Viking Knit

Colored Wire for Viking Knit

I recently had someone ask me if there was a good colored wire that could be used for viking knit jewely.  You know, a colored wire that would survive repeated travels through a draw plate, and not look all mottled because the color flaked/rubbed off.  Guess what -- I found one!

I've tried several brands, with varying results.  One thing I quickly learned was not to use one that was plated.  I'm talking about the wires that are bright and colorful and shiny -- beautiful on the spool, but starts degrading when you're working it.  (Let alone try to put it through the draw plate.)

Before today, my standard wires were red brass (resembles 18 kt gold) and copper, because of the coating issue.  I was able to get some wire from the local Joann store which was fairly decent, as long as you only sent it through the drawplate twice.  It's manufactured by a company called Darice.

A New Kid in Town

A few months ago I had heard about a brand called Zebra Wire, but only recently did I get some to try it out.  And am I ever happy I did (and sorry I waited so long)!

To the above right are two samples I made, using 26 gauge Zebra Wire in magenta.  I did two double-knit chains, and passed them through the draw plate relentlessly.  Well, maybe not relentlessly, but the top chain was sent through 6 different holes on the draw plate, and it came through beautifully!

The bottom chain was drawn down less, only 4 times.  It had more petals, and I didn't want to have the chain any narrower anyway.

Still, as you can see from these extreme close-up photos, the color stayed on the wire!  (Any white-ish color you may see is just light reflection.)

Update:  I now have a new Viking Knit jewelry ebook featuring colored wire!!!!!

That was the good news.  The bad news is that it only comes in about 8 colors (although they are very nice) and it's really hard to find!  I've only found 2 places where I've been able to get it -- Fire Mountain and  ebay.

Zebra Wire copperround1416182022242628gauge pick your size
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Time Remaining: 3d 7h 48m
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Zebra Wire copperround1416182022242628gauge pick your size
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Time Remaining: 3d 7h 48m
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Zebra Wire copperround1416182022242628gauge pick your size
Zebra Wire copperround1416182022242628gauge pick your size
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Time Remaining: 3d 7h 48m
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Viking Knit Chain Photos

I know it's been longer than I had planned, to get you these viking knit chain photos, but I've finally had a chance to sit down and catalog what I had, and what you might like to see.

Viking Knit Bracelet (Click to Enlarge)

Viking Knit Bracelet (Click to Enlarge)

First off, I've been making mostly bracelets, along with some necklaces.  So far, no earrings (that's my next project).   This first bracelet looks rather plain at first glance.  But when you hold it in your  hand, it looks like copper lace.  And it's nice and light and oh-so-comfortable.

Next is a bracelet I decided a little more color.  So, I've incorporated seed and lampwork beads in this particular piece of jewelry.

Beaded Viking Knit Bracelet (Click to Enlarge)

Beaded Viking Knit Bracelet (Click to Enlarge)

I had a whole lot of fun with it.  Of course, I had to include some of my own lampwork beads while I was at it.  I've gotten lots of compliments on it, how it looks like the seed beads have been woven into a net.

(BTW, I have included instructions for a similar bracelet in my Intro to Viking Knit tutorial.)

OK, what next?  Hmmm, time for a necklace perhaps?

This particular necklace uses viking knit as the background, with the wire-wrapped pendant as the focal.

Viking Knit Necklace and Pendant

Viking Knit Necklace and Pendant

I have a blast doing these free-form pendants!  I've always had a problem with them though; they are substantial in size and need a chain that is equally substantial.  And viking knit fits in nicely!

But a viking knit chain doesn't need to be relegated to just the background, not at all!

Although viking knit can be a necklace all by itself, it can be equally intriguing when different gauges and styles of viking knit chain are incorporated in the same piece.

I have a work in progress there I've mixed 24 gauge single knit and 26 gauge double knit -- looks kind of cool so far!

So far I've used copper, artistic wire, brass and also am working in silver.  I have some gold-filled wire, but I haven't decided what to do with it yet (seeing as it's so very expensive these days).  I'm sure sooner or later an idea will come to me and I'll dig into my stash of gold-filled.

Viking Knit Bracelet -- Flight of the Bumblebee

Viking Knit Bracelet -- Flight of the Bumblebee

Here's something that I call "Flight of the Bumblebee" which turned out very interesting indeed!  You see, when I grabbed my wire, both the brass and the black wire were supposed to be 26 gauge.  That being the case, I figured I'd do some double-knit.

