Scale

Once again getting in just under the wire, this is my submission for the Photographic Monthly Meet-Up hosted by Wild Daffodil. This month’s prompt is Scale.

My interpretation is a chainmaille pattern called Dragonscale. I’d never tried it before, probably because it’s a rather daunting-looking weave that’s classified as intermediate in terms of difficulty. However, despite a slow start and some frustration, I did eventually get the hang of it, coming up with this sample piece made of green and silver anodized aluminum rings:

For this Dragonscale piece I used 14 gauge 3/8″ ID (9.9 mm) green anodized aluminum rings (A.R. 4.9) and 18 gauge 1/4″ ID (6.7 mm) silver anodized aluminum rings (A.R. 5.5) which worked perfectly for this weave. Gauge is SWG; supplies from The Ring Lord.

Dragonscale is a relative of the original European 4-in-1 weave used to make medieval chainmaille armour. Two sizes of rings are used to produce a dense yet flexible weave; I chose to go big for my first couple of pieces, just to see how they’d turn out. Some clever maillers make awesome accessories such as pouches and bracelets from Dragonscale, even reenactment clothing and armour. Inspired by some lovely Fairy Dragon Eggs crafted by Mrs. Cobs over at Cobweborium Emporium, I wanted to use this pattern to make my own version of dragon’s eggs. There are examples of egg-shaped Dragonscale pendants online, but there aren’t any tutorials to be found, so I had to fiddle a bit to figure out how many rings and rows I needed. I was able to make this blue “egg”:

Using the same ring sizes as the green sample, the egg is 4 large rings across and 12 rows high, with a few extra rings added at the top to create a more oval shape, plus a large ring as a hanging loop.

The finished piece is almost the size of a real chicken’s egg. To get the shape, I folded the squarish rectangle in on itself (the weave goes cone-shaped when you do this – and I almost did, too, trying to get this thing done). Then I “stitched” up the small gap at the back with a few extra rings wherever the existing weave allowed. The back isn’t as neat as I’d like, and the egg doesn’t quite taper to an oval at the top, but it’s a start.

The shape is perfect, however, for acorns and pinecones – all I need are the right colours, and I’m off to the races. I might carry on with the green sample, perhaps introducing other colours to make a small wall hanging.

And, just so I can weigh in on another type of scale for this challenge, here’s a photo of my brother – an avid fisherman – proving that holding a small fish up to the camera to make it appear bigger Just. Doesn’t. Work.

The April photo challenge starts tomorrow, and the prompt is Yellow.

Speaking of colours, my theme for this month is A Blue & White Love Affair. (I’m not so into yellow, just so you know, but I sure do love blue in all its beautiful hues, especially when it’s partnered with white.) Stay tuned!

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Sparkle

During a break from work over the holidays, I had time to do a lot of crafting, including a number of new items for my Etsy shop. I also discovered several pieces I’d completed long ago and had put aside, intending to photograph and list in the store. (The task of taking and editing 5 or 6 product photos each and then doing the detailed write-up is tedious and often deters me from getting them done. I feel a resolution coming on… .) Once I get them listed, it’ll be good to have a fresh array of products for the new year!

The re-discovered pieces are copper and bronze pendants engraved freehand using a small electric engraving tool (a new technique for me) and then aged with Gilder’s wax. Finding them again has renewed my interest, so I’ll be doing some more designs soon.

The chainmaille bracelets, necklace and keychains (plus earrings not shown) use familiar weaves as well as new patterns, in copper, bronze, brass, aluminum and stainless steel. I have an idea to feature a different weave every once in a while, here or on my Facebook page, or both.

As I was photographing them, I realized that these glimmering, gleaming baubles probably qualify for January’s Monthly Meet-Up: Sparkle, a photo challenge set by Wild Daffodil. I hope you enjoy this small sampling of the shiny jewels I’ve been working on.

Stay warm, and keep crafting!

Changes

I’ve been making a few changes in my life lately and am in the midst of considering others. I can’t believe it’s been more than two months since I started my second part-time job. It’s challenging and I’m enjoying it, but the additional schedule, including dashing straight from one job to the other several days a week, leaves precious little time for much else these days. I’m rethinking my presence on Facebook and must find a way to devote more time to my Etsy shop as well as take care of all the other things on my to-do list.

