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Home Office Decor Series #5: Owl String Art

Hello! I missed my weekly Saturday post this week, boo! Better late than never, so I’m posting the last installment of my Office Series. The star of today’s post is the pink string art owl piece at the top right, although at the very end I will show you a picture of the yellow piece at the bottom center.

Office Wall Decor

If you are interested in another item in the series, skip to that post: DIY Magnet Board & Magnets Painted Corkboard & Thumb Tacks DIY Chalkboard & Craft Stick Chalk Tray Ink Transfer on Canvas

Ever since I saw some string art on Pinterest last year, I’ve been meaning to try it out. I love how it looks rather complex and intricate, but is actually quite a simple process. It takes a little bit of trial and error when you start out, but you’ll soon realize that there is really no one way to do it; you just wrap yarn/string around nails/pins any way you wish to. This one turned out to be a rather long post because I found out while writing that this is much easier done than said (or rather, talked about)! Here’s an up-close view:

So here it is! If you want to skip to instructions on weaving the string, click here.

You will need:

  • Blank canvas or piece of wood
  • Foam board (if using canvas)
  • Hammer (if using wood)
  • Paint or piece of jute or other fabric, for backing
  • Ribbon, for border (optional)
  • Print out of your image
  • Nails or pins
  • String or yarn, in colours of your choosing

Steps:

1. Paint the canvas in the colour you want as the background of your image. If you are using fabric, lay it on the canvas and wrap it around the edges. Use hot glue to secure the edges to the canvas. Let dry completely. I used some pink jute that I bought at the dollar store. If you are applying a ribbon border, you can do that now or at the end. Just glue on the ribbon and let it dry.

2. If you are using canvas, you will notice that there is a gap at the back framed by the wooden frame of the canvas. To fill this and ensure that your nails/pins have something to stick to, measure and cut out a piece of foam board in the size of the gap. Place it in the gap and push it in to secure it.  

3. Decide what shape you want to make the art with, and print out an image. Now cut around the image to do away with most of the excess paper around the sides. (I’m sorry I have no pictures of this step; I basically just cut around the image and ended up with a rough owl shape, with about half a centimeter white space around the image).

4. Lay the printed image, face up, on the canvas. Now begin to place the nails or pins around the outline of the image, piercing the paper along with the foam board or wood. Make sure to outline any distinctive features as well; in my image, the eyes, beak and wings. If you are using a wooden board, use a hammer to stick the nails in halfway. If you are using canvas backed with foam board, as I did, make sure to stick the pins in all the way so that they penetrate the foam board and stand firm.

5. Once you have outlined the shape, gently begin the pull the paper away. It is easiest if you make tears along different points and slowly tear the paper off. This step took me very long; almost 45 minutes if I recall correctly. If you are using a wooden surface and nails, this might take less time because you don’t have to be as gentle. You will end up with something that looks like this:

20160208_133951

6. Now comes the fun part – weaving the string! I started writing instructions for weaving here, but it got too long. Details on how to loop the strings follow, written separately by body part.

Detailed instructions for looping string

Basics – starting and finishing off with a length of string:

To begin with a length of string, wrap your string around the starting pin. Wrap it a couple of times around itself, and then secure with a dab of hot glue. Once the glue has hardened, you are ready to begin.

Once you are done with the pattern and want to tie off, wrap the string around itself a couple of times, then cut off the yarn and secure with hot glue. Make sure to hold it down until the glue dries; you don’t want your beautiful handiwork to unravel!

To loop the string, go from one pin to the next in a figure 8 motion: so say you take the string from the right side of the pin (call it pin 1) and bring it around to the left side of the next pin (pin 2). Loop it around the back of pin 2 to go to the right side and come back to the left side of pin 1. Repeat this 3 or four times. Next, move on to the next pin (3), and wrap the string around in the same figure 8 pattern. Refer to the pictures below for further clarification:

Beak:

I started with the beak and the eyes. As you will see, there does not really have to be a system to this madness: just wrap string around the pins in any way that pleases your eyes.

This is what I did: after the glue had dried, I wrapped the string around the second pin to the right in a figure eight motion repeatedly (around three or four times). Next, move on from pin 2 to the next pin on the right (pin 3), and wrap the string around in the same figure 8 pattern. Continue around in a clockwise direction until you are satisfied with the beak. These loops are shown by the blue lines in the pictures below. Once you have gone all the way around, go back and repeat these steps, but go across from pin 1 → 3 and from pin 2 → 4 (shown by the yellow lines in the picture below). This fills out the beak.

Finally, cut and tie off the string.

Eyes:

To make the eyes, I started with the inner circle of white (shown by the blue lines in the pictures below). The wrapping process was pretty much the same, except for the direction in which I went. Instead of going from each pin to the next, I skipped 2 pins and wrapped the string around the third. So for a circle of 7 pins, this is the pattern: wrap from 1 → 4, 4 → 7, 7 → 3, 3 → 6, and so on. Go all the way around several times until you are satisfied with how full it is. You will end up with a tiny circular gap in the center. If you choose to skip fewer pins while weaving (i.e. if you wrap from 1 → 3, 3 → 5, etc.), you will end up with a larger gap in the center. Conversely, if you want a smaller gap, skip more pins while wrapping (i.e. wrap from pin 1 → 5, 5 → 2, etc.).

