This post is way overdue. I’ll blame the laundry. I can’t blame the brutal heat wave, since I have air conditioning. I’ve been dealing with some crappy stuff (not just laundry) but now I have drugs to help so hopefully the blog will go back to having entries on a regular schedule.
Last year at this time I was teaching some chainmaille classes at a local Girl Scout camp. This year, I’ve passed my classes on to a good friend. She’s using my handouts, though, so it finally forced me to put them all in PDF form. Which means that now you get to see them too!
Today’s chainmaille lesson is the classic chainmaille weave: European 4-in-1. This was the weave used in actual chainmaille armor. It makes beautiful, supple jewelry. This weave has great drape, which make it perfect for earrings.
I’m going to quote what I wrote last year about chainmaille and there’s some more weave-specific information in the PDF:
To make chainmaille, you need two pairs of piers. Most chainmaillers use needle nose or chain nose, but I like to use a pair of bent nose pliers and a pair of flat nose pliers. Pliers without teeth are best if you’re going to be making silver or gold jewelry (the bracelets above are made with silver). You’ll hold a pair of pliers in each hand, using them to open and close jump rings by twisting them towards and away from you. (Never pull jump rings from side to side! It’ll weaken the metal and mess up the shape of the ring.)
The jump rings can be made by hand by wrapping wire around a dowel to get a coil, then cutting the coil with snips or a jeweler’s saw to get individual rings. Or, my favorite method, save yourself the hassle and let a machine do all that coiling and cutting for you! Trust me, it takes forever to get enough rings for a large project like a necklace. Some of my favorite jump ring suppliers are the Ring Lord (great prices and variety, but terrible shipping time) and Spiderchain, a very talented chainmaille artist and of course, there are many suppliers on Etsy (including my destash).
Chainmaille rings are "named" using the gauge of the wire used and the diameter of the dowel used to make the rings. For example, if I were to wrap a 20ga wire around a 1/8″ dowel rod, I would have a 20ga 1/8″ ring. Some ring sizes are better than others for certain weaves, like suggested needle sizes for knitting. You don’t want to knit fingering weight with size 7 needles (most of the time) and you don’t want to make a Byzantine weave with 18ga 1/8″ rings. Unlike knitting, though, where you can still knit with non-recommended needles, if you have a ring that is too small the weave will just not work. You just won’t be able to fit all the rings together. Most weaves have an “aspect ratio” that works best. The aspect ratio of a ring is the mm or inch measurement of the ring’s inner diameter (the space inside the ring) divided by the width of the wire (the mm or inch measurement, not the gauge). This is a great article about the effect of aspect ratio (or AR) on chainmaille: Aspect Ratio on Maille Artisans.
Download the tutorial here: European 4-in1 (PDF)
For the adventurous, these items all use the European 4-in-1 weave with some simple adjustments. Have fun!