Intimidated by Chainmaille?

It has been suggested to me that people are intimidated by chainmaille, thinking it must be heavy and utilitarian, not a jewelry art. I would like to gently say ABSOLUTELY NOT.
Chainmaille (or chainmail, if you prefer) has grown far beyond the armor worn centuries ago. (Although some artisans make that kind of thing as well.) There are dozens of basic weave patterns, and hundreds of variations. Maille can be made with many materials, from gold and silver to copper and aluminum. Maille rings can be found in virtually any color you can imagine, and a skilled artist can combine colors and materials to produce unique items that will truly amaze.

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An example of the dense full Persian chain, done in pure copper. A dense chain like this is rather more masculine, although a woman can easily wear it as well.

Some women fear that maille will be too bulky or masculine, but this is simply not true. There are many maille weaves that produce a beautiful, delicate, intricate product that is just right for feminine wearers. Conversely, there are some weaves that provide a strong masculine feel, perfect for men who want to elevate their style. And there are plenty of weaves that are unisex, that is that they will complement any wearer.

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Parallel weave done with brass and green colored copper rings. Parallel weave is generally unisex.

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This tiny jens pins spiral weave in pink, with a crown charm, is obviously quite feminine.

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These half Persian bracelets are unisex as well, and their understated profile makes them perfect for the workplace.

Maille is, almost by definition, a very strong construct, and will stand up to anything you put it through. There are some delicate weaves that need special care, but even they are strong and unlikely to break.

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This variation of jens pind weave is an experiment gone right. It is chunky and fun, a bold statement piece.

I like chainmaille because it is always different. Each weave has a personality, and I am always discovering new ways to use these weaves for different effects. I love to combine colors and examine the interlocking rings as they form shapes.

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Another example of parallel weave, with a rainbow of connecting links. One of my favorite pieces ever; truly a joy to make.

Basically, whatever style or profile you are looking for, you can find it with chainmaille. Flat, round, thick, thin, delicate, or dense, your weave is out there. And available in any colors that you wish to use!

All items pictured above (along with many others) are available for purchase in my Etsy shop: merricontrari.etsy.com. Come browse and see what you have been missing.

(PS to all my loyal readers: I joined Instagram! My user name is merricontrari, of course. Come by and see what I’m up to!)

Workin like a dog

I’ve been working like crazy on my etsy shop. Learned several new weaves and made a bunch of stuff. Been working on posting them.
So far, a few looks but not much else. Feeling disheartened. Marketing is hard. Watch out, Pinterest, instagram, and twitter. Here I come…

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My favorite new item. Rainbow chainmaille in support of marriage equality. I had so much fun making these. Very satisfying.

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A special order.

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I made several of these adorable charm bracelets. And they are priced at what I consider to be “rock bottom.”

You know the drill: check it all out at my shop, merricontrari.etsy.com. SHELLS is my active coupon right now, for 15% off. :)

A Frenzy of Creativity

I have set a goal to exercise my creative muscles more often this year. Therefore, I’ve been spending more time with my bead boxes and pliers lately.

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These are the results just from yesterday!! I got into a serious groove for a couple hours.

I took brand new photos of most of my Etsy items, which you can view here at my shop. There’s chainmaille, there’s wire-wrapping, there’s even regular beaded stuff. Check it out! And rest assured that supporting my shop doesn’t just support me: every dime I take in gets spent at other Etsy shops!

A little bit late – New Etsy Items for August

Having skipped July, there was no way I was going to skip listing new items this month. SIX new items went live on August 2, and now you’re going to get a peek at several of them at one time!
These are not all that I’ve got in my shop, so I encourage you to check it out and have a look at everything. If you see something you like, here’s a coupon code for you: SHELLS — this code will save you 15% off any purchase!
After you’ve shopped to your heart’s content at my shop, pay a visit to my good friend Kako! She and I partner up on our artistic ventures. Here’s her own post about this month’s listings, and this is her shop. I’ve got my eye on her Pretty in Pink earrings, so you gotta beat me to them!

Pink Ombre Wire Wrapped Triple Glass Pearl Earrings
This is one of two pair of lovely ombre earrings. This pair is white, pale pink, and raspberry, and the other is white, smoky grey, and charcoal. Each of the smooth glass pearls is hand-wrapped with silvery wire.
I was inspired to make these while I was prepping the materials for the tutorial event a few weeks ago. All of those lovely pearls together, I just couldn’t resist mixing up the colors.

