Flannel Design Wall Tutorial

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I’m still “moving in” and getting settled in my new sewing area (as well as the rest of the house, if the truth is told), and of course, I want a design wall of some sort. There is not a lot of room or empty wall space, but there is one wall that will do (ignoring the electrical socket and pass through right in the middle of it that I would never use anyway):

Perfect spot for a design wall

Looking back on my design wall solutions in the past, I didn’t really want to repeat either of them. The Portable Design Wall was an utter failure for me when I bought it, and still doesn’t get used for the same reasons (and I can’t bring myself to put it up on ebay and try to fob it off on someone else since it’s just that bad).

In our Matchstick Manor house in Germany, I put up Block Butler on one wall in the studio, but honestly, I’m really glad that wasn’t my house (for many reasons, not just this one of course) because when I took it down as we were preparing to move out before the house fell down around us, it left an awful sticky residue on the wall. Eeeeewwww. And yes, I tested it before putting it up, but seriously, I’d have had to “test” it for a month in high summer and a month in the dead of winter to really see that it was going to leave sticky stuff on the wall. There were major temperature extremes in that room so maybe that affected the performance and removability of the Block Butler product, so take all that for what it’s worth. Still though, I’m not taking that chance with my freshly painted, brand new walls, thank you very much.

So, what to do? I decided on a semi-permanent installation, since it looks as though I’ll be in this front room of the house for quite some time and I’m not concerned about portability at all. I wanted flannel that was actually stuck to the wall somehow so it stayed firmly in place, but I still didn’t want to actually stick something to the wall with adhesive or anything like that. I decided on flannel covered foam core, and I purchased foam core with one adhesive coated side so that the flannel would stay in place well. You can purchase foam core and have it cut to size if needed at the craft store frame department. The craft store also had the flannel and duct tape. Yes, duct tape, the kind that says Repair, Decorate, Color Code on the package, though who decorates with duct tape? Here’s the easy job, step by step:

Call ahead to the craft store to see what size adhesive coated foam core they have. Measure your wall space, and do a little math (only a little!) to figure out how many pieces you need, and if you’ll need to have some of them cut down or in half to fill the space. I used two full 32″ x 40″ sheets plus one more sheet cut exactly in half. Calculate how much flannel you will need to cover each piece, including at least 2″ extra all the way around for wrapping to the back side of the foam core. Add an extra 1/4 to 1/2 yard for fudge factor. I decided on the cheapo flannel and didn’t prewash it, since I thought things would stick to it better that way.

Note that you can tape all of the foam core together to make one big piece instead of covering them all individually, but I didn’t do it that way. I wanted to be able to change the configuration of the design wall or split it in half or whatever later, so the smaller pieces worked better for me. Also, if you tape the foam core together and then cover it, it will be more difficult to work with and you might need to put a seam in your flannel to make it big enough.

Supplies:

Adhesive coated foam core (purchase enough pieces to make your design wall the desired size)
Flannel to cover one side of foam core, leaving at least 2″ all the way around to wrap to the back side (you can cut it a bit bigger so you have plenty of room and don’t run short on the edges)
Duct tape (comes in a huge variety of colors now apparently, though I’m boring and just bought white ;-) )
Fabric scissors
Utility scissors for tape
Small nails with 1/8″ heads (choose a type of nail that’s appropriate for your wall material)
Goo Gone

Cut the flannel large enough so that you have at least 2″ all the way around the foam core piece. Press the flannel with a steam iron to remove wrinkles. Decide which side you’ll use as the right side of your flannel. They should be about the same, but one side may have a line of fading or discoloration from being folded on the bolt in the store, and you’ll want to use that as the wrong side. Lay the flannel on a large flat surface, with the right side down and smooth out any wrinkles so it’s nice and flat. If your table isn’t large enough, use the floor! With the adhesive, it’s ever so much easier to do this if your work surface is larger than the foam core.

Remove the adhesive liner from the foam core and discard (okay, you recycling people can keep it, IF you can figure out something to do with it in the next two days and report back here; otherwise, toss it or you’re just a packrat like me! ;-)). Carefully position the foam core straight in the center of the fabric. I placed the foam core on its edge about 2″ in from the edge of the fabric and then laid it down flat. It’s important to position this right the first time, because you really don’t want to have to pull the fabric off of the adhesive to reposition it! Press gently on the foam core to stick it to the fabric, then flip the whole thing over and smooth the fabric well across the adhesive side of the foam core. Trim the fabric at the edges, leaving 2″ outside the edge of the foam core.

trim the edges

Turn the foam core over again, so that the fabric side is down. Working with one edge at a time, fold in the fabric corners, and use squares of duct tape to secure the fabric to the back of the foam core as shown. (I know that it’s kind of hard to see the tape in these pictures–this is what I get for being boring, and buying white tape! Let me know in the comments if it’s totally impossible to see, and I’ll edit these pics to outline the tape or something. :-D)

Fold corners in

Fold the fabric over to the back of the foam core along the edge, tucking the extra fabric in at the corners and securing with squares of duct tape as shown. Be as neat as possible at the corners so as not to have too many layers of fabric built up there.

