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String Art
An Adventure in "Line Designs"

[String Art Project] [String Art Project Evaluation] [String Art Teacher Notes]

Who says you can’t create curves with line segments? It is fascinating to discover a curve formed from a series of straight line segments. Line designs utilize basic geometric forms, making curves out of segments. Order and symmetry are the basis of string art's appeal. Elaborate designs can be created with geometric shapes, points, and colored string.

Line designs form a basis for mathematical understanding of geometric shapes and relationships of points, segments, and angles. Each of the line segments is really a tangent for each of the curves being formed. But because of what we focus on, we often see the curves. For example, some of the curves that can be created are circles, parabolas, ellipses, hyperbolas, spirals, and some lesser known curves called cardioids, limacons, and deltoids. Yet in each case they were created with angles of different sizes, regular and irregular polygons, and a lot of segments and points.

Attractive and sophisticated line designs can be produced and created using only a ruler, compass, protractor, pencil, and paper. Computers can be used to imitate this procedure;  Geometer's Sketchpad is software that can be used. Symmetry - line symmetry, rotational symmetry, and point symmetry bring interest and charm to your string art.

Start with this!
And it could look like this!

You can use nails and wood, foam core or cork with strong pins, or a stiff piece of cardboard or thin wood with holes in it to provide your working surface. You can paint or cover the working surface. String, embroidery thread or thin yarn can be used to stitch your piece of mathematical art. The original placement of the nails/holes help to determine the shape of the final project. For instance, if you construct the diagonals of a regular 24-gon (an icosikaitetragon) you will be able to see many concentric circles. By adding different layers, different colors, and/or varying the way you connect the nails/holes, the design gets more interesting. Sometimes the empty spaces in the design are as important as the placement of the string. Notice how a curve was formed by connecting points along the sides of an angle in the illustration below. Use your compass, a straightedge, and colored pencils to create an original and interesting pattern to stitch.




Major Parts of this Project

This is a major grade and should be taken seriously. Late work will not be considered. This project is due on or before ____________________.


Three things are to be turned in:

1) your original design on paper. You are to incorporate at least three geometric concepts (i.e. acute, right, and/or obtuse angles; triangles, circles, quadrilaterals, pentagons, hexagons, and/or other polygons) into your design and label them on the plan you turn in. Color-code the design that you will turn in with colored pencils - make two copies. Use one to hand in and one (a photo-copied one) to aid in nail/pin/hole placement.

 2) your completed string art project. The final project can be no larger than 15" x 15" if it is mounted on a flat surface or it should fit into a 15" x 15" x 15" cube if it is 3-dimensional. Remember to put a hanger on the back of flat string art (The tab on a pop can nailed to the back works well and can usually be obtained without an additional cost.) or a string hanger for 3-dimensional projects. Put your name, grade in high school, and date on the back of your project.

3) a paper giving your completed piece of geometric art a TITLE/NAME and addressing the shapes and symmetry that can be found in your original design.  (See the Evaluation tool!)

Before you begin it will be helpful to find out about the strengths and weaknesses of various materials and how to avoid potential hazards.

 FLAT DESIGNS: Wood works nicely with nails since they can be nailed in tightly and will be strong enough to make sure that string can be pulled tightly. Paint or cover your work area to bring out the beauty of your design. Place a copy of your design on the work surface and secure it with tape while you attach the nails or pins or punch the holes for your design. Remove the copy carefully from the work area after you've secured the nails or (if you think you can) after the string has been added to the design. Decorative nails are available but remember that they become part of the design. Nail heads can be painted to become part of the design. If you use cardboard with holes, use stiff cardboard that will not bend or bow when the string is woven. A second layer of cardboard on the underside trimmed about 1/4 inch smaller all of the way around the shape will make it stronger. If colored cardboard is not available, paste colored paper on a cereal box (paper board) cardboard and mount this on corrugated cardboard or foam core board. Make all of your markings on the underside of the cardboard when sewing with your "string."

STRING: String that is too thin breaks easily; string that is too thick is hard to work with and takes away from the intricate designs that you've created. String or thread that contains polyester tends to stretch over time so it is NOT a good choice. Embroidery thread and thin string make good choices because of the availability of vivid colors and ease of use. Using lengths longer than 4 feet are often hard to work with because they tend to get tangled. Secure your threads securely with tight knots (a very small amount of clear-drying glue on the knot will help to secure it but make sure that it dries completely) or pull the string through to the back of the design and secure it with strong tape. For each project, begin the weaving slowly until you become familiar with the pattern that you’ve created.

If you are making a 3-D design with straws, use thin cotton tatting, crochet thread, or one strand of embroidery floss. For wood dowels, cardboard, or nails, these same types of thread or somewhat heavier cotton crochet thread works well. Caution: Polyester materials may sag later because it gradually stretches over time. Pull the strings tightly while building polyhedra with the straws and while weaving. Sagging straws and limp strings detract from the beauty of your geometric work of art. Winding the string on a spool or cardboard tube will make working with wood and nails a little more manageable. For weaving on plastic straws, use NO MORE THAN 4 feet of string on the needle at a time. You’ll get all tangled up if you do!

COLORS: Your string colors should coordinate with your background color or the colors on your straws. Contrasting colors make interesting and attractive designs. When using two or more colors of string choose all bright colors or all pastels – colors with the same tone value. If you will be hanging your design from the ceiling, make your string a different color than the walls that will be in the same room.

GLUE: Should you need to use glue, white clear-drying glue works best on wood dowels. If you are trying to get plastic straws held in place, rubber cement works best.

STRAWS: Use a heavy needle and thin thread for dropping the threaded needle through the straws; the needle may get stuck inside the straw if it is not heavy enough. Plastic drinking straws or stiff round stirring straws make neater models. Slender straws make neater designs, however slimmer and longer straws tend to bend. When you make the holes in the straws, punching them closer together makes them more intricate. However, if you punch them further apart it helps to prevent them from arching. If straws begin to bend, insert pieces of coat hangers or thin dowels through the straws. Applying rubber cement will help to hold them in place.

WOOD DOWELS: The sturdiest 3-D models are made with wood dowels. Making notches takes more time, but the wood rarely arches during the weaving. The most attractive models have slender edges and notches close together. Wood dowels make it easier to make larger models that won’t tend to bend or arch.


[String Art Project] [String Art Project Evaluation] [String Art Teacher Notes]



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