Teal and Copper Wire Wrapped Glass Pearl Earrings

Here’s another inspiration from the tutorial event. One of the other women chose this color combination and I fell directly in love with it. I came right home that night and made these. These are just one pearl on each ear, but if you prefer the look of the double pearl earrings (like these new Plum ones, or these Charcoal ones), I am of course happy to create a custom item for you.

Bird's Nest necklace with caramel satin cord
If your neck is feeling bare and lonely, here’s a lovely bird family to keep it company. I fell in love with this little metal pendant a few months ago, but I felt sad for them that their nest was empty. I fixed that with a small egg-shaped iridescent bead and some glue. :) The cord is doubled over and fastens on the righthand side of the pendant, which makes it great for people who have dexterity problems – no blind fastening, and no need to get help!

Copper Japanese Flower Chainmaille Bracelet

Here’s my last new item for the month: my beloved flower maille, in a bracelet! This bracelet is made entirely of copper rings, woven together by hand. This particular one is made of 8 individual flowers, which may be a bit big. Check the item details on Etsy to learn more.
If you like my flower maille, you may be interested to know that I’m planning to stock a few different variations of it! Keep an eye out for them. I also currently have several other items made this way: a watch in dark silver as well as one in copper, earrings in many colors, and a fantastic triangular necklace!

That’s all I have for this month. But I’ve already completed some new items for September, and I have plans for many many new items as well.
Would you like a hint about what’s to come? Why not!
1 – the completed items are strongly tied to one of the most popular book series ever written.
2 – the planned items are all inspired by my recent costuming project.

:D Leave your guesses in the comments! Maybe I’ll have something special for you if you guess correctly. ;)

Sneak Peeks

You may or may not know this, but my husband and I love renaissance faires. We both grew up a stone’s throw from one of the best: The Texas Renaissance Festival. We miss it a lot now that we live way up here in New York, but we console ourselves with Sterling Renaissance Faire. It’s not as big as TRF, but we had a TON of fun last year. It was the perfect size to see everything, and the shows by the Bless the Mark players were absolutely amazing. We are obviously planning to attend again this year (possibly more than once).

I shared that bit of trivia with you to introduce the stuff I’ve been working on and thinking about the last couple weeks. We’re planning to dress up in costume this year!

The last time we attended TRF, we got our “family crest” researched. This shape here is a water bouget, the central figure for the heraldry of our last name.

I embroidered this with DMC Ecru on some plain off-white fabric. I’m going to make a tunic for Jonathan and applique this onto it. I’m fairly happy with how this turned out, although I definitely feel it could be better.

We haven’t yet gotten the fabrics or patterns for any of the clothes (except for some off-white cotton gauze), but I’m planning on a deep blue for Jonathan’s tunic.

He’s also going to be armored up. His “character,” such as it is, is basically a hedge knight – non-landed, non-nobility, knighted-for-valor sort of thing.

Here you can see a six-rails wide strip of European 4-in-1 maille. We’ve been tag-teaming on this one. We’ve done about half each, at this point. I think he’s wanting to finish it himself, which is probably good since I’ve got lots of sewing to do.

This is the length of the piece. If I hold one end at my shoulder, it reaches to the floor. It’s 6-wide at one end and 4 at the other because of how Jonathan’s weaving it.

It’s going to be a shirt of mail, eventually. This long strip will hang over one shoulder. When this piece is all evened up, we’re going to start on the center part, forming the neckline and the torso. I have no idea yet how we’ll do the shoulders/sleeves. Cross that bridge when I get to it.

I’m fairly sure now that this is approximately what I’m going to make for our little fairy girl. She already has a fantastic pair of wings (which we bought at TRF in 2009). I need to sit down and have a good look at a pattern for this shirt. :) Don’t you just love how it criss-crosses in the back? Even without sparkly pink wings (because she will inevitably want them off), Charlotte will still look like a little fairy. (Photo from this post at Colette Moscrop.)

No, I haven’t mentioned what I’m going to wear, because … I don’t know. I kinda want my costume to tie in with Jonathan’s, but I’m not sure how. I’d also really love to make a Female Link costume, or a character from Game of Thrones (n0t sure who, though). Sigh.

