Sep 5, 2012

Bead Table Wednesday: Chain Maille

Chainmaille components created for the Summer Pantone Bead Swap

It's bead table Wednesday, and happily I've got chain maille on my table this week. It's my favorite jewelry making technique, and I include chain maille in jewelry designs as often as I can. 

I can't get enough of it. I love the feel and look of jewelry made with intricately woven metals. It feels so similar to fine jewelry, and adds a strength and elegance. Most of all, I like how I can make everything myself -- right down to the jump rings! Jewel School's chain maille mandrel set designed by "The Chain Maille Lady" herself Lauren Andersen makes it easy to round up jump rings at any time.

It's amazing to me that simple rings can become this: 

Swarovski rivoli with Japanese Flower bezel (step by step wire)

 Swarovski rivoli with Japanese flower bezel and double bubble/ Half-Persian 3-1chain

 I am making chain maille for my blue rosary, for Celtic jewelry, and for fun. And I'm considering creating some kind of chain maille charms for the Art Jewelry Elements  Beads of Courage Charm Swap.

On my bead table: the Beads of Courage "Laugh" bead :)

If you are new to chainmaille, there are many excellent free tutorials to get you started. Jewelry Making Daily offers a free instant download e-book with three projects: love knot or rosette earrings by Denise Peck, and a foxtail chain (the Full Persian -- see above my Half Persian) and Vinyard bracelet by Sara Graham Richardson. You can get the free pdf file here.

Brass byzantine links waiting to become jewelry.

 You'll also find free chain maille tutorials on the full Persian, byzantine chain, rosettes and more at Jewel School's project videos page. The chain maille video tutorials are taught by  Lauren Andersen and Christiane Ross. Here are two simple earrings made from the same beginning level chain maille weave (see "Christiane's chainmaille" video for instructions). I used various components to create completely different styles of the same earrings, my first chain maille jewelry ever.

Mystic hematite and pearls on burgundy handcrafted ear wires and chain maille.

Gold-tone crescent moons and discs on gold-filled leverbacks and gold plated copper wire.

In addition to Jewel School videos on demand, you'll also find excellent free pdf tutorials with clear images and step by step instructions at Blue Buddha Boutique.  Blue Buddha was created by artist Rebeca Mojica when she saw the need within the chain maille community for quality rings in various metals and the correct sizes. Blue Buddha offers a variety of jump rings, information on aspect ratio, and ideas for using specific size rings and materials in addition to their tutorials.

Frida Kahlo lucite, copper, Swarovski crystal and bone chainmaille earrings.
  You'll also find excellent instruction at Fusion Beads, who offers a technique section on almost everything. It's the largest, most varied collection of free technique tutorials I've ever found. Check it out! Go to "beading techniques" at Fusion Beads and explore all the terrific information on creating jewelry. The Fusion Beads chain maille technique section even teaches the most advanced and infamous weave of all: dragonscale!!

Likewise, the PBS series "Beads, Baubles and Jewels" has an amazing online collection of free tutorials featuring guest artists' projects, including many chain maille designs. Simply "join" their website for free, and start exploring. I'm currently in love with Andersen's "Sedona" sunset necklace, and after finding the most perfect orange and green agate beads, I'm so ready to create my version for Fall! You'll find the tutorial with projects for show 1502, "Semi-Precious Gems."

In this season of BBJ, Jewel School's Christian Ross presents Half-Persian 3-1 bezels, and I am proud to say I helped with the online BBJ tutorial! This special bezel can be used in many ways: attach discs or charms or beads to the links, create dangles and chains, or attach several cabs in a row for bracelets or necklaces.

The Half-Persian 3-1 Bezel I created as "beta tester" for Ross' BBJ tutorial

Half-Persian 3-1 Bezel. I turned it "inside out" for a cool look.
 Here is an excerpt of the the Beads, Baubles, and Jewels episode that features Ross and her chainmaille bezel. On the BBJ website, you'll find the pdf tutorial.


Additionally, check out the chain maille artists organizations. If you are inspired to try a variety of weaves, or ready to try your own variations of weaves, you will also want to explore the M.A.I.L. - Maille Artisans International League - Weave Index and CGMaille Tutorials. Both artistic organizations have a wealth of information and offer instruction as well as aspect ratios and variations on traditional weaves. 

One last item on my bead table: the Holiday Bling Blog hop. My partner is gifted artist and co-host of the hop, Shelly Graham Turner, who said "the ball is in your court." What to create? Traditional Christmas jewelry, a theme of light for the Solstice, wreaths, wind chimes? After coming across friend Tina Holden's amazing "Window Ornament Exchange" blog hop from her Facebook group, I'm calling window ornaments! Check out the designs and creations -- they are all unique and gorgeous!

So, there you have it. My mid week bead table. What's on your bead table this week? 

Big Hugs, TJ

Toltec Jewels is an author by day and jewelry artist by night. Her literary work is housed by the San Fransisco MOMA in a permanent collection of mixed media art and is published internationally in popular magazines, literary quarterlies, and university publications. She has won a number of awards for both her literary and jewelry art. A gemstone collector and jewelry lover, she is happiest making handcrafted jewelry with her entire family.

She is also the creator of Jewel School Friends, a community of expert and new jewelry artisans taking inspiration from each other and Jewel School. JSF features jewelry designers and bead artists, supports entrepreneurship for independent artisans. Join her at Jewel School Friends on Facebook  for coupons, community, fundraisers, contests give-a-ways and of course, beautiful jewelry!  


  1. I love chain maille designs. In fact, you just reminded me that I bought SEVERAL sterling silver ring kits for some bracelets YEARS ago. I made one of them, and it was so long it fell off my wrist. Well, this was one of my first projects and BEFORE I realized how easy it is to simply remove a few of the jump rings. I am going to vow RIGHT NOW - I have to find those remaining kits!!!! Love the bezels in your post! Have a great day!

  2. My hat's off to you! Great job on the chainmaille. I tried it once but found it very hard on my hands. I admire those that can do it.

  3. That Swarovski rivoli with bezel and my favourite bubbles is an awesome piece!
    Inspired by your great chainmaille work, I did some short chainmaille parts for bracelets this week :-D They will be jewelry in near future, I hope!


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