Materials Used in Chainmaille

I just got some nifty little flyers printed up, with basic cleaning instructions for the different metals I use in my chainmaille. I intend to include one of these with each order, so you’ll know what to do if it needs a bit of a clean.

It also occurred to me that I could write a blog post with a little bit more detail on each of the materials I use in my pieces. Now, I don’t use all the different jewellery grade metals out there, far from it. Precious metals aren’t really my thing, and there are other ones that I just haven’t got around to trying yet.

The main materials I use are Bright aluminium, Anodised aluminium, EPDM rubber, Stainless steel, Copper, Bronze and Brass.

Bright Aluminium

Bright Aluminium Dragonscale

Bright Aluminium Dragonscale

Bright aluminium is actually an aluminium alloy – it’s aluminium + magnesium. It is nickel free in theory, although a lot of the wire used is recycled so little particles can sneak in. Bright aluminium is shiny, almost chrome-like, but can dull to a grey colour. It’s extremely lightweight so even big pieces are very wearable.

Anodised Aluminium

Anodised Aluminium Flower

Anodised Aluminium Flower

This is aluminium which has been anodised. Anodisation is a chemical process involving acids and dye, which leaves the metal with all kinds of great colours. It’s practically hypoallergenic and just as lightweight as Bright aluminium.

EPDM Rubber

EPDM and Bright Aluminium Bracelet

EPDM and Bright Aluminium Bracelet

This is the only material I regularly use that’s not a metal. EPDM is a synthetic rubber, originally created for industrial use. It comes in loads of cool colours and it’s stretchy! It’s the easiest way to make bracelets without a clasp, and I usually pair it with Bright aluminium. EPDM is also completely latex free.

Stainless Steel

Stainless Steel Bracelet

Stainless Steel Bracelet

Everyone knows what Stainless steel is, right? It’s an iron/chromium/nickel alloy that’s really hard, quite heavy and hardly ever rusts. Although Stainless steel contains nickel, it’s bonded in such a way that most allergy sufferers would never know it’s there. This makes it incredibly versatile and wearable as jewellery and accessories.

Copper

Copper is a very soft, heavy metal. It patinas over time, which you can either clean off or leave for an aged look. Some people have allergies to copper, and it’s mildly toxic if you get it in your body. (So no licking your jewellery. 😉 )

Bronze and Brass

Jewellers Brass Necklace

Jewellers Brass Necklace

Bronze is an alloy of copper and tin, or sometimes copper and another metal such as aluminium. It’s strong, heavy and ages beautifully. Brass, on the other hand, is an alloy of copper and zinc. It is softer than Bronze, but just as heavy. It will age in a similar fashion to Bronze and Copper and can be cleaned in the same way.

So how do I clean these things?

The aluminiums, rubber and steel can be cleaned really easily with hot water and soap. Use a mild dish soap and make sure you twist the rings about a bit so you get into every nook and cranny. Rinse well afterwards so you don’t end up with a skin reaction to the soap.

Copper, Bronze and Brass can all be cleaned with either a lightly acidic solution or a commercial cleaner. If you want to do it the homemade way, you can use a bit of ketchup or lemon juice. If you use a commercial cleaner, make sure you follow all the steps so no chemicals are left on the piece. Copper and copper alloys can also be left to patina (age), which will give it a finish that’s unique to your body chemistry.

So there you have it. A little bit about what I work with, and how to take care of it. I hope this has been informative and helpful, and if you have any questions just comment and I’ll try my best to answer. 🙂

Life Pendant Tutorial

Life Pendant Tutorial
By Victoria Sol

lifependants

This is a fairly simple pendant to make. The only real challenge is that you need to make two mobius units – in different directions! If you haven’t done this before, never fear. I will explain as best I can and if you’re finding it tricky, you can contact me in a comment on my blog and I’ll try my best to help further.

