Knitting like a Viking – with METAL!

Double-knit Viking Knit in stainless steel

Double-knit Viking Knit in stainless steel

… Stainless steel to be specific.

That’s right! As I mentioned in my previous post, I attended a class not too long ago and finally learned how to make Viking Knit (also called Trichinopoly Chain, Viking Weave, and Viking Chain).

I took the class through a shop in Calgary called Beads and Plenty More, though I have seen it offered in other places as well. In my previous post I also shared links to a few different ways to learn the technique online as well. (Blogs, pdfs, videos) The class is described as:

DOUBLE WEAVE VIKING KNIT
Start with wire and end up with a beautiful thick woven chain that can be used for both bracelets and necklaces. Drawplate and coiling tool are included in class fee.

The focus of the class was on double-weave, but to start off the the project we also learned single-weave, where the result is a lot airier, and as such, is also more fragile. I speculated that single-weave might be better for earrings or items that wouldn’t have pressure on them, where as double-weave, being more sturdy would likely be better for bracelets that the wearer often leans on while typing, etc. (In my own experimentation I found out that single-weave also has more drape and flexibility.)

Getting the first rows of Viking Knit in class. The printed instructions are in the background

Getting the first rows of single-knit followed by double-knit Viking Knit in class. The printed instructions are in the background

Class agenda

Our instructions included picking out 26 gauge wire from the shop’s selection, (they had a mix of colored copper, stainless steel, gold, and silver available) which we found out would become the jig to get us started, the initial few rows of single-weave to start off the piece, and then will also create the finished double-weave Viking Knit for the project itself.  We were also instructed to pick out some 20 or 22 gauge wire.  Originally I thought this was for the jig, but this is just for attaching the bead caps at the end.

I picked out some 26 gauge stainless steel for my first piece – I have a metal allergy, and I figured that steel would be the least likely to trigger my allergy, while still being the colour I wanted. I also have seen the colour on the coloured copper scrape off – which, since I’d be pulling the finished weave through a draw plate over and over again… I didn’t want to select.

(In fact, some of the black wire in the package was already showing signs of wear, and our instructor said that the Peacock Blue Artistic Wire lost it’s colour very quickly and easily. So much so, that she only uses it as “scrap” to show off the technique, and not for finished projects.)

It was only after I had already ‘knitted’ a lot of my piece that the instructor shared that the silver and copper are much easier to work with than the steel, as the steel is stiffer and has more spring. The silver and copper are more pliable and workable – of course once again I pick the more difficult material! (Kind of like the Kumihimo class where I selected the cotton instead of leather cord which didn’t hold a point as well for picking up beads.)

Our instructor prepared our materials – a length of dowel (I’m guessing about 15mm in diameter?) which she drew five equally distant lines down about 2 inches of the length. She also gave us a short amount of masking tape, and set out needle nose pliers, wire snips, nylon head wide pliers (for straightening and smoothing the wire) and large stick-pins (to create more space when needed to do the ‘looping’.
She also gave us the home-made ‘draw plates’ for us to take home – just a block of scrap wood with three holes drilled into it, and a print out with photos for the steps we’d be doing.

  1. We started off measuring a “wingspan” length of wire (so about a meter and a half?) and looped one end around three fingers to create five loops plus one tiny short tail and then the remaining as a long tail.
  2. The short tail winds around the top of the bundle, and the loops (or ‘petals’) are spread out.  We taped the petals over the five lines on the dowel, leaving a small loop at the bottom.
  3. We started off looping the long tail of the wire through each of the petal ends, and then coming around to the beginning and looping behind the ‘cross’ of the loop.
  4. Once we had a few rows of this single-weave Viking Knit, we started going up two ‘rungs’ of the ladders that were created to begin double-weave (or double-knit) and continuing on.

Our instructor also illustrated how to add new strands in, how to remove the chain from the dowel, how to draw the dowel through the draw plate, and how to finish the ends of the chain. We also talked about how to estimate the finished length of a piece while looping.

My classmate drawing her completed silver chain through the drawplate. She made a bracelet-length.

My classmate drawing her completed silver chain through the drawplate. She made a bracelet-length.

  • For additional wires, we measured an arms length, and hooked it in going the opposite way, and then just continued on with the looping.
  • To remove the chain from the dowel, (either to remove it entirely, or to push it up for more working surface) we removed the tape (carefully, since at least one of the wires is over the tape, with others under it). Depending on how tight we wove, we could push/wiggle the chain up over the dowel carefully.
  • I didn’t get to the point of removing the dowel in class, but after that our instructor showed us how to pull the wire through the draw plate.  I’ve seen some jewelry makers who re-use the starting few loops over and over, but our instructor ended up cutting those off. With her technique, she uses the jig to pull the whole thing through the largest hole in the draw plate until it goes through smoothly. Then she went down to the middle hole and repeated the process.  In class she said that it wouldn’t likely go through the smallest hole, but I was able to get my piece through the smallest hole once home.
  • To finish the chain, she cut off the excess chain, shook off the additional loops, and used a short piece of the thicker (smaller gauge number) wire to loop through some of the chain about a centimeter down, pinched the chain, and pulled the chain into a bead cap, then creating a wrapped loop with the wire in order to attach a clasp.
  • The finished length of the chain will depend on how compact the weaving on the dowel is and how small the final hole is for the draw plate, but our instructor estimated that the finished chain would be about 1.5 times the length of the chain on the dowel. I think  that the type of wire might also make a difference – I think that a soft, pliable wire would ‘shrink’ down more in diameter than a springy wire, and thus more length might be available. While it’s possible to cut off extra chain, it’s not really possible to add on extra length, so we were advised to make a little more chain than we thought we’d need for our project.
At home I finished my chain, and pulled the completed stainless steel Viking Knit through my drawplate, starting with the largest hole

At home I finished my chain, and pulled the completed stainless steel Viking Knit through my drawplate, starting with the largest hole

Once I tried some of this myself at home, I also came up with an alternate way of dealing with the ends of the wire. When I was finishing off the stainless steel chain, some of the little spare ends poked through the chain and I had to deal with them. When I worked on a subsequent chain, I took tiny needle-nose pliers and curved up the spare ends, so that even if they did poke through the chain when it was finished – they wouldn’t be sharp and pokey.

Top view of my stainless steel Viking Knit going through the drawplate. Look at the diameter difference!

Top view of my stainless steel Viking Knit going through the drawplate. Look at the diameter difference!

Ups and downs

Pair of Viking Knit bracelets - one in single-knit and the other in double-knit shown by our instructor as examples

Pair of Viking Knit bracelets – one in single-knit and the other in double-knit shown by our instructor as examples

I was really pleased with how easy learning to do this was with our instructor (I hadn’t started trying to teach myself from online tutorials, but they looked more complicated than this actually was). I appreciated that all of the tools were provided and that the shop had everything else we’d need to complete our project at home.

I would have liked to see more finished projects for inspiration, and would have appreciated a more complete materials list when I arrived – something that would have let me know what the different wires were for, and a recommendation to start with the easier-to-use wire.

The class instructor did assume that people attending the class would have some experience with jewelry-making. If you didn’t there might be a longer getting-started period. Likewise, since no one finished the project in the class, you would also need to have all of the class tools at home to finish off your bracelet, necklace, or earrings.

Design inspiration and my project…

As I mentioned, I didn’t finish off my project in class, so stay tuned and I’ll share the finished work with you!

In the meantime, check out some beautiful examples of what people have made on Pinterest!

 

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