Magnetic Fabricfall of Destiny


Introduction: Magnetic Fabricfall of Destiny

About: I like to make things for the internets. I also sell a pretty cool calendar at You'll like it.

An exercise in starting from something incredibly simple and letting it grow into something much more complex. This is just some magnets, fabric, glue, and metal wire, but it allows for plenty of room to play in. Safe for kids and even adults. Provides plenty of opportunities for modification.

I admit that the qualities that I was going for are not so readily apparent and that a larger scale would benefit the project. I would love to do this with at least 20 feet of vertical height and 10 feet of horizontal. Alas, I'm limited by the space I have in my apartment and how much I could put up before my cat would rip it down again.

Song: "Los Peces" by Lhasa

Step 1: Load Up on Fabric

Fabric stores are often selling the last few yards of each roll at a tasty discount. Just a few blocks away from the apartment I was able to pick up a few yards of white satin for $1.20 a yard. It had some frayed edges, but that's cool. I love frayed edges.

Step 2: Slice It Up

Get a pair of scissors and tear into the fabric. Slice it up into nice long ribbons. Do't use any fancy fabric scissors, either. Every little bit of chaos will help here. So get some curved lines in there, include weird bulges, and destroy the edges to get more threads popping off the side. Have fun and don't worry about mistakes. Mistakes are good right now.

Step 3: Bring on the Magnets

Drop some gobs of hot glue on the fabric to attach some neodymium magnets. They're strong and will do the job even if they're only 6mm x 1.5mm. I got a 1,000 of them from K&L; Magnetics eBay store ages ago for about $20. I still have a few hundred left and have started leaving them around in various places, like the elevator door at work, just to see how long they last. The job sucks, but seeing my hidden magnets makes me smile.

Step 4: Fold Over (if You Feel Like It)

You can leave the magnets bare or fold the fabric over and squeeze it tight to spread the glue out. Mix it up. Neither one is right or wrong. They're just options for you to choose from.

This is probably a good time to talk about magnet placement. Place magnets a few inches in from the end so there's some excess. Most of the pieces will have two magnets on them so that they can connect and create a longer chain. Some of them will only have one so that they can have fabric dangle without a magnet to weigh them down. So there are the connectors and the danglers. And if you place just one magnet in the middle I guess that's a double dangler.

Step 5: Build a Frame

Thoise magnets need a ferromagnetic surface to stick to and I chose some metal wire that I bought in a spool from the hardware store. Four four-foot pieces are crossed over with some shorter crosspieces to provide structure. My good friend duct tape stuck it all together.

Since pointy wires can suck to bump into, I used pliers to bend the ends over for a nice curvy tip.

Step 6: String It Up

Tie some string so that the frame can hook on to a couple of nails that you're never going to tell the landlord about. I've already drilled in lots of hooks to create a hanging closet and a curtain wall, but we are trying to remain on good terms and butter him up to allow us to have another cat.

Speaking of which, take some time to play with the local feline. He's been inside all day and those dangling strings are looking tasty. Let him go in for the kill a few times before hanging it.

Step 7: Start Attaching Pieces

Take a dozen connector pieces and stick them to the frame. Keep them separate for now. Don't worry, they'll be playing soon enough.

Step 8: Make Some Connections

With some newer connectors, attach one end to a hanging magnet and the other end to another one. They're now connected. Also start to connect pieces that are hanging far away from each other to create some hanging loops.

Step 9: Iterate, Iterate, Iterate

Make more connections with newer pieces. Bring magnets together and let them guide you along in the process.

If at any point you feel like you've messed up, you can easily pull apart any magnets and put them somewhere else. To be honest, you didn't make a mistake, you just saw some new and better opportunity. Would that insight have been there if you didn't try the first option?

Step 10: Add the Danglers

Finally, add the pieces that have just one magnet. Snap them on to the frame or attach them to magnets dangling around. Be sure to move around to find new opportunities.

