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 few baubles

Just dropping in to share some photos from my Faire costuming. I found these as I was sorting through a big pile of jewelry.

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Please forgive the poor lighting. Here you see a “rosary” which I am very unhappy with. The cross is broken and poorly fixed, from an old necklace.
The key is pretty simple, wrapped with a bit of wire and attached to a purchased chain. I actually wear this from time to time.
Likewise with this giant red pendant. I like the heavy chain it’s on as well.

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This was fun. I was going for a pirate look, as if I had gathered a dozen souvenirs from my adventures and strung them idly on some wire. The necklace itself is actually made with fishing tackle. The bits hanging around are a handful of random things like a pair of pretty wooden buttons, a dragonfly that broke off a hairpin, and other jewelry box detritus.
The tackle is a little uncomfortable, but I’m happy with the overall effect.

I’ve been making lots more stuff for my shop, and I’m excited to share them with you! If you’re looking for Valentines, look for a special themed shop section soon!!

Pink and Red

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Look out Valentine’s Day. Here I come.

Busy Busy Busy

I don’t know why exactly, but I’ve just been insanely busy lately. I enjoy most of the things I do, but it seems like I haven’t had any downtime in forever. I haven’t even had spare time for reading! Today I’ve got a collection of pictures to share, of some of my recent projects in progress!

This is a quick shot I took of my to-do list just before I sat down to upload pictures and write this post. The right side is tasks for my home or family – stuff like “clean the fridge” and “mail Mother’s Day cards.” The left side is personal projects or desires, mostly for Etsy or for my blogs. Yes, it’s giant. And it’s mostly not very itemized. It just says “clean,” instead of “clean living room and bathroom and bedroom and kitchen,” for example. Told ya I’m busy.

I’ve been trying new recipes, but I haven’t been photographing them. I’ve got such a backlog of recipes to blog about. So it’s a great time to try new things, so I can improve on them before I blog about them. This is last night’s dinner – Spinach, Ricotta, and Parmesan Stuffed Shells. I based them off a recipe I shared with you a few weeks agoSpinach-Stuffed Canneloni by Happiness Stan. Delicious, although there are a few things I’m going to do differently next time. I’m really loving recipes that fold the vegetables into the main dish, because we have a tendency to forget to make the veggie until the food is done. Also, I officially love ricotta. It makes such lovely leftovers.

A new project! Care to guess? I shared the inspiration for this with you just a few days ago. It’s rock candy! I loved the jewelry idea from 1 Fine Cookie, but I decided I’d better try out just plain rock candy first. I stirred up some sugar syrup, added in a little of the flavor extracts I had on hand, and some coloring. It’s a pretty simple concept, so I don’t anticipate any problems.

Here’s a quick shot of some earrings I knocked together today. The ones on the left are for Kako. They’re a version of my Corkscrew earrings, with silver-colored copper wire and Sapphire blue freshwater pearls. They turned out a bit longer than I expected. The ones on the right are pearlescent black glass pearls, wrapped with 26-gauge wire. Quite delicate. I like them. Look for them in my shop on June 1st!

Here’s a sneak peek of another commissioned jewelry piece. My friend Ri likes cameos like my Secret Cameo earrings, but doesn’t wear earrings. So I went on the hunt for a necklace for her. I found this classic-looking pendant, and embellished it with 28 green Swarovski elements. It hangs at about the breastbone, from a double-loop of black cable chain. I’m really happy with it.

I’ve also been sewing! This is a prototype of an e-reader cover that I’m hoping to produce for my shop, but it’s giving me fits at the moment. I’m happy with the front side, but the back just isn’t cooperating. I’ve got an idea I’m going to try next time I sit down with it, so hopefully it’ll work out well.

My sewing has been successful on other fronts though. Here’s a shot of a “string backpack” I knocked together from 2 fat quarters. We have a similar one (that we found in a parking lot haha) to carry dog-related items when we take Charlie for a walk. This one is the new home for kid-related stuff when we walk to the park. I really like the two velcro’ed pockets on the front, to stash my keys and wallet.  I’m thinking about Etsying these as well. What do you think?

If you want to find out what this is, you’ll have to read about it on the Snark Art Blog!

In honor of Matt Smith’s debut as the Eleventh Doctor 2 years ago, April 3 was Fish Custard Day. (Go watch The Eleventh Hour; you’ll understand.) I got brave and tried it. It was actually pretty good!

Here’s a process shot of a set of items that should be appearing in my shop on Listing Day (the first of June). Care to take a guess?

Another process shot, of a very old and long-since-completed project. I had this lovely skirt, but it was longer than I liked, and, um, too small in the waist. So I shortened it by hacking off the top. I’m quite happy with it. I’ve got to get the courage to model it so I can put up a proper post about it.

When I joined Paperback Swap a few weeks ago, I went through my box of “get rid of” books and listed them all. Except a few. Four of the seven Chronicles of Narnia books, in pretty rough shape. I couldn’t list them, but I didn’t want to just throw them away. So I salvaged them. I cut (by hand) hundreds of circles from the pages, and glued them onto a paper lantern I already owned. It turned out AMAZING. I’ve got a ton of scraps, as well as a whole book and a half, left, so I’m thinking about other things to do with the papers. I kept a couple of the chapter illustrations, and am thinking of using my scanner to blow them up and use them as embroidery patterns. The scraps of paper might get blended up into pulp so I can make “fresh” paper – I’ve got a bookmaking project running around my head too.

PONY CUPCAKES. Our FRG had a “cupcake social” this past weekend. (I apologize to my Pinterest followers for the deluge of cupcakes that one day that I was looking for ideas.) I made these little picks from the box art (yes I saved it, why do you ask) from my daughter’s ponies. I am particularly proud of these lovelies. Definitely expect to see a post featuring these babies in better detail soon.

Last photo of the day! This is a shot from wayy back at the beginning of April, the day of the season two premiere of Game of Thrones. I prepared a fabulous Westerosi feast. Somehow, the blog never got written about it. I made a number of amazing recipes that day though, and I plan to share them – especially those lovely Dornish peppers you see on the right in the foreground. Deeeeeelicious. Fresh bread dipped in salt was also a revelation of flavor.

This isn’t even all of the amazingness that I’ve been up to! Here’s just a quick sample of the things I’ve got folders of pictures for: Homemade Butter, Cola Cake, Fried Chicken, Roasted Chicken, Lasagna, Onion Rings, Shield Weaving, and Wheat Bread. I’ve also got some great craft tutorials in the planning stages (it’s harder than you think it is to take process photos of delicate things). Oh, and I got my May Birchbox the other day – that blog will be coming soon.
Don’t forget – next week is Giveaway Week! Be sure to come back early and often for your chances to win free stuff!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this mishmash photoblog. Which project are you most excited to see more of?

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 – moving one side toward you and one side away. Do not pull the gap apart – TWIST 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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