Introduction: Sea Glass Heart Hanging

About: In which I turn the thoughts from my head into objects in my hands

This project was inspired by a birthday present; for one of my friends' sixteenth birthday, I made her a sea glass wall hanging because some of our best memories are from our jogs to the nearby beach. While designing the mobile, I thought about making the outline of a heart but decided not to; that would've been weird between friends. But I still wanted to bring that idea to life, so here it is.

If you're making this for your special other half or just for Valentine's Day decorations, you can change the color of the sea glass to fit your purpose. I wanted my hanging to represent my love for the ocean, hence all the blue. You can even add a heart-shaped picture in the middle of the sea glass border.

Step 1: Materials

  • sea glass (I'll show you how to change the color if your sea glass is white.)
  • cups
  • water
  • watercolors, paint, or markers (dried out is fine)
  • string (two types: one for weaving so has to be thicker than sewing thread, other for connecting the sea glass so as thin as possible without being easy to snap -- sewing thread or beading thread is great. I tried fishing line but the sea glass was too light to make the fishing line hang down nicely.)
  • ribbon or substitute for hanging
  • glue
  • hot glue
  • brush
  • ruler
  • two skewers
  • scissors
  • glossy surface or wax paper
  • OPTIONAL if your sea glass is natural and not store-bought: oil (vegetable or olive) + scrap cloth or paper

Step 2: Planning the Design

I evidently did a heart, but you can take the time to design any other shape you want, perhaps a word or a symbol. You could have a solid heart or an upside-down triangle with ombré colors (what I eventually went with for the friend's gift. For designing, I suggest using a piece of graph paper, with each filled-in square representing a piece of sea glass.

Step 3: Cutting Skewers

To make the top part, I had to cut down my seekers to the right length. I first arranged my sea glass in the formation I wanted and measured the longest diameter -- 5". I added one inch for extra spacing so my skewers' final length was 6". To cut the skewers, don't just do a straightforward cut; rotate the skewer while maintaining slight pressure with the blades so that the skewer is uniformly cut all around the end (see image). To make the ends of the cut skewers less likely to splinter, I covered the ends with a bit of glue and let them dry.

Step 4: Weaving Skewers

I tied my thicker string to the skewers (I needed about 1.5 arm lengths for 6" of skewer) and began weaving by alternating between wrapping the string around the top skewer twice and then the lower one twice (see images above).

Once I finished weaving, I dabbed the knots on both ends of the woven skewers with glue, let that dry, and cut the excess string.

Step 5: Coloring the String

I wanted to experiment first so that's why the accompanying images have pink string but my final result is blue.

To make colored water, I poured some water (If you use too much, it'll dilute the color so you'd need more coloring.) in a cup before continually dipping my brush from my watercolor set to the water. To make this easier, use the other end of the brush to scratch up the block of watercolor before rubbing your brush against it and then bringing the brush to the water. This takes a while.

You could alternatively use markers to make colored water: see here. Food coloring or paint would work too.

Once you have colored water, dip your brush in and gently brush it over the string on your skewers. If the color is too light, just make it darker by doing the watercolor method a couple more times, adding food coloring, etc. The color travels a bit down the string due to absorption so be mindful of than when coloring the string in different patterns.

NOTE: Yes, you can use colored string, but I didn't have any matching colors and I wanted a colored pattern for the string on the skewer. Also, if you wanted to change the color of your sea glass, the colored water is necessary anyway.

Step 6: Coloring Your Sea Glass

Unless you want to keep your sea glass in its natural color (or if it's store bought and already colored to your liking), you can change the color of the sea glass (works for light-colored glass only though). Although I generally prefer natural, I didn't want my white sea glass to blend in with my white walls. To color sea glass, you need to make a solution from glue and the leftover colored water.

Note for natural sea glass: if you don't plan on tampering with the color, see next step.

The solution you'll make requires equal parts glue and colored water (though I suggest using a bit more glue than water). Take cup and pour a bit of colored water in it (keeping in mind the "equal parts" -- if you use a lot of water, you'll need a lot of glue) before adding the same amount of glue. Use your brush to mix well, and the result should have a consistency that's closer to glue than to water (not too liquid-like).

