Feb 25, 2014

Spring Fever Blog Hop with the Gossiping Goddess, BlueberriBeads, and Smitten Beads

have come together to create a beautiful event: 

If you act today, you might be a lucky winner enjoying a very special blog hop this spring: The Gossiping Goddess and BluberriBeads blogs are joining together with Smitten Beads in a beautiful art jewelry challenge. They are offering 20 sets of THEa Elements layered ceramic flowers & beads, BlueberriBeads floral birds, and Smitten Beads sari silk at a reduced price of £12 GBP plus shipping (£2.50 GBP UK/ £3.75 GBP Overseas) per set for a design challenge and blog hop on Wednesday 16th April, 2014. 

Sign-ups for the Spring Fever Design Challenge & Blog Hop are taking place at The Gossiping Goddess and BlueberriBeads through Wednesday, February 26th at 8pm GMT -- so gallop away quickly to enter & good luck my friends!

Toltec Jewels is an author by day, jewelry maker by night. Her literary work is housed by the San Francisco MOMA and is published internationally in popular magazines, literary quarterlies, and university publications. She has won a number of awards for literary and jewelry arts. She is happiest making handcrafted jewelry with her entire family, snuggling with her doggies and grandkids, sewing, singing, reading, and learning more jewelry techniques. She is the hostess of JSF, a diverse community of expert and emerging artisans taking inspiration from each other and jewelry arts. Join her on FB for networking, fundraising for Beads of Courage, jewelry making challenges, blog hops, contests, give-a-ways and of course, cool beads and jewelry!

Feb 22, 2014

Winter Sparkle Blog Hop Reveal

Living in Orlando, winter is full of color. Flowers are blooming, and a soft ocean breeze flows across the peninsula. The air is clean and refreshing, and day light is as nurturing as the evening stars on a quiet late night walk.

When I received my bead mix from Lisa Lodge of "A Grateful artist" I wasn't surprised it was green! Green has been my color for our last few blog hops, and it is also an excellent representation of winter in Florida.

I sorted everything I received, and had several shapes of crystal to create with. I received fresh grass greens in crystal faceted rounds & AB rondelles, olive green glass pearls. larger green rondelles, round & elongated glass, and a handful olive green, larger ovals and bicones. I also received a seed bead mix in bright green, yellow & yellow-green, along with gold-toned metal discs.

I counted the faceted AB rounds -- enough for a rosary! I special ordered a crucifix for my rosary, as well as two artisan crafted beads for the hop: a tree of life green ceramic focal and green & earth tone sea horses for Florida-style earrings. But sadly, non arrived yet. (Actually -- update, they just came today! So excited to create now!)

I did however, come up with a new chainmaille flower design and I'm delighted to say I've not seen it anywhere, so I may create additional colorways in the weave with various pearls & bicones, and eventually submit the design for publication since new chainmaille patterns are special and rather rare.

A Finnish Helm weave, the flowers are created with "dragon dust" (or stardust) silver rings and embellished with pink glass pearls and Swarovski bicones in Violet AB2. I added the olive glass pearls from Lisa and made handcrafted daisy silver earwires. I LOVE the spring flower (or rather, winter sparkle ) feel and pretty flashes of pastel colors!

I've been sharing a free chainmaille tutorial series on my blog, and I'm considering posting the instructions for making these earrings this upcoming week :) Would you like instructions to make them?

Also, fellow blog hoppers, I'm giving away beads by The Color of Dreams Boutique for a blog hop about our dreams. I'll be sending out around 30 free art beads to artist who would like to participate :) Lisa introduced me to Patricia Handschuh's art in one of her hops, so I think it is nice to pass on more hopping with Patricia's work. Thanks Lisa!

Details are HERE.

