Chain maille is such a fascinating technique for jewelry-making, but I have to admit, I approached it with more than a little trepidation. Once I got started, though, the rhythm of opening, linking, and closing all those jump rings created the same soothing sort of feeling that I get when I'm immersed in a good bead-weaving project.
If you have some basic wire jewelry-making skills, you can get started with chain maille jewelry. It's not as hard as you might think, and if you want some tips for getting started, these are my five recommendations for anyone who wants to get started making jewelry with this ancient art:
1. Don't start by making your own jump rings. Seriously. If I had had to make all three hundred jump rings required for my first chain maille project, I would never have gotten to the fun part of actually linking them together. There are so many places where you can buy pre-made jump rings that are perfectly good, it makes sense for a chain maille beginner to buy their jump rings.
2. Buy aluminum jump rings first. Just like other types of wire work, practicing with a less expensive metal like aluminum is good to develop your chain maille skills before you splurge on precious metals like sterling silver or gold. Even copper and brass jump rings will add a splash of flash to your chain maille projects without emptying your wallet!
3. Pay attention to the inner diameter (ID). One of the things that bothered me when shopping for my first set of jump rings for chain maille was that I couldn't find the exact size specified in the project. I had no idea if I should be more concerned with the inner diameter (ID) or outer diameter (OD), since they can be slightly different. Those little differences can make for big problems when it comes to your chain maille projects, and since the jump rings are linked together on the inside, you should always make sure to get the proper inner diameter jump rings for your chain maille projects.
4. Open your jump rings properly. This sounds like a no-brainer, but it's important to remember. You don't want your jump rings slipping apart after you've spent hours assembling an intricate piece of chain maille jewelry! You should always open your jump rings by twisting the ends apart, moving perpendicular to one another (north-south). Never open a jump ring by pulling the ends apart (east-west).
I splurged and spent an extra two dollars on a great little tool to open jump rings. It's a ring that slips onto your finger while you work. To open your jump rings properly, all you have to do is insert a jump ring into one of the slots and give it a twist!
5. Open and close your jump rings only once. If you can. As you work with wire or metal jump rings, the metal will harden and stiffen. If you open and close a jump ring too many times, that metal will eventually become brittle and break. Try to open all your jump rings before you begin linking them, setting them in small, labeled piles on your work surface just as you would pour out little piles of seed beads for a bead-weaving project. This way, you only have to open and close them once (ideally) to prevent any kind of breakage in the middle of your project.
Learning chain maille techniques is a great way to branch out and expand your wire jewelry-making skills, too! And if you're looking for a great start-to-finish resource for both beginner and more advanced chain maille projects, you'll want to check out Chain Maille Jewelry Workshop. This complete guide to making great chain maille jewelry walks you through each project, beginning with very basic chain maille weaves, and ending with some pretty spectacular chain maille and wire jewelry. Get your copy of Chain Maille Jewelry Workshop and find out why this wonderful age-old jewelry-making technique is still so popular today! (And remember — if you just can't wait to create, you can always get Chain Maille Jewelry Workshop as an instant download!)
Have you tried chain maille yet? You won't want to miss my earlier blog about my first adventures in chain maille! And if you have a great tip or idea for anyone getting started with chain maille, be sure to post a comment here on the Beading Daily blog.