Step 11: Find the Pattern

In the process you might find that certain nodes start appearing. For some reason there are clumps of magnets that have at least half a dozen pieces of fabric coming off of them. You can trace a line from a node to a node and eventually go all the way back round again to the source or perhaps move along the frame and down another line. You might and at some dangling piece, but don't fret. You can turn back around and go through it all again.

Do the nodes represent our social structures in some sort of Fabric 2.0 way? Is each one an alternate universe with the threads providing links to different possibilities? There really are no answers I suppose. Just the fun of asking the questions.

And when the pattern starts to feel too static, move it around again or tear it down and start over.

Step 12: Take Some Photos

Light and shadow and all around.

Step 13: Start Over

Tear it down and do it again.

The fabric store has a lot more colors than white. Pick out the brightest colors for a rainbow effect. Make a tall wireframe and shred some green fabric for a Christmas art project that the kids can create themselves.

The metal wire can be formed into shapes beyond simple straight lines. Circles, squares, and others are certainly allowed. Just be handy with a pair of pliers.



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    He only likes to attack things that are moving. When I was putting this up he'd tear it down about half as fast as I could attach it. Once it was up, he didn't care.

    just dont open the window when a wind is blowing lol

    i used to attach small neo disk magnets to the bases of toy cars then throw them up onto the ceiling at school, good times

    What's the name of the musician/cd title? I love it... So pretty with the sculpture, too.

    1 reply

    The album is La Llorona and you can find it here. If you dug this song, you're going to love the album. Well worth seeing live as well.

    This is sorta cool. Magnet construction toys for adults (or older children, anyway), sort of.
    I think I could get lazy and use a bunch of flagging tape, or... oooh - kite tail material or party streamers (all nice and per-cut, if you DON'T like frayed edges :-)

    2 replies

    Those gossamer streamers look pretty cool. The transparent fabricwould be a nice effect. And if you don't like frayed edges I won't hold it against you.

    I checked that site out further and I can get 200 yds. of 4" white gossamer for $22 shipped. That's pretty cool and works out to the same price I was getting for cut up strips of the white satin. Thanks for the link! Now if I can just convince someone with a large amount of open space to let me put this up.

    That's cool. Which has given me another "good" idea. My last one was kind of a "flop" :( and I can't even improve it due to the lack of materials needed to do so. But it did work...

    But when I get around to this idea, I'll make sure to give "credit" to the people who inspired me :D

    Here's the main idea which was inspired by you (waterfall),

    What do you think?

    3 replies

    It's hard to make out what's going on in your picture, but I think you're talking about some recirculating ferrofluid waterfall (ferrofluidfall?) with electromagnets to slow it down. Could be interesting. You could have alternating sets of magnets activate so that the fluid is caught and released several times. With four sets of magnets you could have a moving display. Or maybe you could get more elaborate and have a grid of electromagnets so that you can create a display with the constant stream of fluid. This would be possible with a large pan of ferrofluid and no waterfall. A ferrofluid display.

    That (the ferrofluid "fall") is the basic idea. I figure that if I were to hook up each electromagnet up to push buttons, then you would be able to control the flow.

    As for the ferrofluid display idea... It's been done and very nicely too:
    Watch the video (warning: it's a large video) to see exactly how they got it to work.

    Wow, Snake is one boring game. And, yup, an array of electromagnets, just like I was thinking. Well, that frees up the time to think of something more novel.

    really cool. Also, the song in your video was amazing. I'd love to put a small fan in there, maybe blowing straight up our down. What made you want to do this?

    1 reply

    I had an earlier version of this in a doorway and it was cool to see it sway in the breeze. Good stuff. As for why? I'm not sure. The idea just popped up fully formed and I went with it. Images of hanging vines and TPing a large tree when I was a teenager came to mind. I just like the idea of entangled bits of fabric that can be easily rearranged on a whim without worrying about knots. And Lhasa is awesome. That album and Gotan Project's "La Ravencha del Tango" were the soundtrack to a trip to Maui a few years ago.