DIY Design Wall for Art Quilters


Textile art by Kathleen Probst


This recipe makes 1 permanently affixed design wall.

Note: To make a portable wall, that just leans against the wall in your house, I would recommend wrapping the entire foam board with batting.

2” thick Foam board sheets – Available in 4’ x 8’ sheets.
The number will vary depending on the size of your wall

3” screws – purchase 4 screws per board plus extra

1” washers – one for every screw

Batting, flannel or felt – I used Warm and White batting that comes on a 90” roll, cut to length. I purchased an extra ½ yard. My wall measured 24 feet so I purchased 8 ½ yards.

Straight Pins – If you are fussy buy the ones with white heads so they blend in with your batting.
Black sharpie – to mark boards that need cutting

Measuring tape
a chaulk line
Straight edge – I used a large T-square, you could also use a narrow board
Stud finder
Hot wire Foam cutter – Floracraft makes one for about $16.00. It has a straight wire.
(I had to order one online. Check ahead of time to see if a local store carries them.)
I highly recommend a hot wire cutter. So worth it. No mess.



The general idea is this:
Measure wall. Install boards above baseboard. Cover front and sides with batting.

I would suggest making a diagram that is custom to the wall(s) you are making. Mine is not drawn to scale. It is to determine how many boards I need.


Time to complete
About 1 Weekend – depending on wall size

You will need a well vented place to cut foam boards. I used my garage with the door open. I also used 2 saw horses to rest my boards on.


Measure your wall.
Draw you diagram.
Mark the wall where the studs are. You will putting at least 4 screws in each board as close to the corners of each board as you possible while still drilling into a stud.



The lines you cut with the hot wire are not exactly clean, straight and 90 degrees. It is not like cutting with a saw. Which, by the way, would make a huge, gooey mess. Cutting with a knife frees up 1,000 tiny balls of Styrofoam to deal with.

Decide if you are covering the 2” side of the wall with the batting or not. On exposed walls I covered the 2” edge with batting. You need to know this ahead of time to cut your boards. Also consider your corners if you have them. Do you want the foam board flush with the corner wall or if you are leaving a little space (3/8″) so you can tuck in the batting to have a more finished corner.

For places where the foam board ends in a corner I decided to leave a gap so that I could use a butter knife to tuck in extra batting. You could also cut the foam board at a length that would just fit in snugly and then cut the batting to just cover the front.

Cut out holes for outlets using the hot wire styrofoam cutter. MEASURE WELL!


General rule is to use 4 screws per board because they are so light. Sometimes, because of where the studs are, you are not screwing close to the edge and you have 2 edges that meet and 1 edge seems to pop out. In other words, they are not lying smoothly where the seam is. We put in a few extra screws that we knew would not be drilling into studs. You can use drywall anchors. We did not have the correct size anchors on hand and managed without them. Do this with the lightest touch if you are skipping the anchors.


After going through 2” of foam board and 3/8″ of sheet rock, only 5/8″ of the screw is going into the wooden stud. It is enough.


You can see in this picture we have placed 4 screws in each board (no matter what size/shape the foam board is) and some screws are further out in the middle of the board instead of on the edges, because that is where the stud were.


I plan on being in my house 10+ years. I don’t care that there will be holes in my walls because when we do leave this house, it will only take a little wood putty and a touch of paint to fix them up. This is my studio. I can do what I want. It is not a rental which would be a different story. This is my home and holes are easy to fix. Really, they are.


My foam boards had giant navy blue writing on a white background on one side and silver (like foil) on the other. I put the silver side out and the white batting covers it beautifully. I knew it would because I had used the same combo on my portable walls at my old studio. I like batting. I will use grey flannel on one of my walls so that I have an alternate, neutral background for quilts that have white or partially white backgrounds. I also do my own photography. You can purchase extra wide flannel on, but the grey is mottled. I am going to buy a King sized grey flannel sheet from LLBean. It is 108” x 110” and only $28.

**WARNING: DO NOT HAVE A SPOUSE or SIGNIFICANT OTHER HELP YOU HANG THE BATTING (FELT OR FLANNEL)! This is a warning is to prevent the risk of a breakup. I would advise asking someone that is used to handling fabric to help you with this task. They just get it. They will also ooh and ahh over your nice new wall.

For my 24 foot long wall Lisa Flowers Ross and I pinned the top tentatively all the way across just to hold it up. Do the same with yours. Then go back to one side to begin and pin it nicely and smooth as you go. My wall did NOT look all smooth and happy until the end. Halfway through it had a lot of wrinkles but keep working it down. When you get to the end, pinning that last side will really help to add tension and to pull out slack. In the end it behaved beautifully.


This is my 2nd wall that took some custom cutting because of the roofline. It also required a narrow, 8” wide piece on the end. I could have skipped it, but I wanted all the width I could have.

You can see where I totally boofed the outlet cutout and put the plug back in the hole. I cut it upside down and I didn’t measure correctly. Yeah. Don’t do that. Learn from my mistakes.

This recipe will serve one artist very nicely.

I will share more pictures of the rest of my studio with before and after pictures in my next post.

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8 comments to DIY Design Wall for Art Quilters

  • I did the same in my studio. I used thinner insulation and large pins & a couple nails to keep it up. In general it works like a charm. I had the same fun time as you did with placing batting. I covered it with white flannel, which needs to be cleaned now. Don’t want to deal with that. Great instructions!

    • Kathleen Probst

      Thanks Wen! I may have a solution for cleaning up the threads on your wall. This unusual hint was shared on Victoria Findlay Wolfe’s blog. Try using a brand new toliet brush to clean the threads off your design wall. She demonstrated it during a videolog. Just use giant sweeping motions and walah, the treads all stick to the brush. 🙂

  • Kathie

    Thanks Kathleen for such thorough instructions. I have a folding design board made from the insulation panels and it has served me well. In fact its folding up and going with when I move next week. I will be renting short term but when I find the right house I want to install a permanent wall. I’ve bookmarked this entry so I can reference it. I had not thought of using batting or flannel sheets. I used fleece on mine and its OK but I see how batting would be better,

  • Kathleen Probst

    I have moved twice in the last year, into a temporary rental and then into our permanant home. Having a portable design wall is perfect for moving. I’m happy to hear that you will find these instructions useful when you find your house and move in.

    Batting has always been my choice for covering design walls. When I buy the grey flannel, it will be my first experience using flannel.

  • I could use a new design wall. I like your instructions. Interesting about using flannel sheets!
    Question: what kind of batting (poly/cotton/wool/?/ mix?) did you use and how thick is it?Thanks so much. Am book marking this page too.

    • Kathleen Probst

      I used Warm and White, which is the white version of Warm and Natural. I would say that it is about 1/8th inch thick and 87.5% cotton/12.5% polymer fibers. I’m glad this post will be useful to you.

  • Anne Muñoz

    This is great, Kathleen. I’ve always used foam core and flannel but yours looks so much sturdier. My next one will be like yours. Thanks for the instructions and photos.

    • Kathleen Probst

      Thanks Anne. This is my first permanent wall. I’m very pleased with the result. Now to get to work!