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Hi! I’m Sara, and I usually blog about writing over at Pull Quotes and Callouts. When I’m not writing, I’m mom to a one year old and a craft and gardening enthusiast. I’m excited to be guest posting while Jessi’s preparing for her baby. Today I’ll be showing you how to make string art maps.
Because my husband and I are from different countries, we wanted to find maps for my daughter’s room for each of the places we were from. It was hard to find pretty maps though! In the end I made these string maps, which I’ll show you how to do here. These ended up being perfect: we used colors from our favorite sports teams, and put hearts near our hometowns.
String Art Maps
Here’s what you need for this project:
- Picture frame
- Balsa wood or corkboard
- Finishing nails (lots of them!)
- Crochet thread or yarn
- Spray paint
- Printed map
A few notes on finding supplies
Finishing nails: If your hardware store doesn’t have finishing nails, look for nails by size. A #13 or #15 nail was just perfect for these maps, but it took a lot of time. You might want a slightly bigger nail if you’re doing a less intricate design.
Picture frame: I used a cheap wooden picture frame from a garage sale and spray painted it black. It worked perfectly, and cost me just 2 dollars. I also got a deeper frame than I would have been able to find at a craft store. If you’re doing this for a baby’s room, like I did, deep frames are great – the nails won’t stick out, which keeps you from bumping into it when you’re tired.
Step one: Spray paint everything!
My corkboard for this was originally brown, and the frame was basically black but the paint was chipping. I sanded down the areas that were chipped, laid out my corkboard, and went to town. For the photo itself I used a cork bulletin board without a frame.
You’ll see a line just below the town name on this map. It’s actually a second piece of corkboard, which I painted separately and laid over the first. If your frame and backing are two different sizes, doing the lettering on a second piece might help.
Expect to use 2-3 coats of paint if you use corkboard. You might get away with less if you’re using balsa wood, but corkboard kind of sucks up the paint. After my first coat it looked like I’d hardly put anything on. Then hang out while everything dries.
Step two: Find and place your map
Step two was to find the map itself. This map is the State of South Australia, with a heart near Balaklava. I found a map of the state online, printed it out, and enlarged it with a copier. The final map was four pieces of letter sized paper.
If you print a map, look for really clear outlines. The map itself is going to be torn up and discarded.
Then tape your map on top of your corkboard/balsa wood. You’ll be hammering nails through the paper, and I can tell you from experience that it gets much harder if your map moves partway through.
Step 3: Outline your map with nails
Your next step is putting in the nails. If you have a small ball-peen type hammer, it’ll be perfect for this project. Only the bottom 1/4 to 1/3 of the nail should go through the corkboard. The rest of the nail will stick out, which gives it this 3D look. You can see the size and head of the nails I’m working with below.
I put a lot of nails into this project, because I really liked the intricate look. It took a lot of time though! By the time I got to the peninsula near Adelaide, I was thoroughly sick of putting in nails.
One thing I learned was to put in the nails on your non-dominant side first. Since I’m left handed, I put in the nails along the top and right sides first. I actually pulled out the nails I’d started with on the left side, since my hand and hammer kept bumping up against them and making them uneven.
Once your nails are in, detach your map. If you’ve used finishing nails, you should be able to lift the map right over the heads of the nails because they’re so small. If you’ve got larger nails, you might need to rip the paper a bit.
Step 4: Draw your map in crochet thread
Start by knotting your thread around one nail, then wind the thread back and forth between nails on opposite sides. Your thread shouldn’t be touching your backboard, which actually makes it easier to weave this together.
I used teal and black, the colors of my husband’s favorite Australian rules football team, so ended up doing teal first. You can see the (kind of) chevron pattern I made with black on top. I really liked the spiderweb look that I got from wrapping multiple times around nails on one corner. You can see how this changes the density of colors in the final map.
Depending on the shape of your map, you might need to cut your thread and start from a new corner. I did that with the peninsula area near Adelaide, so my teal thread is actually two different pieces.
The ends of your thread might stick out a bit. Don’t worry about this. Just knot them tightly, cut them short (maybe an inch left over), and tuck them underneath the map threads.
Step 5: Frame your map
Once you’re happy with your design, your next step is to frame it. Or not! Your choice. Because I live in a house full of clumsy people, framing it was well worth it to me. A heavy frame meant that the nails were set back and less likely to get knocked out as we walked by. It also offered a bit more protection for our daughter.
Step 6: Add lettering
I added lettering after the map was framed. These are basic black alphabet stickers from Jo-Ann, and about 3 inches tall.
I used a ruler to help with positioning, and ended up needing to trim the “A”s a bit from what you see here. Stickers tend to peel up from corkboard, so I also put a bit of glue underneath the edges to keep everything in place.
Thanks for letting me share this with you! If you decide to make one of these maps, I’d love to see the results!
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If you liked this project, check out these other simple home decor projects!
I believe that anyone can do crafts and DIY projects, regardless of skill or experience. I love sharing simple craft ideas, step by step DIY project tutorials, cleaning hacks, and other tips and tricks all with one goal in mind: giving you the tools you need to “do it yourself”, complete fun projects, and make awesome things!