Nail art with wool

September 21, 2017

Create complex geometric patterns & intricate art designs while practising dexterity & tool-use skills.

Author: Muddy Faces

Age Range: 3+

Duration: less than an hour

Location: anywhere

Time Of Day: any time

Season: any

Tags: art, curriculum, dexterity, geometry, hammer, nail, numeracy, pattern, tools

Category: art & creating curriculum outdoors tool use & traditional crafts


Gather • wool or flexible string • pot of nails (approx 25mm) • hammer with a claw • marker pen/pencil • wooden board (soft wood is easier to hammer into).

Measuring and marking out your shapes gives this activity an additional maths curriculum angle.

hammer, wool and nails

Step 1

Hammer in the nails, spacing them out equally in a circle.
The ones in this picture are around 2-3cm apart. We didn’t measure them – we just made them approximately equal.

For accuracy and/or to add numeracy skills into the activity, measure and mark out equally-spaced dots to create the circle, marking the exact point to hammer the nails into.

3 nails in a slice of wood

Step 2

Attach a length of wool or string to one of the nails (we’ll call this the Start Nail).

To create your pattern decide how many nails to jump each time – ideally you don’t want to end up back on the Start Nail.

If you do end up on the Start Nail within one or two circuits, either undo and start again or re-start using a different number.

circle of nails hammered into a slice of wood

If you are mathematically-minded you could count the number of nails and work out the number to skip before you start. We just started and adapted as we went along.

Don’t include the Start Nail in your count and skip the same number of nails each time.


If you decide to tie every 4th nail, count this way:

Start nail
… one, two, three… tie off on four
… one, two, three… tie off on four

wool wound round nails in a piece of wood


You can speed up the process by not tying off on each nail but just wrapping around it once. The downside of this is that you need to keep a constant tension on the string otherwise it can all unravel.

We ended up alternating – doing a few turns then a tie off, a few turns then a tie off, so if it did go slack we only unravelled back to the last tied nail, not the whole thing.

Step 3

Continue the pattern. Hopefully you’ll miss the Start Nail and continue round the circle until you have used every nail.

Tie off and snip off any excess wool/string.

Step 4

Choose a different colour wool or string. Choose a new Start Nail, attach to it and start a new pattern with a new count.

You can repeat with a couple of colours.

nail art with 2 different coloured wools

Working with younger children.

Setting this activity up for younger children is a case of Let Them Play. Just hammering the nails in where they like, and randomly connecting them with string is great fun. Little ones may need some help to secure the string.

Alternatively use elastic bands.

Take it further

Experiment with different patterns.

Add a central nail and radiate back and forth, or even add a central circle of nails.

This photo shows a round pattern done by an adult and  a more random pattern made by a 7-year-old. He wanted to connect the patterns together. The result was this cool shape. He said “it looks like one of those rocket toys that make a whizz sound as they fly”. I was thinking a shooting star…

2 nail art shapes - circle and splodge connected together