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Knitted chain by hand or weaving

There is a bit of a challenge of terminology about this style of
chain making, specifically what I teach as hand crochet. It has been
referred to as crochet by many other goldsmiths, and is sometimes
also called knitting, and is occasionally called a woven chain.

The stitch itself is more reminiscent of a knit stitch than a
crochet stitch, or so I have been told by many of my students who are
well versed in fabric and textile applications.

If we call this knitting people will likely envision that the work
is being accomplished with a pair of needles, which it is not. Or
they
might consider it spool knitting, which it is not. Or even Viking
knitting, which although similar in appearance, is done over an
armature, not freehand, and is a different procedure.

Crochet implies to some the use of a hook, which this particular
application in metal also does not utilize. Weaving, to me, implies
two or more elements which cross or intersect or have some
relationship to one another. This particular structure is a single
element construction.

This distinction of a correct title is one of some contention
between knitters and crocheters, but goldsmiths tend to stay out of
their discussion about the name of the technique and we just make
fabulous jewelry with it.

While we are on the topic, I’ll mention that I will be teaching a 2
day workshop in this technique at the Revere Academy in San Francisco
June 14/15, 2008.

For 415.391.4179 or www.revereacademy.com.

Michael David Sturlin
www.goldcrochet.com
www.michaeldavidsturlin.com

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

I have created a kit for learning to make chain using a dowel, which
I much prefer. The instructions are written just like my articles for
Art Jewelry Magazine, and there are two dozen clear close-up photos.
The instructions are for making a large (1/2-3/4" dia) chain using
22g, but once you can do that, you can use any gauge wire and any
size dowel. A plastic drawplate is included (actually a heavy circle
template) and a 1 1/8" dowel with 8 parallel lines marked on it. I
sell this kit, complete with an ounce of 22g Argentium and some
copper practice wire, for $85. If you are willing to supply your own
metal, and you’re an Orchid member, you can have it for $50. If you
want just the instructions and photos, no dowel or drawplate, I’ll
send them to you for $25. I ask that you not reproduce, copy or
share them, as I worked hard to prepare these copyrighted materials.
You can, of course, pass on the techniques, just not my actual
instructions or images. I promise you will be able to make chain
using these instructions. I always mention to people who buy kits
from me that they are also buying access to me, and not one has ever
contacted me with a problem. Please feel free to email me offline.

Noel

Hi Helen,

I make my chain by hand on a homemade spool. I take a large wooden
bead, hammer finishing nails in the end and the grind the heads off.
I start my chain by using thread then and then once I have about an
inch going I weave in the silver (fine) with the thread a couple
rounds, cut the thread and continue with the silver. This helps
avoid waste with your silver, and you have the thread to pull on at
the base of the spool. As far as finishing I make a couple cones and
drill a hole through the cone about an eighth inch from the wide
side of the cone, drill through both sides. I then melt a ball on the
end of a wire (20 ga.) put my finished chain in the cone, push the
wire through the cone and chain and melt a ball on the other end. I
hope that’s clear! I’ve also twisted wire on my chain, run it up
through the cone and made a loop w/a small wire wrap on itself to
hold the cone in place.

Good Luck!
Lisa Hawthorne

As for torch control on those handwoven chains, you do need good
control to anneal them, anyway! That is very helpful to do before
straightening them and pulling them through a drawplate. Remember to
darken your room, and it should go okay.

M’lou

Alma

There is a book just on this subject called “Wire Knitting… on a Spool” by Sharon Hessoun; Beadecked and Beaddicted, 2001.

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0970785402/ganoksincom-20

There are also instructions to be found in the November 1988 edition
of the Rock & Gem Magazine. I do have some other pages that come from
various other sources that I can scan and send you if you wish.

Karen Bahr - Karen’s Artworx
Calgary, Alberta, Canada

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0970785402/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0970785402&linkCode=as2&tag=ganoksincom-20&linkId=90d4d00d139a4bd635f76c8876ae5bb9

To everyone who has answered my chain making queries. You are too
numerous to reply to individually but please be assured that I do
really appreciate all your advice. I will glean bits of useful
from all your replies so thank you very, very much.

Helen
UK

Hi Michael,

Thanks for your reply. Someone told me that you’d written a tutorial
with lots of pictures for this type of chain for Orchid. I’ve
searched through the articles and can’t find it. Can you direct me
to it if it exists?

