Portable Design Wall–almost, but not quite…

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.

15 thoughts on “Portable Design Wall–almost, but not quite…

  1. I wonder if it would be possible to do a Macguyver with plumbing parts and some inexpensive flannel. You could make it to your own specifications, size wise and it might be a bit easier to set up. Just a thought…maybe a summer project…

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  2. Wow! Macguyver! I haven’t thought about that show in years. It was a great one, wasn’t it?? I do have some other ideas about the design wall, so if I ever get any of them put together, I’ll let everyone know! Plumbing parts…hmmm…

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  3. hi

    i’d think twice about buying the design wall. you can make the same thing with 1/2 inch pvc pipe, a few t’s and elbows, and a flannel or felt backing. no way i am buying one. especially after reading these reviews. i am gonna invent a better one and hopefully get rich $$$$$ LOL

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  4. Hi Laurie and Welcome! I wish I had thought twice, but I already own it. 😦 It hasn’t been out of the bag since I moved into my new studio and put up a permanent design wall solution on one of my walls with Block Butler. That stuff I love!

    I thought about a way to make a better one and even investigated working with one of the big notion companies to produce and market it, but decided in the end that it was just not feasible the way I wanted to make it work. More power to you though! I’d love to see a more user friendly portable design wall solution on the market. You go girl!

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    1. Nadine-
      So – do you still love your Block Butler? I just requested a sample of their material. It sounds much more user friendly, but I am curious about it’s LONGEVITY.
      Thanks.
      Pat

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      1. Hi Pat! I do still love the Block Butler. My only issue with it is that it does collect strings and bits from the fabric edges, so it’s not completely white anymore, but it’s just the sticky nature of the thing. Yes, they say you can wash it, but it sounds like that would be a total pain if the piece you’re washing was very large. My main design wall is about 8′ x 8 1/2′, so I covered it with three pieces of Block Butler and I can just imagine the sticky mess that hand washing would produce, and I’m not sure the bits would come off anyway!

        The Block Butler is still plenty sticky after using it for almost a year, but also note that I’ve had more success sticking pre-washed fabrics to it than fabrics just off the bolt, which tend to fall off quite quickly for some reason (so if you don’t normally pre-wash, this could be an issue). Right now, I have my latest quilt, Accessorize Me—with Inchies!, stuck to the design wall, and it’s been there since I finished it and took the pictures, so even large things stick to the Block Butler if you press them up there firmly enough.

        Hope this helps!

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      1. Well, the BB is meant to be sticky, so I don’t think there’s any way to prevent that. Mine had threads all over it too, and I can’t imagine trying to wash the thing…

        I actually don’t use the Block Butler any longer. When I moved to a new house, I took it down of course, and the walls were still sticky! I’m not sure how to prevent that, and I’m also not sure that the little sample that you get from Block Butler will really tell you what you need to know about whether the sticky stuff will leave a residue on or damage your walls. It was really HOT in my old studio, so that may have had something to do with the residue, but I’m not going to risk it in my new house! Just a heads up there…

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      2. I have had the Block Butler for almost 2 years and I love it! I take part of it down and take with me to quilting retreats. The threads are just part of it’s sticky nature…if you keep enough blocks on it you don’t see them 😉 Two friends of mine ordered one and have had a terrible time getting theirs to stick to the wall and stay up. I followed the directions EXACTLY and have had no problem, spritzing with water helps renew the sticky.

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  5. I am not sure if this helps but I have a portible design wall that I made out of three pieces of 2w x 4h styrophone like the kind used for insulation (you can get it at any home improvement store). I got enough flannel to cover all the pieces, sprayed the styrofoam with spray adhesive (NOT the temporary kind) and put on the flannel, then trimmed. At that point you can “hinge” together with duct tape on the back or you can use them individually. I stick mine on the wall with heavy duty velcro. When your not using it you can fold it up and store it under the bed.

    Hope this helps!

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  6. Hi Drew, and welcome! Thanks for sharing your method for constructing a portable design wall. Of course it helps! It sounds very handy, for sure, and easy to store.

    Thanks for stopping by!

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  7. Thank-you, for your evaluation of this product. I was just about to hit the place order button. I am thinking maybe I will not. I will probably try making another design wall. I have one that I made years ago using a foam core board and covered it will flannel on one side and fleece on the other. It was perfect for travel. I also made one using flannel on the wall. I no longer have the wall space so for now I will go back to the portable one I used for travel.

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