An introduction to chainmail
by Marilyn Gardiner
|IntroductionThis is the sixth project in a series of chainmail earrings for beginners.This month’s chainmail weave is called Flat Mesh. You will see more formal references to it as European 4-in-1.
The earrings at the right are the ones described in the project below.
European 4-in-1 Chainmail Weave
This weave is part of the European family of chainmail weaves. Take a look at this website to see other weaves in the family.
It was the basic weave used to make armour and jewelry in Europe so many years ago.
This mesh weave allows you to build shapes by increasing and decreasing at the edges. It was used to shape body coverings for different parts of the body and for different sizes of people.
There are several different strategies for creating this weave—just do some exploration on the web & in books & magazines and you will agree. I have chosen what I think is the easiest one to understand, though it is not necessarily the speediest.
The jump rings for the long earrings in the top photo are made from 1.0 mm diameter (18 gauge) round sterling wire.
You could also choose to add 2 sterling “things” to hang at the bottom of the earring.
The first photo shows a heart charm (9 mm high, including the top loop, 8 mm wide, 4 mm thick)
The second photo shows a 6 mm Bali spacer bead.
Another idea would be to use wire-wrapped crystals as dangles.
1 pair of earring findings
2 pairs of smooth-jawed jewelers’ pliers
See Earring Project 1 for more information about pliers.
There is an excellent new book just out called Chains by Becky. It has 20 chain mail projects, from novice to advanced. The instructions are very much step-by-step, with lots of photographs. Check the book section of my online store.
|Instead of a sterling heart charm, you could add a Bali spacer bead at the bottom.
|Once you have made the bracelet, another challenge would be to use tiny rings to make these long, delicate earrings. Use 0.8 mm (20 gauge) jump rings with 2.8 mm ID.|
|How to: OPEN AND CLOSE JUMP RINGSTo Open a Ring
Use 2 pairs of pliers to hold the sides of a jump ring with the opening at the top (12 o’clock). To avoid warping the ring, cover most of the ring with the 2 sets of pliers.Hold the ring steady with your one hand while you rotate the wrist of your other hand, twisting the pliers tip away from you.
Never open up the loop by pulling it side to side—you won’t get it back into a true circle.
To Close a Ring
Pull the ring ends back together by rotating your wrists and exerting a bit of inward pressure. You may hear a “click” as the ends meet.
The goal is to have the two ends lined up exactly, with no space between them.
Spend the time to close each ring carefully—this will be the mark of a professional finish to your work.
|Before starting your first chainmail project, practice opening and closing rings until you feel confident. After opening and closing a whole lot of rings you WILL find it easy, you WON’T leave marks on the rings, and you WILL find that the pliers become an extension of your hands.|
|The Project: FLAT MESH EARRINGS|
|Overview: The Flat Mesh WeaveThe Flat Mesh chain mail weave (European 4-in-1) has 4 rings linked to each ring.Look closely at the ring with the blue dot. The four rings with red dots all pass through the ring with the blue dot.
If you were to draw an “X” through the middle of the ring with the blue dot, you would find that the closest rings on the diagonal are the ones with the red dots.
This mesh weave drapes and curves very much like a flexible fabric. The rings are like scales that expand and contract as they move.
|Step 1-a: The Starting RowClose 12 rings and open 3 more.Lay the rings out on your work surface so they match this photo.|
|Step 1-b: The Starting RowUse your pliers to pick up the open ring in the first group. Scoop up the four closed rings and then close the open ring.Repeat for the other two groups of rings.|
|Step 1-c: The Starting RowArrange your three groups of rings so they match the photo. Look at the 2 rings at the very left of the photo and notice that the bottom ring is leaning against the top one.Open two more rings.|
|Step 1-d: The Starting RowPick up the open ring with your pliers and grab 2 adjacent rings from the first group and 2 more rings from the second group. Close the ring.Lay out the rings so they match the photo. The ring with the red dot is the one you just added.
Notice that the bottom left ring is leaning against the top one.
Repeat this step with the other open ring and the remaining group.
|Step 1-e: The Starting Row CompletedAgain, lay out your work so that it matches this photo.Note: Now is a good time to take a scrap piece of wire or thread and tie it through the top left ring. This will make it easy to orient your work correctly at any time. Look at the step 3-b photo.|
|Step 2-a: Row 2Open 5 jump rings. These rings are going to link, in pairs, the six rings marked with yellow dots.Pick up the first open ring and join the the 2 bottom left rings with yellow dots. That ring has the red dot in the photo.|
|Step 2-b: Row 2Repeat with the next open ring.It may help you at first if you lay out the rings after adding each jump ring. Having a marker on the top left ring also helps.|
|Step 2-c: Row 2 CompletedContinue adding the next 3 rings.Your work should look like this photo.|
|Step 3-a: Row 3The rings with yellow dots are those just added in row 2.Open 6 rings.
Take the first ring (red dot) and slip it through just the one ring at the left with the yellow dot. Lay out your work and flip that ring (which is flopping about) over to the left.
|Step 3-b: Row 3The second open ring (red dot) will connect the first two rings at the bottom edge (yellow dots).Continue adding rings to connect the ones with yellow dots. The final ring at the right edge will only pass through the last ring at the right. It too will tend to flop around, just like the first one in the row.
This photo shows a wire tab marking the upper left corner.
|Step 3-c: Row 3 CompletedWe’re now ready to add the ear wire and the drop.Before we move on, notice that there are 11 columns across. The odd numbered columns of rings tip in one direction, and the even numbered columns tip in the other direction.
If you were adding another row, you would be joining the bottom rings that you just added. The new row would add a ring to each even-numbered column.
|Step 4-a: Add the Ear WireOpen 1 jump ring.Lay out the mesh part, the open ring and the ear wire to match the photo.|
|Step 4-b: Add the Ear WirePick up the open ring with your pliers.
Insert the ring through the 3 rings along the right-hand side of the mesh.
Add the ring of the ear wire as well. Now close that ring.
|Step 5-a: Add the DropWe need to taper the bottom of the mesh piece before we add a decoratvie drop or bead or charm.Open 2 jump rings. Use one ring (see the red dot) to connect 2 rings at the left edge.|
|Step 5-b: Add the DropUse the second ring to link the other 2 edge rings. See the rings with red dots.|
|Step 5-c: Add the DropOpen another jump ring. Using your pliers, add the drop and the 2 rings with red dots. Close the ring..|
|Step 6: Earrings CompletedMake a second earring to match this first one.|
|Other DropsInstead of the heart charm shown above, you could use a Bali-type daisy spacer bead. Or you could wire-wrap a briolette to dangle from that bottom ring. Or you could just leave it plain—no embellishment at all.|
|VariationsHere is a diamond shape created by decreasing at the edges. The first row runs vertically down the center of the shape.|
|VariationsThe plain mesh bracelet can be elegantly enhanced by an elaborate clasp.Another option, shown in the current issue (April/May 2006) of Beadwork magazine, is to embellish the surface randomly with wire-wrapped pearls and gemstones on headpins.|
|VariationsThis necklace links a series of triangular mesh components|
|Copyright 2006 Marilyn Gardiner.
All Rights Reserved.