyond measure to have such a wall in your sewing space.


My design wall measures 7′ x 8′ and happens to blend pretty seamlessly with my current wall color, making it very unobtrusive despite its large size.


Now that you are done, put that wall to good use! I immediately started putting blocks on the wall for the quilt I wanted to work on next! So fun!


No pins, no nothing! The blocks just stick to the board and will not fall unless you remove them.


And now you may be able to finish some of those quilts that you have been dreading because the layout! It’s fun to lay out a quilt on the wall. 😉

27 thoughts on “Tutorial on Building a Design Wall”

  1. Is there something wrong with me that my favorite part of your tutorial were the photos of a crying Caitlyn? When my son was little he cried ALL the time, so I decided 'you know what? this kid cries constantly–I'd best photograph it for posterity'. So I have quite of few of these crying photos. I think they're cute and funny. And of course, Caitlyn is ALWAYS totally adorable. My goodness–do you feed that kid Cute Flakes?

    But seriously, your tutorial is super descriptive and helpful. Thank you!

  2. I dont have a wall to do this- boo

    in the guest bed room is 3 windows (great for daylight) and a large closet.

    oh well!

    it looks awesome and I'm a tad jealous!

    1. You can build a frame out of hardwood (like poplar)use a piano hinge to connect the two pieces and spare scrap to put legs on the bottom, or just use non-slip edge and lean it against the wall, (keeping all of the pieces on it). Attach the sound board and cover to the frame.

  3. I just hung a king size flannel sheet from a wall with push pins. The joys of renting! Cute kid, btw. Why are pictures of babies crying so darn cute and funny?

  4. I cheated and just put a piece of batting up with some Tpins for mine 🙂 I do plan on making it pretty some day though. I wish I had room for one as big as yours.
    p.s. Caitlyn is so stinking cute!

  5. Or, you could just stick a bunch of tacks across the top of a hunk of batting and let it hang down your wall! hehe. Your version looks very pro. Mine's a little saggy, I must say. Poor Caitlyn!

  6. I love how your quilt in progress is looking! Those blocks are sew pretty! I just put up my own design wall, albeit a much smaller one and have to second your notion that it is fun putting blocks up on the wall! I highly suggest it to everyone, it gives a much different perspective to how the blocks will go together and it is so nice to be able move things around without taking up the livingroom floor to lay some out. Even if you just pin some felt to the wall, try it out!

  7. Great tutorial! Now I just have to find the space! My only worry is that two household members would see it as a giant scratching post!

  8. This is awesome. I have been wanting a design wall, but thought I needed to use flannel sheets as the material for it…Batting is a great alternative. Now to get my husband on board with helping me out — yahooo! Thanks!

  9. I wanted to make one of these, but my Home Depot doesn't have sound board like that, just 4×8 sheets of foam. The guy told me that sound board is basically like ceiling tiles, but then they only even have that in 2×4 pieces. Any guidance on materials?

  10. My husband, the expert on all things construction, says that for sure Lowe's should have it in stock if you have one of those. If not, he says that there is another product made for exterior that would be black that is also a sound board. You could try looking for that as well. Again, he knows that Lowes stocks this for sure. I hope this helps!

  11. It looks great! I sew in a tiny extra bedroom with no wall space –but I took some Flannel and wrapped my closet doors –they are flat sliding doors–and it works ok–it doesn't fit a full quilt's worth of blocks but it is good for putting up a row and looking at things together. I just took white flannel and pulled it and stapled on the back side of the door–it is thin enough that the doors still slide–and if I close both doors I get quite a bit of surface space.

  12. Thank you! Your post is very informative as well as entertaining! I now have the space for a design wall but didn't know how to go about it. You and your team have answered a lot of questions for me (i have a question…do they rent themselves out for support?>

  13. Love your design wall tutorial. I am new to quilting but can definitely see the need for a design wall. We live in New Jersey and lost power on Monday night. When things settle down and power is restored, I plan to construct a design wall. Your tutorial will come in so handy for this.

  14. Love the tutorial and the tiny helper is so precious. I have one question. How did you attach this to the studs? There are now screws or nail holes in your batting.

  15. I made my design wall less permanent. I hung a piece of flannel in a wall using Velcro on the wall and on the top of the flannel. My projects were small so this worked great

  16. I purchased a tablecloth with flannel back from dollar store and used 3M command hooks and binder clips to hang it. Perfect size and cheap!
    Love your little helper pictures!

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