Once you have the mixture, paint your sea glass with it and leave the sea glass on wax paper or a glossy surface (plastic bottle, for example) to dry. I used a plastic lid. ^^

NOTE: If a pool of excess solution forms under your sea glass, make sure that you wait a bit for the solution to dry slightly before lifting the sea glass out of any small pools and moving it to another place. Otherwise, the pool will stick to your glossy surface and make the back (and possibly the front too) of the sea glass look weird.

  • The first thing I tried was just letting a small shard of sea glass sit in the colored water overnight. The little shard became a little tinted (light pink) but the color rubbed off quickly.
  • I tried it again with darker colored water (light blue next to light pink one). This worked alright, but some color still rubbed off and a thicker piece of glass probably would have worse results.
  • Then I remembered that I polished the sea glass with a bit of oil to make it less cloudy. The oil might have interfered with the absorption, but I didn't want to experiment with unpolished sea glass because all the sea glass I had was already polished.
  • The next thing I tried was the homemade mod podge method above, but I tried it twice: once with some solution, another with more solution painted on. The one with more solution obviously was darker, but the pool of solution that formed underneath it tore off when it hardened.
  • The tearing was due to the pool so I did another test run, this time waiting a bit for some solution to dry before lifting the sea glass away from the pool. This had better results.

Step 7: Natural Sea Glass

If you don't want to change the color of your natural sea glass, I suggest you polish the glass a bit to make it shinier (or you can leave it in the natural state -- up to you). To do so, grab scrap cloth/paper and bottle of vegetable or olive oil, quickly pour a little bit of oil on the cloth, and smudge the oil around the cloth so that it's evenly saturated. Then use that cloth to rub your sea glass; the cloudiness should come off.

Step 8: Attaching Sea Glass

Arrange your sea glass in your design on a flat surface, with the skewers an inch or so above that.

Mark out how far apart your sea glass columns need to be. I wanted 0.5" left and right borders so 6" skewer - (0.5" x 2) = 5" remaining for sea glass. My heart pattern has 7 columns so the 5 inches need to split into EIGHT (7+1) sections. See image of math for how I marked off the eight sections.

Grab your thinner string (I used sewing thread) and cut out a piece that's at least a couple inches longer than twice the distance from the sea glass to the skewer. Or to avoid the estimating, just cut out a long piece of string (better to overestimate than under). Fold the string in half and form a lark's head knot by inserting the ends of the string through the loop of the midway point. Insert the skewers into the resulting circle and pull the ends to tighten once the string is in position. (see images for better understanding) Dab a bit of glue on the loop to secure the string.

Start with the center column and work outward. Determine how far down the string you want your sea glass and tie two knots around the sea glass. Tug a bit to get the knots close to the top of the sea glass before putting a dot of hot glue on the string at the top and bottom of the backside of the sea glass. Do this for all your sea glass in the design that you planned earlier.
When the sea glass is the last in a "column" (last that needs to be tied by the string), just cut the string as close as possible to the last dot of hot glue.

Step 9: Hanging

I used ribbon as the hanging material. To attach it, I tied one end of the ribbon to one end of the skewers (be carefully if your skewers have a front and back -- you'll probably want the knots of the skewer string on the back). Then I decided where I wanted the center knot for hanging to be (just eyeball it), made a loop, and pinched it. Then I tied a knot at that pinch place. Tie the other end of the ribbon to the other end of the skewers and adjust the length to make sure that when hung, your sea glass hanging's skewers will be parallel to the ground. When you're happy with the lengths, dab the knots with glue and cut off excess ribbon.

Step 10: Painting Strings

To make the heart shape clearly visible, I wanted to paint the string within the borders of the heart. Also, I wanted to make the white thread less visible on the sea glass.

Tape a piece of paper to your wall and then tape your hanging to the paper; this is to prevent any color from staining your wall. Then get your colored water and brush some of it on the strings and on the string tied around the sea glass. Use some scrap paper to wipe off colored water that collects on the sea glass.

Do this more than once if you want the color on the string to be darker.

Step 11: Finishing

Now you're done! Personalize this project to your heart's content: add a picture in the middle of the design, make a rainbow effect in colors, create different shapes -- let creativity guide your hands.

Little things you might want to check:

  • remove any ultra thin strands of hot glue that might remain
  • smooth out any fuzzy parts on the thread if you used sewing thread
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