Monday, March 31, 2014

Design Wall—or The Drywall-Destroying Panels of Doom?

Sometime in February I batted my eyelashes and wore enough low-cut shirts to convince my husband to help me rearrange my sewing room. (I'm totally kidding. David is awesome and is always eager to help me whenever I need it. So I wear the low-cut shirts to show my eternal love and gratitude. I never bat my eyelashes—it just makes me look like I have allergies or some sort of tic.) My sewing room, as I have mentioned, is also my bedroom, since David and I are both loud snorers and tend to keep each other awake all night. Someday I will write a long, passionate essay on how Separate Bedrooms Saved My Marriage and Yes, Made the Sex Better Too So Stop Looking At Me Like That—but I'll save that for another time. Anyhoodle, I wanted the change so that my sofabed, which had been at one end of the room, would be more in the middle, underneath the ceiling fan. I also wanted to convert my desk to a standing desk, which would end up taking up less floor space. The wall that was behind the sofabed, and was also George Jr.'s home, would now be quilt-free and accessible - perfect for a design wall.

I have spent much of my quilting career looking up how people do their design walls. The options seemed to be:

1) Tack a piece of flannel or one of those felt-backed tablecloths to the wall;
2) Use foam insulation and glue or duct tape flannel or batting to each panel;
3) Use the big mongo 8-ft insulation panels from Home Depot and either lean them against the wall or mount them to the wall with hardware and tools and stuff.

I wasn't crazy about any of these options. Options 1 and 2 I had already tried without success. The flannel was ok, but I hated how it looked and stuff didn't stick to it as well as it does to batting. I have seen countless tutorials where people have used that foam insulation that basically looks like the stuff they make those coolers you buy at 7-11 out of, and even though they apparently had great success with duct tape, MY duct tape refused to stick to anything except itself, me, and the carpet. The big-ass insulation sheets were my option of last resort. I have zero skills with tools and have no clue how to mount something like that to a wall safely and effectively. And we rent our house. If we owned it, I might be willing to at least give it a shot and try to learn, but I ain't messing with power tools and stud joists and wing flanges in what is essentially someone else's property. I also didn't like the idea of just leaning them against the wall because I have children who frequently take advantage of the space in my room that runs from wall to wall to have super speed races. Leaning the panels would have deprived them of precious inches of floor space and probably ended up broken in half after the first crash.

I wanted something more modular, that was still lightweight, and that could take staples. Instead of driving holes in the wall and trying to figure out where the stud thingies are, I wanted to use these to mount the panels:

I used these when I mounted foamcore board on the same wall for pinning quilts for GenQ photography, and they worked a treat. A set of 4 large strips can hold up to 16 pounds, so I figured that would give me a lot to work with. 

On a trip to the craft store, I found my inspiration: stretched canvases!!

That gave me a lightweight wooden frame and with the canvas already attached, if for some reason stapling the batting to the frame didn't work, I was pretty sure I could glue it. As it turned out, stapling worked fine, except for the part where my little hands are entirely too weak to actually squeeze the trigger on the staple gun hard enough to make a staple come out, so there was more of the metaphorical eyelash batting.

I wanted the batting stapled on the edges and not around on the back, because I knew I'd need to mount the 3M strips on the back and batting back there could have impeded that, plus also the potential for lumps that would keep things from hanging flush. Any places where batting started to lift up between staples, I just added a little tacky glue. I mounted the 3M strips on the back at the top and just below the middle. (My canvases were 24" x 36".) In hindsight, I would have trimmed the excess canvas from the back just in the places where I wanted to put my mountings, but I didn't do that and so it remains to be seen if that will end up being my downfall.

3M Command Strips require a bit of prep and I have learned the hard way that this prep is VITAL. They don't tell you to clean the wall with alcohol just to see if you'll actually do it. You really need to do it to get it to adhere well, and you do need to let it sit without anything hanging from it for an hour before you use it, but not absolutely all of that happened exactly as it should have because of reasons, so I have been eyeing the whole thing suspiciously for the last 18 hours, listening for the creaks and groans that might indicate catastrophe is imminent.

So far, so good.

The top is higher than I can actually reach, but I don't mind whipping out a footstool on occasion if I need to. I wanted to keep the plugs underneath clear, so I mounted them a bit higher than I would have otherwise. I also left enough room to the right to mount two more, if I feel it would be worthwhile. If we ever move, I'll be able to easily take this set-up apart and transfer it to a new place, and a single panel could be removed to accompany me on a retreat or if I ever end up teaching someday.

Stop laughing. It could happen.

(And for those who will ask, the blocks I put up for the purpose of the photograph are ones that I made a couple years ago and then abandoned. I just finished one quilt top that was also abandoned a couple years ago, and so now I'm going to stare at these a while and try to decide if I want to keep going on them as well. This is what happens when I sew using my patented Just Making Shit Up method. I get part way through and have a crisis of confidence and shove the whole thing in a box and wonder why I ever thought I could design my own quilts. Then a couple years later I drag it out and wonder if I was too hasty in my abandonment. I'm like a shitty boyfriend with my quilt designs. "I love you! No, I don't! Come back! I NEED SPACE!")

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