mountain string art

Mountain String Art | Mount Fuji

The wall space above the bed was going to have a mountain; or Mount Fuji, specifically. Choosing that as the theme was easy.  The hard part was figuring out how to make it happen. Initially I wanted to draw it but my limited drawing skills made me think twice about this approach. I also wanted something three-dimensional. In my search for a method and a look, I came across string art and was blown away. I had no idea about this simple yet creative way of using yarn and nails to make pretty much anything. So I got to work immediately!


A couple of notes about materials:

Nails – you can definitely use different kind/brand. I happened to be at Lowe’s and purchase them then.

Yarn – I used a different brand of yarn for the red and gray because I couldn’t find colors that I liked in the Patons Grace line that I originally purchased for black and white. Also, you can get away with much smaller and cheaper spools, particularly in white, red and gray. I bought these because I will be using them on other projects as well.

Flexible ruler – I couldn’t figure out a better way of making the sun so I bought this. You can probably find other options to getting this part done without having to buy the ruler.

Difficulty: Medium to hard

Duration: ~ 30 hours

The process turned out to be quite long and the steps I’m using to describe it can be confusing. I tried to be as detailed as I could and maybe that added to complexity.  Also, it probably doesn’t help that I changed the design as I went through it several times. However, take a deep breath and go through one step at a time. Before you know it, you’ll get to the end and you’ll be ready to conquer your own mountain!

  1. BOARD
* These steps will vary depending on the surface you’re planning to use and the texture you’re looking to achieve. I started with a 2′ x 4′ blank board purchased at Home Depot.
– gently clean the front side of your board with a 150 grit sand paper to smooth it out.
TIP 1: I followed these steps on the back side too because that was my test area for color combinations.
– clean up the surface with a damp rag and let it dry before continuing to the next step.
– apply the BEHR White Semi-Transparent Waterproofing Exterior Wood Stain and Sealer with a brush. I used a brush I already had, which was the Purdy Chinex Spring and I believe it helped highlight the wood grain. This was originally going to be my only step but I didn’t like the color that it turned out to be on its own, so I decided to apply some diluted paint over it to get a more washed & white-ish look (which is what I was going for and though that the stain can do that on its own). To do that,  dilute some white paint with water. I don’t have the exact measurements of what my ratio was but I kept testing on the back side until I was pleased with the result. You don’t want the mixture you apply to look too solid white because it’ll hide the texture of the wood underneath. Keep adding water for a more see-through look until you get to the right consistency.
– it’ll be easier to apply the diluted paint on a semi-wet surface, so don’t let the stain fully dry on your board before executing this step. Using the same brush, go over it several times in the direction of the wood grain.
– if you’re happy with the result, let it dry completely before the next step.


a) Nailing in the shapes – mountain and sun

– there are different ways to get the shape done. I pretty much free-handed mine. I had an idea of what I wanted it to look like and started with rolling out some of the black yarn and shaping it to the look I wanted to achieve. Explore different routes before you get this part going because once you start nailing, it could be difficult to change and cover up the holes.
– if you are free-handing, tape the yarn in multiple spots so it doesn’t move as you start working around it.
TIP 2: if you’re using the same board (or something just as thin), make sure you place cardboard (or some other type of cushion) underneath it because the nails will come through the back and they might scratch the surface underneath. I used cardboard and it worked just fine.
– optionally, use a tape measure and follow the yarn and tape it in multiple spots. It’s more rigid than yarn and can make it easier for you to keep the shape you intended. Plus, the measurements can be helpful markers for keeping up a consistent distance between the nails you’re about to place.
– determine what kind of space you want to leave. I went for 1/3 of an inch on the bottom. Remember that the more nails you place, the denser the mountain will look.
– using the hammer, start nailing your bottom section.
– remove the tape measure from the bottom and place it on the left side and follow the same process. I originally started nailing every 1 inch because I felt like the density of the nails on the sides wasn’t as important. However, after nailing the whole mountain , it looked off and I went back and adjusted the distance to 1/2 an inch by adding more nails.
– replicate the same process on the other side of the mountain.
– now, for the top… Trace on a paper the shape of the top if it’s easier. That was my intention originally, but then I changed my mind ( I did that a lot for this project…) Again, using the yarn, I setup the shape I wanted to get and started adding the nails, this time a lot closer to each other. I actually had to go back and adjust a section that didn’t turn out quite right. I wasn’t concerned over the holes showing because I knew that it was going to be covered with yarn. Maybe I should have drawn on paper first….
– the sun shape proved to be a little trickier because it needed to be round. I bought a flexible ruler for this but you can probably find different ways to get it done. I nailed around the ruler at half inch intervals. Later, I went and enlarged the sun too because it felt too small. It worked out again because the previous holes were going to be covered with yarn. If it would have been too large to begin with, it would have been a different story.

b) Filling in the shapes

I. Mountain (first pass with black yarn)

-I started with the mountain, specifically with the bottom right side and did the outline first. I went around several times using different ways to tie the yarn around the nail each time. First, I went around the bottom side of the nails and looped the yard around each nail as I worked my way to the left, then up the mountain and around the mountain until I ended where I started. Second, I did the same process but going around the top of each nail. Third, I did an ‘S’ shape by going top then bottom around each nail. This might be too confusing , so try different ways of filling it in and see what looks best for you.
– here’s a little drawing that may (or may not) clarify the steps some more: the black circles are the nails and the green arrows are for the direction of the thread around the nails.
– once you’re back at where you first started, start doing the vertical loops to fill in the mountain shape. I circled around a nail multiple times at the top (there are less nails than the bottom) and only once at at the bottom.

– once your mountain is done, tie the yarn well at your end point and trim it.

II. Sun (red yarn)

– I went around the sun using the same technique. When filling it in, I went back and forth multiple times to create a more fuller texture.

III. Snow (white yarn)

– originally, I was going to nail the shape of the snow portion before I filled in the mountain, but I didn’t want to create that separation between the top and bottom and I wanted them to blend together. That’s why I filled the whole mountain with black as the base. For the snow part, I nailed in between the black yarn and filled with white as I went. I thought that it would give me a better sense of where to go next versus doing all the nails first and yarns second. I didn’t have a pattern for this and kind of went with the flow. When done, I pushed down the lower part of the white yarn a bit so it blends with the black.

IV. Mountain (second pass with gray yarn)

– I used gray yarn for a second fill for the bottom part of the mountain to create a more softer look. I used black originally but it was overwhelmingly black and I wanted to soften it a bit.

c) ‘Conquer your mountain’

– I typed up the Japanese characters in word and printed them on regular paper. Next, I cut each symbol and arranged it in the proper order on the board, making sure it was aligned with the help of a t-square. I taped the paper in place when I was set on its position relative to everything else.
– using the hammer, I started nailing in each symbol. I placed the nails close to each other following the shape of each character
– once done, I removed the paper and tape by lifting it up

– lastly, I used the black yarn to fill in the characters, one nail at a time.

It felt like I really did conquer a mountain with this project! The reward, however, is a beautiful piece that motivates me to keep going every time I look at it.

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