Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Viking Chain Knitting

This was my addiction before I got my scales.

Viking chain knitting produces a flexible woven wire cord that looks something like this:

That's the end result, in any case.  It starts looking like this:

That's a starter bundle of wires on a mandel (dowel rod).  The wire is knotted through each loop on the starter bundle, and then knotted on the previous knot.

Etc.  The process is rather like handsewing, in that it's repetitive and your fingers can usually do it on their own, without any directions, only there's an increased chance of stabbing yourself in the eye with a sharp bit of metal.

Eventually you get a stiff tube of knotted wire.

This stiff tube is then drawn: it's pulled through successively smaller holes drilled into a piece of oak (or horn, or other strong material) until it becomes stretched and compressed into a flexible wire cord.

Once I learned how to do this, I immediately started wondering if it were possible to incorporate different colors of wire into a single weave.

Answer: yes, yes it is possible.  There are at least two different ways of doing so.

The first way I tried produced vertical stripes.

It's hard to explain how to do this.  Once you have your starter bundle, you start two different colors of wire (although I usually start with one wire for the first three rows, just to get it started).  Alternate which loop the different colors go on: copper, green, copper, green, copper, green.  Keep stitching the same color to itself, so that the tube looks like this:

Which results in designs like this: (click the image to enlarge)

The second way produces horizontal stripes, and at first wasn't particularly impressive.  Once the weave is started, add a second color and go all the way around, knotting the wire to each loop.  When the row is complete, you'll be back at the first wire.  Pick it up and go around again, knotting the wire to each loop, so that you have a row of silver, then a row of black (which is knotted to the silver), then another row of silver (knotted to the black), etc.

There's another stitch, called a double stitch.  Instead of knotting each wire to the loop directly above it, knot the wire to the loop that's two rows above it (so you are skipping over a loop and knotting on the next loop).  This produces a much stiffer cord.  When I tried my horizontal stripe stitch with a double stitch, it produces very striking results:

 *            *            *

It is very difficult to predict how long the finished weave is going to be after it is drawn.  It depends on how many loops you made it your starter bundle (I like working with six, but four is also common, and you could probably go up to ten or twelve), how tight your stitches are, what kind of wire you're using, etc.  Fortunately, it is possible to trim the piece after it's been drawn.  Just cut the wire (a bit past where you want it to end) and unweave it back down to the desired length.  Stuff the ends back into the center of the weave.

The ends can be finished off with a cone, or just with jump rings (depends how pretty the ends are, or whether you need to add a bit of length).  I have tiny wrists, so I like making bracelets which wrap around my wrist two or three times.

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