One thing that won’t change is my dedication to this blog. Some of you may have noticed in recent comments that I’ve switched my WordPress public display name from Wood So Wild to gillyflower. Over the last ten months, my blog has developed its own character, separate from my Etsy persona, and I would dearly love to change the site address, too, to reflect this. But WordPress doesn’t make that easy – or free – according to what I’ve read, so I’ll have to research that further. Have any of you changed your site name (e.g. http://www.gillyflowerfaire.wordpress.com), and how did you go about it?

With all this and more on my mind, May’s theme is Changes.

The other day, I picked up a sandalwood stretch bead bracelet. It was okay-looking but a bit too big, and the thin elastic looked as if it wouldn’t endure more than one wearing. Plus, I wasn’t keen on the cheap base metal charm or rhinestones. (I’ve saved the two genuine ruby fuchsite beads for another project.) I really just bought the thing for the fragrant wooden beads. So, just like Lydia and her ugly hat in Pride and Prejudice, I took it apart and made (what I think is) a prettier one!

Before

After

I used the following components, most of them available from Michael’s:

• 49 strand Beadalon™ 0.46 mm bright bead stringing wire
• 7 mm sandalwood beads
• 8 mm turquoise-dyed howlite beads
• 6 mm silver-plated spacer beads
• 5 mm and 3 mm silver-plated beads to finish the ends of the bracelet
• #2 silver-plated crimp tubes
• 18 gauge, 5/32” (4.19 mm) stainless steel chainmaille jump ring
• 12 mm silver-plated lobster clasp

Instructions on making jewellery with stringing wire and crimps are all over the ’net, so I won’t include them here. However, here are a few tips (some of them optional) in case you want to try something like this for yourself:

To accommodate the larger size of the beads on the wrist, I made the bracelet about half to three quarters of an inch longer than I would normally wear • I prefer using saw-cut chainmaille rings – a specialty purchase – in my jewellery because they’re more robust than regular jump rings and close beautifully without the need for soldering; I file the seam using a tiny round jeweller’s file for a virtually invisible closure • Chainmaille pliers are an excellent choice for jewellery-making because they don’t have teeth to mar metal surfaces, but they’re also not usually found at regular craft stores • My crimping pliers (Mighty Crimp) from Michael’s don’t secure the tiny tubes well enough, so I used needle nose pliers to tighten them securely, which resulted in flat crimps.

I may look at using crimp covers for my next beading project – another change!

Steel Spirals and Crystal Drops

I wasn’t intending to post any more chainmaille for a while, but a conversation yesterday with fellow bloggers over at PaperPuff and samanthamurdochblog inspired me to make these earrings. (If you haven’t visited their wonderful sites yet, please do if you have a moment!)

The conversation concerned crystal drops – of the paper arts as well as beading kind. Puff informed us that her sort of crystal drops are a type of glittery jelly-like adhesive stuff. Samantha and I were thinking more along the lines of shimmering glass or acrylic beads, and, as it turned out, we both had these items already in our craft rooms. I had bought a strand of beautiful clear glass beads weeks ago, fully intending to use them with my chainmaille. Not surprisingly, I hadn’t yet got around to it.

20161113_020122-3Suitably motivated, I got out my pliers after finishing my blog rounds, and started mailling. For these earrings, I took small 20 gauge stainless steel rings and wove them using the Double Spiral pattern. Also known as the Spiral 8 in 2, Rope Weave or Serpentine, this is a classic chain often used for necklaces and bracelets. Essentially, as the name suggests, it’s a 4 in 1 Spiral with each ring doubled. Unlike that weave, however, which will untwist if you don’t anchor the ends while you work, the Double Spiral holds its shape without the need for stabilization. I added the glass beads with their slight aurora borealis iridescence, and hung the chains on stainless steel earwires. In all, they dangle about 1.75 inches from the earlobe.

Naturally, I had to call these little beauties Crystal Drops. I think they’d work beautifully any time of year, but they do remind me of frozen tears or icicles. A perfect way to usher in the coldest months of the year!

20161113_014716-3Thank you to Samantha and Puff for the inspiration as well as the lively and amusing dialogue; I truly appreciate your support. And I think Samantha owes us a photo – when the time comes – of her crystal-adorned Christmas tree!