Although the type of chain I’m doing (which is the same as yours) is
not done with knitting needles, it is nonetheless a knitted chain.
It’s not done with a crochet hook either. I’ve knitted and crocheted
(and dabbled in macrame and tatting too) with yarn for over 30 years
and it’s not really the tools used but the stitches created which
define what type of “textile” it is. Viking knit produces exactly
the same result as the freehand knit, but if you study the stitches
and how it’s done, it is clearly just “knitted” from the other end
and therefore uses a different technique to produce the same results.

Something else I’ve noticed is the fact that you can use the Viking
knit technique to create different looks. As you say the technique
uses an armature. The tutorials on the subject seem to create a
chain with a “ribbed” look, with the spaces between the stitch
columns being as much a feature of the chain as the stitches
themselves - but it is clearly possible to make as many stitches as
will fit around the armature, to create the same dense look as the
type of knit you make. I’ll have a go at it and compare it to the
freehand method, because as someone just starting to have a go at
this, I can imagine that the fixed diameter of the armature will give
a very uniform look to the chain and that it will be easier to make a
straight chain. The freehand knit one that I have done became nice
and uniform after a couple of inches of being lumpy, but the whole
chain has a twist or spiral to it that I don’t like, so I think using
the Viking knit technique with the armature may solve that problem.

I’m looking forward to experimenting with different types of chain
making. My daughter has also invented quite a few different
techniques/patterns that I have never seen before in either yarn or
wire techniques so that will be really fun to have a go with. I
think Kelley’s suggestion of buying lots of copper wire to practice
is a very good one to try out my daughter’s techniques.

Thanks again Michael, and you jewellery is simply stunning!

Helen
UK

The below website has lots on French knitting at the end there is
some info on silver wire knitting, Hope this helps

http://www.waynesthisandthat.com/knittingnancys.html

Christine in Lightning Ridge

I have to jump in on this one. I have been making chains and
earrings using the “Viking knit” wire weaving technique for five
years. I use both Argentium silver and 14kt. gold-fill (28, 26 and 24
gauge). I have never had a problem with work hardening and I use 8-10
foot lengths (seriously!). I have an array of Allen wrenches that I
use for mandrels, ranging in size from 1/8" to 3/8", depending on the
effect I want and the number of stitches in my chain. I have used a
bench grinder to slightly round off the edges of these wrenches to
make turning the chain easier. I prefer Allen wrenches to dowels
because then the chain does not rotate while I am making each stitch.
Also, the Allen wrenches are held in a bench vise, so I have both
hands free to handle the wire.

With practice, it is possible to keep each line of stitches straight
rather than allowing the stitches to precess around the mandrel,
resulting in a twist. The only time I have to resort to a wooden
dowel is when I incorporate pearls and gemstone chips into the weave.

I have never used solder or fusing to make any of my chains. New
lengths of wire are added by twisting together the ends, with the
resulting twist hidden inside the final chain. I made my drawplate
from a length of hard maple. I just love pulling a raw chain through
the plate; it feels like magic to have something thick, stiff, and
chunky transform into a silky, flexible rope.

You can see a few example of my Viking knit chains here:

http://janra-jewelry-designs.com/necklaces.html

And photos of a chain in progress here:

http://janra-jewelry-designs.com/creating-vk.html

BTW: It is absolutely possible to crochet with wire!! Check out
Arlene Fisch’s two wonderful books: Textile Techniques in Metal and
Crocheted Wire Jewelry.

Jan Raven
www.janra-jewelry-designs.com

As for torch control on those handwoven chains, you do need good
control to anneal them 

In my hand crochet workshops we use an Ultralight table top kiln to
anneal our fine silver chains. The kiln is much hotter than the
temperature needed to anneal fine silver, so it only takes a few
seconds for each chain.

I also use this kiln for annealing fine silver in my forging
classes.

Michael David Sturlin
www.goldcrochet.com
www.michaeldavidsturlin.com

As for torch control on those handwoven chains, you do need good
control to anneal them, anyway! 

Or, for complete safety, don’t use a torch. set a kiln to 900
degrees or so, firecoat the silver as usual, then put in the kiln for
15 minutes or so. Remove and quench. Fully annealed, very uniformly
annealed, no melting or accidents. You do need the kiln though…

Peter

Someone told me that you'd written a tutorial with lots of
pictures for this type of chain for Orchid. I've searched through
the articles and can't find it. Can you direct me to it if it
exists? 

My chain fabrication tutorials are no longer available online. An
abbreviated illustrated version of my written instruction is
published in the Arline Fisch book, Crocheted Wire Jewelry. ISBN
1-57990-660-5.