Well, if the brass was 26 gauge, I'll buy and eat a hat!  So my brass portions are thicker than the black (which really was 26 gauge).  At any rate, it's a cool look and it feels really neat!

In fact, I may dig into my small stash of gold-filled wire and do a mix of it with sterling silver.  Hmmmm......

That's it for the moment; more later!

Finishing Viking Knit Chain

Finishing viking knit chain, to turn it into a necklace or bracelet, can be daunting at first.  You have this beautiful chain you've carefully knitted and sent through the drawplate...but what do you do next?

(Don't forget, I have posts on directions for viking knit, using a draw plate, choosing wire and the relationship between dowels and petals.)  Not to mention my new tutorial Introduction to Viking Knit!

Deciding on Embellishments

First you need to decide if you want any embellishments on your chain.  For example, if you have a chain you've drawn down thin, do you want to put Pandora beads on it?  Now is the time, before you finish off the ends.

If you want to put on a pendant that is a close fit to the chain, you probably want to put it on (or at least put the bail on) before finishing the ends.  There are, however, bails that can fit over the finished ends of the viking knit chain if you'd rather not be tied down to one look.

Of course, you might want no additional embellishments; the chain alone is beautiful, just as it is!

Finishing the Ends

Finishing the Ends of Viking KnitThe ends of the viking knit present somewhat of a dilemma.  They are rather thick and may look somewhat funky, so you'll need to hide them somehow.  But how?

The answer is with an end cap.  This could be a purchased cone or one you make yourself; it all depends on the look you're after and the availability of the materials.

For your average viking knit chain, you want an end cap or cone that is at least 6mm in diameter on the large end.  It should also be at least 10mm tall.

In the photo, I made my own end caps.  It's a little trickier than buying ready-made end caps, but when it comes to artistic wire, it may be your best option.

Making End Caps

You'll need the following to make your own end caps:

  • Knitting needle, slightly smaller than the width of your drawn viking knit.
  • Wire cutters.
  • Round-nose pliers.
  • Flat-nose pliers.
  • Two pieces of 20 gauge wire; one should be around 10" long, the other around 4" long.

For my double-knit chain made on a 3/8" mandrel and 26g wire, I used a size 10-1/2 knitting needle.  You may need a knitting needle larger or smaller, depending on how much you draw it down.

Coiling the Wire (Click to Englarge)

Coiling the Wire (Click to Englarge)

Start by coiling your wire around the knitting needle, keeping the coils as close together as possible.  I put some masking tape on my knitting needle, so that the wire wouldn't slide around quite so much.

I make around 10 full coils, which ends up being around 10mm tall.

Once you have all your coils, cut off all but about 1.5" of wire.  You'll use this to make the top coil of your end cap.

Making the Top Coil (Click to Enlarge)

Making the Top Coil (Click to Enlarge)

Take a round-nose plier and curl just the tip of the extended wire.  Make a small closed loop for the best fit.

Make a spiral out of the wire, slowly and carefully.  I taped up the jaws of my flat-nose pliers so that I would not scratch the surface of the artistic wire, as the coating can come off if you get too rowdy.

Spiral Over the Coil

Spiral Over the Coil

As you get close to the main coil, gently ease the spiral over the main coil.  Try to keep the small closed loop as close to the center of the coil as possible, but a little off-center won't be too visible in the end result.

Finishing the chain gets a bit easier from here on!

Take a piece of wire around 4" long and make a little bend at one end, so that it kind of looks like a fish hook.

Threading the finishing wire through the end cap.

Threading the finishing wire through the end cap.

Using the long end of the wire, slide it through the top few loops of the chain.  Pull the chain so that it ends up snagged in the "fish hook" end.

Take your end cap and thread it into place over the long end of the wire.  Snug it down as much as you can.  Then, you'll need to make a wrapped loop to hold the wire in place.

And see that little straight piece of wire towards the bottom?  You can take it an gently curve it around (I use a fine pair of flat-nose pliers) and place the end into the viking knit wire.

This serves two purposes; you hide the end of the wire in the body of the viking knit, as well as snag it into the chain for stability.

So that's finishing the ends of the viking knit chain.  What's up next?  Why some examples of viking knit jewelry, of course, so stay tuned!

Want even more in-depth information on viking knit?  Check out my new viking knit chain tutorial called Introduction to Viking Knit.

Meanwhile, if you don't have anywhere near you that sells artistic or copper wire in the gauges you need, here are some ideas from ebay.