Chainmaille Mania (Part 3)

Here are a few designs that I came up with based on popular chainmaille weaves:

lil-owlL’il Owl is based on a Byzantine link. When a Byzantine segment is viewed from the top, it reminds me of a perched owl, so I decided to modify it and incorporate different metals and glass beads to make birdlike earrings. Here I’ve used solid copper, bronze and anodized aluminum and hung them on brass earwires. Anodized aluminum has a shiny, coloured coating added by the same process used to produce cookware. Since making these, I’ve acquired more earthtone colours such as brown, yellow and orange that will probably make the owl design a bit more obvious. Chainmaille earrings, especially those made of aluminum, are a joy to wear because they’re so lightweight!

big-blue-marbleUsing the captive technique, Big Blue Marble is a keychain of Japanese weave, caging a large glass marble in heavy-gauge aluminum rings. I had no pattern or specifications to work from; I just experimented until I got the proportions right. The marble is captured securely but still rotates, so it’s fun to play with and can be used as a worry stone! The fob hangs on a sturdy 3 in 3 aluminum chain. Aluminum chainmaille is quite hardy, but I now have stainless steel rings that would work well for this type of design and make it virtually indestructible.

I modified the European 4 in 1 weave with an element of my own to make this Fire & Ice ring, using two sizes of anodized aluminum and solid bronze rings instead of just one. The wide band is lightweight and flexible, rolls onto the finger and holds its shape.fire-iceIf you missed my previous two posts on making chainmaille jewellery, see Part One and Part Two here. If you are interested in purchasing any of my work, or would like to discuss a custom or personalized order, please contact me through my Etsy shop!

Chainmaille Mania (Part 2)

In my previous post, I showed you a few basic, easy-to-do chainmaille weaves that I’ve tried. The vast library of chainmaille patterns is sorted into families and subfamilies, such as European, Persian, Japanese, Spiral, etc. Their scope is huge, with some families containing hundreds of weaves, so I won’t attempt to explain them here! I’ll just include a bit about the more advanced weaves I’ve learned so far:byzantine

The different faces of Byzantine (clockwise from top left): robust Bronze Age bracelet in solid bronze; Earth Elements necklace of aluminum 2 in 2 weave with Byzantine centerpiece of copper and aluminum; a set I made for myself of anodized aluminum with bead accents

Byzantine is a popular pattern of the European family that looks complex but is actually relatively easy to do. Also named Etruscan and Birdcage, it works up fairly quickly because it’s made of a series of repeating segments, and you can attach several rings at one time. It’s one of the most forgiving weaves as far as Aspect Ratio goes (remember, AR determines what size rings will work in the pattern); there are lots of different ring sizes possible. Because of this, Byzantine can have a different look, from thin and dainty to chunky and quite masculine, and you can change it up by adding different colours. There is a way, apparently, to incorporate rubber rings (which don’t open) to make the weave stretchy and eliminate the need for a clasp; I’m supposed to be working on such a piece for a friend, but I haven’t quite figured out how! Byzantine is strong and hard-wearing, so it makes a good choice for necklaces and bracelets.jens-pind

Examples of Jens Pind Linkage (clockwise from left): Golden Moss all-brass earrings with Czech glass beads; Burnished bracelet in solid copper with hammered copper focal disc [which could be stamped or engraved]; brass Radiance bracelet with solid bronze dangle

Jens Pind (pronounced yence pin) is another popular one, of the Persian family. Also known as Jens Pind Linkage (JPL), it’s a bit tricky to start, but once you do, it’s easy to keep going. It’s a fairly slow weave to make because you can only add one ring at a time. There are several variations (JPL3, JPL5, etc.). Jens Pind is a lot less forgiving AR-wise, meaning there are fewer ring size options, but smaller diameters can be used for a thinner, more feminine result. This is one of the most beautiful, flexible and smooth patterns, and my personal favourite for necklaces and bracelets.box

Silver Box: Anodized aluminum keychain in Box weave ending in a Mobius knot

Box, another European weave, is a strong, attractive and sinuous chain that can be made into jewellery, keychains and wallet chains. It’s a repetitive, bulky weave that comes together pretty quickly.

sweetpea

Pure copper Sweetpea bracelet

Sweetpea is a Persian pattern that’s a bit of a horror to make, as the ring spaces are very tight, but the beautiful result is totally worth it!

In the third and final post of this series, I’ll show you a few pieces I did by taking standard chainmaille patterns and giving them my own personal twist.

Chainmaille Mania (Part 1)

chainmaille-suppliesI love the idea of practicing an art form steeped in history, and so earlier this year I started making chainmaille. Chainmaille was invented by the Etruscans 3,000 years ago, the Celts came up with their own version, and in the Middle Ages, European metalworkers produced the type of mesh armour we think of today. They made maille by interweaving mild steel rings one by one in a particular pattern and then riveting each ring closed. Because it was so labour-intensive, usually only wealthy warriors could afford it. They would wear a thickly padded gambeson jacket topped by a mesh shirt called a hauberk as well as a maille hood (coif), socks (chausses) and gloves (mitons). Chainmaille wasn’t able to protect against blunt blows from heavy axes or swords, but it could stop weapons from piercing the skin.

