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A Multipurpose Design Wall

Updated: Jan 26, 2019

Every quilter tries to tailor their workspace to suit their exact needs. And I thought it would be valuable to share my latest studio addition, installing a multipurpose design wall. Design walls are an essential tool for most quilters. They give quilters the opportunity to temporarily stick their quilt designs up on a wall allowing them to step back and view the design to make visual artistic assessments and changes before permanently constructing the quilt.

I used to use a portable design wall in my former studio but I was holding off on building or buying a commercial one for my new studio space until I knew actually how I wanted it to suit my specific needs. Because I have a little more space in my new studio I decided that I wanted to install a permanent design wall. After researching I found lots of clever quilters who have already constructed some excellent DIY permanent design walls. I probably would have followed their lead and built something similar but I had a slightly different vision of how I wanted my design wall to work. I wanted a multipurpose design wall that met my specific artistic quilting and photography needs and I also wanted it to look ascetically pleasing. I had a perfect wall in my studio to use as a permanent design wall or photo backdrop area for a few reasons: the wall is at the long end of the room, it's a large unused wall space and it has no windows. Here's what I came up with.

The first purpose I wanted the design wall for was to have the ability to display my mosaic patterns and to audition fabric choices. Tacking a large mosaic paper design up on a wall would allow me to view the design from afar and from vertical perspective verses looking down at my design on a table, the floor or with the paper pattern taped and propped up on foam core boards. Additionally, I could pin and audition fabrics right next to my paper design on the wall. Essentially, I needed to create a giant cork board wall. After researching products to use I found these beautiful decorative cork wall tiles from AmCork.

AmCork cork wall tiles, Style: Blizzard

Installing the cork wall tiles

Each Portuguese cork tile is approximately 12" x 24" and 1/4" thick. The tiles are self healing from push pins, easy to install and come in a slew of gorgeous colors, patterns and textures. The color and pattern I chose was "Blizzard". I appreciated the subtle mix of light grays and pops of bright white and felt it would compliment the soft gray paint color in the rest of my studio. The tiles are not the stick and peel type so they do need to be glued in place. The overall dimensions of my cork wall is 5' height by 7' width.

Utilizing the cork wall for tacking up paper designs

Next, I wanted a way to photograph my quilts using the same wall space where my new cork wall was installed. But I had just turned this wall into one giant multi-colored and textured corkboard not exactly the best backdrop for quilt photography. However, when I was brainstorming design wall ideas, I was thinking both like a quilter and a photographer and that lead me to this neat idea. Above the cork wall I had left 6" of wall space (no cork tiles). and in that space I installed a retractable backdrop similar to what photographers use. But instead of raising or lowering different colored paper or vinyl scenes, my backdrop is white batting.

Searching the photography industry, I found this background paper roll system, the Varidrive Set with Metal Chain from (also on Amazon) and I installed it using a PVC pipe cut to the same width as my cork wall. This system allows me to easily raise and lower my batting backdrop. With the batting backdrop in the lowered position I can stick my quilt to it, square and level it, add a few pins if necessary and then I set up my tripod and shoot my photos. If my quilt is larger and needs extra support due to its weight I will lower the batting roll and tack it to my cork wall using staples along the perimeter. This keeps the batting stable. Then I pin the quilt on the design wall as you normally would strategically using a few fine pins and pinning through the quilt, batting and into the cork wall. It really works out very nicely. Best of all, once I am done shooting photo's of my quilt, I simply pull the chain to raise and batting roll up and out of sight exposing my beautiful and functional cork wall again.

Varidrive set with metal chain. Backdrop system.

Retractable batting backdrop utilized to photograph my quilts.

For my quilting and photography needs this multi-purpose design wall works out perfectly and when the wall is not in use it adds an element of beauty or another personal touch to my studio. While I use this design wall for my specific quilting and photography purposes, it could be used by quilters who want it to function as a regular design wall to build quilt blocks, audition fabrics or to gradually build entire quilt as well as to use it as a backdrop to photograph their quilts. In my next blog, I will share the steps and photos to install your own multipurpose design wall.


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