I don’t have anything interesting to say about knitting today. So here’s a chainmaille tutorial!
These balls are really fun to make. They’re also impossible not to play with. People simply cannot walk by without picking one up and fiddling with it. When I sold jewelry at craft fairs, I always sold more of these balls than anything else. When I realized that I should just be making balls and nothing else for the fairs, I decided to stop selling my chainmaille. I just couldn’t churn out hundreds of these balls all the time- it wasn’t very creative, I wanted to make jewelry. Luckily, this decision coincided with my starting to design knitting patterns, so it was okay. You can see the sad remains of the ball-basket at the end of a fair day in this picture.
The balls in the pictures are made from anodized aluminum, which I bought from the Ring Lord. Made with thick gauge rings, they’re good for juggling, keychains, paperweights, and just plain old playthings. My friend, Trina, makes some stunning pendants and earrings with these balls in precious metals and tiny rings. She also makes lots of other stunningly beautiful pieces of jewelry!
From my previous posts on chainmaille:
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. 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: Chainmaille Ball (PDF)
Want more chainmaille?