String Art – a “How [not] To”

Here lately, I’ve been doing this thing on Fridays that I call “a craft + a craft”, where I do a craft while drinking a craft beer. As evidenced here: a cuff bracelet + a Dogfishhead 60 Minute IPA.

a craft + a craft

It’s a nice little way to unwind from the work week.  Recently it inspired a friend of mine to post a craft + a craft of her own: string art and a Goose Island Bourbon County stout.  Which in turn inspired me to do some string art of my own.  Ah the circle of life.  Or something like that.

Anyway if you’re on pinterest you’ve seen, like, a fazillon string art pins.  I feel like maybe its a diy blogger hazing technique right of passage to make one of these bad boys.  So here’s the story of the first (and likely last) time I made string art.

diy string art

Supplies

  • scrap pine wood
  • wood stain (I used Varathane American Walnut)
  • cloth to apply stain (old, clean socks work wonders)
  • paint (I used latex, but acrylic would work too)
  • sponge craft paint brush
  • hammer
  • like, three 2 oz boxes of wire nails (I used size 1 x 17 which refers to the length in inches x gauge)
  • embroidery floss
  • Alene’s fabric fusion glue

Oh, I know I say this a lot, but one thing you really need for this project is patience.  I am super happy with my string art, but it took several days to finish.  I really didn’t consider how long it would take to hammer 321 (yeah, that many) nails into a board, close together, in a specific design.  It’s tedious work and can be really tiring on the eyes.  And I happened to make a grand total of seven tiny-huge mistakes while making this dern thing.

huge mistake

That being said, if you wanna know how it’s done, read on friend.

First, I took a scrap piece of wood I had and stained it.  Incorrectly (mistake number one).  You know how the can says shake well?  Do that.  Or you’ll end up with this.

diy string art

diy string art

I tightend the lid back on the stain and shook the heck out of it.  Then opened her back up and stained the board correctly.

diy string art

If you’ve never stained wood before, trust me, it’s easy.  Make sure you read and follow all instructions (including the ones for safety) but the gist of it is that you liberally apply stain to your wood, let it sit for a few minutes to penetrate and then wipe off the excess.

diy string art

The next thing I did was to paint the sides so they didn’t look sloppy with stain.

diy string art

diy string art

I also painted the back.  I know no one is going to see it, but if it were left unfinished, I would know and it would undoubtedly drive me nuts.

diy string art

I used latex paint leftover from my stripey art (Valspar Delightful Moon if you’re curious) and did it standing in my living room (mistake number two).  When it dropped onto my couch and got wet paint on two of the cushions, naturally I started spewing four letter words and skittering around my kitchen in a panic.  The fella hooked me up with a wet rag and I think we got all the paint up.  The fella is pretty cool under pressure.

diy string art

A couple of days later, the paint was dried and I was emotionally prepared to come back to this project – or so I thought.  I used regular computer paper as my template and a yard stick as a guide to be sure everything was level.

diy string art

I chose the phrase “BE BOLD” because evidently, I like my wall art to be bossy…

dream BIG

Media Stand Entertainment Center DIY

SI. OUI. YES.

diy rustic wood sign

carpe diem

DIY Floating Glass Frames and Smart Phone Art

I taped the template to the board and got to work with my nails.  I worked from each letter’s corners inward so I could be sure everything was spaced evenly.  Did that even make sense?  Here, look at this picture.

diy string art

I did that for like an hour plus.  Until I got to this point and ran out of nails.  Always make sure you have enough nails (mistake number three).  It looked like I had so mannnny when they were in the box, y’all.

diy string art

I went to the hardware store to get more, without bringing one of them with me to compare (mistake number four).  I grabbed a few boxes of 1 x 17 wire brads and made my way home.  But I didn’t need wire brads.  I needed wire nails.  And the difference between the brads and the nails is that the head of the brad is much smaller than that of the nail, meaning what I bought didn’t match what I had already used.  More four letter words.

Does it get easier?  I wish the answer were yes.  Once the brads had been exchanged for nails I kept hammering away.  I hammered in the mornin’.  I hammered in the evenin’.  All over thi… sorry I’m getting off track and realize that my Mom is probably the only person reading this who will appreciate those last few sentences.