There are things going on here aside from costuming. Not very much crafting, I’m afraid. Soooo busy. My garden is looking absolutely lovely. My house is a complete pigsty. LOL. I took a bit of a break from reading (unintentionally), but I’m still working on Dance with Dragons. Loving it! The books continue to pour in (and out) from Paperback Swap. I have a HUGE stack of new books. :)

I may be teaching a crafting tutorial at an FRG event in July. Well, I said I would, anyway. I just have to figure out what I’d like to teach! I’d love to do chainmaille, but it’d be difficult because of the “needing a million pairs of pliers” issue. So I’m leaning toward embroidery. What do you think?

We attended a Sesame Street event earlier this week! It was pretty great. I’ve got photos of it up on my facebook (sorry, random internet people, but they’re private). I made a daisy chain while we were waiting for the doors to open.

I always have hundreds of planned projects, but one that I am REALLY hoping to start on soon is this!

I’ve been jonesing after this baby for months now. There are a zillion colors in it, but I have quite a few colors already so I think I’ll finally print out the pattern, assess what I have, and make a start (and a list of colors to obtain). I even have a scroll frame now, which should make it easier to do! The pattern for this lovely thing can be found at this Sprite Stitch thread.

That’s all I can think of to share right now. :) See you in a few days with my Web roundup. In the meantime, let’s chat! What are you working on?

Listing Day – June!

My bestie Kako and I love to craft “together” (chatting online since we live thousands of miles apart). One day, I’d love to live near her again, and maybe even open a cute little craft shop together. But before we get to that point, we’re just running our own little Etsy shops. We both sat empty for a while recently, and last month made a pact to get back in the saddle. We had a joint “Grand Re-0pening” and it was a smashing success (when compared to utter obscurity, haha).

The other part of our pact was to regularly post new items. We decided to post on the first of each month, for the sake of convenience. So that means it’s Listing Day! Would you like a preview?

This is the star of the show this month – a gorgeous chainmaille necklace. It’s awesome to wear, and the length is completely adjustable. I can (and probably will) make more of these, in other colors.

This is actually a Made to Order listing for custom bunting-style banners. I’ve got a couple samples of previous work, but, since they’re MTO, you can choose the colors, materials, shapes, everything. These are fun to make, too. I made a felt one for my daughter, and an awesome burlap one for my Halloween decor (it’s black and red, with birds, and reads “Nevermore”).

Are you tired of buying zip-top bags, only to throw them away? Break the cycle! I’ve currently got two three-bag sets of reusable bags available, with more on the way. These are easy to wash and can be reused endlessly. They’re great for brownbag lunches or your kids’ lunchbox, as well as for corralling small things in your purse or suitcase. This is another thing that I’ve made several for me because I love them so much.

This isn’t all – I also have two custom orders, a new set of wire-wrapped pearls, and several sets of “scrap magnets” ready to post.

I’m planning to publish these listings on my shop around midmorning on June first, so make sure you check it out! (PS, kako already listed her new things!)

Grand Opening!

Oops, sorry for the sudden radio silence there! We were busy all weekend (like always), and I’ve been busy like crazy because today is GRAND OPENING DAY!
Or re-opening, I guess, but you get the picture. My Etsy shop‘s been on vacation for a while, but I am NOW OPEN again!

I’ve got lots of new items, and I hope you like them. I only had the energy to list 13 of them last night/this morning, and I’ve got 10 more in the hopper, which should make their way to the listings this afternoon/evening (after I do the grocery shopping, ugh).

Here’s a preview of what you’ll find at my shop!


I suppose you could call wire-wrapped pearls my specialty? This is the only pair I have available right now, but oh, what a gorgeous pair. I can (and will) make wrapped pearls in any color combinations that I can find supplies for, so if you’ve got a design in mind, just ask!


I particularly love this unique necklace. Red beads trapped in copper spirals – it’s really fun to wear, by the way. ;)


These “Corkscrew” earrings always gather lots of compliments. I designed them originally for myself, and they’re so popular that I had to make some for the shop.

I am particularly fond of this Kraken. If you’re a fan of Lovecraft, Martin, or Andromeda, you’ll probably love him, too. (I had a lot of stupid fun making bad puns in the listing, by the way.)

The last item I’d like to share with you here is this chainmaille watch. It’s all copper, with a nice shiny face and a beautiful flower patterned weave for the band. I also have a similar one available in dark silver, and can make you a watch in other weaves, if you’d like!

I really love to do custom orders, so … you know where I am. ;) Just think how cool it’ll be to tell your friends that you “commissioned” that lovely piece of jewelry they all admire.

In related news: I really need a camera with a macro setting. Haha.