Now. You’re going to need the following ring sizes, or close enough (the pendant is relatively forgiving like that):

2.4mm WD, 27.5mm ID (AR 11.5) – 1 ring
1.6mm WD, 11.2mm ID (AR 7.1) – 10 rings
1.2mm WD, 8.5mm ID (AR 7.2) – 4 rings
1mm WD, 4mm ID (AR 4) – 20 rings

You can buy kits in my Etsy shop which contain enough rings for two pendants. The Bright Aluminium rings in the kits are supplied by Zili, whom I can highly recommend if you want to buy the rings in bulk instead.

Now for the actual instructions:

1. Create two mobius units, facing in different directions. Use the 1.6mm WD rings for this, with 5 rings in each mobius unit. If you’ve never made a mobius unit before, it’s a construct where every ring passes through every other ring. You make it by first closing one ring, then passing another ring through it, making sure to go from the bottom upwards and then lean it to the right. Let the two rings now work as one ring as you pass the next one upwards through both, and lean that one to the right as well. Continue following this pattern until you have a five ring mobius unit. It should look really neat, like in the picture. After you’ve made the first one, make the second one in the same way except lean every ring to the left instead.

life2

If you’re having trouble making mobius units, have a look at the M.A.I.L. website for further instructions: http://www.mailleartisans.org/articles/articledisplay.php?key=244

2. Close the big (2.4mm WD) ring. This will be the outer frame.

life5

3. Connect one mobius unit to the frame, one ring at a time, using the smallest (1mm WD) rings. Make sure the mobius keeps its form during this – that the rings stay in the same orientation. It’s really easy to lose track of the rings during this step, so I’d recommend laying the whole thing down onto a table now and then to check the mobius unit is still neat.

life6

4. Connect the other mobius to the frame. Bet you didn’t see that coming! The first one will probably slide around a little bit, but try to get the two sections on roughly opposite sides of the frame.

life8

It should now look like this:

life9

5. Here comes the frustrating bit. You will now use two 1.2mm wire rings to connect the two mobius units (connected to the frame) together. Make sure you pass the rings through the very centre of the mobius units so every ring is connected to the other mobius section. Don’t lose hope if you can’t do it in five seconds, it sometimes takes me several minutes and it’s my design! Just be patient and keep at it. The second ring should be easier than the first, as you’ve already created a path.

life11

6. Finally, connect the last remaining of the same rings to the top of the frame ring to create a bail. You can now connect a chain, leather cord or any other kind of fastening you’d like.

life12

I hope you found this tutorial easy to follow and the pendant fun to make! Let me know what you think and I would love to see pictures of your finished pieces. Post them on my Facebook Page, tweet me or tag me on Instagram. I promise I’ll reply. 🙂

facebook.com/VictoriaSolJewellery
Twitter – @destaidesigns
Instagram – @destaidesigns

~

Victoria Sol appreciates etiquette:

As sold by Victoria Sol, the recommended retail price for this pendant is £15. Remember to value your skills and charge accordingly.

Please consider giving credit to the designer when selling or showcasing this design.

Thank you for reading!

This tutorial is copyright © Victoria Stedje 2016. Please do not reproduce, copy or teach this tutorial without express consent.
Items made using this tutorial can be sold freely.

Busy morning

I’ve been seriously slacking lately. Like, seriously. I’ve been crafting like normal, but all my admin, social media, blog duties and other stuff less interesting than chainmaille have been seriously suffering.

So! This morning I have done things properly. I’ve written blog posts all over the place (you think this is the only place I post?…), I’ve taken part in a Twitter hour, I’ve been posting and adding and sharing on social media. And I made a video!

If you ever wondered how exactly to make chainmaille, take a look at this. It’s only one specific weave in one specific ring size, but you get an idea. I’ll be making more, sooner or later, so if you’re curious please do keep checking back. 🙂

Maybe next time I post, I’ll put more into writing than into the video… 🙂

Etsy Photography Webinar

Last Saturday I took part in a webinar (which is a seminar on the web, clever, eh?) about setting up a scene for photography. It was hosted by the brilliant Lyndsey James of Photocraft, who provides courses on her website. I won’t reproduce any images here (because, y’know, bad form and copyright infringement), but I would urge you to have a look at her site. She’s very talented.

