Wire Wrapping: Mastering the Basic Figure-Eight Weave
The wirework of jeweler and author Sarah Thompson is nothing short of spectacular! It’s her use of superfine wires when wire weaving that creates amazing depth and texture in her finished pieces. In her bestselling book Fine Art Wire Weaving not only does she teach a gorgeous collection of wire jewelry designs but, Sarah also walks you step-by-step through her most-used wire weaving techniques giving you the skills to design your own one-of-a-kind pieces.
Wire Weaving Techniques
If you’re looking to add wire weaving to your skill set, there are a number of weaves to learn. Modified soumak weave, lashing weave, and braiding are some of the slightly more advanced weaves covered in Fine Art Wire Weaving. The best place to start experimenting is with the basic figure-eight weave. As Sarah writes, the basic figure-eight is very forgiving as you learn to handle fine gauge wires and make a tidy weave. It’s simple and looks good with nice, consistent wraps. Or you can choose to wrap it loosely for a rustic, organic look.
Step-by-Step Guide to Basic Figure Eight Weave
To practice basic figure-eight wire weaving, the following steps are taken using 18g and 28g practice wire.
1. Straighten 16″ of 18g practice wire and cut four 4″ lengths. Tape the 4 wires together at the bottom, leaving a fingernail’s distance between each wire. These are the base wires. Cut 5′ of 28g practice wire; this is the wire used for weaving. The first row is a starter row. It’s different from the rest of the weave because it attaches the base wires together. It also stabilizes and positions the base wires. Base wires are referred to by number, starting on the left with Wire 1, followed by 2, 3, and 4.
2. Leaving a 6″ tail, bring the rest of the 28g wire to the back of the base wires. Thread the 28g wire between Wires 1 and 2, and then wrap it around Wire 1, toward the back (Figure 1). Thread the 28g wire between Wires 2 and 3, and then wrap it around Wire 2, toward the back (Figure 2). Thread the 28g wire between Wires 3 and 4, and then wrap it around Wire 3, toward the back. Bring the 28g wire across the back of Wire 3 and Wire 4, and then wrap it around Wire 4, toward the back (Figure 3). Push this starter row down to the base of your thumb. This secures the base wires to each other.
3. It’s time to being weaving. The 28g wire will now be used to weave in and out of the base wires. Starting on the right side, from the back, bring the 28g wire across the back of Wire 4, and wrap it around Wire 4, toward the back. The 28g wire should now be between Wires 3 and 4 (Figure 4). Bring the 28g wire across the back of Wire 3 and thread it between Wires 2 and 3, toward the front. Take the 28g wire over the front of Wire 2 and thread it between Wires 1 and 2 (Figure 5). You have reached the end of the row and should be back on the left side of the weave, with the 28g wire in the back.
4. Bring the 28g wire around the outside of Wire 1, toward the front. Thread the 28g wire between Wires 1 and 2, across the back of Wire 2, and then thread it between Wires 2 and 3 (Figure 6). Bring the wire over the front of Wire 3, thread it between Wires 3 and 4, and then across the back of Wire 4 (Figure 7). Bring the 28g wire around the outside of Wire 4, and then thread it between Wires 3 and 4, toward the back. Continue the weave pattern until you reach the left side of the weave, as in Step 3.
Variation of Basic Figure-Eight Weave
For a twist on the basic figure-eight weave, wrap the base wire on the end twice before continuing with the weave. This creates a smoother, more polished line on the edge of the weave, while also thickening the base wire. It’s a subtle way of drawing the eye without being obvious (Figure 8).
Making it Your Own
The basic figure-eight weave can be used for a variety of finished designs. The weaving creates grooves or channels between each base wire. These grooves are left dark when patinated, accentuating the shape of the shaped wires. It can be woven in a strip and then shaped to create a form-fitting bezel. Sarah appreciates the organic quality of it too, and it’s her go-to weave when looking for more ebb and flow in a design, or to work freeform.
Take some time to practice the basic figure-eight weave and design your own one-of-a-kind wire jewelry design. Then, grab a copy of Fine Art Wire Weaving to explore this and other great wire weaving and wire wrapping techniques.
Editorial Director, Books
Learn woven wire jewelry techniques from Sarah Thompson!