Learn the Art of Wire Weaving with Sarah Thompson
If you love the beauty of woven wire jewelry and you’re dying to try more advanced techniques, check out Fine Art Wire Weaving: Advanced Workshop with Sarah Thompson. This new workshop is the final of three based on Sarah’s best-selling book, Fine Art Wire Weaving: Weaving Techniques for Stunning Jewelry Designs.
I was privileged to have a chance to try this workshop for myself, and I loved it! I know the basics of wire weaving, so I was ready for something a bit harder and more artistic. Did I say “harder?” Well, not really since Sarah’s explanations make the advanced techniques easy to master.
In this workshop, you’ll learn to:
- incorporate rounded ruffles into your weave to make wonderful latticework;
- create swirling, seamlessly flowing designs;
- form and layer small components into intricate pieces;
- make a delicately woven and linked bracelet;
- review Sarah’s wireworking tips, basic weaves, and design elements;
- personalize your projects by embellishing, strengthening, and applying patinas;
- apply your skills as you work through four step-by-step projects.
Wire Weaving Projects
One of the coolest things about this workshop is that, after an introduction to the course, you jump straight into the four amazing projects. But don’t panic! The instructions for each one are very detailed, and Sarah talks you through each technique and twist of the wire. Not only are you creating awesome pieces of jewelry, you’re learning wire weaving as you go.
In the “Ruffles and Lace Chandelier Earrings,” you learn to create a lattice design with rounded ruffles. The “Calligraphy Pendant” uses a modified Soumak weave to make stunning curves. The “Kayla Pendant” incorporates smaller wire components and beads into an intricate piece. And the “Elandra Bracelet” links together several woven S-curve clasps into one amazing design.
Once you’ve created all four pieces, you’ve mastered the wire weaving techniques! And all of them can be incorporated into your own designs.
Sarah’s Top 5 Wire Weaving Tips
I particularly love Sarah’s top wire weaving tips. As I worked the projects, I referred to them continually. I even downloaded the PDF of the tips so I could keep it open and close at hand. It’s a great resource. Here are the tips excerpted from the workshop:
- Working with curves: I normally like to start in the center when working with curves. It is easier to weave and easier to get a symmetrical design. However, rounded curves need to be made by starting on one side and going around.
- Making rounded ruffles: Rounded ruffles are more difficult than pointed ruffles because you have to make them as you go. Dowels, bail pliers, a beading awl, round-nose pliers, and knitting needles all work great to make rounded ruffles.
- Forming identical, organic loops: If you’re new to making large organic loops, you’ll find it easier to create identical loops using round-nose pliers. Once you have some experience, you may be able to make them without tools.
- Staying organized: Line the wires up in descending order, longest to shortest. Keep the individual lengths separated; it will be harder to see which wires are longer when we curve them.
- Finishing & polishing: Oxidize your pieces in liver of sulfur and polish with steel wool and a brass brush. Use a polishing cloth or a tumbler to clean and polish the jewelry.
Wire Weaving Basics
The workshop also includes a wonderful section on wirework basics which you need for wire weaving — and really any time you create your jewelry with wire. The topics in this section include Materials, Tools, Wireworking Tips, Basic Weaves, Design Elements, Finishing, and Findings. They’re a great learning resource—and an excellent refresher whenever you pull out your wire.
Mistakes are just new designs waiting to happen.
Wire Weaving Materials
My favorite part of this section was “Who’s Who in Wire.” Sarah lists the different types of wire—fine silver, sterling silver, Argentium silver, copper, craft wire, and plated or filled wire—along with the pros and cons of using each one.
The Who’s Who is followed by a delightfully quick and fun quiz, “Are You Wire-Wise?” I will admit that I do love a good quiz. And I’m proud to say I got 100%!
Wire Weaving Tools
This section takes an in-depth look at all of the tools you’ll need for wire weaving as well as the benefits of each. It includes wire-forming tools, general tools, torch tools, and forming tools.
I really, really liked the lesson on making your own natural pickling solution using vinegar and salt. I am all about using non-chemical solutions! In fact, I use a different salt and vinegar solution to create patina—so this was definitely right up my alley. I can’t wait to try Sarah’s recipe.
More Wire Weaving Tips
Sarah presents some terrific tips for wire weaving, including different techniques for handling and securing the wire. I especially liked the lesson on preventing tangling and kinks, something I always struggle with. It’ll definitely cut down on the bad language flying around my workbench.
My favorite part of the tips section was Sarah’s advice for storing unfinished projects. I love good organization techniques, and her use of plastic zippered bags and a plastic file folder thoroughly delighted me. I’ve always had a problem keeping my projects from getting all tied up in each other. And this is a great solution!
Basic Wire Weaves
No matter how intricate your wire weaving designs are, there are some basic weaves that you’ll use over and over. In this section, Sarah explains:
- weaving tips for tight, consistent weaves;
- how to add dimension to your jewelry with forming;
- the basic figure-eight weave;
- modifications to your weaves;
- how to add new weaving wires and base wires;
- the modified Soumak weave;
- the lashing weave;
- braiding your wire.
Wire Weaving Design Elements
Sarah presents how to make loops and curves, how to use hammering and filing and torches to make these elements, and how to make your elements symmetrical in your designs—something I’ve always struggled with!
Finishing Wire Weaves
The Finishing section provides great tips and techniques for embellishing your design, various finishes, how to create a mirror finish, and more. The part I liked best was the lesson on “Fixing and Hiding Mistakes.” Oh, yes! That’s something we all need. As Sarah says, “Mistakes are just new designs waiting to happen.” She presents five ways to take care of those pesky mistakes.
I really liked Sarah’s suggestion to coil the base wire. To quote the lesson, “If you struggle with the shaping, you might rework the wire over and over, mangling it. The best way to cover up these imperfections is to coil the 28-gauge wire over all the exposed base wires. This not only hides the imperfections but also gives the design a nice texture.” Cool!
How to Make Wire Findings
I love this section! Sarah teaches you to make your own findings—head pins, ear wires, clasps, and more. The S-clasp she shows is particularly lovely, and it serves as the basis for the Elandra Bracelet project in the workshop.
This is just a quick overview of Fine Art Wire Weaving: Advanced Workshop. If you’re into wirework, it’s definitely worth checking out. If you’re new to wire weaving, also be sure to take a look at the first two courses, Fine Art Wire Weaving: Getting Started and Fine Art Wire Weaving: Intermediate. Put them all together and you’ll be a wire weaving master!
Managing Editor, Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist