Saturday, October 15, 2016

The Design Wall: I don't have one

A couple of years ago I decided to dip my toe into the world of quilting. As some of you know, I love sewing, and have for years. I even worked professionally as a seamstress for several years and I still dabble in that every now and then. Over the years though, I’ve found that being a seamstress seems to be the exception in the sewing hobby world. It seems that quilting is what a lot of people are doing, and when I go to buy fabric it’s the assumption of whoever is helping me in the shop that I am working on a quilt.

But, this post isn’t about people making assumptions, or how wonderful other forms of sewing can be, it’s about something that I discovered when I entered the world of quilting.

The Design Wall.

You see, almost every book or online tutorial I ran across references the use of the Design Wall. I had no idea what that meant or why it seemed so NECESSARY to have one. I did some online sleuthing and discovered a tutorial on how to make one, which was infinitely helpful to my understanding of what it was.

Basically, you commandeer a wall in your house, cover it with batting or flannel, and when you make a quilt you put the pieces up on this wall so you can see what the quilt will look like before you finalize the design. Pretty nifty.

If you are retired and don’t have young children and own your home and have enough room to have a dedicated quilting room.

For those of us who aren’t so lucky, here’s my system to use instead of the Design Wall.

Alternative Design Walls

         The Living Room Floor

This is my first go- to spot to lay out the quilt pieces to finalize the design. One of my favorite memories of this was when my dad walked in on my perched on top of the couch staring down at a quilt. He asked how it was going, and I said, “Something isn’t right.” He then left me to continue staring. (I did fix it, just had to move a couple squares to different spots.)

The big benefit to using the floor is that you can do what a lot of people say the benefit of a design wall is; you can back up (or in my case, climb up) and get  the Big Picture of the quilt to see if it is balanced, and visually the way you would like it to be. 

This method, like the next one, does require some planning and quick execution. I wait until I have all the pieces made and ready to go. Then I have to plan for a time when my husband is gone, preferably to work so I know I have a couple of hours if something else takes my time.

When the appointed time comes, I move the rocking chairs and other various items scattered across the living room floor (a good excuse to do a quick clean and vacuum if you have the time). Then I throw the pieces of the quilt down. Well, not literally, there is some thought behind it. I arrange them, and rearrange until I have the design that is needed.


The Bed

This is the same as the Living Room Floor, just a little more contained. If you have a smaller quilt, it’s quite easy to do on the bed, given you have a larger bed.

Again you have to plan for a time when family members will not be put out by this. I mean, we like our sleep in this household and that includes naps!

A positive to this one is if you have young children running about. If distracted by them, you can just leave the pieces on the bed, and shut the bedroom door while you tend to the child. Or cat, or dog, or husband.

You just clear the bed (there always seems to be laundry in need of folding on ours) and lay out the pieces, arranging them until you get the design right.

A negative to this method, for me at least, is that it's harder to get the Big Picture of the quilt since I can't be above it. 

Now for the MOST IMPORTANT PART OF THE PROCESS whether you are using the floor or the bed. Take pictures of the final layout of the quilt. You will not remember. Even if you stack the blocks a certain way, with a ‘method’. You won’t remember what the order or method was six months later when you finally get on with actually sewing the blocks together.

Note that the picture on the right has the same blocks as the picture on the left. The right blocks in the right pic, and the left blocks in the left pic. 

I will take a picture of the full quilt, if possible, and then do close ups. I do close ups of 4 or 6 blocks or so. And I overlap the pictures so I know that I’m getting everything where it was planned to be. Take more pictures than you think you need.  These pictures stay in a safe place (on the camera) until the quilt top is completed.

My most recent project included multiple steps of assembling. So, I took pictures of each step to doubly insure that everything worked out the way I originally planned. It was a log cabin block, that got assembled into bigger log cabins, then the final product. So I took pictures of the small blocks laid out, then the larger assembled blocks, and now the final quilt top.

Hopefully for those of you who are new to quilting this has been helpful. And helped you feel a bit better about not having a fancy Design Wall to work with in your house. I honestly don’t think I will ever have one, I’ve got family pictures that belong on the wall not quilts in progress! 

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