Thursday, 30 April 2009

First Tutorial - Easy Chain

Today I want to show you how to make a lovely chain without jumprings. It is ultra smooth, because the cut ends of the wire do not touch the skin, so no scratchy feeling. To make the chain you will need the following: flush cutters, stepnose pliers (or roundnose pliers), chainnose pliers, 20g wire. When you have made this chain, you can use larger gauges for a chunkier look.
Step 1: Cut 5 or 6 pieces of wire 4 cm long, each end cut flush.
Step 2: Using the largest step of the stepnose pliers bend the pieces into a U-shape, making sure both legs are level.
Step 3: Use the smallest step to curl both ends of the U into closed loops. Make sure the ends sit flush with the main link. In this picture you see the ends poking out. If that happens use the chainnose pliers to adjust. If you do not have stepnose pliers use the roundnose pliers, but mark them for the larger U and the smaller loops for consistency.
Step 4: Squeeze the two loops together with your fingers. Insert another U-shape through the two previously made loops, form two loops again, squeeze together etc. etc. Pay attention in which direction to coil the loops; if you make a mistake that link will be lost! When you have joined 5 or 6 links together measure the length so you will know how many more pieces of wire you need to cut for your project.
This picture shows the right side up.
Here you see the reverse side.
When you are done attach a clasp of your choice. On the other hand you can make a hook in the same U-shape but use a longer piece of wire and after forming it bend it over to make a hook. Then you build your chain from there. The hook will easily fit into the last link to close.
It also looks lovely if you hammer all the U-shapes flat before forming the loops, the choice is yours.
I hope you enjoy playing with this design!

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

More Variations

Okay, I said I would still play around with more variations. The blue set is an upside down version of the previous blue I posted. My daughter says it reminds her of the Eiffel Tower!
This pink and champagne set is the same wrap but with an additional overlay.
Now, while Mei was working on her square, beautifully adorned with beads, I made this diamond shape using silver and pink. But I am not too happy with it, because after wrapping the silver first from right to left I had to wrap the pink from left to right to give me this design. So there is a height difference where the two colours meet and they look like holes! Have to work on that.
In this oval pendant I first wrapped burgundy wire around every second coil, then overlaid it with silver in the alternating coils. This looks much better in person, changing the colours as you move. I will try this with three colours!
But now I have to concentrate on developing different frames to be able to show the more intricate patterns of the original string art.

Friday, 24 April 2009

Variations on a theme

After posting the first set of wire string art I really got bitten by the bug to try variations which would show the beauty of the patterns. Now I am getting carried away by the endless possibilities.
The first is done in navy/light blue with a bead to match the design.
Instead of using the coil I decided to make this zig zag shape to hold the wraps. Here I used three layers to add to the structure. They do not show as such because I used the same colour wire, but I like the result.
More playing around with frames to hold the wraps. For this I used roundnose pliers to shape the coils, fairly small, so in a way they act like the nails used in the original string art from decades ago.
I like these variations, but will still work more on them for some refinement! What do you think?

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Play on Coils

This happens when one is bored and has nothing better in mind! I had some coils lying around and started pulling them open and realized that the pulling increased their strength. Floppy to start with, now they were rigid. Okay, so I decided to bead them up with these very irregular orange mother of pearl beads. To work them together as a whole I used tigertail left over from a while ago (I do not use it any more) to complete the design. Amazingly, it looks stunning with an off the shoulder dress. Sorry for the picture quality! 

Sunday, 19 April 2009

String Art in Wire

The last few days, on one of the groups I belong to, saw a lively discussion about Peruvian Thread Earrings. Looking at pictures they reminded me of string art which was quite popular in the late 70s - early 80s. But that was done in nails. Yikes. no good for jewellery. 
Through a link provided I found Ganutell, an ancient art from Malta which is identical to the Peruvian Thread Art which again is identical to the string art of 30 years ago. I am sure that further research will bring up more sources.
When string art was popular I made loads of pictures to adorn my wall and even taught it to anyone interested, but this was a challenge to me! I felt that thread in jewellery might fade or disintegrate too quickly, so I wanted to use wire. My first attempt was made with 28g wire for the wrapping which became very bulky. Then I tried 30g wire which works beautifully.
The picture of this attempt is above. Now it remains to figure out layering of different colours and patterns. More will come for sure.


Maybe this is a first! I decided to make a celtic star motif either as pendant or for earrings. But once finished the star was too floppy and could not hold its shape. Probably I used the wrong gauge wire or a wrong ring size. So once again I had to resort to make a circle to stretch them out and make them rigid. 
That's how dreamcatchers are born!

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Ancient Arts and Crafts

Yesterday I came across a post by kokopelli  about an ancient craft practised widely 
in East Prussia, a former part of Germany. It is a weaving technique used to make bands
or straps, called Jostenbaender (Jostenbands or -straps). Reading about how those were made was intriguing because the same methods are
used here in Nigeria to produce aso-oke, a fabric strip of great length, which is cut to size and and the individual strips sewn together to make a larger fabric or various garments. And this industry here is very much alive and kicking! For now I do not have pictures to show, but as soon as I am able I will post some. 

Going back to ancient and traditional arts and crafts there is also Kumihimo from Japan. This is not weaving but braiding and is equally versatile in application. The two pictures above show a few examples. It is not hard to learn, is very therapeutic when working it and always gives beautiful results. 
Even though I say I work with wire, occasionally I take a break to do some braids, which of course will be used in jewellery making.
Have a try yourself, you will love Kumihimo!

