loading, one second please...

Make A String Craft Backdrop For A Holiday Display

Joan Young By Joan Young on
Badge: Editor | Level: 34 | Holidays, Parties & Events Expertise:
Picture 2 -define frame with glue

While doing some window shopping the other day I came across a wire box. It consisted of panels which you could fold flat or arrange as a box. I really liked the way it looked as a possible backdrop for my Christmas nativity scene, which I try to do differently every year. However, the price was $15, and I decided that I could make something more interesting, for less money.

This project took 2-3 hours of actual work, spread out over two days. It takes time for the glue to dry, so you can’t rush it. I like the way it turned out, and I’m going to save this for other holiday uses. It would be perfect for Easter, an Anniversary, or any other holiday where you wanted some textural background for a display.

My final backdrop measures 28" long with heights varying from 7-12".

Difficulty Level

Intermediate. It was tricky to place the glue covered string neatly on the “frame.”


150- 200 yards white cotton string

2 oz Elmer’s Glue-All

plastic food wrap

scrap poster board

masking tape

white spray paint


shallow bowl


some boxes (to make form)


There are six basic steps to the project

1. Build a support base for the curved shape (this will be discarded later)

2. Outline the shape of the framework.

3. Fill in the framework with criss-crossed strings

4. Secure “joints” with glue

5. Remove from support

6. Spray paint


In retrospect, I’m not entirely certain that you would need to build this on a curved surface. The final product is only semi-rigid, and can easily be curved more tightly or loosely. But I’m not sure how well it would curve if it were built absolutely flat. I’ll describe the curved directions, and you can make your own choice, if you want to try this.

First I taped together some scraps of posterboard that weren’t worth using for a nice project. I keep used pieces for just such needs as this. Measure the approximate length you want the base to be, and then cut the posterboard about an inch longer. I ended up with a surface that was 28" long and about 18" high. I carefully measured my desired distance across the open end and stacked boxes under the board to create that amount of curve. This was definitely a waste of time. Just form some gentle curve, and you’ll be able to work with this later. I taped the posterboard to my work table to hold the curve in place. (Picture 1)

Then cover the whole thing with plastic wrap. I have some commercial wrap that is 24" wide, but two lengths of the regular width would be fine too. Tape these to the table, smoothing it over the posterboard.


Using Elmer’s Glue, outline the shape of the backdrop on the plastic wrap. I decided on a somewhat free-form shape for the top edge, which was definitely easier than trying to achieve an exact rectangular shape. A square or rectangle would be easier to do if the project were made flat, rather than curved. Lay a length of the string in this trail of glue, trying to keep the corners (especially the bottom corners) somewhat square. Overlap the ends, being sure to get both pieces anchored in the glue. Let the whole thing dry. I waited about an hour. (Picture 2)


Pour about 1.5 ounces of Elmer’s Glue into a bowl and dilute 1:1 with water. Stir. Pull a few yards of string from the spool (don’t cut), and immerse it in the glue. Let sit for 2-3 minutes, so that the string soaks up some glue. Using your fingers as a squeegee, pull the string from the bowl and just coil it on the plastic covered surface, outside of your backdrop area. Before starting to “weave” the design, pull out several more yards of string and get them soaking in the glue. Then pick up your string end (that is resting on the plastic wrap) and, beginning anywhere, start going back and forth across the frame with the glue-soaked string to create a design. There is no rhyme or reason to this, except I think the finished product is sturdier if you begin and end with up and down strands, rather than ones that go the long way. I tried to lay down a short length of string along the frame at each turn, to be certain that it would adhere well. However, I quickly learned that the string would shrink and pull away from the frame, so then I actually laid a small loop on top of the frame. Later, before it was fully dry, if this had not pulled in to fit the frame, it was still pliable enough to push it inside. This turned out to be the only difficult part of the project. If the string doesn’t contact the frame when the glue dries, there won’t be any strength to the whole thing, to hold it together. (Picture 3)

I just continued going back and forth, then pulling the next length of string out of the glue, and putting a new length in to soak, until I was happy with the result. I ended up using about 150 yards of the string. I didn’t measure, but I bought a new spool, and estimated that I used 3/4 of it. When I say that this is “woven, ” I don’t mean that in a technical sense. There is no going over and under with the string, but as you build up layers some will be over, or beneath, others. (Picture 3)

When I finally cut the string, I laid the end along the frame and made sure it was securely against the edge.


Then I let the whole thing sit overnight. The next day, I wasn’t convinced that the “joints, ” the places where strings crossed each other were glued together enough to give the project stability. In fact, a lot of the crossings were completely loose – the strings had not adhered together at all. So I took the glue bottle and just worked at dabbing glue on all of those crossings. I have no idea how long this took because I just did a few in several locations every time I walked by, for about half a day. As more and more joints became tightly fastened with the glue, it was easy to feel of the project and find ones that were still loose, without seriously dislodging the strings.


By mid-afternoon, I was satisfied that the project was going to hold together, and I carefully peeled it off the plastic wrap. It had a gentle curve, but as I said, I learned that it could easily be bent more or less.

There were globs of glue, now painted, at some of the joints. I trimmed some of these off, but decided that they added character. You could cut them back or leave them. (Picture 5)


I then took it outside and gave it a good coat of spray paint. I chose white, but you could, of course, make it any color you want. If you use a color, it might take more paint to get a good, solid coat on the string with no white showing through.

This dried quickly, and in 20 minutes, I was able to set up my Nativity Scene for this year. I wish I had a string of white mini-lights to put behind it, but that’s not in the budget, and also not relevant to these directions! (Picture 6)