Thursday, June 11, 2009

Quilt Design Tools

When I design and construct quilts, one of my favorite "tools" is my design wall. Several years ago when I was on a shop hop, I came across and purchased this somewhat expensive WonderWall--and it's been worth every penny!

I can play around with blocks and settings, moving blocks all over until I'm happy with the look. I can audition different fabrics. I can stick "focus" blocks up on the wall and then figure out what I want to use to fill in the blanks. Although I've tried using graph paper to design, I find I do best and am most creative with fabric in hand.

Of course, as is often the case, about a month or two after I invested in my pricey WonderWall, my friend Eileen mentioned to our online group that for her design wall, she just purchases inexpensive flannel-backed vinyl tablecloths from stores such as WalMart.

I could probably buy about seven of these for what the WonderWall cost.

Some quilters like to use cork board, acoustical ceiling tiles, or other backings behind their design wall so they can use pins to secure their blocks. My design wall just hangs on the wall with no backing materials, and I find that if a quilt gets to the point where it's too heavy to "stick," a few pins placed near the top to hold the fabric to the flannel is all I need.

The nice thing about using these flannel-backed vinyl tablecloths is that they can be temporarily thumbtacked on a wall and then moved or folded away when not in use--an excellent option for those of us who don't have space for a permanent design wall.

In quilt class the other day, one of my students mentioned how helpful it was to have something to use as a design wall when she was putting the Spring! quilt together. This is what I had some of the quilters use as a temporary classroom tool--

Yep, batting, plain and simple. I have several rolled up bats on hand to take with me to class for anyone who wants to lay their blocks out to see how they'll look and ensure the blocks are placed correctly. If you don't have a design wall or a flannel-backed vinyl tablecloth, simply purchase your quilt batting along with your fabric in the size you'll need and use the batting as a design wall. Once the quilt is done, there's nothing extra to store!

So those are my favorite design tools. I've always been resistant to designing quilts on the computer. It just doesn't seem like it would be the same as having fabric in hand. That having been said, though, when I came across EQ4 (actually 4.1) at the thrift store today, along with some extra manuals for $20, I thought maybe I'd give it a try.

Yes, I know this is an older program and EQ6 is out now--and has been for a couple years, I think. But I just can't justify spending a lot of money on a computer program I'm not sure I'll use. So this will give me a chance to get my feet wet without getting hosed. And if I don't like it? Well, I still have my WonderWall--which cost about twice as much as this thrift store find, but not nearly as much as an EQ6 program!


Eileen said...

So I thougt you were going to show us how the EQ4 worked. Yes, the only thing wrong with my wall and the flannel backing is it is full of threads now. Guess I could take the clothes thread cleaner and roll it over but it would but it would use it up so quick.

PunkiePie said...

What a find! I'm debating on getting the EQ6 program. What a way to test-drive the program in general. I REALLY need to go to my local trift store more often!

Anonymous said...

Wow! You find the best stuff! A Jim Shore and an EQ program! I have EQ5 but I don't know how to use it. I'm a hands on learner, not a book learner. When you figure it out will you show me?

Teresa said...

I have half a design wall, lol, because my cat would chew it to shreds if it went all the way to the floor. I used some verh large carboard covered in flannel and nailed that to my wall. It works great and I just love putting my blocks or projects up there to enjoy.

The EQ4 is not a good representative of EQ6. EQ4 is not very user friendly and has many limitations. I have been an EQ user since EQ4 came out and have upgrade to EQ5 and now EQ6. I love this program!

Marla said...

I was cleaning my sewing room one night and thought to myself that I really wanted a design wall. I thought of an old flannel sheet I had and so I folded it half and thumbtacked it to my wall. Works like a charm and didn't cost a penny. When it gets too many threads on it, I will toss it into the wash.

Gran said...

Scotch tape on the back of the door is what I have been using.....

Very interesting sentence - "So this will give me a chance to get my feet wet without getting hosed."

You make me laugh! I am having a hard time telling my mind to shut off all the Canadian Hoser jokes.
I think it is tea time and my mind is needing a pick-me-up.


quiltmom said...

Hey Kim,
I don't know about EQ- I have thought about it but I am not much of a quilt designer- I take patterns and use my own color choices and change borders- that is about as close to designing as I get. I know some people swear bY EQ6 and love it as a designing tool.
You do find the best stuff at the thrift store- The Jim Shore Angel was a real find-
I still have my Easter stuff with bunnies and eggs up - I will change it when school is over and put up some summer sunflower things.. No time right now..

I wish I had a good place for a design wall there are no good walls in my sewing area. My sewing room is in the eaves of our semi bungalow house so the walls are sloped because of the roof lines. I have seen some fancy gizmos that use PCV piping and fabric but I am not sure about them. Some one suggested that they don't keep the fabric taut so it doesn't keep the fabric in place- not the most useful feature if you are using it as a design wall. I use the floor to lay out blocks if I need a design space. It can be challenging if Mars the cat decides to help me out LOL!

If you check out Barbara Brackmans Material Culture blog,(link on my blog list) you will find a reference to a show coming to the Sacramento area - I think it is showing over the summer- thought it might be of interest.