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Pendants again

This design gave me almost a sleepless night! I kept dreaming about it, how to shape the petals, how to make the frame to hold them, how to decorate the flower, etc. etc. By morning I had the answer and set to work. In all my dreaming it had not occurred to me how tough 19g wire can be; it does not like to be wrapped by hand in tiny little coils, even bending the petals was a challenge. But I did complete it, with a pearl in the centre and amethyst Swarovski crystals surrounding the pearl. The next challenge will be matching earrings! Can anyone tell me the type of pearl I used? I won several strands of them in a competition and have no clue as to what they are called.
Another flower pendant awaiting earrings! For the petals I used 24g wire, 2 strands twisted together and shaped over my own home-made jig. The bezel for the focal agate was made in 20g wire. After attaching the blue topaz Swarovski crystals to the petals I used the remaining wire to link the focal and the petals together,weaving across the back of the focal to make it secure.
This pendant turned out to be a dreamcatcher in Japanese weave. Purely accidental! I set out to make a cube, but found that I could not bring up the sides to join together, the size of the rings was too small and the tension on bending the sides up was so tight I could not insert another ring to join it all together. So I  removed several rings to get back to a sheet. Looking at it I thought that I could stretch it over a circle and this is the result! I like it, but there will be no earrings to match! No way!!!

Monday, 13 April 2009

Inverted or Open Round Weave with captured Swarovski Crystals

For the last few days I did not post anything because I was too busy creating this necklace and earring set which took almost 5 whole days. The necklace just kept going on and on, but I persisted and got to 45.5cm (18"), but the earrings were another matter. I intended them to be a full circle and joining the ends was not a problem; the problem was they did not look anything like circles, they were very lopsided. So I had to remove a lot of rings to just give me a half circle and then I created  half hoops out of the same wire, hammered them flat and then attached them to the chainmaille pieces and finally put the earwires (same wire again) on. I must say I like the look of them, and they are not as heavy as a full circle would have been. What makes this set different are the captured 4mm Swarovski crystals, placed at regular intervals. Not obvious but sparkling here or there as the light reflects.
If anyone wants to know the technique how to achieve this look, please leave a comment and I will get back to you.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Chain (maille) Reaction

Last Saturday was a wonderful day. First of all it was my birthday, then it was the official opening of my daughters shop for children's clothes and accessories, designed and produced by her.
But the icing on the cake came from my sneak visit to the shop next door, a motivational bookshop. I was greeted by two young sales assistants in a very friendly, no, enthusiastic manner. When I told them I would just browse they discreetly busied themselves elsewhere. Eventually I had chosen what I wanted and went to pay. One girl was busy writing the receipt and suddenly the second one pointed at my ear and asked:"Is that 20 gauge?" To say the least I was flabbergasted, this has never happened to me before. I was wearing a pair of euro 4-1 drop earrings made of copper and yes it was 20 gauge. So I just asked her if she made jewellery as well. It turned out that both of them did and that they had seen chainmaille items before. But they did not know the name of this particular weave. So what ensued was like an introductory course to chainmaille and finally I just had to ask: "But how did you know that I made these earrings?" Very simple answer, they shop for their supplies in the same shop as I do and they have seen me there! Small world!
All in all a most satisfactory and delightful experience!

Sunday, 5 April 2009

Surprise Award

Working on my blog this morning and checking any comments, I was most pleasantly surprised to see that I was given this award by kokopelli. Thank you so much!
Please, check out her blog - I love going there because the posts are humorous and easy to read, and the jewellery is so unique! Best of all for me is that one can keep up with the German language, lovely.
To find seven unusual things I like to do is a bit challenging, but I will try:

1  I like trying unusual food, i.e. crocodile steak
2  researching ancient cultures
3  reading fairy tales from the Pacific island groups
4  hunting for unusual plants
5  trying to grow vegetables of temperate origin in a tropical climate
6  star gazing
7  sitting on the beach contemplating the Atlantic

The person I choose for the award is Wilma of wilmas whimsies. She makes some of the most outstanding beads I have ever seen. Go to her blog or etsy site for the most amazing eye candy!

Saturday, 4 April 2009


The first experiment is a pair of ear vines. I got the free tutorial from and worked two sample pairs, but the springi-
ness was not enough to hold the vine securely. After some playing
around I came up with this version which has a double coil to give 
more spring. I also curved the earwire down before taking it up to the 
top. In the original the wire came out at a right angle to the coil before 
going up. Wearing it like this brings the coil below the earlobe, which to me did not look to attractive, but with my version the coil sits on the earlobe where it is meant to be and the entire piece feels more secure.
My second experiment is this necklace. Simple coils of 4 complete revolutions with loops at 12 & 6 o'clock, one horizontal and the second one vertical. Before completing the vertical loop I used 4mm Swarovski hotfix crystals, placed them in the centre of each coil and ironed them on, first from the top, then turned the coils over to give the crystals the final fixing. Then I completed the vertical loops and connected all together.
The idea came after having noticed Swarovski hotfix crystals on some of the most unusual items, so I decided to try it on wire and it works! But one thing is certain, to fix those tiny things is not easy, they are slippery on the wire, do not want to stay in the middle and if one is not careful in placing the iron they shift and end up where you do not want them. But the final result is worth it, even though to make the coils is much faster than the iron on process. What do you think?

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Bracelets Galore

My two totem poles with an array of chain maille and wire worked bracelets. From the top: a romanov variation, hourglass units, beez to butterflies and romanov.
The second totem pole shows you a euro4-1, byzantine with crystals, a wrapped bracelet with Swarkies and Mother of pearl , fancy wire links with crystals and another byzantine with Swarovski rondelles and bicones.

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