Enjoy the sparkle created this winter by the fine artists below! Happy Hopping! xxoo Rita

Our hostess: Lisa Lodge, A Grateful Artist

Melissa Trudinger, Bead Recipes

Kathy Zeigler Lindemer, Bay Moon Design

Eleanor Burian Moore, The Charmed Life 

Jo-Ann Woolverton, It's a Beadiful Creation

Chris Eisenberg, Wanderware

Carolyn Lawson, Carolyn's Creations

Toltec Jewels, Jewel School Friends

Christie Searle Murrow, Charis Designs Jewelry

Heather Richter, Desert Jewelry Designs

Ev Shelby, Raindrop Creations 

Dolores Raml, CraftyD's Creations

Kim Dworak, Cianci Blue

Cassi Renee Paslick, Beads: Rolling Downhill

Annette Rivers, Mama Owl's Mess

Tammie Tusher Everly, TTE Designs

Crystal Thain, Here Bead Dragons

Marybeth Rich, A Few Words from within the Pines

Norbel Marolla, She Flies Again Jewelry

Karen Burg, KEB Designs

Karin Grosset Grange, Ginkgo et Coquelicot

Jasvanti Patel, Jewels by Jasvanti

Feb 21, 2014

The Color of Dreams Blog Hop

What are your dreams?  Is there a dream you are watching unfold now? What has been your greatest dream to come true? If you could be, do, or have anything, what would that be?

The Color of Dreams BEADS

The Color of Dreams Boutique on Etsy

Each participant will be given a bead created by artist Patricia Handschuh of The Color of Dreams Boutique bead to design with. Create with the bead and show us your dreams! I'm treating everyone to the beads, and Patricia is donating a matched set of her beads for the blog hop reveal give-a-way. The one rule: let's focus on dreams as possible with the idea, "If we can dream it, we can achieve it." So, try creating "from the end" -- as if your dream has come true -- using your jewelry design to do so. 

You may share a dream that has already manifested -- such as becoming a parent, learning tennis, going back to school, or reading many books -- or one you are in the process of making come true, or would like to come true some day. Perhaps you are on the edge of a brand new dream, ready for inspiration. Or perhaps it is a dream you wish to simply keep on dreaming. 


Please join us for "The Color of Dreams Blog Hop" on April 6, 2014 to create the story of your dreams in jewelry. Each participant will receive an ooak/orphan bead from The Color of Dreams Boutique. I'm sending these beautiful unique beads out free of charge, so I am limiting the number of participants to 30-35 artists. 

To join in, please comment below so I have a count of participants, and also email me (toltecjewels @ aol DOT com) with your name and mailing address, your Blog name & blog address, & info about your shop, if you have one. In order to ensure that everyone has time to receive their bead and create, sign-ups close in one week, on February 28th. 

Below is the Blog Hop Widget/ Button for the Hop. Simply right click the image to "save as" a photo. In your Blogger layout, add the button by choosing a new element "add photo" and click "shrink to fit" before uploading the image. 

Sign ups are now closed with 47 participants.Thank you! 
The participants are listed on my March 3rd post: 

I'm honored and delighted with everyone's wonderful response to the challenge, and look forward to our hop! 

Feb 18, 2014

Art Bead Scene Blog: February 2014 Challenge Color Palette

February is more than half-way through, but I wanted to share the beautiful color challenge Brandi Hussey created for this month's Art Bead Scene Color Challenge. She created two palettes of an abstract rose garden. The second palette helps us see the greens.

Check out Art Bead Scene for more information on joining in the challenge. Happy creating!

Art Bead Scene Blog: February 2014 Challenge Color Palette

Feb 14, 2014

Free Chainmaille Tutorial Series: Tools You'll Need and Instructions for Project One: "Loopy in Love Charms"

"Loppy in Love" Chainmaille Charms

"Loppy in Love" Chainmaille Charms for earrings or pendants are today's free chainmaille tutorial.  To read about tools later, and skip ahead to the instructions right now, click here or scroll to the bottom of this post. In an effort to keep blog posts succinct, I'm posting all the tutorials for this series on my tutorial blog. To go to the free tutorials at any time, simply click "tutorials"on the leaf photo located at the top right sidebar of my blog.

Today's weave --loopy loops -- is great for earrings, pendants, and bracelets. The weave can be made with any size rings. Since everyone learns differently, you'll have 3 ways to learn this weave: a downloadable pdf, a video, and my personal photography instructions.

Happy Valentine's Day! 