The webinar, called “How to create & style a scene for your products”, was set up as a free offer for Etsy sellers who were members of some of the European teams. It was an hour long and very educational!

Short notes

My incredibly in-depth notes.

Lyndsey started out by telling us the question to live by – What do I need to show to the customer, and how do I do that? This is the most important part of the whole thing, as without thinking through that question, you’re just taking pictures for no reason.

She went on to explain lighting, how to create good backdrops, composition (how to set up the product as well as props) and how to make the props work for you.

During the whole session she had panel members from other teams with her, who would bring up questions and helpful tips and tricks. This made for an excellent dynamic, as it became part lecture, part conversation.

Part of how to make pictures as sharp as possible is to keep the camera completely still. Lyndsey made a point of out how important it can be to use a tripod. That way you can see exactly how the scene looks and get the same angle every time. And the tripod is useful if you get twitches, like I do. 🙂

Not a big fan of lightboxes, as I understood it, our experienced teacher described other ways to get even lighting and interesting backgrounds. Her examples were beautiful and if I can get my own photographs to be half as good as what she creates, I’ll be more than happy.

Lightbox

My trusty lightbox.

At the end of the webinar, Lyndsey opened up the forum for questions, and was quite happy to answer them all. Some good information came out of this, and she also repeated some tricks from earlier to put things in context.

So on Saturday this week, I’ll be heading out to acquire important components for my photo scenes! I’m not telling you what I’m planning to do yet, you’ll just have to check back in a week or so, and see what new pictures I have up. 🙂

A rainbow bracelet on a mannequin hand

One of my current images - mediocre use of lightbox and prop.

What I learnt at the Brighton Etsy talk about SEO

Monday evening the Brighton Etsy Team had arranged a talk about SEO – Search Engine Optimisation. This is something a lot of Etsyers struggle with, because it can be quite difficult. But it’s so important, because it’s the main thing that keeps your shop coming up in search. Without optimising your content for search, no one will ever find you.

The event was hosted by the lovely Sarah of Rock Cakes and Kev of Lomokev. They did a brilliant job of explaining the whole thing, so I think I understand it all a bit better now. And to prove it, I shall pass the knowledge on to you. 🙂

Now, there are two main things that count in SEO.

  1. Your own content
  2. Links leading to your content

And as an aside – when you search for yourself on Google, do yourself the favour of doing it properly. Google looks at your own browsing and search history to find results most likely to appeal to you, specifically, so you need to counteract that. If you’re signed in with a Google account, first of all sign out. Then, once you’ve done that, start a private browsing session. This has different names in different browsers, but what it basically does is that no one can see where you’ve been or what you’re doing. This means that if you do a Google search in a private session, it’s all based purely on ranking rather than on where you’ve been lately.

By the way, “ranking” is how the search engine decides which sites are more likely to appeal to you, or how important it is. The first result is ranked highest, and so on.

This site gives an overview over private browsing.

 

Content

There are three parts of your content that come together to affect your ranking in search engines

1. Your title

This is the title of your webpage. If you have your own website, this is the stuff that goes into the <title> tag. If you’re on Etsy it’s the Shop Title in your Info & Appearance plus your shop name, or the title you give each listing. Keep in mind that on Etsy your Shop Sections also have titles, so name them something relevant.

2. The URL

The web address of your page. If it includes the same keywords as the title, this is brilliant. Etsy does this automatically for listings.

3. The description

On Etsy this is either the first 160 characters of your Shop Announcement (again under Info & Appearance) or the first 160 characters of your description in a listing. If you have your own website, it’s the stuff in the meta tags. If you don’t know what meta tags are, you should probably find out. 🙂

These three things work together to strengthen your ranking and the more you manage to repeat the keyword or keyphrase (without spamming it, of course), the higher you’ll rank.

