Design Wall FAQ

QuiltNet &rec.crafts.quilting Frequently Asked Questions Building a Flannel Design Wall

Original request:

I want to cover 1 of the walls with flannel so I can play with my fabric on the wall. I'm not sure how to go about doing this - the place is a rental so I don't want to put too many holes in the wall. Any suggestions?

Does anyone know any cheap sources for flannel?

What I did:

I wanted to be able to pin larger objects to my wall so I used 2' x 8' pieces of styro foam. I got these from a local building supply store. They are about 3/4" thick and are cheaper than foam core insulation. I think these cost about $3 a piece. I glued 3 pieces together for a 6' x 8' design wall.

I bought 44" wide cotton flannel from a chain store called Pieced Goods for about $2 a yard. I sewed 2 8' long sections together to cover my foam boards and attached the flannel with straight pins stuck into the back of the foam and then attached the whole thing to the wall with a couple of nails. Since the walls are 8' feet high it stays up by itself pretty much, until my cats or my baby start pulling on it.

The whole thing cost around $20-$25 and I love it! I don't know how I lived without it!

Responses from the group:

I'd get a cheap flannel sheet from wherever, and two pvc pipes. Stitch a channel at top&bottom of the sheet, thread the pipes through, and run a chain, dowel, rope, whatever, with a hook at each end, through the channels. That way, you only need 2 hooks near the ceiling and two hooks near the floor, and you can roll it up and cart it with you. When you get bored with it, or get a place where you can do this permanently, you can always pick out the channels and use the sheet as a sheet.

It seems to me that you could make a flannel wall fairly simply by stitching about a 2-inch hem in one end of a large piece of flannel, running a curtain rod through it, and suspending the curtain rod on brackets on the wall.

Check your local "chain" fabric stores (i.e., JoAnn or So-Fro) for sales on flannel; I just picked up about a zillion yards for winter nightgowns at about $2.50 a yard. The flannel doesn't have to be the highest quality for a flannel wall - it just has to be white.

The best source of flannel for a work wall that I know of is flannel sheets from can get the sheets separately, so a top sheet is about $8, I think, or thereabouts...Beats the cost of yardage. :) I have also heard of people using Thermolam batting (or Pellon fleece) as it is fuzzy and you don't need to use pins.

Electric stapler and Piece Goods has cheap flannel on one of their back tables here. I'm not positive the price, I thought around $2 yd.

I want a quilt-block-stick`em wall, too. I thought the wall I saw on Great American Quilts program was of felt, though. I could be wrong. Anyway, they had "fabric" mounted - stuck to - glued to - stapled to - etc. - on a piece of plyboard or lightweight board and then somehow hung onto the wall. I think the size used was about queen size (maybe twin size), and it gave you plenty of room to mix and match your blocks. This could be attached to the wall by a hole / bracket in the four corners, easily fixible whenever you move.

Have you considered cork instead of flannel? I use a very large bulletin board to plan out my blocks. I simply use a pin to stick up the pieces on to the board. Nice thing about that is that I can also pin up my drawings/drafts and I sometimes even pin up the quilting template that I am going to use to get a sense of how the quilting (I hand-quilt) will look next to the pieced block. With a very large bulletin board, you still only have a few holes - no worse than hanging large pictures.

I have a peg board for storing lots of stuff (I'm sure you've heard me talk about it) and for a message board I took a scrap of it, covered it in batting and fabric, and then just screwed through the already existing holes in the pegboard to mount it. If you took a full-size pegboard and covered it in flannel (unless you're going to pin into it, you wouldn't need batting) then you can just mount it the way mine is mounted, with screws at the top corners. Mine just sits on the floor -- as long as it's butted against the wall there's no stability problem. Then you can take it with you and you've inflicted only 2 tiny screw holes. You could even cover only part of t, and use the other part for hanging stuff!

When I was at a somethingorother class they had these pieces of insulation that we used as boards for pinning. This insulation had some sort of foam core and was covered by a plastic that was thin enough to pin through, but thick enough to hold in the foam core. They were a bit expensive, but great for pinning blocks to.