New Silver Plated Copper Wire Roll Findings for DIY Jewelry Making 12 Yard 24G
New Silver Plated Copper Wire Roll Findings for DIY Jewelry Making 12 Yard 24G
$1.96
Time Remaining: 2d 20h 28m
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Copper Wire Dead Soft 999 Gauges 14 To 26 Choose Your Length Coil or Spool
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Buy the Dozen Artistic Wire Copper 24 gauge NEW
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« Previous12

LAST ONE 13 Permanently Colored Silver Plated COPPER WIRE 26 Gauge 30 yds ea
LAST ONE 13 Permanently Colored Silver Plated COPPER WIRE 26 Gauge 30 yds ea
$7.15 (3 Bids)
Time Remaining: 2d 22h 27m
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Viking Knit Chain – Dowels and Petals

The next bit of info on viking knit chain will be on using what size dowel and number of petals to use for your jewelry project.  It might be a little confusing at first, but it will start to make sense in a bit.

In case you haven't seen them yet, you may want to take a look at the three viking knit posts I've made so far:

Now on to dowels and petals, and how you select based on your wire gauge and desired look for your project.

What are Dowels?

Viking KNit Dowels, Metal and Wood (Click to Enlarge)

Viking Knit Dowels, Metal and Wood (Click to Enlarge)

Dowels, when it comes to viking knit at least, are the mandrels you use to stabilize your work.  Dowels can be wood or metal, and can be round or hexagonal (like an allen wrench).  Sizes can be from 5/32" up through 1".  The most common sizes I've seen used are between 3/16" and 1/2".

Wooden dowels, in a variety of diameters, are readily available in your local Michael's Hobby Lobby, Jo-Ann, etc.  I went to get another few yesterday, and they ranged from $.59 to $.99 each.  Considering they are 3 feel long, I can saw them into 9" pieces and have 4 from each rod.  (You'll understand why I like plenty of dowels later in this post.)

Some viking knit instructions have you using an allen wrench, some a wooden dowel.  Both have advantages and disadvantages, so I'd suggest you try both ways and then choose the method that works best for you.  The chain looks the same either way.

What are Petals?

Wire Petals, Off and On the Dowel (Click to Enlarge)

Wire Petals, Off and On the Dowel (Click to Enlarge)

Once you have your dowel, it's time to decide how many petals you want to use.  But first...what the heck are petals?

For viking knit, petals are what start your first row of the chain.  They aren't supposed to look good, and in fact look kind of funky.  The only thing important is that the bottoms of the petals are even.  You'll eventually discard the inital petals, but they are handy for something to hang onto while you are pulling the chain through the drawplate.

The number of petals is part of what determines the thickness of your viking knit chain, and its eventual look.

Dowels, Petals, Wire and Viking Knit Chain

It all comes together here, the combination of dowel diameter, number of petals and gauge of the wire.

Here's the general rule:  the smaller the gauge of wire, the more petals.  The larger the diameter of the mandrel, the more petals.  Now obviously you can break these rules -- what's the fun if you can't experiment?  But if you're just starting out learning, you might want to try a 1/4" mandrel with 5 petals and 24 gauge wire.  This will give you a nice chain that can work in a variety of jewelry styles.

Once you've got the hang of the viking knit chain, branch out and try different numbers of petals.  Different size mandrels.  Different gauges of wires.  Build your chain library with 3" lengths of the various combinations and remember to label the chain with all the information!

A Tip for Starting a Chain

I hate starting chains; I spend the first couple of inches just getting it all even and looking right.  Then I got an idea; it works for me and I hope it works for you, too.

I have a variety of mandrels/dowels, in different sizes and number of petals.  I may have three dowels the same diameter, but one might have 4 petals, another 5 petals and yet another 6 or 7 petals.  (Now you understand why I like plenty of dowels.)

When I make a chain, I make an extra inch or so and leave that extra on the dowel.  That way when I'm ready to work on that particuar size and number of petals again, I already have something ready.  No need to spend the time getting another chain started; it's waiting for me.

Especially when I am working with silver or gold-filled wire, I like using copper wire for that last inch because it gives me something to hang onto when using the drawplate.  The end I use to hang onto tends to get a bit mangled, and I'd just as soon that mangled bit be a less expensive wire!

So there you have the basics of viking knit.  I'll cover finishing your viking knit chain next time....not to mention some finshed viking knit jewelry!