How To: Wire Weaving

How To: Wire Weaving

I’ve had several requests to add my wire weaving handout to my blog. I’ve been teaching wire weaving for eight years and have taught it many times (seventeen official classes and hands on demos but I’ve also taught it one on one quite a few times as well.) I  also entered two different necklaces into competition for Glymm Mere’s 2009 and 2010 championships and was honored to become their champion in 2010 with my favorite piece. I will be including all of my handout information in this post but will be adding in some of my research as well. I will also be including some links at the bottom for the supplies needed if you would like to give it a try.

Completed 2010 necklace made of 24 gauge silver wire and pewter cones cast in soapstone.

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Wire weaving is a beautiful and surprisingly simple skill to learn. Examples of wire weaving being used as jewelry have been found in many Norse digs. These examples are from an eleventh century Sammi hoard found in Finland and 10th century Sweden.

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Research

The wire weaving that I based this piece on is located at the Swedish National Museum. I discovered a photo on just the very end of a necklace in a photo that was focusing on a beautiful Thor’s hammer. I discovered the location of the item and contacted the museum in order to find out additional information on the necklace itself. I emailed the museum asking about the necklaces and Lotta Fernstål responded. She informed me that there was
an online catalog of the museum’s pieces and instructed me on how to use it.

The catalog cards had a photos of the complete pieces and information that was unfortunately in Swedish. I asked Lotta if she would be willing to translate for me and she was kind enough to do so to the best of her ability as the card were very old and she expressed difficulty translating from old Swedish to English. The first and smaller piece was found in 1780 under a rock in Bredsätra, Sweden by a local farmer . A second and larger necklace that caught my eye with separate cones at the ends was found in 1870 by a ground worker in Skåne, Sweden.

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Necklace

The smaller piece had measurements above the photo which aided me in figuring out the size of the necklace as well as the wire itself. After taking measurements from an admittedly very old photo I came to the conclusion that the silver wire used to weave the necklace was about 24 gauge.

I needed to decide was the number of loops I wanted to use in this necklace. I have seen anywhere from four to ten or more used in extant pieces. It was difficult to determine the number of loops on the two pieces that I was basing this piece on because of the poor quality of the photos.

I have been looking into the difference in appearance in weaving the same gauge wire on different dowels. After examining the photos I decided that a 6 loop piece would be most accurate for the piece. I did two test pieces, both 24 gauge wire but one on a medium dowel and one on a small dowel. Using the smaller dowel made a huge difference in the appearance of the weaving. It has a much more compact and less stretched look when bringing the weaving down to the size of the extant piece.

Sample pieces with same gauge wire and same loops. Top 1/4 inch dowel, Bottom 1/2 inch dowel.

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Cones

I based the ends of this necklace on the second piece at the museum. This piece has simple cones finishing the ends. I decided to try making my own cones for this piece. I was having a very difficult time figuring out exactly how to create the interior of the cone. I knew that I would use either a clay or soapstone mold and cast them in pewter.

I attended the 2010 An Tir Kingdom Arts and Sciences Championship and discovered that Alicia le Wilfulle had cast bells which are almost the same as the cones that I had been trying to figure out! She was kind enough to share the book that she based her work on. The book is about Medieval Scandinavia and the pieces are from the 12th century (This has been so long ago now I’m not sure what book this was but I will update the post if I find it.) Though not the same time period this method does make perfect sense and I don’t doubt that it was used before the 12th century.

The soapstone molds have very definite areas to place something for the pewter to flow around. Alicia le Wilfulle had deduced that a piece of wood was the perfect thing! I used the same method when creating my cones.

Soapstone mold for cones.

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How To

Materials

My preferred wire is 24 gauge Artistic Wire. It is coated so it doesn’t tarnish and I have only rarely had it kink. There is generally enough in one roll to make a good length necklace. You can use between 22 through 28 gauge relatively easily. The higher gauge will tend to kink more easily and the lower gauge can get a bit tough on the hands. I really like the 22 gauge for a nice sturdy necklace. I use 20 to attach the weaving to the cones and create my loops.

You will also need a set of wire cutters, round nose pliers, a draw plate and a six inch dowel. I’ve used anywhere between 1/4 inch and 1/2 inch dowels. Different size dowels will give you a different look to your weaving.

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Beginning the Weave

Step 1. Wrap wire around two to three fingers as many times as you would like loops in your necklace.

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Step 2. Twist the wire about a third down the length and open up your loops to create a “flower.”

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Step 3. Bend your “flower” around your dowel.

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Step 4. Take your new piece of wire (no longer than an arms length or it will kink too easily) and loop it through the x where two loops meet. (see pictures)

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Step 5. Continue to loop your wire through each x. (see pictures)

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That’s all there is to the wire weaving itself. You can use as many loops as you like to make a more complex piece. I wouldn’t recommend less than four. It also gets pretty tricky after about ten.

Adding More Wire

Continue to weave until you have about an inch of wire left. Cut an arms length piece of wire. Take the end and bring it back through the last x that you looped through backwards. Fold it down and continue weaving. Once you’ve woven a few rows you can cut off the excess ends from the wire.

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Using Your Drawplate

Take your weaving off of the dowel. You should plan on having about 1/3 additional length once you run your weaving through your drawplate. Start at the largest hole in your drawplate and run the length through each hole until you are to the size you want. If you draw it too small it will lock into place and no longer be flexible so be sure you don’t over do it!

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Finishing The Ends

Once you are to your desired length cut off your “flower” and bring the end of your wire through the end of the weaving a few times. Take your 20 gauge wire and bring it through your weaving in several different directions to anchor it in.

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Bring your wire through your cone and pull it into place. Create a loop using the round nose pliers and the long end of your wire and wrap it around both of the wires that you pulled through.  Wrap it as many times as you can to make it nice and snug and snip off the remainder.

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Supplies

Shipwreck Beads

Firemountain Gems

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Largess: Waxed Linen Food Covers

Largess: Waxed Linen Food Covers

I’ve been wanting to come up with some good things that I can create for largess (for non SCA people this is things that are given as gifts and thank yous) that will be handy, relatively inexpensive and lend to a more historically accurate looking group. I love waxed linen covers because they are all of these things!

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When I looked into the process of making waxed linen I found several different methods. The one that I used seems to be the least messy and doesn’t leave a lot of excess wax on the linen.

Materials:

*Linen I prefer medium weight natural linen but if you wanted to do something in color that would work as well. Linen covers come in many different sizes so this is a great way to use any linen scraps you might have!

*Beeswax– I found mine at a local bead shop but there are many other places where it is available and relatively inexpensive.

*Baking Pan– You can get a cheap disposable baking pan at the dollar store. Don’t use a pan that you plan to use again.

*Knife or Cheese Grater– We started by using a cheese grater but a knife seemed to work better with our beeswax.

Process:

Cut your linen to the desired size. For cup covers I used a 6″ circle. This should be large enough to work with a variety of sizes.

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Shred your beeswax. Luckly I had friends to help me with this part! We tried a cheese grater but a knife worked much better. I wouldn’t recommend the beeswax beads as they will create excess buildup of wax on your linen.

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Heat your oven to 200 degrees. Beeswax has a very low melting point so you don’t want your oven any warmer. Place your linen in the pan and evenly sprinkle the beeswax on top. if you spread it evenly around the linen it should cover the linen nicely.

 

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Place the pan in the oven and let the wax melt into the linen. When the wax is completely melted take the linen out of the pan to avoid any extra beeswax building up on the linen.

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The covers cool and harden very quickly. You can transport them in a ziplock bag or if you want to be fancy make a bag made from linen or wool for your waxed linen covers!

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