Do not spam. I will repeat this. Do not spam keywords. Google sees right through that and will give you a lower ranking for it. And recovering from that is a lot harder than getting a good ranking in the first place. Make sure your titles and descriptions read like a human wrote it, rather than putting a million keywords in.

4. Tags

Ok, so I said three things, and Google doesn’t really look at your tags as I understand it, but if you’re on Etsy and want to be found in Etsy’s own search, you need to make the most of these.

Make sure your tags are:

  • Relevant
  • Not too vague
  • Commonly used words or phrases
  • Real words (don’t make up new words – no one is going to search for your ingenious literary creation. Sorry.)

Your tags on Etsy are 20 potential characters long each, so make use of them. Using phrases instead of words is called “longtail keywords”, and they’re very useful. So if you make jewellery, instead of tagging it “necklace”, use “silver necklace”. If you make hats, instead if putting “hat”, put “black top hat”. And so on. The more specific you are, the more likely buyers will find you when they’ve decided what they want.

If you get stuck for tags, ask family and friends. Ask people on social media. Ask team members on Etsy. Look at similar items and get inspired. Use the autofill function in the search bar. If you start typing something, it will suggest search phrases based on what’s most popular. Make use of that. Look at the trending items on Etsy. And use seasonal keywords. The same brooch can be a Christmas brooch in December and a spring brooch in April. It all depends on how you photograph it and sell it.

Most of all, though, make sure you have consistent, strong products. The products are at the foundation of the shop; without them you have nothing. Add good photography, SEO & keywords and an excellent description, and the sales will start coming in. Probably slowly at first, so don’t get discouraged.

And for the sake of all the deities you may or may not believe in, use spell check. 🙂

Read, re-read and re-re-read through your content to make sure everything looks right, and then run it through a spell checker. If you don’t have Microsoft Office, download LibreOffice – a free office suite with the same functionalities as MS Word.

 

Links

There are two types of links – internal links and external links.

Internal links go within the same site. If you’re using Etsy, put a link to another listing at the bottom of each listing description. Keep people in your shop this way, and build credibility with search engines at the same time. It can be as easy as “If you like this bag/toy/illustration, you may also be interested in some of my other work: [link]”.

External links are trickier. The easiest way to create some is to post links on social media. However, don’t overdo this, as people quickly get sick of spammy accounts and unfollow you. And then you’re left with no followers. And no one will see your links anyway.

There are a few different, good ways to create external links:

  • Social media
  • Bloggers
  • Big media

Social media

Things like Twitter, Pinterest and Tumblr are really good social media to use, because what you say can be retweeted/re-pinned/reblogged. This means that you only have to say something once, but if it’s good then people will take it and run with it, creating many more links and much more attention for you to bask in. It’s all good though – Facebook, Youtube, etc.

Instagram is also a useful social medium, but it doesn’t have clickable links. If you want to use it to point people to your site, you either need a memorable web address or a link shortener. You’ve probably encountered link shorteners even if you’re not aware of it – every time you see a link starting with bit.ly it’s been shortened. In fact, Bitly is a very good one to use. Try it out, I’ll wait. It even has a specific Etsy url if you want to shorten down your listing urls.

Bloggers

There are a lot of bloggers out there. Some are higher ranked than others, and Google has a funny thing where if the site that links to yours is highly ranked, it boosts your site’s ranking more than if the other site is considered less important. If you can get a highly ranked blog to link to you, your rank will shoot up! In theory, anyway.

You can contact bloggers you respect, and bloggers that write about similar stuff to what you’re all about, and ask them to write about you and/or your stuff. If you make summer dresses, find a fashion blog. If you make soaps, then a health & beauty blog would probably be a great fit. Perhaps even offer them a discount or a freebie in exchange for a feature.

Big media

I won’t go too far into this, but if you can get the Guardian to link to you, you’re set. Brighton Etsy had a previous talk about how to do PR and press releases, and rather than try to rehash all of that, I’ll just link to the Brighton Etsy Blog where you can find most of the information.

 

Statistics

Ok, so you’ve done all of the above. How do you know if it worked? Well, you signed up for Google Analytics, of course. For that, you need a Google account. Once you’ve signed up, you go to http://www.google.com/analytics/ and sign in. I’m too lazy to walk you through the whole process, and there are loads of articles out there on how to get the most out of it, but I will point Etsy users to this article, which explains how you set up an account for your Etsy shop.

Within Etsy there is also a very useful tool – your Shop Stats. You can access them from the side bar of e.g. your Listings Manager, or you can do the hover thing and click it right from the pop-up menu.

On the Shop Stats page the main thing you’ll see is a graph. If you hover over the points on this graph, you can see how many views you had on any individual day. While you’re hovering, there’s also a little bit directly below which tracks “events” on that day. Events are things like new items listed, items relisted or listings shared on social media.

What you need to do is keep track of this graph as you’re making the SEO changes to your shop. When you’re improving your tags, see if your views go up over the following weeks. Same with optimising titles and descriptions.

Below the graph, you have the traffic sources. This shows how many hits you’ve had from different sites. Etsy is probably going to be on top, but you can use this to see if your Facebook campaign is working, if people are clicking through from Pinterest, or if being featured on that blog actually did anything.

Next, you have the keywords that led people to your shop. Here you can see what’s working and what’s not working. If you click to the last page of the recorded keywords, you can see which ones are getting the least hits. If you have any tags that aren’t getting hits at all, consider swapping them out for something else. Remember to always keep the changes for at least a few weeks before you decide it’s not working. Sometimes it takes a while for search to catch up.

Below this again you have the list of which products are getting the most hits. Again, go to the last page. The products that are getting the least views are the ones you need to work on. Perhaps the title isn’t great, or the photos need updating. Then keep track to see if you’re getting more views on that item.

 

And that’s mostly it.

A couple of tips Sarah gave at the end – first, if you ever find yourself featured on the Front Page of Etsy and you only have one in stock, find out if you can make more and up your stock levels! Because once it sells, if you only had one in stock, you’re off the front page and you won’t get any more exposure from it.

Second, keep the products coming. The more stock you have the more likely you are to be found in search, and the more often you update, the more likely people will keep coming back to see what new things you have.

 

Phew, that was a long post. I think I’ve summed up most of what was said, but if you have any questions, leave a comment and I’ll see if I can answer. 🙂

A beginner’s guide to chainmaille – part 2

So last week I went on and on about boring stuff. I know. I know. But it is all important, unfortunately. Without knowing what AR is, you won’t understand how weaves work together.

This week, I want to show you the very simplest of chainmaille – the 2-in-1 and 4-in-2 chains.

Picture of 2 in 1 chain

2-in-1 chain

The 2-in-1 chain is literally just a row of rings attached to each other. It’s a good way of starting off, so you can get used to opening and closing the rings, holding the pliers, holding the piece you’re working on, and doing three things at once. Once you’ve made a 2-in-1 chain that looks decent enough, you can go on to the 4-in-2 chain.

Picture of 4 in 2 chain

4-in-2 chain

The 4-in-2 chain is used as a basis of a few weaves. Especially when speed-weaving (which means finding ways of putting rings together that doesn’t involve opening and closing every single ring), these chains can be useful.

If you have your 2-in-1 chain handy, all you do is double the rings. Easy peasy, right?

Once you’ve mastered these, you can start looking at more complicated weaves. The Byzantine one I posted a picture of last week is a good place to start. You can go looking for a tutorial of your own, or you can wait until I post one here. 😉

I also want to mention a few things about materials, while I still (hopefully) have your attention (assuming you’re not already caught up in trying to bend rings backwards to make Byzantine).

A lot of my designs are made with thin iron rings. Iron is a sturdy material, easy to work with but quite heavy. It works well when the rings are as thin as they are, but for bigger things there are other choices. Steel has the same features – very strong, sturdy, won’t let you down but is also very heavy.

