When I saw the new Portable Design Wall, I thought, “Great, just what I’ve needed for ages!” and I was happy to find it on sale at Nancy’s Notions in February. From there, the story and product review is all downhill. I ordered online at Nancy’s Notions, which I will probably never do again, but that’s another rant for later. Suffice it to say that I did finally get the thing, but before I even had a chance to set it up, I received a call from Nancy’s Notions explaining that it would probably be difficult to set it up at all. Some of the parts for it were being remade, and I’d have to wait 4-6 weeks (!) for delivery of these parts that weren’t right to begin with. They asked if I wanted to wait; I thought this was kind of a weird question, since what else was I to do?
In any case, I waited for the parts. Meanwhile, I decided one day to try to set it up, since they didn’t say it would be impossible, just difficult. They didn’t lie, let me tell you. The poles were too long, and the clips that hold the cross supports onto the frame were flexible rubber, and absolutely wouldn’t stay connected to the frame at all. It was difficult to set up to say the least, since you need a space on the floor that’s at least six feet square so that you can lay it flat on the floor to put it together. I don’t have that unless I move my dining room table. The poles were also filthy dirty, and left black marks all over the flannel design wall and my hands.
I stuffed it all back in the bag, and emailed Nancy’s Notions and the manufacturer to ask exactly what parts I was waiting for, since it seemed to me that a replacement of all the parts except the rubber feet for the legs would be in order for it to be anywhere close to functional. I received replies from both, the one from Nancy’s Notions not so informative. The manufacturer however, was very nice and apologetic, and indicated that the poles were being made shorter, and the clips were being re-manufactured in an alternate material.
On April 26, the replacement parts finally showed up from Nancy’s Notions. I’ve been busy moving rooms around, so I finally got down to setting it up two days ago. Okay, the poles are shorter, and the clips are a different material, but you still need all that wonderful empty space to set it up easily. Frankly, if I had a six-foot by six-foot empty space around here, I wouldn’t need it at all! I persevered and had it standing, but not in the “few minutes” that are advertised. Now it seems like the poles are a bit short really, since the flannel isn’t stretched tight enough, and there’s too much “give” in it when you press fabrics and blocks to it. It doesn’t seem like fabrics and blocks stay in place as well as they would on an actual wall, where you could press harder against the flannel. The whole thing is more trapezoidal than square, and after thinking it was because the corner braces weren’t holding the frame straight enough, but being unable to shift it into square even a little, I gave up.
More adventures ensued when I took it down today. When you pull the frame parts out of the flannel, they disengage and the elastic stretches instead of just pulling out easily. (These are just like tent poles, so if you’ve ever done tents, maybe you’ll know what I mean here.) FWIW, pushing the poles out the other end of the flannel sleeves works better. As I folded up the flannel, I realized why the design wall is trapezoidal when it’s set up: the flannel piece isn’t a square, it’s a trapezoid. That would be the problem there. I don’t know whether it’s cut wrong or if it’s just off grain or something, but it’s sad anyway. Is this a design flaw, or a quality control issue?? And you know, for what you pay for this thing, would it be so much to ask to have a cord stop on the drawstring to keep it closed? It isn’t meant to tie into a bow or anything, since it’s knotted together into a loop, so what to do? At least I could remedy that one myself from my sewing basket.
While I applaud this lady for her idea and her gumption to see it to market (and I do think it’s a great idea, and something that’s sorely needed in our quilting world), I think it needed more user testing before marketing it to the quilting public. There’s just got to be a better way to create a portable design wall. I can’t see that I’ll use it much, given the effort it takes. Great idea, so-so execution.