I would recommend that you use some sort of insulation like this as the base for your flannel panels. This will allow you to use pins (there will be times when you want to pin up a large piece) and will provide a pannel that can be easily moved. There are many types of insulation and many prices; I can't tell you which one(s) are the best for this. But I'm sure that you'll find something suitable after a few trips to local lumberyards.

Good luck. This is another thing that's been on my "todo" list for a while. It's amazing how useful it is to just have a large wall that you can pin blocks to and then step back to look at them. It's also useful to just have them hanging around for a while while you meditate on the blocks.

I purchased some big (4 feet by 8 feet) panels of rigid foam core insulation at a building place, and wrapped the flannel around them (you can tape it to the back.) The insulation was the same height as my walls, so when I put it in place, it was wedged between the floor and ceiling. I didn't need any nails to hold it. It cost about $20 per panel, which is cheaper than plywood and it's a lot lighter to carry around. It also won't "warp" the way wood does.

The insulation allows you to stick pins into your wall, useful when you want to put up larger pieces that may be too heavy to stick to the flannel, particularly if you have any kind of a breeze in the room. (or just walk by and brush against it.) I don't use pins while I am designing something, but if it has to stay up there for awhile until I can sew it together, I stick a pin into each piece. You can also pin up photos, drawings, etc.

It may be worth looking around for a source of extra wide (54 inches or more) flannel, then you won't have to piece it and you can probably buy less of it. I found some in a small fabric store.

My husband put up a flannel "curtain" up on my wall. He used a regular rod and I sewed a sleeve on the flannel to put the rod through. He then put the rod securing it on both ends and one hook in the middle. Leave a slit in the sleeve for the middle hook. It works fine and I don't have to worry about holes. Also, if I ever have to take it down for "guests" or something I just roll it up and put it under the bed. However, I NEVER take it down when guests come, they enjoy looking at it. And if they don't and think it's messy they don't have to look.

I found some 90" wide flannel at one of the local quilt shops. I haven't put it up yet, but think I will just use a minimum of thumb tacks. If anyone sends you some better ideas, I would love to hear them.

The book Wall Coverings by Sunset Books has an entire chapter on how to cover walls with fabric. They list 4 ways:
* upholstering your walls with fabric and batting
* using curtain rods for shirred fabric
* stapling the fabric on the wall.
* pasting the fabric on the wall.

Pasting the fabric sounds like the technique you want for an apartment. According to them, it's completely non-destructive.

1) cut the selvages from the fabric
2) Wash the walls and let dry thoroughly
3) put wallpaper paste into a paint tray. Dilute to the consistency of cream soup.
4) tack piece of fabric along ceiling line with push pins Leave 2" at top.
5) Lift fabric out of way. Apply paste to wall from ceiling down a few
feet and a few inches farther than the edge of the fabric.
6) With hands, lightly smooth fabric into place
7) Apply paste for the next few feet and repeat 6). Work from middle of wall to sides.
To remove it,start at a corner along the baseboard. Gently peel the fabric from the wall. Use a damp sponge to remove any paste residue.
(I've also heard rumors that you can use regular ironing starch instead of the wallpaper paste, but I can't find the reference to it anymore. I think it was in one of Claire Schaeffer's books)
The full reference for the book is:
Wall Coverings
edited by Alice Rich Hallowell
Copyright 1982, Lane Publishing Co, Menlo Park CA 94025
ISBN 0-376-01719-8

I bought 2 yds of 45" ecru cotton flannel, ironed the center crease out of it, and pinned it to the wall with push pins. It's not absolutely square so it wouldn't do for the obsessively neat, but it works fine. It also disassembles very easily for cleaning. ;o)

I "made" one this month. The parameters were that it had to be big (queen size), and that it had to GO AWAY for long periods of time, with little storage space available for such things as sheets of styrofoam. Eventually, we hit on the following: A queen-size flat flannel sheet (on sale ) and a quilt-hanging frame used for hanging quilts at our guild's biennial show. These are heavy-duty wood (sealed) stantions with a cross-bar at top. I made a small slit in the casing at the top of the sheet, and never had to do anything else with the fabric. It worked really well.
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