String art seems to have made a comeback. It began life as a teaching tool for math in the mid 1800’s, and became a popular craft in the 60’s and 70’s. Its long period of dormancy has finally come to an end, and it remains a wonderfully creative way to explore geometric patterns with older kids, and unique random designs with younger ones. We had great results experimenting with both.
- sand paper
- paint and brush
- pencil and eraser
- string/yarn/embroidery thread
- white glue
1. Wood makes the perfect base for this project, and small pieces are easy to come by in hardware stores. They can be found in scrap sections, or even in garbage cans. I’m not a dumpster diver, although it’s going to sound like I am, but I happened to walk past the garbage can near the big saw at Home depot, and there they were…perfect little pieces of wood calling out to me, and free no less. How you wish to acquire your wood is definitely up to you, but once you get it home, sand any rough edges, and paint it in a colour that will work well with the string/yarn/embroidery thread you will be using. Allow to dry.
2. I found an interesting, not too difficult pattern made with 6 different coloured pentagrams. Making the design will give older children an opportunity to practice a little math by dividing the circle into sections. To do this, take a white piece of paper and make a circle using a compass. Make sure the size will fit nicely on the piece of wood you’re using.
With a ruler, draw a straight line across the circle, making sure it goes through the centre. Place a protractor along the line at the centre, and divide that half into 3 equal parts. Do the same for the other half. Since a circle is 360 degrees, and half the circle is 180 degrees, each section should be 60 degrees.
Next, use the protractor to divide each 60 degree section into 5 sections (12 degrees each). Do that for the entire circle. You will now have a circle with 30 marks indicating where each nail should go.
3. Trim the paper if necessary, and tape to the wood. Place something under the wood to protect the surface you’re working on, just in case the nails are hammered through the bottom. Hammer a nail on each of the marks you’ve made along the circumference of the circle. Each nail should be deep enough so the string can be pulled around it tightly without moving it. And make sure the nail has a head on it, so the thread is held in place.
Once all the nails have been hammered in, lift the paper up and tear it away. Use pliers to straighten any nails that may be on an angle. Finally, if you want to colour the heads of the nails, now would be a good time to add a little acrylic paint or nail polish. Allow to dry.
4. Time to add the string, yarn or embroidery thread. Tie thread around one of the nails. Don’t trim the thread too close or it will come undone. Glue will be added later to hide the thread. Moving clockwise, wrap the thread 12 nails away from the first one, and continue doing this, with 12 nails in between each one you wrap around, until you get back to the first nail. Tie a knot to complete the pentagram.
Choose another thread colour, and repeat the process beginning on the nail beside it. Continue until all the pentagrams have been made. Add a little white glue with your fingers to clean up the knots you have made, so the thread ends don’t show.
For younger children, an adult can either prepare the pattern for them, or provide the option of randomly hammering nails on the wood, and working from there. The results were just as fun.
Here are some cool examples of string art: