Chain Maille Jewelry Making: How to Size Chain Maille Rings and Bracelets

Creating the right size in rings and bracelets can be more difficult than actually making them, in chain maille as well as metal sheet. Here’s some helpful advice and handy formulas that will help you get the right size, every time!

Sizing Chain Maille Rings and Bracelets

(from Advanced Chain Maille Jewelry Workshop by Karen Karon)

My students often ask me, “How long do you make your bracelets?” My answer is usually, “I don’t know.” That response makes them crazy! The real answer is, “Every piece is different. It depends on the weave and the size of the jump rings being used.” People’s wrists and fingers are simply not uniform in size. Also, the width, thickness, flexibility, and style (closed or clasped) of the piece will affect the length requirement. What follow are some key factors in sizing:

The thicker the weave, the longer it has to be to encircle an object (like a wrist or a finger). A closed band that is wide requires a bit of additional length to enable it to pass over the knuckle.

chain maille jewelry ring

For those who are mathematically inclined, here are a couple of basic formulas that can be used to determine the length needed to surround a round- or an oval-shaped object. These can help you estimate the weave length you need for rings and bracelets:

Round: Weave Length = (Inside Diameter + Weave Thickness) × π

Oval: Weave Length = (Oval Length + Oval Width) ÷ 2 + Weave Thickness) × π

Inside Diameter (ID) = Inner Circumference ÷ π (Inner Circumference represents the measurement around the body part and π = Pi = 3.142.)

For a ring, if the band width will be greater than 4 mm wide, add 0.5 mm to the length.

I choose to avoid the math for a few reasons:

  • I don’t really like to do math.
  • There are lots of variables and therefore lots of opportunities to mess up the calculation.
  • Mathematical calculations are based on numbers and not real objects. When working with decimals and fractions and rounding (Oh my!) there will be some loss of precision, so the result is basically just an estimate.

Because the length requirement will vary based on thickness, width, flexibility, and style of a maille piece, I don’t think in terms of length. I prefer working around a three-dimensional object that gives me a good visual idea of how the weave will fit. Because of this, I use a mandrel instead of a flat ruler. My ring mandrel is steel and has the ring sizes marked on it. My bracelet mandrel is plain wood. I use a cloth or plastic tailor’s tape measure to find the proper working spot on the bracelet mandrel and then mark it with a rubber band. For example, if I want to make a bracelet for a person with a standard 7″ (18 cm) wrist, I use a tailor’s tape measure to find the spot on the mandrel that is 7″ (18 cm) around and then place a rubber band at this spot.

chain maille jewelry bracelet rubber rings

If you are making a bracelet or ring for yourself, you don’t need a mandrel or a ruler. Simply use your own wrist or finger to measure. After all, you’ve always got them handy, and they’re exactly the right size. In fact, when doing custom work, I prefer to have fittings. Fittings are the most accurate way to ensure the fit is perfect. Mandrels are not shaped exactly like the human body, which is pliable and somewhat irregularly shaped. Instead, mandrels are rigid and perfectly symmetrical. However, if your recipient is not available for fittings, mandrels are the next best option.

If you are making a bracelet or ring for a person who is not available for fittings, ask the person for their ring size or wrist measurement. If you are making items with no particular person in mind, you can use the standard sizes/measurements. Work around a ring mandrel at the spot showing the desired ring size or use a tailor’s tape measure on a bracelet mandrel to determine the proper working spot for the desired length. As you weave, periodically stop and try the piece on the mandrel to test the size. When sizing bracelets, the wearer’s preference needs to be considered. Some people like snug-fitting, fairly stationary bracelets, while others like them to be a bit loose with some movement. Keep this in mind as well when determining the final size.

chain maille jewelry ring ombre mixed metal

The ring projects in this book can be especially tricky to fit. Each starts with a base weave (E41 or 1-by-1 chain) that, in theory, should be closed before additional weaving steps are performed. The hard part is to figure out how long the base chain should be, as the additional weaving steps required will cause the base chain to shrink. My approach to achieving the correct ring size is to begin by making the base chain a bit longer than required. I do not close the base chain at this time. I begin to perform the additional weaving steps, leaving a short tail of unwoven base chain at both ends. This way, I can easily add more base chain if the weave begins to shrink too much. If not, I can just remove the extra jump rings. After all, it is much easier to remove extra jump rings than it is to figure out where to add more in the pattern. While weaving, I frequently stop to test the size on my finger (or mandrel). When the ring seems to fit about right, I close the ends of the base chain and perform the last of the additional weaving steps to complete the ring.

If I want to make more rings of the same size, no problem. I now know how long the base chain needs to be, so I can just make the base chain to the proper length, close it, and then finish the weave without having to stop and test the fit. I can also use that base length as an estimating tool to make rings a bit larger or a bit smaller.

chain maille jewelry bracelet mixed metal

Note: If you don’t want too snug a fit on a cuff or bracelet, you can add about 4-8 mm to your wrist measurement to achieve your level of comfort. If making a closed, claspless bracelet, you cannot use your wrist measurement, as the bracelet needs to slide over your entire hand. To get a usable measurement, hold your hand straight out and squish your fingers together, touching your thumb to your pinky as you would when slipping on a bangle bracelet. Now, use a tailor’s tape measure to measure around the thickest part of your hand. –KK

If you’re a chain maille fan and haven’t seen Karen Karon’s book Advanced Chain Maille Jewelry Workshop, you’re missing out! It’s packed with unique new weaves and stylish projects to make with them, plus tips on how to do finishing touches like closing weaves with various findings, making bracelets with no clasp, using colorful rubber rings, and more. Order or instantly download Advanced Chain Maille Jewelry Workshop and enjoy!

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