This post includes affiliate links for Amazon which will give me a small commission on any items you buy through the link at no extra cost to you – win/win!
Is anyone else in slight shock that it’s February already?! I cannot believe how fast this year is going. For this month, the projects in our craft group will be Love (for Valentine’s reasons) and Carnaval, a huge festival here in Maastricht and a lot of the Netherlands.
I’ve never celebrated Valentine’s Day but I met my partner on the 13th of February so we take the period around Valentine’s as our anniversary. As a result I’m always feeling extra loved up this time of year and am of the mindset that there’s never a bad time to celebrate the people, animals, places and things and you love in your life.
That said, for this week’s project I chose an adorable string art heart. Of course string art doesn’t have to be love themed at all and I definitely encourage you to use this tutorial as inspiration for any theme that takes your fancy.
Prior to this project I hadn’t done any string art of my own but growing up we always had two pieces hanging in our garage which my Dad made at some point. One was a penny farthing bicycle and the other a yacht, both in bright colours on a black background. I’m not sure they survived the few times my parents have moved house since I was little but I always quite liked them. I had a hunt for some similar examples online and you can see below how funky they looked!
The penny farthing bicycle example above is one sale here (photo (c) ebay seller mjheffelfingeroutlet). The yacht on the right is actually a string art pattern which is available for free here (photo (c) stringartfun.com)! The same site also has a lot of fun patterns for sale so definitely have a browse if you’re interested.
For my project I decided to go for a simple heart design but also prepared templates for a star and a two heart pattern which can be found in the ‘Resources’ section below.
Some extras you might need include:
- An HB pencil to draw out any text or patterns you want to add in acrylic paint and paper
- Paper and printer to print out the templates provided in the ‘Resources’ section below
- A hammer and nails if you choose to use these instead of thumb tacks
- A drill and some string if your wooden shape doesn’t have a hanger already
Skills and Techniques
This project is a nice and simple one that could be adapted to different ages with some creativity. As long as you are pulling string around something you can make string art! It also provides an opportunity to work on your painting and calligraphy skills – the possibilities are endless.
Upon finishing this project you or your class will be able to:
- Create a shape in nails or thumb tacks to form the basis of a string design
- Use string to create a pattern
- Use simple hand lettering techniques with acrylic paint
Step One: If you want to paint whatever wooden piece you are using, that will be your step one! The heart I bought was already white so I get to skip this step. With your wooden piece ready, draw out your shape on a piece of plain printer paper or print out one (or more!) of my templates found below in the ‘Resources’ section. If drawing your own shape, make sure it is simple enough to work in string as intricate details might be lost.
Use a ruler or measuring tape to mark 1/2 inch or 1 1/4 cm spaces around your shape. You can see above that I made sure to mark my corners first as I knew they had to be in a specific spot. Cut around the shape you have drawn or printed and place it onto your wooden piece.
Step Two: If you have a hammer handy feel free to use nails for this step in place of thumb tacks. Starting with the marks at the top and bottom of your piece for stability, press your thumb tacks (or hammer your nails) into each 1/2 inch mark on your paper template.
Step Three: There are two ways to remove the paper from your piece. If you have used nails it will be easiest to pull the paper away (above left) while leaving the nails in. Since thumb tacks aren’t quite as strong, I found it easiest to remove the tacks, take away the template and replace the tacks in their holes.
Step Four: Using embroidery thread (mine is standard 6 strand thread), tie a simple slip knot or the knot of your choice around the centre top tack or nail. Tie another knot on top to make it a double knot for security. The great thing about the tacks is they hide this knot so it matters less whether you’re super neat or not! Cut the tail of your thread as short as possible.
Step Five: Now comes the fun part! Using your embroidery thread, wind around your tacks or nails to create a pattern. I chose to do a uniform pattern where I wound around each tack from the centre to the right on the top and centre to the left on the bottom (see below).
You can also just wind randomly until you are happy with the look of your shape – the possibilities are endless. For some extra pizazz you could incorporate different thread colours or create another tack shape inside your original one.
