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!