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Knitted chain by hand or weaving


#1

Hi folks,

Last week I ordered a few metres of 0.5mm silver wire to have a go
at my first knitted chain. The pattern is the sort of knit that you
get if you use a wooden form with a hole down the middle and pins in
the top. The tutorial I followed was one that produces the chain
without using such apparatus. As is to be expected, the first inch or
so was a bit lumpy and uneven but my technique improved as I went on.
I managed to successfully splice new lengths of silver wire every now
and then and now have a chain of about 7 inches, before running out
of wire. I may buy more wire and continue the chain until I have
about 17 inches of useable, neat chain, then make and solder on end
caps and a clasp. Of course I’m kicking myself now for buying
sterling instead of fine silver! Alternatively, I may draw it through
a makeshift drawplate and turn it into a bracelet for my daughter and
buy fine silver instead to make the necklace.

My question is to anyone who has made this sort of chain. Is it best
to do it by hand or would I get a more even result by using the
wooden form and weaving it that way? Also, do you have any advice
regarding soldering the end caps on without melting something that
took hours to weave? Would holding the chain in cross lock tweezers
acting as a heat sink whilst concentrating the heat more on the end
cap be enough to avoid disaster?

Thanks in advance.

Helen Hill
UK


#2

Hi, Helen -

The way I learned it, ‘crochet’ was the method of weaving through
the hole in the wooden form, and ‘knitting’ was the method of weaving
around a dowel. I tried the crochet method, but gave it up because
I’m clumsy. I can knit a pretty good neckpiece, though!

http://homepage.mac.com/wise_lady/DragonWerx/PhotoAlbum5.html

You can see in the top center photo that I didn’t solder at all! In
fact, I’ve only used solder twice on a woven necklace, for the
reasons you are concerned about. I weave with 26g or 24g sterling
silver, and use 20g sterling wire through the ends of the weave and
out the cone. Bend the 20g wire off-center, twist together and have
just the long end come out the cone.

Before you go any further in your experiment, I would suggest
getting some copper craft wire and practicing with it. I keep careful
records of the wire gauge, size of dowel, and how many feet of wire I
use. A 9" of raw length of knit equates to almost 17" of finished
knit, depending on the how dense I made the knit. (Your mileage WILL
vary, though.) It can take as much as 40 feet of silver, though!

For economic reasons I started with sterling silver, not fine
silver. It suits me, so I don’t plan on changing. Besides, I don’t
mind the antique look of a polished but old piece of sterling.
WARNING: don’t use Argentium ™ silver! It will work harden in a
flash! I can ususally knit 40’ of 24g wire in a day, but it hurt my
hands so much that I could only stand to work 2’ per day. And it
doesn’t look as good as you would expect, with its yellowish cast.

I start by cutting all my wire into 2-foot lengths. This reduces the
work hardening, tangling, kinks, and time wasted cutting a new wire.
It also makes it easy to keep track of how much wire ($) goes into
the knit.

My drawplate is a 3/4"-thick wood board that I drilled holes in.
Nothing fancy about it, just the sizes of drill bits I had on hand. I
think the largest hole is 1/2". I used oak, but some of my students
used pine with good results.

Until your necklace is drawn down, it will look lumpy, and it will
not be very sound. The compression and elongation is what will make
your knitted piece look good and wear well. After my final draw, I
then make the necklace supple by taking an end in each hand and
gently pulling it back & forth around a round wooden table leg. This
helps to expose the ends of wire, which you can then curl back into
the knit with a pair of beading pliers (very fine needlenose pliers).

On the pictured pieces I used store-bought cones, but the two where
I soldered them I made my own ends from tubing with sheet soldered to
the ends. I prefer the cones because it’s much less trouble. I can
finish the necklace at someone’s home if I’m custom sizing it.

BTW, all the filigree was made within two weeks of purchasing
Victoria Lansford’s DVD on Russian Filigree! I was amazed at how much
my soldering improved just by watching her. (This is not a paid
advertisement - I’m just a satisfied customer!)