The Helm and Mobius Weaves Combined

Response to this series has been great! Thank you. I appreciate everyone following along. Today, we are going to create our first chainmaille project and discuss the tools we will need for creating chainmaille. We will continue to explore the basic weaves one type at a time.The reason for this: once you create and know the various weaves, you will be able to take off with your own designs. Like the cool chainmaille pattern above that combines a Helm weave with a Mobius, you will also combine weaves and create embellishments for weaves that will make your chainmaille special to you. 

We will learn both the MOBIUS & basic LOOPY LOOPS. You will have a video presented by Christiane Ross (she taught me chainmaile) on creating Mobius rings (also known as "love rings") and on creating Loopy Loops. In addition, you will have an illustrated free tutorial from Blue Buddha Boutique on Mobius, or Love Rings & Loopy Loops. 

And finally, I will take you step by step on creating & then embellishing Loopy Loops for Valentine's Day, "Loopy in Love Charms" which can be made into earrings or a pendant. These may seem like simple weaves, at first, but keep in mind you are building your understanding of maille, and even the simplest design can be sophisticated. In fact, a design by Lauren Andersen using the "Loopy Loops" weave was published in Step by Step Wire for the 2012 Crystal issue. 

But firstly, let's talk tools. 

As I stated in last week's post, this series began when a friend asked what ring sizes to buy for chainmaille. Since each weave is like a beadwork pattern, requiring different ring sizes just as beadwork patterns require differing seed beads, there isn't one answer to that question. However, one tool to solve the need for rings in differing sizes is the chainmaille mandrel set by Beadalon. It is my favorite tool of all! With it, one can create almost any and every ring size needed for any chainmaille pattern. 

The Beadalon Chain Maille Mandrel Set created for Jewel School

The set of 9 mandrels was created exclusively for Jewel School, so you'll only find it for purchase at the Jewel School website (I've looked everywhere). They are very popular and often sold out, so I purchased a second set recently. They come in the 9 most frequently needed ring sizes for chainmaille patterns: 

2 mm
2.4 mm
2.8 mm
3.2 mm
3.6 mm
4.4 mm
4.8 mm
5.6 mm
6 mm

Additional ring making tools: Calipers & Make-shift Mandrels

Digital calipers are another must have tool for creating chainmaille rings easily and accurately. A digital caliper measures the inside of jump rings (using the top prongs) and the circumference of items (using bottom prongs). That makes turning everyday jump rings sold by outer diameter (say, the package at the craft store says 6mm) into chainmaille rings because you can measure the inside of the ring for the chainmaille size. 

You can also use items such as crochet hooks, curtain rod supports, and knitting needles as mandrels for making rings. Sometimes, tweaking a pattern means I need an unusual size ring, such as a 3.9 mm. I can use my digital caliper to measure the circumference of items & make the rings I need in any size. 

Making rings:

The most frequently used rings for chainmaille come in widths of 16 gauge, 18 gauge, and 20 gauge. Please note all the gauges I'm sharing are American Wire Gauge. In comparison, Standard wire gauge may be listed for patterns since chainmaille is a global art; we'll cover the difference between American & Standard gauges in an upcoming post, with a chart you can refer to when patterns call for SWG rather than AWG.

The most frequently used metals are copper, brass, jeweler's brass, sterling silver, Argentium silver, gold-filled, stainless steel, Anodized Aluminum, Niobium, and Bronze. I most often use non-tarnish treated as well as natural metals, including copper, brass, Antique copper & Antique brass, Artistic wire colored wire, Anodized Albumin, and Czech glass rings.

 Let's look at the wires by color groups and the qualities of each wire for making maille rings: 

Copper -- great for rings, softer & easy to use. Plain copper can take a patina (with some work)

Copper, treated for Non-Tarnish -- Artistic Wire Brand -- softer & easy to use, will not tarnish but also can't hold patina. Also, color coated copper by Artistic Wire -- fun to use for splashes of color in design. Available in a huge array of colors that are durable & permanent (exception: the black artistic wire peels!)

Brass -- I buy plain brass wire from my craft store. Brand is Darice. Available in 16 gauge, 18 gauge, 20 gauge for maille rings. (note: not the copper wire coated in brass)

Antique Copper -- Beautiful shade of brown wire that is actually copper. By Vintaj, Parawire, and Artistic Wire (Artistic wire call their brand "gunmetal" but it is Vintaj brown)

Antique Bronze -- Beautiful shade of brown wire that is not actually bronze wire but copper (bronze is very hard & would be too hard to cut & shape by hand). Brands are Vintaj, Parawire, and Artistic Wire (Artistic wire call their brand "gunmetal" but it is Vintaj brown). There is a slight difference in red-tones between the Antique copper & antique Bronze wires by Parawire & Vintaj. Artistic wire offers only "gunmetal" shade.

Silver -- treated for Non-Tarnish by Artistic wire. The craft store offers a very nice blend of rose gold and Argentium (no tarnish) silver by Darice that is great. Also, Argentium wire is a good choice as it is almost pure silver & thus will not tarnish. It is expensive, however. Lastly, sterling silver wire, which can take a patina.

Aluminum and Anodized Aluminum -- Aluminum wire can be found at the craft store & is fine for making your own rings for practice jewelry. Anodized aluminium rings are different from the aluminum wire found at craft stores because the anodizing process makes the aluminum retain its color. Good AA rings are stronger than aluminum wire, and are cut before being coloring, so the ends of the rings are also colored (not white). Poor quality AA rings are cut after anodizing (coloring), leaving unsightly white joins (kerfs) in your chainmaille. Blue Buddha Boutique sells quality AA rings. They also offer packages of slightly "off-color" rings that make excellent practice rings at a discounted price. 

Jeweler's Brass --  buy in jump rings; wire not readily available.
Brass --  buy in jump rings; wire not available.

Gold-filled and Niobium -- expensive. Can purchase gold filled wire and niobium wire online at Fire Mountain Beads & Gems and other shops. Chainmaille rings are available at finer chainmaille online shops like Blue Buddha, the Ring Lord, and ChainWeavers. 

My Favorite Pliers & Cutters:
The " Generic " version of Italian Flush cutters and Ergo Pliers comes in a kit.
It's SOLD out often, but worth getting on the waiting list at Jewel School.


The "Ultra Ego" brand of pliers are getting more & more attention in the chainmaille community for their wider handles & finely tapered jaws. They don't dig into the palms of the hand, and that means comfort when opening & closing hundreds, if not thousands of rings. 

Here are the handles of my Ultra Ergo pliers compared to Beadalon's Sparkle Pliers. Notice how the wider handles curve. They are excellent for preventing pain because there is no pushing into the muscles of the hand.

These relatively new style of pliers are inexpensive and yet becoming very popular for chainmaille. Available on Amazon (search "Ultra Ergo"), they are now even recommended by the famous chainmaille artist and instructor, Spider, and sold at her online shop, SpiderChain. I also found a set of four Ultra Ergo pliers with a pouch at Esslinger

Baby Wubbers and Lindstrom pliers are also good for maille. You'll want chain nose, bent nose, flat nose and round nose pliers for chainmaille. If working with stainless steel or 14 gauge rings, you will want duck pliers too. All of these pliers -- from the Ultra Ergos to Lindstroms -- can be found and purchased at Blue Buddha Boutique. Here's what you want to look for in your bent nose and chain nose pliers, in addition to comfortable handles: 

                Your pliers should touch flush along the center, 
                  line up in equal length, and taper to a narrow, 
                  well defined tip.


There are many choices in cutters; for chainmaille we are looking for nippers that will leave the cleanest kerf (where the ring meets when closed). Chainmaille rings that are handcrafted with cutters are called "pinched" rings because one side of the cut will be flush and one side will look pinched. Only saw-cut rings have perfect, flush cut kerfs. The chainmaille flowers below are made with all handcrafted rings. Smaller and more narrow rings have a less obvious pinched kerf than wider and thicker rings. Also, the direction of the ring in the weave can make pinched kerfs more or less obvious. 

All handcrafted rings.

Sometimes, handcrafted rings are ideal and add to the value of a design. Other times, I prefer to buy rings for the perfect kerfs. Making chainmaille for auction for Beads of Courage, I chose to use saw cut rings for mainstream buyers. Making jewelry for a community blog hop, I chose to make my own rings as the value was on handcrafted. 

Beads of Courage charms made with AA saw cut rings.