Step Six: Once you are happy with your design (or are finished with your first thread), make sure to hold the thread firmly, loop it around the final tack and tuck it around itself to form another slip knot (above right). Double knot as before and cut the thread as short as possible.
Step Seven: Now it’s time to decorate! Of course you could just leave your string art piece to speak for itself but I chose to add some painted words to personalise it further. Using acrylic paint and a fine brush, I painted the words ‘Love’ and ‘Family’ as well as some little hearts around the top of my piece. If you are not confident with your hand lettering – I am still a beginner myself – have a look on Google or Pinterest for some inspiration. Don’t forget you can always draw out your letters or other designs in pencil first!
And we’re done and you have some beautiful wall art! I chose this project to go with a Valentines / Love theme but you can really use this technique to create so many beautiful patterns and make it your own.
As this project came a week after our crazy crochet meet-up, I was so glad I had picked something a bit more relaxed! Given a lot of people didn’t get to finish their crochet last week, the plan was to spend some time on this and any remaining time finishing up our crochet depending on what people wanted to do. In the end we spent the whole two hours doing the string art projects as people seemed happy to continue and only two or three of the women and girls had been there the previous week.
I would certainly say this project was our most successful so far for a number of reasons but mainly because it was relatively easy with pretty results that appealed to different people – the perfect recipe! This was also something that was achievable for younger ladies (I know not to ask a woman her age but I would guess at 8 for our youngest group member this week).
- This project works for ladies of around 8 years old and above depending on the person. As long as you keep in mind that some strength is needed to push the tacks into wood, this project works well for little fingers as well as bigger ones.
- As much as we want to create a comfortable adults-only space for our women, it has been the enthusiastic younger girls at the refugee centre who help us find them! This week we decided it was only fair that if they brought their mothers they could stay too. This created a really nice mother / daughter activity where the girls could also help translate a little for their mothers while we all created together. I definitely think this is a good way to get women involved in the future!
- Having multiple template options for people to choose from was a good choice. Most of the women chose to do a heart as that is what I had done in my sample piece, but some of them chose the double heart or star once they gained a bit more confidence which was fantastic! I wouldn’t hesitate to include even more options next time.
- Different coloured embroidery thread was a good last minute decision! As this project was Valentines themed for February, I had bought a few packets of pink and red embroidery thread. When I went to grab my final supplies I ended up picking up a few different colours just in case and we had a lovely rainbow of string art as a result! If you’re on a budget, a set like this from Amazon will go a long way and provide lots of options.
- Thumb tacks rather than nails worked a treat! Even though we had some trouble with the wood at times (see below), the thumb tacks were a really good hammer-less alternative and are also available in a range of colours for added flair!
What I would change next time:
- Testing all supplies in advance – While I had used one of the wooden hearts in my sample piece, I also bought flag-shaped pieces for those who might want something different. I did try a couple of tacks in the wood before class but many of the women found it was quite a lot harder to push them into the flags than the hearts. Although they persevered (with sore fingers as a result) next time I would definitely make sure to buy one of each wooden piece I intended to use and practice!
- Providing text / calligraphy templates – I think some examples of different words or font charts for pretty letters would have given the women more confidence to paint words onto their pieces. Of course, our group speaks many languages and this makes logistics a bit tricky for templates (hunting down pretty Arabic or Farsi fonts might prove beyond my skill set). If you or your group use the same alphabet, try finding some examples of different words, lettering or fonts online. For example, one of our volunteers painted greetings in different languages on her piece which was a beautiful way to represent our craft group!
- Providing additional string art inspiration images – I have limited printing power at my disposal, however, if you have access to a colour printer or even a computer or iPad, displaying some further string art examples would be a great source of inspiration. Having a lot of different examples might have given the group an idea of what was really possible as some of the women may not have seen much string art previously.
All in all, this was a really successful craft group meet-up that left me feeling a lot less flustered than the previous two! This may be because I am getting more comfortable in my role as facilitator and in the space itself, but this project was also the perfect balance of input and output – the outcome was worth the effort. I think that balance will be my goal for future projects.
If you would like some more string art ideas, check out the Pinterest inspiration board for this lesson! Please let me know if you make something using this tutorial, I would love to see what you or your craft group come up with.