You will probably have lots more questions about the knitting
technique. Feel free to contact me off-list. I teach this method to
members of my gem & mineral club and have made close to 20 necklaces.

Best regards,
Kelley Dragon


#3

Helen,

I use a jig (all metal) and double loop, .65mm sterling, pulled down
to 5mm. http://users.gmavt.net/jdemand/bracelet.html for a picture.
I wanted a very dense chain, free hand just wasn’t tight or accurate
enough for what I wanted. I would stay away from cross lock
tweezers, if they are close enough to act as a heat sink they are
going to damage the braid. It’s not easy but torch control is the
key. I once made an 18K neck piece, the boss realised that he
specified too long a length after I had left for the day. He
shortened it but was still cussing the next day :slight_smile:

Jeff
http://www.gmavt.net/~jdemand


#4

I have a friend that does that style of chain. It apparently dates
back to Viking era of history ;). I have mostly seen her do it over
a form, but she has done some over lampwork beads as well to encase
the bead as a pendant. I think she has a dowel rod mounted on a
L-bracket (kind of like the mounted ring mandrels) and clamps that to
her bench or table where she is working. I think I saw a wire working
book from Lark Books that has that technique in it also…

Vince


#5

I learned to crochet wire from Michael David Sturlin and have made
several of these chains and continue to make them. I have made them
only from fine silver and gold, never sterling.

I have never used a form to make a crocheted chain, but I imagine
being able to watch the chain grow row by row would make it easier to
keep it even. Also, maybe placing the wire over the nails or prongs
on the form and then later removing the wire loops, would add an
element of work hardening to the process.

Also, for soldering, Michael taught me to leave a little tongue of
sheet solder (cut into very fine strips (you can also roll or hammer
the sheet solder to make it thinner) coming out of the edge of the
end cap. Then you heat the end cap only and when you see the little
tongue of solder flow, you know it has also flowed inside the cap and
you are done!!

I have followed these instructions several times and have had no
problems at all. No melting of the chain or anything! (Knock on
wood!). The solder was perfect too. Everything was well attached.

Hope this helps,
Laura
Laura H. Hastings
http://www.rubylane.com/shops/eclectica


#6

Helen, congratulations on being able to knit 7 inches of chain using
sterling. That stuff work hardens so rapidly that it is hard to deal
with. You are correct in wanting to switch to fine silver. I make
mine
the same way you do–without a spool, and draw it through a d= raw
plate to even out any irregularities.

I make my clasps out of tubes–carefully matching the outer diameter
of the chain to the inner diameter of the tube. I flux the tube,
insert tiny bits of extra easy solder, and gently heat the tube with
my torch—keeping the flame away from the chain. Direct the flame
on the tube, watching closely to see that you are not overheating it.
After pickling, give the chain a good hard tug to make sure it is
firmly soldered.

A friend uses a spool to make her woven chains, and her weave is
almost perfectly even. Also, she is able to work far more rapidly
than I do, with less strain on her hands. I would love to learn how
to do that, as I developed a case of tendonitis from the repetitive
motion of pulling the wire through the loops.

If any Orchidians have any suggestions on how to make a chain using
a spool it would be greatly appreciated. There is a tutorial on the
Internet, but it is rather vague and difficult to follow.

Alma Rands


#7

I solder them by compressing the wires until they just fit into the
tube, then adding a piece of wire solder almost as long as the
cavity, and jamming it all in. I then heat the tube, not the chain,
until I think the solder is flowing, and then I carefully heat the
very last links of the chain a little bit, just where they are
almost entering the tube. I have not melted any of the wires yet.

I weave the chains freehand, not on a dowel.

