10 Chain-Making Projects to Link Your Jewelry Designs
As a child of the 1970s, I love chains! We always wore lots of chains with our bell-bottom jeans and colorful shirts. Long chains. Short chains. Chunky chains. Delicate chains. Chains around our necks. Chains around our wrists. Chains around our ankles. Yeah, we were chain crazy. (Even chains to hold our keys.)
And I still am. Chains can make a great finishing touch to a jewelry design or they can stand alone as a piece unto themselves. Making your own chains can sound intimidating, but it’s really not. A lot of different techniques can be used to create them — and the Interweave store (www.interweave.com/store) includes a whole bunch of projects (from the pages of Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist, Step By Step Wire Jewelry, and Easy Wire) that teach you those techniques.
To get started creating chains, you’ll probably want to start with a simple chain using wire spirals and loops. For a good starting point, check out Jodi Bombardier’s Spiral Link Bracelet .
Or for a greater variety, Lisa Niven Kelly’s Three Industrial Chains teaches you to make simple wire chains with or without beads. The same technique will give you three completely unique looks. Score!
Working with chains is also a great way to experiment with new tools for the first time. Want to play with a wireworking jig? I’d suggest Erin Prais-Hintz’s AlphabetiQ Necklace. This is one of my all-time favorite chains — simple, striking, and fun!
If you want to take a basic wireworked chain to the next level, adding a pendant or a large single focal bead turns your chain into a work of art. An excellent example is Lisa Niven Kelly’s Twisted Spiral S Chain. The funky focal bead nicely elevates the simple, delicate spiral chain.
Once you’re ready to move onto more advanced techniques in chain making, soldering is the next logical step. Judy Freyer Thompson’s Double Jeopardy Necklace can get you started. It uses simple soldering to create the links and then adds beads and charms to the double strands. Cool! (And hot. That’s a soldering joke.)
For a more elegant design combining two metals, elegant curves, and more advanced soldering techniques, I highly recommend Judy Helfrich’s Silver and Copper Link Necklace . It’s definitely one of my favorite chain designs — fun to make and amazing to wear.
For the next step in your chain-making journey? Try forging. Yeah, this is where it really starts to sound intimidating. But you can, in fact, keep it pretty simple — especially when you’re just getting started. Give Scott David Plumlee’s Forged Arches Bracelet a shot. It’s a relatively easy way to explore forging with a torch, and you can easily turn it into your own unique design.
So what’s next? Well, next you try combining . . . well . . . everything. Jeanne Jerousek-McAninch’s Beaded Chain uses wireworked spirals, soldering, and forging to create a long, elegant clasp-less chain. You even add little sterling silver beads to the ends of the links. It’s all the best chain-making techniques rolled into one.
Well, almost! Let’s see — which obvious chain-making technique have I left out? Oh, yeah. Chain maille, of course. I tend to think of chain maille (which I love to do) as a category all on its own. It can be as simple as opening and closing a series of jump rings to form a very, very basic chain. Or you can get much more involved and learn the more complex chain maille patterns.
Two of my favorite chain maille designs were created by Kylie Jones, a frequent contributor to Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist, Step By Step Wire Jewelry, and a number of our special interest magazines. Kylie’s Egyptian Squares Necklace combines copper jump rings and lapis beads into a long and stylish design.
But if I had to choose which chain project is at the top of my favorite list? It would definitely be Kylie’s Fluid Necklace. The combination of chain maille with sterling silver jump rings and a fabulous Botswana agate really melts my heart. A beautiful chain and a beautiful stone (I do love my stones)? Awesome!!
These 10 projects will definitely get you started creating your own chains. Of course, once you really get going, you’ll be hooked. (And you’ll join the rest of us chain freaks.) And for all of us, there are additional resources for chain making.
And if you really want to get into making chain, check out Ann Cahoon’s video series. It consists of two video downloads which concentrate on different chain forms — Intro to Chain Making: Single Loop-in-Loop and Further Explorations in Chain Making: Double, Two-Way, Two-Way Double, and Three-Way Loop-in-Loop. Or you can get both of Ann’s videos together in one DVD — Chain Making with Ann Cahoon.
Have fun and join the chain train!
For more chain inspiration, check these resources out in our shop: