Quilt Design Wall and Wonky Star Tutorial

This weekend, I installed a new quilt design wall.  Here are some tips showing how I did it. I also added a short tutorial on Wonky Star Blocks –with a tip on using Value when selecting fabrics.

Creating a Design Wall

I am fortunate to have a dedicated sewing space. It’s a small bedroom measuring about 12 x 15 feet.  I can put everything in this room and sew away to my heart’s content. I do have some stash and my quilts stored in closets in other rooms.

A design wall is CRITICAL for me, whether I am making a precision pieced quilt or going full improvisational.  I take lots of in-process photos of my work and I need to see the blocks ‘true’.  Meaning, I need to photograph the blocks with my camera parallel to the blocks/wall.  Photographing blocks on a slanted design wall or on the floor results in a slight distortion and makes it more difficult to assess the design.

My old design wall was made from 24 x 48 inch Styrofoam panels nailed into the walls with thin nails and then covered in batting.   These panels are thin (about 3/4″) and they worked pretty well. I could easily pin into the wall, and even hang full quilts on it to photograph them.

Adding Soundproofing

I decided to redo this wall to make it a bit larger and see if I could add a bit of soundproofing.  This wall is next to the family room and sometimes there’s slight sound leakage from my talking during a class or from the TV in the other room. (Shout out to my Hubby who turns the TV way down….)

I researched a lot of options and decided to add insulation panels. Here’s what I chose:  SilveRboard Acoustic Faced Polystyrene Foam Board Insulation with Sound Barrier.  Each panel is 1-in thick by 4-ft by 2-ft and it came with 5 panels in a box. I found them in a local big box hardware/DIY store. The panels weight next to nothing so this is a job that one person can easily do.

I wanted to make sure that I could easily remove this wall if we ever decided to move.  So, I nailed the panels into the wall–the holes in the wall can be easily filled because I used thin long nails.  I decided to reinforce the nail areas on the panels with some silver duct tape  because I wanted to make sure that I didn’t fragment those areas while nailing them up.

 

Wall Covering: White Craft Felt

I decided to use 72″ wide white cotton craft felt to cover the panels.  I bought this at a chain fabric store and had a large roll left from covering a small design wall in the other part of my room.  Craft felt is a good choice because it holds fabric even without pinning.  It’s also super white so it doesn’t distort fabric colors.   If it gets full of threads, I can easily clean it off with a sticky roller or even strips of blue masking tape.

Some quilters use other fabric such as white flannel sheets, quilt batting, or even felt backed plain white table cloths that you can purchase from dollar/discount stores.

Fixing A Glitch While Installing the Cover Layers

I started putting up the craft felt and quickly realized that the lettering on the boards was showing though. I could see it pretty distinctly through just one layer of the felt.

I then tried covering an area with two layers of the felt and there was still some show through.  (no photo of that test).

This was my final solution that worked to create a wall that is 95 inches wide by 80 inches high.

  • One layer of 80/20 batting next to the board (80% cotton/20% polyester batting)
  • Two layers of white craft felt — I added the layers one at a time because the pieces were large and are a bit heavy.  I also wanted to make sure there were no wrinkles in the layers.

The new wall is smooth and bright and I already love it!  I’ll be able to pin lots of blocks, pattern pages, notes pages and anything else related to the project with all that space.

How I Attached the Batting and the Felt

I attached one layer at a time, using quilting pins to secure it.    To attach each layer, I pinned the batting and then the craft felt to the insulation boards around all four outside edges using regular quilting pins.

Here’s a close up of one edge showing the pins holding everything secure.

One tip:  to help keep each of the layers smooth as I put them up, I light sprayed the 80/20 batting and the two craft felt layers with basting spray.

Alternatives and Finishing Up

Use paint:  Another alternative to fix the show through of the lettering would have been to paint the boards white, but I wasn’t sure that I wanted to risk them warping.

My husband suggested using a heavier weight fabric like cotton duck or canvas on the first layer.  However, I didn’t have any of that in the house and I was determined to use what I had on hand.  But a heavy canvas as the first layer covered by the felt or batting would have worked as well but possibly been a bit more difficult to pin through when putting up blocks.

One day next week, I will cut off the overhanging fabric to make the edges a bit neater.

New Projects on the New Quilt Design Wall

Meanwhile, I’ve started making a wonky star.  I am making a 12-1/2″ block for my Sarasota Modern Quilt Guild upcoming challenge.  We will be making community quilts with these star blocks.  It’s a lovely way to break in my new wall. I’ve pinned up the instructions, and the colorful block is my process testing sample because I haven’t made this kind of block for a long time.  You can see some of the other fabrics that were provided by the guild for my star, and I’ll add one or two of my own.

On the far right hand side, you can glimpse two ‘idea’ print outs from EQ8. It’s my way of letting a design idea percolate before deciding on the next steps. One of these will be an improv quilt, not a pattern design. I’ll blog in the future about how I sometimes use EQ8 to kick start an improv design.

 

Wonky Star Tutorial

 

STAR #1   Corner and center square fabric from my stash. Sorry–I don’t know the designer of the background fabric. The star center fabric is called Coastal Dreams from StudioE Fabrics by Sharla Fults.  It’s an older fabric but you might find it online at a local quilt shop or online on Etsy.

I made two 12-1/2″ blocks for my guild charity quilt project.  All members were given some fabric, and we could supplement from our stash.  We will collect all the blocks from members and then make several quilts to donate to charity.

SELECTING FABRIC:  IMPORTANCE OF VALUE!!

Making these Wonky Stars is so NO stress–and a great way to use up larger scraps.  You could make the star points from one color using multiple fabrics, for example.   But….I’ve seen unsuccessful versions.  Choose a background color that is noticeably lighter value than ANY of the other fabrics used in the block. All 8 of the star points need to SHINE out from the background.  I’ve seen way, way, way too many of these Star blocks with 7 points that shine and ONE that just faded into the background fabric.  Here’s Star #2 with a photo converted to grayscale.  It’s not as much contrast as I would like –but I was limited by the guild color scheme which is fairly muted.  Notice how that bright yellow fabric is a midrange value –color fools our eye much of the time.   So, take the time to convert your block and fabric pull photos to monochrome or grayscale.  This is very important for patterns that rely on value contrast to ‘see’ the design.

Making Blocks in Other Sizes

You can make these blocks  any size because the layout is a 9 Patch.  To keep it a square block, take the size of the unfinished Star block and divide it  by 3.

Examples:

  • 6-1/2″ unfinished Star blocks — each patch is 2-1/2″ unfinished
  • 9-1/2″ unfinished Star blocks — each patch is 3-1/2″ unfinished
  • 12-1/2″ unfinished Star blocks — each patch is 4-1/2″ unfinished [my samples]
  • 15-1/2″ unfinished Star blocks — each patch is 5-1/2″ unfinished

Here are a few tips on my process for making the 12-1/2″ Star Blocks. Finished size is 12″.

I also put a link to a YouTube video on the process at the end of this post.

STEP 1:   CORNERS AND CENTER BLOCKS

I cut the four background squares and one center square at 4-1/2″. Set these blocks aside and then make the star point blocks. 

STEP 2:  MAKING STAR POINT BLOCKS

I cut four background squares at 5-1/2″.

I cut two squares of the two colors for the points at 5-1/2″.  I cut these squares in half giving me 4 triangles for each color (8 triangles total).

I attached the points by sewing one triangle of each color to the 5-1/2″ backgrounds.  I then trimmed the pieced blocks down to 4-1/2″.

I found that making the star point blocks 1 inch larger was much easier than starting with the 4-1/2″ size.   Trimming down to size is so much easier than trying to be a bit precise.

STEP 3:  ASSEMBLING STAR POINT BLOCKS

Assemble the 9 blocks into the star shape.   Notice that the star point colors are laid out a bit differently in each of my sample blocks.  In Star #1 (above), I alternated sewing the triangles onto the background block.  So I sewed the teal triangles on first on 2 of the 5-1/2″ blocks, and sewed the yellow triangle on first on the other two 5-1/2″ blocks.     In Star #2 (below), I made a small mistake.  I sewed the teal triangles on first on three of the 5-1/2″ backgrounds.  I SHOULD have sewn it on all 4 of the blocks.  But, I was able to achieve the color rotation and decided it was good enough!

Star #2     The background fabric and the teal fabric were from the guild. I added the yellow and center block fabric from stash. (No names on the selvedges.)

Need More Info on the Process?

There are lots of YouTube videos on making improv wonky stars so I didn’t take any process photos as I made these blocks.  If you’ve never made these kinds of blocks or just need a quick refresher, here’s a link to a YouTube video.

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