The flatter your cutters, the less surface area to pinch the wire. Here are "double-flush" cutters, Martha Stewart cutters, Beadalon cutters, and Italian cutters:

From the side, there's a great difference in surface. The "double-flush" cutters do a poor job of cutting two flush ends because they are too wide to fit into the rings. Likewise, all but the Italian cutters have too much surface area. 

DOUBLE FLUSH CUTTERS -- to wide to fit rings 

MARTHA STEWART -- too much surface

ITALIAN CUTTERS -- slim, flat, & narrow -- perfect

My favorite cutters are Made in Italy. They are available at Amazon and as part of the Jewel School tool kit (on backorder, but can be requested by email -- see above for link). 

Hakko CHP-170 Micro Clean Cutter, 16 Gg Max Cutting Capacity -- available at  Amazon

Two more cool tools: Ring Openers & Tool Magic

Besides having great pliers on hand, you will want to have Tool Magic available for your chainmaille projects. Tool magic is a liquid rubber that one dips their pliers into to coat the metal. Coating pliers in Tool Magic prevents marring the rings and slipping pliers, also protecting our hands since slipping pliers can cause hand injury. It's best to apply a thin layer of Tool Magic, let dry for a few hours, and apply a second layer to dry overnight (at least 6 hours). When I'm working on a big project with AA rings or Artistic colored copper rings, I keep two sets of pliers dipped in Tool Magic. That way, as the rubber coating wears off I need only switch pliers and continue to chainmaille. 

 I also recommend a ring opener. Ring openers will come in handy when you are working on an intricate weave and need both hands to hold rings in place with your pliers. Worn on the top of the finger, it allows you to open the next jump ring without letting go of a weave. Although most of the time we prepare rings by opening and closing a certain number of rings for a pattern, some weaves will require opening rings as you maille. An inexpensive tool costing two dollars or less at most stores, I wouldn't be without mine. You'll find jump ring openers at Beadaholique, ArtBeads, and almost all jewelry online stores. You'll find Tool Magic at Fire Mountain Beads & Gems, BBB, & your local craft store (I buy mine at Joann's). 

Now, let's make chainmaille :) 
Let's create Loopy in Love Charms.

Feb 8, 2014

Chainmaille 101: How to Make Chain Maille Free Tutorial Series

Celtic Stars

Recently a friend asked about the basics of chainmaille. She wanted to know what size rings were most often used, and where to buy supplies. She wanted to create more than earrings, and she wanted to know the needed supplies to make bracelets, necklaces and chains too. So I decided to explore the basics of chainmaille, focusing on a weave at a time, here on my blog, so that chainmaille is as fun for everyone as t is for me! I love it, and yet at one time I believed it "was too hard" to even try. I'm offering free tutorials for the various weaves, as well as resources for tutorials, materials, and tools because it shouldn't be so daunting. Every jewelry designer has a right to create his or her own handcrafted chain. I hope you find the weekly chainmaille information empowering.

In September, Creative Bead Chat's magazine published an interview with me discussing why I love chainmaille, including tutorial links and resources. I'm going to expand on that information, and sharing the basics of maille, in no time at all you'll be creating all the basic weaves and incorporating them into many different designs, just like these below.  

Lapis beads in silver "captures," Helm weave flowers with crystals (Lauren Andersen design), & Japanese diamonds

 From the upper left to the bottom of the picture, there are caged lapis beads, Japanese flowers, Helm or Barrel weave flowers, and Japanese diamonds.

We will learn the weaves one at a time, with resources for materials and several types of free tutorials to fit your learning style. Since chainmaille is an ancient technique, it is in essence, copyright free. Thus, an array of chainmaille tutorials and numerous ways of connecting rings can exist for one weave. I'll be sharing my favorite resources for video, photography, and illustrated tutorials. If a weave seems difficult to you, try a different tutorial. Many times, a different style of teaching makes learning easier, as can trying different processes for putting the rings into the pattern. 

We will learn the basic chainmaille weaves & their variations, creating beautiful jewelry with each: 


                     Helm (or Parallel) and Barrel:



Celtic, European, and Inca Puna:



Next week, we will begin by going over the basic tools needed for chainmaille, and the different types of rings, materials, and wires used in chainmaille. We will cover basic terms and share a resource guide. We will also create our first earrings, shown below :)