My design wall

When we moved from Texas to Colorado in 2006, my sewing space grew from 7′ x 10′ to 13′ x 17′; I was in heaven! It was finally time to get all those quilt blocks off the floor and graduate to a design wall. My list of desired features included

  • large size, as I tend to make more bed sized quilts than wall hangings or lap quilts
  • must offer a way to pin patches and blocks to it

I am extremely fortunate to be married to an engineer who was willing to sort through the construction details and build it. John’s primary concern was with the size, as he was not interested in giving himself a hernia (or worse) during construction and installation.

He decided to affix cork to two sheets of plywood, cover with felt and then mount to the wall. Read on for more specifics.

His supply list:

  • 2 sheets 4′ x 8′, ¼” AC plywood, cut down to 4′ x 6′*
  • 2 rolls 4′ x 6′ ¼” cork
  • 2 quarts petroleum-based (avoid water-based) contact cement
  • 4 foam brushes, 3″ size
  • box knife with a never-been-used-before blade
  • 4⅔ yards 54″ – 60″ wide white felt
  • staple gun (loaded with 5/16″ staples)
  • 16 wall anchors
  • 16 screws
  • 16 finishing washers
  • Optional: one teenage boy—recruited once to help unload plywood from the vehicle and again to help carry and mount the sections to the wall.

*Home Depot will make one cut per sheet of plywood for you, free of charge.

AC is a grade of plywood that is good on one side and not so good on the other. The A side is sanded and lacks knotholes. If there were knotholes in the piece when it came off the tree, they were removed and replaced with a clean, knot-free, oval-shaped piece. Knotholes, over time, can fall out, so John wanted one side of the plywood to be high quality so there would be no gaps (now and ever) between the plywood and the cork.


John ordered the cork from an online school supply source, but he can’t remember which one. Look for ¼” cork in a roll width sufficient to cover at least one dimension of your plywood, the goal being to avoid seams, if possible.

John set the plywood sheets on sawhorses to work. Follow, to the letter, the directions on the contact cement container.

contact cement

Use foam brushes to apply the contact cement to both the plywood and the cork, making sure you have LOTS of ventilation when you apply it. John needed four brushes, one for each surface application.

foam brush


You want to choose the petroleum-based cement because water-based anything applied to wood will cause it to warp.

Use a box knife with a brand new blade to trim the excess cork after applying it to the sheet of plywood.

box knife

Once the cork has set onto the plywood, cover both sections with white felt, wrapping it tightly to the back and securing it with 5/16″ staples.

staple gun

John used size #6 finishing washers to mount both sections to the wall, one in each corner plus one in the middle of each side.

 The hardware consists of a wall anchor, screw and finishing washer.

The hardware consists of a wall anchor, screw and finishing washer.

Here is the design wall:

The two sections together offer a generous 72" x 96" work area.

The two sections together offer a generous 72″ x 96″ work area.

One unanticipated advantage of my design wall is that it also doubles as sound insulation—it covers a large section of the wall, making it difficult for me to hear normal conversation in the next room. Likewise, if I want to crank the stereo, the noise doesn’t carry all that well to other parts of the house.

Thanks, John, for all the careful planning and meticulous work you did putting this together!


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One response to “My design wall

  1. Pingback: Sewing room makeover/tour |

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