Now for the black rims (shown by the yellow lines in the pictures below), repeat the same pattern but skip more pins in between. This will take some trial and error, depending on the size of the inner white circle. What you want to do is wrap the string so that the gap in the center is large enough for the white part to show through. You may not be able to skip pins consistently; for instance, you might have to skip 3 pins in one area and 4 in another. Adjust your pattern so that the black layer weaves nicely around the white inner rim.

I hope that makes sense! Here’s a close up of the eyes:

Owl string art, close-up of eyes

You will also notice that I have a vertical line of pins down the center of the face. For each eye, I used this line to complete the circle of that eye. You can choose not to do this, but I like that this makes each eye round and brings in focus to the beak in the center. 

Wings & rest of the face:

Once you are done with the eyes and the beak, move on to the frame of the face and then each of the wings. For each of these, the wrapping technique is pretty much the same. Below are detailed instructions for the wing on the right.

Decide where you will begin. I am starting at pin #1 in the picture below. Wrap the string around pin 1 a few times and hot glue it to secure. Next, skip 4 pins on the top right; the more pins you skip, the sharper the angle of the string. Go from pin 1 → 10 and loop the string in a figure 8 motion, as before. Then, go from pin 10 → 3, 3 → 12, 12 → 5, 5 → 14, etc. as shown by the blue lines in the picture below. That is, each time, skip the one on top and loop around the next.

Continue until you have reached the tip of the wing, i.e. pin 21 in the pictures above. Now you will have to tie the string in a way that it forms a criss-cross pattern with the underlying layer of string.

Begin by looping the string from pin 21 → 19, as shown by the yellow string. To cross over the blue string in the pictures, you will have to skip pins 23 and 22, and go straight from pin 19 → 20, then 20 → 17, 17 → 18, 18 → 15 and so on until you reach the top. As before, if you want a steeper angle for the yellow string, skip more pins at the bottom right (i.e. go from pin 19 18 or 16).

Once you have reached the top (i.e. you’re at pin 2), you need to do pretty much the same thing at the turn as before. Skip over the first two pins at the top, and go directly from pin 2 → 5, then 5 → 4, 4 → 7, 7 → 6, and so on, as shown in the pictures below.

Continue in this manner, overlapping layers of string until you are satisfied with the result. I cannot stress enough just how much of trial and error this is; I probably could not tell you exactly how I did each part if I wanted to (and I do!). All I remember from this project is that there was a whole lot of unravelling and trying and erring. Just take my word for it, try it a couple of times and you’ll get the hang of it.

Do the same for the other wing and the rest of the head. I did the body and tail a little differently from these. Details are provided below.

Tail:

[In the pictures below, I’ve marked two pins towards the bottom with black crosses – I had these in my original pattern but removed them during the process.]

Now for the tail. Secure the string at pin 1, then loop from 1 → 7, then 7 → 1 (i.e. back to pin 1), then 1 → 8, 8 → 1, 1 → 9, and so on. That is, start at pin 1, then loop to each of pins 7 to 12, going back to pin 1 each time (shown by the blue lines). Once you have reached pin 12, do not loop back to pin 1; cut off the string and secure it around pin 12.

Now secure a new piece of string to pin 2, and repeat the same process, looping from pin 2 to each of pins 7 to 12 and going back to pin 2 each time (shown by the yellow string in the pictures below). Pattern: pin 2 → 7, 7 → 2, 2 → 8, 8 → 2, 2 → 9, 9 → 2, and so on. Once you have reached pin 12, cut the string and secure it.

Repeat this process for each of the pins on the top layer (i.e. pins 1 to 6).

Body:

[As before, the black crosses on the two pins show the ones I took out later.]

For the body, secure the string at pin 1. Now go from pin 1 → 22, then 22 → 20, then 20 → 3, 3 → 5, 5 → 18, 18 → 16, 16  → 7, and so on. That is, you cross over to the diagonal opposite, then move to the next pin to the side, and then go across again. As before, you can do this in as many layers as you wish; I did three.

If you follow this pattern, you will end up with a slight bulge in the center of the body where all the string meets. I don’t find this unsightly, but you can choose to alter the pattern so that you don’t get this; just skip more pins or fewer so that they don’t all meet at the center. 

Aaaaand… you’re finally done! Pat yourself on the back & enjoy your beautiful new artwork!

Phew, that was a long post! Don’t go by the length of this post; this is really not very complex to do, just hard to explain. For once, I wish I had done a video tutorial, but there are plenty on Youtube!

I have tried to be as precise as possible, and I hope the instructions are clear. As I mentioned before, string art can be very whimsical and therein lies the charm; so take some time at the beginning to try different patterns until you find something you like. And if you’re a string art pro, share your pictures/instructions with me so I can improve my string art game!

This pretty much wraps up the office decor series. I do have one other piece, but that literally involved painting a piece of stretched canvas and gluing a printed page on top, so I will not discuss that in detail. Here is a picture.

DIY wall art

Check out other items in the office decor series: DIY Magnet Board & Magnets Painted Corkboard & Thumb Tacks DIY Chalkboard & Craft Stick Chalk Tray Ink Transfer on Canvas

As always, thanks for reading (especially this one, given how long it is!), be well & see you with another post on Saturday!

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6 thoughts on “Home Office Decor Series #5: Owl String Art

    1. Thanks! I think it’s actually one of those projects which are much more difficult to write about than to do. Once you get started, your hands will magically find their way around 😀

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