I hang around bad influences. My friends get me to try all sorts of stuff that I wouldn't even think of on my own. But you know, it is kind of fun!
In the most recent case, a dear friend of mine has been teaching Viking wire weaving anyone who will sit still long enough to look at what she is doing. Viking or Norse wire weaving (also called trichinopoly), as suggested by the name, dates back to the Viking era. (http://www.jewelryhistorian.com/sca/articles/trichinopoly_documentation.pdf) Through my friend, I ordered directions and a small kit from Tom Kassens, and I was off and running.
To learn the technique, I made a practice bracelet out of some scrap copper wire I had lying around. Once I posted a picture on my FaceBook, I had folks ask me if I was going to do a blog tutorial. So I started a matching necklace, and took pictures. Mind you, I'm nowhere near an expert. But this technique is easy enough that even beginners can come out with wearable pieces of jewelry.
Here's what I did:
craft wire in two sizes
a wooden dowel (or fingers, or allen wrench)
a draw plate (make one by drilling different sized holes in a board)
For this necklace, I made a 5 loop chain. You can experiment with more or less loops. To make a starting anchor, take a length of your wire, and wrap it around your fingers the right number of times.
Twist the ends of the loops together.
Spread the loops out evenly, and kind of squish them into long ovals. It will look kind of like a flower.
Now, bend the petals around your mandrel. I'm using a wooden dowel that has a rounded end. It also has a slight indentation in one side up near the end, to make it easier to pass the wire under the loops as you get weaving. I have a friend who just uses her fingers for a mandrel. I've also seen folks use an allen wrench in a vise, for a more stable work surface.
Cut a working length of wire, somewhere between 18" and 3'. Secure one end by winding it around the twists in your starter flower.
Bring the other end in one loop and out the next door loop. With the mandrel in my hand coming towards me, I was working from right to left.
Pull the wire through, and tighten up the resulting loop. I found that I was most comfortable feeding through the wire by hand, then using a pliers to tighten the loop. Now, move to the next petal to the right, and make another loop with your working wire. Continue around, until you are back to your first working loop.
On your next row, you are going to insert your wire under the X made at the base of your loop. Snug your wire into place with pliers again, but be sure you leave enough room in the weave to get the next pass of wire through. Continue around, building your chain loop by loop in this manner.
You will run out of wire quicker than you think. I've found two ways to add the next length of wire. The first way is to insert the end of the new wire back the way you just came with the old wire...
...then bend the ends down, and hold them in place while you continue looping around. When you get back to the ends of the wires, work over them so they are in the inside of your weaving. After a few rows, snip the remaining ends.
The second way is to twist the old and the new wires together while you are between loops. Again, continue on with your new wire, and make sure the ends are hidden inside your weaving.
After you've gone through several lengths of wire, it is time to think about finishing your piece. For my choker, I made my rough weave 9 inches long. Obviously, that isn't long enough to go around an adult neck. But the magic happens next.
Using pliers, hold on to your original wire flower as a handle and pull your rough weave through the biggest hole in your drawplate. Then pull it though the next smaller hole. Keep going until you can't easily get it though a hole. This will lengthen your finished chain, and at the same time decrease its diameter. The chain becomes more flexible, and little irregularities get lost to the eye.
My 9" of chain became just over 15" long, which is a great choker size for me. If your resulting chain is too long for your finished product, you can unweave some of your work. It isn't really possible to add more at this point though, so be sure you have enough rough weave before you draw it out.
Carefully snip off your original starter flower.
You can finish your chain in several different ways. In this case, I chose a simple wire hook and eye clasp. Take your thicker wire, and make a loop in the end. Thwap it with the hammer for a bit to work harden the wire.
Stick the end of your wire down through the middle of your chain and out the side a few openings down. Pull it down, until the eye you just made is settled against the end of your weave.
Take this wire, and tightly wrap it back up toward your eye.
Take the end of your wire, and stick it down through the middle of your chain, and out the side underneath that coil you just made. You might have to use an awl to squeeze open a pathway. Use your pliers and grab the end sticking out, and pull the wire down tight, making sure not to kink up the loop as you pull it down and in. Snip off the end of the wire flush to your chain.
To make the hook side of your clasp, fold another wire over, wind the short end around the long, and snip off the short end. Thwap it with your hammer to work harden the wire.
Fold the double wires over into a hook shape.
Add this hook to the other end of your chain the same way you did the eye.
And here you go! A lovely choker, ready to wear. I've got it on right now, and it is light weight, flexible, and comfortable. I think I'm ready to move up from copper to silver wire next...