Sunday, January 15, 2012

Baby's First String Tree - A How-To Post

I decided to build a string tree in the nursery for the baby I'll be having in May. This post will show in-progress photos of the process and offer tips and tricks to help you make your own string tree.


String (I used yarn)
Felt (green)
Frames and drawings (if desired)
Pushing aid (a thimble, thick dishtowel, a bit of wood... anything that you can use to help push in the pushpins without destroying your thumbs)

If you want to have your tree go through drawings, you'll want to do the drawings first. Draw birds, monkeys, vampires, or whatever else strikes your fancy sitting on the branches. We bought a portable crib with blue and brown owls, so I drew an owl to match.

Felt gets cut into leaves. I bought three shades of green. I didn't want them all the same color because leaves vary a lot depending on how sunlight hits them - they can look dark or light. Plus having a few colors helps add some dimension.

My leaves are just ovals with pointed ends. I made several hundred (hint: cut through several layers of felt to make several leaves at once)

The final mix is above. I had about even numbers of each color.

These are the drawings I'll be using. They're all brown and blue to go along with our nursery colors.
The pictures are also highly suitable as cat chairs. Dopey obviously approves.

First I prepared the wall. It needed a washing.

Next I hung up the drawings in a way I felt would make sense given the angles of the branches in the drawings.

I then began to stick pins into the wall. Don't be too regular, don't just "outline" the tree. You'll want to backtrack a lot to create texture, so try not to be too regimented.

I start at the bottom and work my way up. Here is the trunk, showing the backtracking pattern. You don't have to do it this way, just do what feels right.

The above is the beginning of a knot in the wood. I made a couple of rough concentric circles with pushpins.

Here I started to fill in the knothole by going around the circles, being careful not to be too regular. You want it to suggest a knothole - knotholes are never perfect circles.

The above is the finished knothole.

I frequently take breaks to make sure the tree is shaping up how I want. When I do this I have to maintain string tension so it doesn't all fly off the wall. Below is a closeup for technique on that point.
I pinned across the yarn and then wrapped it around the pin. It creates a relatively secure anchor so you can take breaks. This one held overnight even though my cats found the yarn and yanked on it while playing all night.

Below you will see evidence; cats are an occupational hazard when working with yarn.

Above I'm beginning to fill in branches. I plan out where the branches will go and figure out where the ends should be. when I get to the very ends I'm putting the pin through a couple of felt leaves and then into the wall. Later I'll fill in leaves on the branches so they aren't just at the very ends.

Above, leaves impaled for the greater good.

In the above you can see continuing progress. I used separate pieces of string for the branches on the other sides of the drawings. If I went behind the drawings it would probably be okay. However, it would make the drawings hang away from the wall, which might look weird or be less safe for a kid's room.

More pin-planning and leaf placement

Below is the tree with leaves only on the very ends of the branches. It looks okay, but it's a bit weird to just have the leaves on the edges like an outline.

Above I'm adding a little branch to the left of the blue bird. If your tree seems uneven or not full enough it's pretty easy to just stick some more pins in and add branches.

Above the branch has been filled in. Yay no more big empty spot!

I like how gravity curls up the felt of the leaves. It makes this a very three dimensional tree.

Above is after I filled in more leaves. Basically I'd just skewer pairs of leaves with pushpins and place them along the branches in places where they seemed to make sense.
In many cases I didn't put them on top of the string directly since the tension would pull the pushpin out of the wall over time. Instead they're right beside the string in most cases.

That's pretty much it. Good luck building your own string trees! If you do build one I'd love to see it - email me at with a photo.


  1. This is really cool and that Owl is awesomesauce!

  2. awesome!! thanks for the detailed photos!