Fold the edge over, tucking corner in neatly

Repeat for the opposite edge of the foam core, and then for the two remaining edges. You can hit the corners with an iron to flatten them a bit more, but obviously keep the iron away from the tape!

Perfect spot for a design wall

Cover all of the foam core pieces in the same manner. Use nails to mount the foam core on the wall, positioning the pieces edge to edge so that there are no spaces in between the pieces.

Completed design wall and sneaky peek of current project ;-)

Use the Goo Gone to clean the sticky gunk off of the utility scissors after cutting all that duct tape. Ick!

Do’s and Don’ts

(And btw, I have no idea whether the apostrophes are correct in the above; I Googled it and then wished I hadn’t, so I’m going with that whether right or wrong!)

Do realize that you can use whatever color of flannel that you like (and duct tape for that matter–go wild with orange and black tiger stripes you rebel!). Some folks are recommending grey for a design wall these days because it’s truly neutral where black and white are not. Whatever. I’ve been using white so long that I thought grey would make me nuts, so I bought white.

Do get the right sorts of nails–or screws if necessary–for your wall. I foresee a trip to the hardware store in my future, because I didn’t really have the right thing, but I’m impatient and wanted to get this done. It will do for now, but I really need to get some sheetrock nails so that they don’t pop back out of the wall due to the slight curvature of the foam core in spots.

Do look for a small roll of duct tape. No, I’m not convinced they exist, but it’s worth trying! My roll was 60 yards when new, and probably still has 59 yards on it…and will now be cluttering up my house for the next 20+ years.

Do consider using a separate set of pins if you ever pin things to the foam core. With that adhesive layer in there, you might have sticky pins which will be totally annoying for regular usage. And if you do pin, try not to go all the way through to the wall!

Don’t use your fabric scissors on the duct tape. Bad news. Move the fabric scissors away from your work area during the duct tape phase to keep yourself from grabbing them by mistake!

Don’t get a man involved in this. Honestly, resist the urge. He’ll just muck up the process, and this project is not that big a deal! Do it while he’s a work, and if you really need to call him to ask him where the hammer is or something, lie and say the neighbor wants to borrow it. ;-)

How about you? What are you using for a design wall these days? If you try this one, let me know how it works for you!

Nadine

6 thoughts on “Flannel Design Wall Tutorial

  1. My Block Butler experience is exactly the opposite. It wouldn’t stick to the wall (yes, the test piece did). I fixed that by using push pins. But, even though the front is also sticky, the fabric doesn’t stay on it, either. Really frustrating. I’m also looking to make a real design wall.

    Every design wall tutorial I’ve read glosses over the “attach the flannel covered panels to the wall” part. How did you do that?

    • No glossing over here.

      “Small nails with 1/8″ heads (choose a type of nail that’s appropriate for your wall material)”

      and

      “Use nails to mount the foam core on the wall, positioning the pieces edge to edge so that there are no spaces in between the pieces.”

      and

      Do get the right sorts of nails–or screws if necessary–for your wall. I foresee a trip to the hardware store in my future, because I didn’t really have the right thing, but I’m impatient and wanted to get this done. It will do for now, but I really need to get some sheetrock nails so that they don’t pop back out of the wall due to the slight curvature of the foam core in spots.”

      Cheers!

  2. I should have been more specific. HOW are you connecting the nails and the foam core? Are you nailing through the front of the foam core to hold it to the wall (in which case the nails show and there’s a hole in the flannel)? Are you putting the nail in the wall and making a hole in the back of the foam core (if so, how do you keep it from poking through to the front)? Are you using some sort of hanger on the foam core (if so, what)?

    • I just kept it simple and pounded the nails through the flannel-covered foam core, so that’s why I used nails with heads as opposed to finishing nails. Sure the 1/8″ nail heads show, but they’re so small that you hardly see them (and they don’t affect the performance of the design wall at all) and the flannel is loosely woven enough that the nail goes between the threads of the fabric so it’s not causing any shredding or raveling.

  3. I’ve been pinning to a curtain!!!!Ugh I hate it. Maybe I should give your design a try as I’ve needed a design wall for years! Thanks :)

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