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!)

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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?