One of the ring types I see used a lot is aluminium. Aluminium usually comes in two forms in chainmaille – Bright Aluminium (BA) and Anodised Aluminium (AA). BA is metal coloured. Aluminium coloured. Y’know. Looks like the metal it is. AA come in all the colours of the rainbow, but they’re relatively easy to scratch off so be careful with your pliers. Aluminium is very, very light. Almost like plastic. But it stands up very well and it’s good to work with. I’d probably recommend it to a beginner. And the colours are fun!

Picture of anodised aluminium rings

Anodised aluminium

Apart from steel and aluminium, you can get rings in titanium, niobium, sterling silver etc. It all depends on what you’re using them for, how much you can afford to pay, how much you’re hoping to sell the finished product for (if indeed you are planning on selling it) and if it needs to be hypo-allergenic.

It’s also, of course, possible to make your own rings, but I wouldn’t recommend that to someone just starting out. Personally, I’m too lazy. I figure there are already people out there who make rings ready to use, I might as well save myself the trouble. It would give you more control, though, and could be something to think about if you decide you’re not getting exactly what you want from pre-made rings.

I hope some of this has been helpful, if not because you’re going to use it then maybe to give you some insight into all the things that are a part of making chainmaille. I will be posting some tutorials for common weaves over the next few weeks so you can see how things are made in detail.

A beginner’s guide to chainmaille

So you may have seen my pretty things and thought “I wanna make that!” Or maybe you’re just curious how it’s actually done. Either way, I can help!

If you want to start making chainmaille, the first thing you need is a pair of good pliers.

Pliers

Like these.

I personally use chain nose and bent nose pliers, but you’ll quickly find some that you like. Just make sure they have springs, because having to open them all the time while you’re trying to do four things at once gets really old.

Close-up of plier springs

These things.

Next you need rings. You can use normal jump rings if you want, or you can buy specially made chainmaille rings. Oftentimes the latter is the better choice, as they look better.

Different kinds of chainmaille rings

Different kinds of rings.

Chainmaille rings come in many different sizes and thicknesses. There are a few different concepts you need to learn if you want to follow patterns:

AR – Aspect Ratio – The relationship between the size of the ring and the thickness of the wire
ID – Inner Diameter – The size of the ring
AWG – American Wire Gauge – Thickness of wire
SWG – Standard Wire Gauge – Also thickness of wire, but done differently

I’d also really recommend committing to memory what ring sizes you prefer, in both millimetres and inches. (I’m still working on the inches part myself. As a Northern European I work in the metric system most easily.)

An example of rings labels

Example label from Purple Moon Beads

Now, AR. The aspect ratio of a ring is the inner diameter of the ring divided by the thickness of the wire. Yes, yes, I’m bringing maths into it. It’s actually important, because some weaves will only work with some ARs, and most weaves will have a range of ARs that look good. All weaves also have a minimum AR, below which there won’t be enough space to fit in rings.

The inner diameter is what’s important when it comes to the size of a ring, because that’s the space where you fit in other rings. It doesn’t really help you to know how big a ring is across if you can’t fit that last ring into the space you’re playing with, after all.

The AR is more important than the ID, simply because a larger ring with an AR of 3.5 will behave exactly the same as a smaller ring with the same AR. This way you can make e.g. a Byzantine weave that’s tiny or really big, and it will behave correctly in both sizes.

The chainmaille technique Byzantine

Byzantine weave.

The AWG and SWG are only important in relation to the ID. If you’re only taking one thing away from this, remember the AR instead.

There are two systems for the wire gauge because Americans like to be different, I guess. It’s only important because some metals are usually done in AWG while others are in SWG. If you have trouble, just convert it to mm instead. That’s what I do.

Showing wire gauges compared to millimetres

A handy guide.

I hope some of this has been helpful, and rest assured I’m not leaving you to fend for yourself there. I’ll be back next week with more Teachings of Chainmaille. 🙂

Part 2