M’lou


#8

Hi Kelley,

The way I learned it, 'crochet' was the method of weaving through
the hole in the wooden form 

Having knitted and crocheted since childhood, both types of chain
are actually forms of knit. The one around the dowel is Viking knit -
which is woven from the opposite end to the other type so that the
stitches are sort of upside down. The one done on the form with the
hole down the middle is called “French knitting” here in the UK. The
terms may well have been used differently in the jewellery and yarn
knitting/crochet circles. Actual crochet is something I’ve never
seen done in jewellery and I would imagine it would be very difficult
if not impossible to achieve - it’s done with a crochet hook and is
tricky enough to do with yarn and very tough on the hand joints so I
can’t imagine it being done in metal. I may well get shouted at for
saying such a thing. And I know there are artists such as Michael
David Sturlin who make very beautiful “crochet” chain and I am an
admirer of his jewellery, but strictly speaking it is knitted.

You can see in the top center photo that I didn't solder at all!
In fact, 

Your chains are beautiful indeed. I’d not thought about not
soldering. I may well want to add a bit of solder just for extra
security but I can see from your pictures that it’s not strictly
necessary.

Before you go any further in your experiment, I would suggest
getting some copper craft wire and practicing with it. 

Good idea and I’ll think about it but I’m not a fan of practicing on
the cheap stuff. I’ll try the drawplate idea on the piece I’ve
already made and see if that does the trick, but I found the
technique for getting it more even, as I wove more chain. By the end
of the seven or so inches I’ve done, I have about 4-5 inches of
useable chain. I think trying Viking knit using a dowel would be a
good idea - that way, it’s all going to be nice and even and the same
diameter right the way along the chain. I will also try doing what we
call “French knitting” using the wooden form as I’m sure that would
also give even results, more so than free hand. One thing that I
didn’t like about the free hand method was that the chain has a twist
in it. It probably means that my tension was too tight, but I’d like
the columns of stitches to go straight up and down rather than
spiraling around the chain.

I start by cutting all my wire into 2-foot lengths. This reduces
the work hardening, tangling, kinks, and time wasted cutting a new
wire. 

That’s a very good idea. I was using about three foot lengths at a
time. They stayed workable just long enough but I did almost take my
eye out in the process!!! Note to self: wear safety glasses next
time!

Feel free to contact me off-list. 

Thank you. I may very well do so.

Many thanks,
Helen
UK


#9

Hi Jeff,

I use a jig (all metal) and double loop 

Sorry I’m not quite with you. What do you mean when you say double
loop? I think I’ll try using a mandrel/jig of some kind next time as
it’s bound to be more even in diameter along its whole length. I
like the dense look of your chain. I also quite like the look of
Viking knit where it’s done more loosely, ie less stitches per row so
that it has a more ribbed look. It looks as though it depends on the
size of mandrel used and the number of stitches you choose to use on
that mandrel as to what the appearance will be. Wide diameter mandrel
and fewer stitches = ribbed look with space between stitch columns.
Same size mandrel but double the number of stitches = more dense
look. I feel a lot of experimentation coming on!

Thanks again.

Helen
UK


#10

I weave the chain by pulling each loop around a scriber it with no
dowel inside. Not using a jig or mandrel allowed me to develop
weaving in pearls many many chains ago.

I achieve consistency by placing the scriber up to the same point on
the taper. Marking it with a permanent marker is an easy way to get
used to right spot. I use a larger scriber that is twisted in the
middle. The ones with burnishers at one end are good too. You can use
a cylindrical tool, but using a tapered one allows me to have one
tool for all different size chains, and the pointed end comes in
handy.

I also pull the chain through a wooden drawplate to give it more
symmetry and flexibility. If the pearls are center drilled (as
opposed to top drilled) the drawplate won’t hurt them. The farther
down you pull the chain, the more the pearls are forced to the
inside of it, so I usually only pull it through 2-3 consecutive
holes.

Another advantage to weaving freestyle is the ability to taper the
chain by adding or decreasing the number of loops in each row.

Best wishes,
Victoria
Victoria Lansford
http://www.victorialansford.com


#11

Dear Helen,

Having taught chain “weaving” for many years, I can tell you that it
is much easier to “weave” without the spool. Spool knitting is
difficult because the wire doesn’t really flex enough to lift up and
over the posts, and to make it dense enough, one has to use a double
or triple stitch.