After all the words were nailed in I carefully ripped my paper template away from the nails.

diy string art

diy string art

There were still a few scraps stuck to the nails, but they came up easily with tweezers.

diy string art

It was at this point that I realized that I hadn’t yet attached my saw-tooth hanging brackets to the back (yes, mistake number five).  So I clenched my teeth, flipped the board over in my lap and hammered in the brackets while the words BE BOLD dug into my thighs.

diy string art

I used two brackets, one for each corner, since I noticed way too late (mistake number six) that my board was slightly bowed in the center.

I flipped it back over and got started on the border nails.  I used washi tape as a guide to make sure my line was straight.  I again used the technique of starting in the corners and moving to the center.

diy string art

Then the labor was over!!!  Lies.  But this last part goes fast, I promise.

I used five different colors of embroidery floss and decided to go in rainbow order.  I tried to keep a sunburst pattern going the whole time and each time I finished with a color, I tied the string off and then dabbed fabric fusion glue on it to make it extra secure.

diy string art

diy string art

diy string art

diy string art

diy string art

diy string art

Oh and the seventh and final mistake?  I missed a spot and had to tie an extra bit of orange on.

diy string art

All in all, I LOVE my string art.  It looks super cute.  But will I be trying it again any time soon?  Hell no, that’s what Etsy is for.

diy string art

Did I convince you never to make your own string art?  Or maybe you’re ready to take it on and prove me useless in this avenue of crafting?  Do tell…

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11 responses to “String Art – a “How [not] To”

  1. Great post, love the art. When are you getting started on mine.

    • Thanks Tim! Don’t hold your breath though, it will probably be a lonnnng time before I get back up on the string art horse – if ever! 😉

  2. So pretty. Great accomplishment. Am I going to add it to my list of accomplishments? Mmmmmm no

  3. I don’t think I will be trying that one. Lol. Yours looks excellent.

  4. Pingback: Blogiversary: Two Years! | jamie's home blog

  5. This was fantastic! I have one beautiful completed piece of string art and it’s been just long enough that I’m thinking of attempting it again.
    It was probably the most labor-intensive and stressful craft I’ve ever done. And I craft A LOT! I cut out my inside pattern so I could nail around it and that worked well. I bought black foam board to use, so I just pushed the nails in. That was awesome! Until I realized my nails were too close. I ended up taking out every other nail, so to make it all match I continued that around the whole darn thing. And so if you look closely there is a hole between every two nails! Oops!! And then it came time to hang it… And duh, the foam board couldn’t support the weight of the nails and string. My hubby glued the whole thing onto a piece of plywood so I hammered the nails all down a bit into the plywood (I sang along to If I Had a Hammer, btw, at least one other person caught it 😉 ).
    I look at it every day and I’m so proud of it, but it was so nice to read that someone else barely conquered it, too. I also had to go out for more nails (even after halving what I had been using!) and bought the wrong ones!
    So, long story short, I think we’re kindred spirits who were raised on good music and wanted to say hi. 🙂

    • Hi Kelli! Oh my gosh I’m so glad I’m not the only person who struggled with this! I always see these blog posts about string art and think “how the heck did that superhero of a woman pull that off so effortlessly?!”. If I ever try my hand at string art again (big IF) I’m totally going to use your tip of cutting the pattern out. But I’m still a little traumatized from doing this one so that may be a while haha! Thanks for saying hi, my new found kindred spirit! 🙂

  6. I find this helpful and funny. I have made one, a heart with initials in it. Posted it on Facebook and had lots of comments. So now I am slowly working on one for my nieces god daughter. I’ve changed my pattern, lettering, and the board 4 times. From using boards from a pallet, to individual large letters and now to a large board (4 ft. Long). Now i can’t decide if I want to just string inside of the letters or from a boarder to the outside of the letters? I like the pattern u used on this one. Is there a site to see and instructions for different styles? And any suggestions from anyone for my project? Greatly appreciated and much needed. Great job on yours. Thnx

    • Thanks for your kind words, Jennifer! This project was such an undertaking! I don’t know of any one site to refer to for different patters, but I do know that I referred to pinterest A LOT when I was making mine, and that really helped direct me to some helpful tutorials online. Anyone else out there have a good resource for Jennifer? 🙂

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