Introduction: String Art With Paperclips

About: The Maker Studio is a museum makerspace at Science City in Kansas City, MO. To see more of our creations follow us on Instagram @The_Maker_Studio or @ScienceCityKC

History of String Art

Traditionally string art is weaving string around nails hammered set on a baseboard. It relies on curving the string between several points creating intricate patterns and geometric shapes.

Mary Everest Boole invented the 'curve stitch' near the end of the 19th century making mathematical ideas more easily understood by children. It wasn't until the 1960s that it became popular as a decorative craft and American artist John Eichinger became famous for creating detailed geometric curved designs.

Getting Started:

For this project we will be using paperclips instead of nails and cardboard instead of a hardwood baseboard. If you have those things at home and an adult to help you set the nails you will be able to do the same provided designs. The principles are the same and as you get the hang of it you will be able to make your own patterns.


  • Cardboard - It should be as flat as possible and large enough for your design. If you have a thin cardboard as pictures or cardstock to cover the back is helpful.
  • Paperclips - Any size or color is fine.
  • Scissors - A pair good enough to cut through cardboard.
  • Tac - This will help punching the holes a lot easier and safer.
  • Embroidery Thread - Any color or thickness works well.
  • Pliers - Bending some paperclips can be difficult, pliers are helpful and some can be used to cut the paperclip as well.
  • Tape - Used to tape down design to the cardboard.
  • Glue Gun + Glue Sticks - Best for quickly gluing your paperclips to the back of the cardboard.


  • School Glue - If you don't have a glue gun regular glue can work.
  • Flush Cutters - If your pliers do not have a section to cut wire, flush cutters are a good option or scissors but it will dull them more quickly.

Step 1: Pick a Design

For your first try it's suggested using one of the two options in the printable sheet provided. There is a star and a basic geometric shape.

We'll start with the star.

Cut out the design making sure it will fit on the cardboard.

Tape it down and cut away the unused part of the cardboard.

Step 2: Cut Down Paperclips

Take out as many paperclips as you need per dot on the design.

Open each of them up as shown making them like an open S.

If you have pliers with the flat section as shown in the 2nd photo use it to clip the paperclips as shown.

You are wanting to cut the paperclip into the U shape as shown in the last image.

If you have flush cutters they can also work well.

As a last resort you can use scissors, but it will dull them more quickly so be sure not to use your best pair.

Step 3: Poke Holes

With your tac carefully poke a hole on each black dot.

Place a paperclip U into the hole and then push slightly to mark where your 2nd hole should go.

Use your tac to make the 2nd hole needed so your paperclip will easily slip inside. Do this for each dot on your design.

Step 4: Bend & Glue Pegs

You should now have each paperclip U resting inside their holes with the pegs poking out on the back of the cardboard.

Using your pliers bend the backside pegs of each U. Make your bend about half way down the peg length.

When you are happy use your hot glue gun to cover each set of paperclip pegs on the backside. This helps keep them against the cardboard, and not moving around when you are making your design on the front.

Step 5: Cover the Back

This step can be optional.

Take a thin sheet of cardboard or cardstock and make sure it's large enough for the board you just completed.

Trim your boards if you need to.

With your glue gun cover the backside of your board and quickly turn it over so that it is now covered by your baking thin cardboard or cardstock.

This still will just make it look nicer and can be done at the end or at later date if you decide to do it later.

Step 6: Threading Design

Cut a good length of thread approx 24 inches for this Star shape.

Make a double knot on one of the U's to attach your string.

Run your thread from U to U in the same shape you would normally make when drawing a star. You will need to push your thread through each U so that it stays put.

When you get back to your original hoop make a double knot again and cut off any remaining thread check the last two images on how to make the knot.

Step 7: Add Second Thread

For a more interesting design add a second color of thread and make the same shape again just as you did in the previous step.

For ours we knotted it on the opposite side of the U and then strung it on each U opposite the side that they yellow is resting on.

Feel free to do this step how you want as there are no wrong answers!

When you are done knot it off and cut off any remaining thread.

As you get more comfortable move onto the geometric design or start making up your own designs.

For more information about Science City, visit or follow us on Facebook @ScienceCityKC. Remember, to tag us or hashtag #ScienceCityKC or @The_Maker_Studio on Instagram.

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