I use the word “woven” in parentheses because the chain truly isn’t
woven (there’s no warp or weft), but actually knitted.

A much easier chain is the Viking knit (google Viking knit) or the
"woven" chain in Tim McCreight’s “The Complete Metalsmith”. The
chain, described in Tim’s book, is the first thing I teach in my
"woven" metal workshop. I teach student to make a 5 stitch chain with
22 gauge wire. Fine silver, sterling, or Argentium are all
appropriate for this technique. When finished “weaving” pull the
chain through a wooden, home-made drawplate.

Don’t hold the chain with cross-locking tweezers while soldering, as
the pressure will collapse the chain when it anneals. Just
concentrate the heat on the cap, rather than on the chain. I usually
tuck a few small pieces of solder inside the cap and then put very
tiny pieces on the chain where it touches the cap.

Contact me if you need any more assistance.

Regards,
Munya Avigail Upin
www.m-avigail-upin.com


#12

Hi Victoria,

Not using a jig or mandrel allowed me to develop weaving in pearls
many many chains ago. 

What a fantastic idea!

I weave the chain by pulling each loop around a scriber

That’s how I did it too. I’ll do the drawplate thing and if that
evens it out nicely I may continue freehand as it’s something I can
do whilst relaxing in the evening. That was my plan - to find
different chain making methods to do in the evenings. I also have a
very willing and artistic daughter who wants to help me make chains
so that’s a bonus.

Another advantage to weaving freestyle is the ability to taper the
chain by adding or decreasing the number of loops in each row. 

Very good point. I’ve knitted with yarn for most of my life, to the
point where I can pick up two knitting needles and a ball of wool
and knit a garment without using a pattern, as you get to learn how
knitting works and what to do to shape a garment, so I guess this is
an extension of that.

Thanks for the tips Victoria.

Helen
UK


#13

Helen,

By double loop I mean that I wrap around each post once, then go
round again with a second wrap on each post. Wrap round the next post
and lift the bottom loop over the top. repeat…until finished or
your hands fall off. Lifting is the polite term, actually I use a
hardened stainless crochet hook (former dental tool) levered in holes
in the tops of the posts and evil determination. Thick leather finger
cott, and it is still brutal on the wrists.

I’ve varied the final diameter mainly by the number of posts (2-6),
post diameter, post circle diameter, and to a lesser extent wire
diameter. All are inter-related, just by dumb luck my initial jig
looks the most pleasing by my eye.

Jeff
Demand Designs
Analog/Digital Modelling & Goldsmithing
http://www.gmavt.net/~jdemand


#14
WARNING: don't use Argentium (TM) silver! It will work harden in a
flash! I can ususally knit 40' of 24g wire in a day, but it hurt my
hands so much that I could only stand to work 2' per day. And it
doesn't look as good as you would expect, with its yellowish cast. 

This warning is a big surprise to read! I use Argentium to "knit"
chain, and I teach others to do so. I find it significantly slower
to work-harden, almost the same as fine silver. It appears whiter to
me than tra ditional sterling, and has a slipperier feel which I
really like. It is a pleasure to weave/knit/crochet! I use it
because I often do large-scale, open stitch 22g bracelets and chains
(students can see all the details, then do smaller work after they
learn) and I feel it looks best not tarnished on the inside.I cannot
explain these differences in perception of Argentium

Noel


#15
You can see in the top center photo that I didn't solder at all!
In fact, I've only used solder twice on a woven necklace, for the
reasons you are concerned about. 

I took one of Loren Damewood’s knotting workshops, and Loren uses
fine silver, and simply melts the ends together… no solder.
Beautiful. Same principal would probably apply here. Loren, if you
are following this thread maybe you could chime in with a better
description of what you do?

Beth in SC


#16

Hi Alma,

Helen, congratulations on being able to knit 7 inches of chain
using sterling. That stuff work hardens so rapidly that it is hard
to deal with. 

It wasn’t all done with one length of wire. I did need to splice it
a few times. I worked in approximately three feet lengths. Each
length did roughly an inch and a half. It was just about getting too
hard by the end of each length.

