Introduction to symmography: A tutorial.

Max’s first symmography study- A Window with a Web.

Given the right kinds of line segments, you can find curves formed from a series of straight line segments. Geometry teacher Nancy Powell explains how symmography, a form of string art, brings geometric shapes and parabolas to life:

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 less 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.

As usual, the discovery of a thrifted book is what led us to this new fascination.

A book which shows us how to use our protractor, a gift from Pam, to achieve symmertrical curves.


A piece of wood (we used a tacky old engraving which we painted over with navy paint)

Yarn, embroidery floss, and various strings

Hammer and nails (shorter than 1 inch so they don’t poke out through back of wood)

Paints (for background and nails, if you desire)

Paper and pencil


Max created two different symmography designs, and this tutorial will alternate between the two. Max first painted his first wood piece navy blue and his second wood piece yellow. While the pieces dried, he decided he wanted to create two different pieces- a blue experiment with two squares and a happy owl. He used his pencil to draw these squares on one sheet of paper and an owl on a different sheet of paper.

Then we put the paper atop his wood piece and Max hammered in the nails using the paper as a pattern or template.

Thrilled to be using his new nailing skills which Patrick helped him to develop yesterday, Max placed his nails close together on the curves of the owl head so he could bring out the details.

Max laughs and exclaims:

“Hey mom, you’re being selfish with the hammer but it doesn’t matter because I can use the plastic hammer with these nails. Maybe I’ll go down in history as the first symmographer to work with a plastic toy hammer.”

Max wanted to work with triangles and “webby shapes”, so he put the dark blue yarn on the bottom to create texture and add dimension to the navy blue paint.

Then he used green nubby yarn, gold thread, and blue embroidery floss for the details on his blue squares. He played quite a bit with the possibilities by stringing and unstringing until he got just the look he wanted. And I’ve started my own project for our bedroom, which I’ll share as it progresses.

Beautiful beautiful string bubbles from our book to ponder and inspire.

In the meantine, as Max works on his owl and I try not to wet my pants with joy, you can get a detailed, printable explanation from this instructional for the String Art Girl Scout Badge, which almost makes me wish I had Scouted long enough to get past the cookie-selling stage.

The String Art Badge I never earned.

Or you can chase butterflies all around the web to fabulous free symmography tutorials and patterns like these:

A tall flower
A circle
A square or circle burst
A star
Circle 1 pattern
Circle 2 pattern
Nail-less string art for little hands
String art math
Christmas maths pudding pattern
Diamond pattern
Heart circle pattern
Scalloped circle on cardboard
String art teacher notes

Not to mention inspiring creations that make every piece od scrap wood smell like a potential masterpiece:

Sarah’s driftwood symmography
Robin’s nest on driftwood
Beautiful school string art gallery
Designs in string
The pumpkin
Star Wars string art
Earth map
Amazed face

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