I love my design wall. It has revolutionized the way I visualize and organize my quilt tops while I am piecing. Even though my design wall is just to the left of my sewing machine, though, I have been wondering if there isn’t a better way to stay organized. Chain piecing complicated blocks can take a lot of time when it’s up to the design wall, back to the sewing machine… and even with the design wall right there, I still can sew my blocks together the wrong way. My friend Stephanie from Late Night Quilter told me about her portable design board and I had a HUGE lightbulb moment. The portable design board allows you to transfer a block from your design wall to the sewing machine with ease. I couldn’t wait to make my own, and it is such a simple and quick project – even if you don’t have a design wall, you probably have room or space for a design board!
The first step is to gather the materials for the project. I went to my local store (I live in a small town, so I went to KMart) and I looked at all the picture, photo, and poster frames that they had in stock. I selected a black 16-inch by 20-inch poster frame. I found a piece of scrap batting in my stash that was 17-inches wide with plenty of length, and I grabbed my scissors.
*Note that I did also end up using clear packaging tape, which is not pictured here.
**Also note that you can use flannel or other material that your fabric would self-adhere to just like a design wall. Use what works for you and you have on hand!
The poster frame consists of a thick plastic cover, a thin “poster” page, and cardboard. It is held together with 9 metal tabs that fold over the edge of the cardboard in the back. I really think this style of picture / poster frame is preferable to some of the others where metal tabs have to slide into slots in the edge of the frame, because the batting (or flannel) will be thicker than what is normally put into a picture frame and it might be difficult to close it when you are finished.
I did consider buying a smaller picture frame that had a stand built into the back so that the board could be propped up beside me while I am sewing. I ultimately chose not to purchase that kind of frame because:
- That style of frame only came as large as 11×14 and I wanted something a 12×12 quilt block would fit on.
- This poster board frame was much cheaper (about half the cost).
Above you can see the contents (cardboard, poster paper, and clear plastic cover) after the metal tabs were folded away. Note that I recommend folding back all of the metal tabs. Set the poster paper and plastic cover to the side. They will not be used for the project and can be used as templates for future quilting projects.
Next, I placed the cardboard on top of my scrap of batting and trimmed to leave roughly an extra inch of batting around the edge of the cardboard.
This is the most time consuming step out of the whole process. Taking your time, place the batting and cardboard inside the frame. It is easy to get the batting caught on the metal tabs. What I found worked best for me was to do one side at a time and work my way in a circle around the frame. For instance, I got the left hand side in, then the bottom, then the right, and then the top.
Go around the full perimeter of the frame and make sure you can see all of the metal tabs. In my case, I made sure I could see all 3 tabs on each side of the frame.
Prior to closing the metal tabs, I recommend flipping the frame over and checking the front. I initially had a few wrinkles in my batting, and by gently tugging on the edges of the batting on the back, I was able to smooth it out and create a nice even surface.
Once the front is smoothed out, press down the metal tabs to secure the batting and cardboard inside the frame. I also chose to use clear packaging tape to hold down the edges of the batting.
As you can see, I immediately put my portable design board to work to help me with my Magnolia Mystery quilt blocks!
I hope this is a handy tutorial and gets your creative juices going. Would a portable design board be handy in your life? Do you have any materials on hand you would use instead? I can also envision wrapping a nice piece of plywood with batting or flannel, but I didn’t have a super creative idea for how to finish the back in a nice and neat manner – I just kept thinking of a staple gun. 🙂