Michael David Sturlin
www.goldcrochet.com
www.michaeldavidsturlin.com

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 don’t solder the chain into the tube ends at all. I drill a hole
in the middle of the cap and gather up the loops of the chain itself
with a 20 or 18 gage wire. I run this wire through the hole in the
cap and pull the chain up and into it. I use this heavier chain to
make a loop to hold the clasp or to be part of it.

marilyn

Be careful not to hang anything too heavy. Fine silver might stretch
depending on gage and diameter. If the sterling is too stiff,
perhaps you need a finer gage.

marilyn

I have had a wonderful time with knitted metal objects (and it is
knitting because more than one stitch is open when you are finished
with a row). I use the needles of my knitting machine as one would
use a spool for knitting. I work by manually pushing up the needles,
pulling the wire over the open needles and then pulling the needles
down one at a time. I work mainly in 30g and knit in the round (I
have a ribber on my machine so there are two beds of needles). I have
incorperated knitting techniques into my work including a center
reduction, short rows and an eqivelent of yarn overs to get lace. My
machine works very well for metal from 30 to 26 gauge (24 gauge with
sever damage to my finger nails). I also love Viking knit and enjoy
adding stitches much like Ruth Asawa’s magnificent sculptures
(pencils are great for a tubular form) and have created my own spool
knitters with the small size cotter pins.

I have always had a love-hate relationship with findings because I
wanted them to blend into my pieces in addition to being functional.
After going through tubing based findings and coiled wire findings I
decided to treat a necklace as a piece of “fabric” and use a hook
and eye to attach a necklace. I have also tried to hide the hook and
eye to make the piece “seemless”. I’m satisfied for the present but
always looking for the perfect attachment.

Marla Rudnick
exhausted after the 11 year old daughters birthday extravaganza.

Hi Jan,

Your chains are very lovely!

I have never had a problem with work hardening and I use 8-10 foot
lengths (seriously!). 

From what I can see, the Viking knit technique lends itself to fewer
problems with regard to work hardening. The freehand technique I
used involves taking the wire from the centre of the “tube” through a
loop and then putting it back through the same loop and out through
the next loop across - and in the process, you’ve made a new
loop/stitch. There is a great tendency for kinks to be produced and
three foot lengths were the longest I could manage before the wire
was too hard to work - I suppose it depends on the gauge of wire also
though.

I also like the way that using an allen key means that you can keep
the chain much more straight and without any twists, as you say. I
also spliced the wire by the same method as you do and it gives a
very strong and invisible join. Looking forward to trying the Viking
knit technique when I’ve ordered my next metal order next month.

Helen
UK

Karen, I checked Amazon, and found that Sharon Hessoun’s book is out
of stock. A friend has a lot of back issues of Rock and Gem, and
thinks she has the Nov. 1988 edition.

Thanks for your help. Alma

Hello Peter Rowe,

Thanks for your safer annealing instructions. I do have a question
regarding chains made from Argentium silver. It seems that there
would be no need for the firecoat, but I haven’t tried it.

Any input from the forum?

Judy in Kansas, where we have a (hopefully last) frost warning for
tonight. Gotta cover everything again!

Helen wrote about her freehand chain twisting…

In Viking knit, being constructed over an armature, the rows of loops
can easily be kept straight. Freehand fabrication, when done
correctly, will naturally develop a spiral. That is the nature of the
process because the technique is a spiraling construction. Once the
loops are evenly sized and next to one another with no space
in-between the spiral begins to develop.

The spiral is an important feature of a freehand chain. This helps to
keep the structure rigid and stable as it is being worked.

Once the desired length is accomplished and the chain has been
annealed it can be untwisted to remove the spiral. This allows the
loops to be aligned into parallel rows and enables the loops to slide
back and forth within one another. This movement, like a Chinese
finger cuff, gives the chain its suppleness and flexibility.

The majority of increase in the length of a well executed freehand
chain before and after annealing will result from the chain being
untwisted, rather than from drawing the chain through the drawplate.

Michael David Sturlin
www.goldcrochet.com
www.michaeldavidsturlin.com

Hi Marla,

I use the needles of my knitting machine as one would use a spool
for knitting. 

That sounds like a great idea!

hook and eye to attach a necklace. I have also tried to hide the
hook and eye to make the piece "seemless". 

I think that the clasp can be an attractive design element in itself
and like to make my own. I really don’t like ready-made findings. I’m
always looking out for inspiration on new clasp designs to make.

Helen
UK