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The Fiber of My Being: The Batting Pillowcase for a Portable Design Wall

Once upon a time, more than anything I wanted a rigid portable design wall. There isn’t any space in my Manhattan apartment for an actual design wall (one reason to resort to a metal door and magnets). Obstacles, obstacles. I couldn’t find an insulation board anywhere here on this island of 1.65 million people. Besides, how would I get the board home? On a bus? The subway? I don’t have a car. At 96” x 48”, what sort of vehicle could accommodate it anyways?

Door used as quilt desing wall

Eventually I got some foam boards and let me tell you, they are worth their weight in gold! I ordered the boards from Lowe’s and when I learned the cost of  basic delivery (ah) I doubled my order to four boards. Those boards could not come fast enough; I could hardly wait for them to arrive. 

Finally the truck did arrive. The doorman called on the intercom to announce two men were on the way up. I waited, and waited, and waited. Where had they gone? I buzzed down to the doorman. “Mrs. Solomon,” he said, “the boards are 96 inches tall. They won’t fit in the elevator. The men are on their way, walking up the stairs.” Gulp. 

I made my first portable design walls with batting and white duct tape. It was sort of like Scotch taping a hem in place. Inelegant. I wondered if an improvement could be made by encasing a board in a ‘pillowcase’ made of batting. The answer was yes. If you want to get an idea of what the boards look like in real life, click here.

 finished portable design wall

At 96” x 48” the board was taller than I needed so I cut 12” off of an end, making it 84” x 48”.

cutting the board for the design wall

I chose cotton batting because blocks will “stick” to cotton. To keep the pillowcase from stretching over time, I chose cotton batting with a polypropylene scrim. I would expect a blend — say 80 percent cotton and 20 percent polyester — to work just fine as well. The Craftsy blog post “How to Choose Quilt Batting” has great information if you have additional batting questions. 

I chose Queen Size (90” x 108”) batting to make the pillowcase. Here’s how I did the math:

  • I needed at least 84” + wiggle room, so 90” would be sufficient top-to-bottom.
  • The board is 48” across the front and 48” across the back; 96” in all. I figured 108” would be sufficient to cover the combined 96” and to generously allow 2” for the left edge and 2” for the right edge. 96 + (2 + 2) = 100

If it’s hard to wrap your head around the scale of this, pretend you are making a pillowcase with the board being your pillow.

Step 1:

laying out batting for portable design wall

Fold the batting in half, either lengthwise or crosswise, to fit the board.

Step 2:

tracing the batting for design wall

Position the board with an edge aligned flush with the fold. (I could see a bit of batting peeking out). Outline the other three edges. I used a Sanford (aka Sharpie) Rub a Dub laundry marker. The weight of the board keeps the batting from shifting. Pin and/or clip as shown below. 

markings on batting for design wall

Step 3:

Sew along the top and side of the pillowcase, but not along the bottom and not along the folded side. I sewed with a 1¼” seam allowance. That’s 1¼” away from the marked line, toward the edge of the batting. Trim away excess batting from the top and the side, leaving about an inch in case you need to make an alteration. Turn the pillowcase inside-out to conceal the seams.

Along the top edge, the seam allowance isn’t critical. The pillowcase will be too long as it is.

Consider sewing the side with a very long stitch; a basting stitch is easier to rip out if necessary. Then try out the pillowcase. If it’s a go, reinforce the basting if you wish.

In this sewing video, I demonstrate how I use an AcuFeed foot (acts as a walking foot), a size #14 quilting needle and a long stitch.

Placing the pillowcase over your board:

It will take two people to maneuver the pillowcase over the board.

To load the pillowcase, I stood facing a free-standing sofa and held the board upright in front of me. I tilted the board and let it fall back onto the sofa. The sofa supported the far end of the board while the pillowcase was slipped over the near end.

After a few inches are loaded, it should slide on. Be patient. If it doesn’t slide on, then resew and increase the seam allowance. Then remove the side stitches that served as “pins.”

If the pillowcase isn’t as taut as you’d like, resew or clamp with large metal binding clips.

Finishing your portable design wall 

To finish, either cut off the excess at the bottom (you have the previously marked line for a guide) or tuck excess up into an inside-out hem.

Do you use a serger? After trying on the pillowcase for fit, I serged off excess batting, neatening the three raw edges:

  1. I unsewed the side seam near the bottom
  2. Then, I serged off the bottom edge, an ‘open’ single layer
  3. From there, I serged along the top
  4. Finally, I serged the side from top-to-bottom. It turned out so pretty.


More Portable Design Wall Ideas

Portable Design Wall

Here’s another way to make your own portable design wall. Just use it anywhere and stash it in any room or closet — no wall space required.

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Bridget Cooney

This is a great tip, never thought of making ( Pillow Case ) for to cover both sides of board.
I will be making one as my space also limited.

Cathy B.

I’ve done the same thing, but before covering first put a little aluminum U-channel on the edges all the way around. Gives a little more sturdiness without adding lots of weight. The aluminum channels come in several thicknesses, so just match that to your board and then buy the special PL glue to bond metal to the foam board. It’s been a game changer for me! Up here in Ontario cottage country we have windows everywhere with limited wall space.

Evie H

I’ve had a design board just like yours for a number of years. I clamp the open edge of the pillow case and have washed the case several times. I also have smaller boards (20 x 30 and 15 x 20) that I use to move block pieces from the large board to the sewing machine. These design boards are so very handy.

Gwen M

This is a great idea and Lowes is only two miles from my house. I wonder what would work instead of batting maybe some flannel? I’m thinking something washable as this will probably get a little dusty and need to be cleaned once in a while. The’pillowcase’ can be slipped off and washed.


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