If any Orchidians have any suggestions on how to make a chain
using a spool it would be greatly appreciated. 

There are a number of tutorials on the web about spool French
knitting using yarn but I don’t know whether that’s how jewellers
make knitted chain, so I look forward to replies regarding this also.

Helen
UK


#17

Hi Helen,

What do you mean when you say double loop? 

Ok this looks (I say looks because visually most of these techniques
look very similar) like a standard four or five (hard to see in a
drawn chain) double stitched Viking knit.

What this means is that instead of passing the wire just through the
previous row of stitches you go back to the one before that (or even
to the one before that) one so that each stitch spans two rows. I’m
rapidly finding that describing this is whole lot harder to do than
to show it!!!

Cheers, Thomas.
Janstrom Designs.


#18

Hi!

I like making the viking chain around a #5 knitting needle. I find
it works better if I use an odd number of loops to start.

Joann


#19

Helen - To answer your question about methodology for weaving a
Viking chain - there are several ways to do the chain. Michael David
Sturlin has a method in the Orchid archives; it appears to be the
freehand way you tried. Alan Revere in "Professional Goldsmithing"
p52 discusses the same technique as Sturlin. Both have many pictures.
Arlene Fisch in “Textile Techniques in Metal” p64 discusses the spool
knitting technique you mentioned. IMHO spool knitting is best suited
to large tubes of very fine wire. I have tried it for chains and
found it unsatisfactory. Irene From Peterson shows a slightly
different technique in many varieties in “Great Wire Jewelry”.
Peterson uses an Allen wrench as a mandrel. Personally, I use the
Revere technique. After making a couple of chains, it got pretty easy
to make them even. I have made chains in sterling, fine silver, 18K
and 22K gold. I love my 22K 27-gauge double knit chain. It is drop
dead gorgeous (and god-awful expensive).

As to how to attach ends. - I cut tubing with an outside diameter of
the drawn down chain. I squeeze the chain to where it goes inside
the tubing. I hold the chain vertically with a cross lock tweezers
with the tubing on the up end. I stuff two or three pieces of solder
strips down inside the tubing. I carefully flux the inside of the
tubing and the enclosed chain, being sure to keep the flux from
traveling down past the tubing. Then somewhat slowly heat the
tubing, moving your flame around it, until the solder flows. It might
take a bit of practice, but it will work. You do not want to heat the
chain directly anywhere for this, it will melt. Then I flatten the
exposed end of the tubing with a file. Prepare a tiny scrap of
matching metal by sweating solder on it. Flux the prepared piece and
the clean flattened end of tubing. Again, hold the chain with the end
upright. Then place the solder side down on the tubing, and heat the
tubing gently until the prepared solder flows. Trim the excess, file
and sand the join. Make a “U” shaped wicket that just fits on the
little circle end, sweat solder on the open ends. Flux the stuff
again, and heat one more time, very gently until the solder is pulled
off the wicket to the little circle. If nothing else, this will teach
torch control. You can do it all with medium solder. Each time you
heat solder, it raises the melting temperature a tiny bit - that is
why it works. I mostly flinch and use easy solder for the wicket.

Judy Hoch


#20

Hi Helen, I’ve been creating jewelry with Viking Knitting for quite
awhile. I weave the fine silver around a wooden dowel. I vary the
number of starting loops, size of the dowel and the gauge wire I use.
I use mostly 26 gauge fine silver but my favorite is a thin chain
done with 28 gauge wire with 3 loops. It produces a very fine, dense
chain once it is pulled through the drawplate. I do not solder on my
caps, my approach is a bit more organic. I use 20 gauge sterling
wire, make a “V”, hook it through the end of the weave, close the
"V", pass a cap onto the wire (the cap has to have a center drilled
hole) and down onto the top of the chain, make a loop, add the clasp
and finish the wrapped loop. I have several examples of what I create
from the Viking knitting on my webpage.

Leanne
Leanne Elliott Soden
http://www.piecesofclass.net