Get Creative and Be Prepared: 8 Tips for Making Fabulous Chain-Maille Jewelry

Whether you're beginning a new jewelry-making technique or have mastered one and spent years honing your skills, a good tip is always a good thing for helping the process go more smoothly. Here are eight chain-maille jewelry-making tips I learned from Karen Karon's book, Chain Maille Jewelry Workshop: Techniques and Projects for Weaving with Wire.


1. Be creative and experiment: "Use the basic techniques and projects in this book as a springboard for substitutions and experimentation. Combine elements of different chain-maille weaves to create a unique piece of jewelry or develop a new chain-maille pattern of your own design." Another great way to be creative with chain maille is to use colorful or textured jump rings. Most colored jump rings are coated aluminum, which means they are inexpensive and just right for experimenting.

2. Embellish your chain-maille jewelry: "The even, consistent patterns of chain maille lend themselves to embellishments of all kinds. Add a watch head or a special focal piece to your jewelry. Connect beads, crystals, pearls, semiprecious stones, and charms to your jewelry using loops and other simple wireworking techniques. Introduce new materials into your designs, such as rubber O-rings, leather, scales, and premade cable chain." Other great options for embellishing chain-maille jewelry include attaching buttons, brooches, or single earrings onto expanses of chain-maille weave.


3. Be prepared: "Keeping your stash of chain-maille supplies well stocked means you always have just what you need-and you're ready for unexpected accidents and last-minute inspiration. . . . You may decide along the way that the bracelet you are working on would make a better necklace, or you may have a great idea that you need to act on now, before you forget!"

Karen added, "Always be sure to have more jump rings than you need in case a jump ring gets bent out of shape or dropped and lost-it happens! I like to have at least one extra inch worth of jump rings in my supply stash."

4. Learn wisely: "I recommend using aluminum jump rings when learning a new chain-maille weave technique. Aluminum jump rings are less expensive than those made of precious metals, and I've found that my students feel freer to explore, experiment, and perfect their techniques before they progress to precious metals."

5. Keep it clean: "To clean anodized aluminum, simply wash the jump rings with dish soap and warm water to keep them clean. Do not tumble this metal, as the color is just a surface treatment."


6. Start on the right rings: "Regardless of what metal you choose, be sure to buy only saw-cut jump rings, which provide the flush edges needed for neat closures. Saw cuts are the standard when purchasing jump rings in precious metals from jewelry suppliers but may not be standard in all metals or from vendors that do not specialize in jewelry."

7. Think ahead: "When you are ready, I recommend that you purchase as many jump rings as you need to finish a project from one source. Making substitutions can be tricky as subtle variations in jump rings from a different manufacturer could create a noticeable line of demarcation in your finished piece of chain maille. And if you've had success creating a piece of chain maille using jump rings purchased from one manufacturer, you may not achieve the exact same result using jump rings from another."


8. And finally, the best advice of all: Play! "When I bring new designs into my classes, my students always ask me how I came up with those particular designs. My answer usually begins with, "Well, I was just kinda playin'. . .'and with design, that is just the point. Don't be afraid to play. Ask yourself what if and then just try it. Let your designs develop organically and feel free to explore and experiment. If you make something that doesn't work, figure out what you don't like about it and change it. If you hit a hurdle, don't give up but try a different approach. Make substitutions. Break some rules. Turn your design inside out and upside down. Put all of your goodies on the table and mix and match. Just have fun! You may end up surprising yourself."


For more of Karen's great chain-maille jewelry-making wisdom (plus chain-maille weave tutorials and step-by-step chain-maille jewelry projects), get your copy of Chain Maille Jewelry Workshop now from the Jewelry Making Daily Shop! It's available as a print book or as an instantly downloadable eBook.




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