I've wanted to have a stack of design boards for a long time. They're super handy for keeping track of the pieces whenever you have a block that you need to lay out before you can sew it. The fabric pieces stick to the batting, so you don't have to worry about anything getting mixed up!
To make them, I followed a two-part tutorial by Lori Holt at Bee in my Bonnet (part 1 and part 2). I biggie-sized my boards since most of the blocks I make finish at 12". Ideally, I think I would have made the boards 17" or 18", but to make the best use of my 32" x 40" foam core, I settled for 16" boards.
I really love how they turned out! I used my favorite colors to frame them, and I can't help smiling every time I look at them.
Tricks I Learned
As with any project, I learned some tricks along the way. If you're thinking about making a set of design boards, these tips should be a helpful addition to Lori's fabulous tutorial.
After I glued the batting to the front of the foam core, I cut the excess away with my 60mm rotary cutter. This gave me a much cleaner cut than scissors. To make sure I didn't catch the cutter on the foam core, I let the ruler hang over the edge ever so slightly.
Rather than trying to seal the ends of the strips with hot glue, I used Fray Check. This was much cleaner and easier. I started by spreading a little bit of Fray Check on the beginning of each strip. I let it dry before attaching the strips to the boards.
Since I made my boards 16" square, I needed two strips of fabric for each design board. I sewed them together to have one long strip. Rather than cutting it to length ahead of time, I trimmed the excess once I had made it all the way around. I just left myself a couple of inches overlap, and trimmed with scissors. Then I applied Fray Check to the end and let it dry before gluing the last little bit in place.
Toothpicks were a lifesaver for getting the edges to come out neatly. I had the best luck when I kept the glue gun on low, and applied it directly to the fabric (rather than applying it to the board). I smooshed the glue around with the tip of the gun to get a thin, even layer on the fabric, then I pressed the fabric down. While the glue was still warm, I would run the toothpick along the edge to fix any inconsistencies.
The toothpick was also great for applying tiny drops of glue under any spots that weren't as secure as I would like them. I would put just a touch of glue directly on the toothpick, then carefully slip it under the fabric.
There isn't much room between the edge of the fabric and the foam core when you're gluing the front in place. I found that the stand for the glue gun kept getting in the way. I ended up putting the stand down and just resting the gun on a plate whenever I wasn't using it. This was 1000 times easier than dealing with the stand, but next time I would use a paper plate. This one was harder to clean than I anticipated (but I got it!).
Making a Board from Scraps
I've never been good at letting scraps go unused. When I was finished with my boards, I had four 8" pieces of foam core left, and just enough of the framing fabric to make it around one more 16" board. I cobbled it all together to make a fifth design board, and I think the scrappy one might just be my favorite. The bonus is that it's just as sturdy as the others! Since it turned out so well, I've included a tutorial for making a board from scraps.
Since I wanted the framing fabric to be evenly spaced around the board, I cut each strip to 17.5" before I started. Once they were cut, I applied Fray Check to each end and let it dry while I assembled the scraps of foam core.
First, I placed two of my squares tightly together and taped them with painter's tape. I let the ends of the tape hang off since this is just temporary to hold the boards together while we glue them.
Let the painter's tape act like a hinge, and open the two boards to expose the crack between them. Put a line of hot glue along the crack, then press the boards firmly together until the glue is set.
Don't worry about any excess glue that seeps out. It peels off easily when it's mostly cool. I'd rather have a little excess glue to peel away than not enough to hold.
Remove the painter's tape and tape both sides of the board with clear packing tape. Duct tape would likely hold just as well, but the clear tape won't show through the batting when the design board is finished.
Repeat this process with the other set of squares, then once again to join the two rectangles into a large square. You'll have to move quickly when gluing the long seam so your hot glue doesn't cool too soon.
Since I wanted my fabric to be spaced evenly around the board, I marked 5" from each corner on the back of the board. I also cut each of my strips to 17.5 inches since my board is 16" square. That way I would have a little bit of space to overlap each of the strips.
For the very first piece, I lined up the end with the mark, but I started gluing several inches behind the mark. That way I had a tail left to overlap when I made all the way back around.
I kept gluing the first piece of fabric all the way to the end, past the next mark on the board.
I overlapped the second strip of fabric so that it started at the second mark. This time, there's no need to leave a tail. Go ahead and glue the second strip on top of the first one. Continue in this fashion until you make it all the way back to where you started.
Once you're all the way around, glue the final strip underneath the tail you left. In this picture, the back of the board is facing forward. If you look at the zig-zag stitching, you can see that the bottom fabric is offset slightly towards the back of the board, and the top fabric is offset slightly towards the front of the board. Since the top fabric has more bulk to go around, this makes sure the bottom fabric is completely covered on the front side of the board (the bottom fabric will stick out on the back, but I wasn't worried about that).
Glue the tail in place. All of your strips should now be secured around the outside edge of the foam core.
At this point, we finish the design board like normal. I found it was easiest to start at the overlaps, and glue each bottom piece all the way to the corner.
Once I had done that, I went back and finished gluing until all the strips were secured. And the scrappy design board was finished!
How would YOU use them?
I can't tell you how excited I am to be able to use these design boards. They've been on my wish list for a couple years now, and I'm thrilled to have finally made them! I think they're going to come in really handy for a couple of the Fall into a Quilt Along blocks. They'll also be great for finishing the Tree Farm blocks from a workshop I took last summer. And I'm sure I'll pull them out for many other projects I have yet to dream up.
What about you? Have you ever made design boards? What has been your favorite use for them? If you haven't made any design boards yet, do you have a project they would be perfect for? I'd love to hear about it in the comments!