Method:  Nowadays, decorative maille isn’t usually riveted or soldered. Rings are woven through each other in a repeated pattern, then closed by hand (called butting) with a set of pliers. Saw-cut rings are the best to use rather than machine-cut, as the openings are flat and flush, and therefore can be closed tightly and neatly. Even so, for almost all of the chainmaille I make, I still file each and every closure until it is smooth and comfortable to wear, and virtually invisible. (You can’t do this with anodized aluminum, as filing would ruin the coloured coating.)

simple-2in2-to-4in4

Basic weaves (clockwise from top left): 2 in 2 Blue Ombré anodized aluminum necklace; 3 in 3 Ginger copper earrings with glass beads; 2 in 2 & 3 in 3 Ocean Waves anodized aluminum bracelet; 4 in 4 Forest Walk anodized aluminum keychain

Materials:  Regular jewellery jump rings are never used to make maille, as they are weak, distort easily and don’t close tightly. Special chainmailling rings come in many types of metal: anodized and bright aluminum, copper, brass, bronze, galvanized, carbon and stainless steel, niobium, titanium, nickel silver, enameled copper, plastic and rubber, even gold and sterling silver. You can learn how to make your own rings rather than buy them ready-made, although that, too, is a time-consuming process. I find it’s more economical for me to purchase them ready to go. When I was searching for sources, I was delighted to find that there’s an online chainmaille supplier in Toronto! (I mean, really, what are the chances? A company dedicated to selling all manner of chainmaille supplies, right here in my own city? Happy dance!!) The Ring Lord offers the best quality rings around, in all the materials mentioned above, as well as tools, beads and many other accessories, plus instructions, kits and some pieces of finished maille.

Weaves:  By far the most common pattern, or weave, used to make medieval chainmaille was the European 4 in 1, in which 4 rings are attached to a single ring. The pattern is repeated to make a flexible mesh which can be narrowed or expanded to make sleeves, etc., and this is the pattern you see on armour-clad actors in any TV show or movie with a medieval setting. (Except for the ’80s series Robin of Sherwood, in which the “chainmaille” sported by Sir Guy et al. was knitted wool, spray-painted silver!) Currently I don’t have anything done in the 4 in 1 weave because it’s used mostly to make larger pieces of “fabric”. At some point, however, I would like to take a stab (see what I did there?) at making a small mesh drawstring pouch using this pattern.

simple-mobius-knot

Mobius, a.k.a. love knot, bird’s nest or rosette, is formed by connecting each ring to the others through a central hole. The Rose Garden necklace (top L) is anodized aluminum; all others, including the Double Mobius (bottom L) are stainless steel.

Ring Sizes and Aspect Ratio:  Each weave pattern requires rings of a certain size to work properly. Chainmaille jump rings are sold based on the thickness of the wire used, the rings’ inside diameter (ID), outside diameter (OD) and their aspect ratio (AR), all of which determine how tight or loose the weave will be. (Too tight, and you won’t be able to interweave the rings; too loose, and the pattern won’t hold its shape.) Of these, aspect ratio is the most critical for the success of the weave. The AR is the ratio of the inside diameter divided by the wire diameter. It sounds complicated, but basically it means that not all rings work with all patterns. Most pattern instructions will include a range of ring sizes that will work, and there are also online AR calculators and apps available.

Basic Patterns:  There’s a dizzying variety of chainmaille weaves out there, and more being invented every day. As I began my self-taught mailling journey, I started with the simplest ones and progressed to the more complex. 1 in 1 is the most basic, in which one ring is attached to another, and then a third is attached to the second, etc., as in a necklace chain. This is the weakest type of construction. Finished pieces will have more strength and visual appeal when rings are doubled, tripled, folded back, turned sideways, etc. In this post, I’m showing some of the basic ones:  2 in 2, 3 in 3, 4 in 4, the Mobius knot, and a funky weave called Shaggy Loops. In my next post, I’ll cover a few more advanced patterns.

shaggy-loops-2

The Shaggy Loops weave is featured in these Cascade earrings of copper, bronze and anodized aluminum on handmade sterling silver earwires.

For More Information:  If you’re interested in trying chainmaille for yourself, I suggest checking out M.A.I.L. (Maille Artisans International League), an online resource and forum for everything chainmaille.

Shameless Plug: Most of the pieces shown here, and more, are available in my Etsy shop.