Oh! Did I mention that I have a whole section of “5$ and Under“? You should check it out. That’s even cheaper than going to the mall to get cheap mass-produced crap.

One last thing: use coupon code SILVERBELLS at checkout, and you’ll magically receive 10% off your entire purchase!

Flower Maille: A Tutorial in Chains

When most people think of chainmaille, they probably imagine a knight in shining armor. That’s definitely a great use of rings, and weaving a sheet of maille is a very rewarding task. But did you know there’s more than one way to make it? Hundreds, in fact. And it’s not just for knights. Those simple rings can be used to make beautiful, intricate jewelry. It’s one of my favorite things to make. (And when I re-open my Etsy shop, expect to see lots of it!)

The pattern I’m going to share with you is a variation on Japanese 12-in-2 maille. What that basically means is that each pair of 2 large rings is surrounded by 12 smaller ones. I use a slight variation, mainly to hold the pattern tighter. Please forgive me if the photos are blurry, it’s quite difficult to get a clear picture of such small components.

A Note about Rings

In making maille, the size of your rings is very important. In a pattern with mixed sizes, like this one, the ratio between the inner diameter (ID) and the gauge (thickness) of the wire is crucial. I can, and frequently do, make my own rings, so I can carefully select these properties.
However, for this tutorial, I am using some prepackaged rings that I bought at Walmart. This is partly because it’s the rings I learned with, and partly because it’ll be easy for you readers to match! The packet of rings is in the craft section near the beads, and contains 3 sizes of rings – these two, and a medium size.
If you’d like to make your own rings, or buy different ones, here’s the specs on these rings. The smaller rings have an ID of 3mm, and are 20 gauge. The larger rings are 18 gauge, with an ID of 6mm.

When opening rings, grip it with two pliers, facing you,  and twist Рmoving one side toward you and one side away. Do not pull the gap apart РTWIST it.
To close, reverse the process, obviously.

Gather Your Materials

For each flower you make, you will need:
14 large rings, opened – 7 pairs
12 small rings, closed
18 small rings, opened – 6 sets of 3

You also need two pair of needle-nose pliers, preferably with smooth gripping surfaces so you do not damage the wire. You will also need extra rings and other findings to finish your piece. You may want a soft surface like a cloth covering your work surface.

Weaving

Begin by selecting one of the large rings, and load all 12 of your small closed rings onto it. Close the large ring.

Select another large ring and carefully thread it through the twelve small rings, being careful not to loop through the first large ring. (That will produce a Mobius ring, which you can use, but that’s not what we’re working on today.)

You now have 2 large rings, back to back, with 12 small rings encircling them.

Select another large ring, and carefully thread it through 2 of the small rings. Repeat with 5 more large rings. You now have a central pair, connected to each single “petal” by a pair of small rings.

Now it’s time to connect the petals to each other. Choose two petals and hold the flower in such a way that you can access them.

Pick up one of your small open rings, and connect the large rings. Add two more small rings to that junction, so you have 3 small rings connecting the two petals.

Repeat the joining process all the way around.

Your final step is doubling the large rings in the petals. Hold your flower steady in your hand, and very carefully thread a large ring through the 8 small rings that surround a petal. Like before, be careful not to loop through the other large ring (unless you’re deliberately making a Mobius). Repeat for all 6 petals.

You have a completed flower!

Using other findings, you can easily make this into an earring. By making several flowers and joining them together in a strip, you can create a bracelet. Add a watch face, and you’ve got a watch! It’s also possible to join many flowers together to make sheets of maille.

It takes approximately 11 minutes for me to construct a flower, not including the time to select, open or close, and lay out the rings (another 5 minutes or so).

That’s all there is to it! Was it easier than you thought it would be? Would you like to see more maille tutorials?

Industry

I’ve been Making Things. I’ve kinda clocked out of the internet lately, but I have been BUSY otherwise. I’ve got so many posts in the queue lol. What’s really funny is I was just about ready to compile my weekend roundup on Sunday morning and just … didn’t do it. LOL.

I’ve got several foodblogs coming. I made a bunch of jewelry last night, and I’m planning some tutorials for chainmaille. I am, at this very moment, working on a half-shirt of “patchwork maille” for my husband. It’s an interesting process.

Also, we just got HBO. So I’m watching Game of Thrones. (Well to be precise, at the moment I’m watching The A-Team, but we’ve been working our way through GOT.) I am a little ways into the second book, and we’re on episode 8 of the show’s first season. I am SO OBSESSED. :)

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