Craft the Span: A Yarn Wall Installation

My friend & co-worker Michelle and I developed the idea for Square Maker's Markets in 2013 while visiting a friend's popup gallery in LA, featuring a ton of local artists, makers, and small businesses. We realized the merchants were all using Square, and thought that hosting a similar event at Square would be a great way to celebrate our customers in-house.

In preparation for the event, I built a giant yarn installation on Square's cafeteria wall. In total it took 10-15 skeins of yarn, 14 hours straight of work, with 2 people full time and a few helpers throughout the yarning process.


Materials & Tools:

- Adobe Illustrator (any digital design tool will work here)
- Projector
- Cardboard
- X-Acto Knife
- Ruler
- Yarn... Lots of yarn
- T-pins
- Hammer
- Staple Gun
- Scissors
- Brightly colored duct tape
- Friends


Step 1: Design & Sizing

(This step is optional, if you'd prefer to go #yolo and draw the text on the wall by hand. But for more calculated results, I highly recommend a tiny bit of layout planning here)

Measure the size of your wall. (This particular wall was 8' x 20') Create an artboard in Illustrator using the same ratio. Since Illustrator is vector-based, and to save on file size, you can scale down to inches instead of feet. (8" x 20")

Choose your typeface and lay out your type. Since this was for an in-house Square Maker's Market event, I chose Square Market font— the custom designed typeface for Square's brand. I recommend using simple, geometric letters here.

Be sure to cross-check the actual size of the letter against the wall to make sure it's not too big. My tallest letter ("f") was 2.4' tall, and the "c" was 1.8' tall. For the smaller letters, the "t" was 1' tall and the "s" was 0.8' tall.

Step 2: Project it

Initially, I attempted to print my design out on paper and pin it to the wall with my T-pins. This is both unnecessarily difficult and a waste of paper. It also doesn't allow you to adjust the size of the letters once you get them up on the wall. If you're lucky enough to have one lying around, use a projector. It will make your life so much easier.

Full screen your Illustrator file (or Save as PDF and use Preview). Project your design on the wall, making sure that the size & positioning looks good. Here's where using a projector comes in handy— you can adjust the file to be larger or smaller if your initial measuring was off.


Step 3: Pin it

Using T-pins and a hammer, pin along the outline of your letters. (You can use any colorful pin that's strong and has a large head to keep the yarn from slipping off). You can get by without a hammer, but your fingers will hurt. Pin the corners first, and make sure the pins are evenly spaced in between. I had a little under an inch of space between mine.


Step 4: Yarn it

This is much more tedious than it sounds. Start by making large triangles or blocks of color that you can fill in later. A staple gun was a huge optimization here.

Take one end of yarn, and staple it at the edge of your wall, loop it once around the T-pin, and then staple the other end to another edge of the wall— creating a wide triangle. Cut the end, tie a knot, and repeat to build your shape outlines. Start by getting the big shapes for one color down, and then move on to the big shapes for your other colors.

For small spaces, such as in between letters, you can zig zag the yarn in between the T-pins, cut it and tie the end to itself. For large blocks of color between the triangle shapes, you don't have to cut at each end. You can simply staple gun each of the edges, and continue wrapping the yarn around the next pin. Sometimes you might want to staple multiple times, coming undone at one of these points could be disastrous. But that will help fill in faster.

There are a lot of cool things that happen when you layer colors, or intersect shapes. Don't think about it too hard, but step back often and make sure the design feels right.

Once you have all the big shape outlines done, start filling in the blanks. Be sure that each T-pin has at least one yarn line coming off of it, but don't let any particular pin get too weighed down either. This is where friends come in handy, for help with filling in big swaths of color. This part took the majority of the time.

Again, step back often to take pictures make sure the colors and shapes are working well together.

Step 5: The smaller letters

Initially, for the smaller letters I was going to cut them out of cardboard and wrap them with yarn. By the end of the night, I was low on yarn and out of steam. Earlier, I had found some bright orange duct tape lying around and decided to wrap the smaller cardboard letters with duct tape instead.

The letters were small enough to fit on an 8.5"x11" piece of paper when printed. To cut them out of cardboard, print the letters out, tape the letter to a flat piece of cardboard, and using an X-acto knife, cut around the edges of the letter. Use a ruler for the straight parts, cardboard has a tendency to slip easily.

Once your big word is done being yarned, I used t-pins to fasten the smaller words to the wall. The letters can fall off easily if people try to touch it, but overall this works nicely and doesn't destroy the yarn underneath.