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Braided wire bracelet

Once you’ve learned fundamental weaving techniques, combine them in a complex design

Borrowed from textile arts, techniques like weaving have been used by artists for centuries to transform wire into jewelry. The richness of the textures and the way light plays around the patterns makes woven jewelry seem alive. Recently, there has been a renewed interest in these techniques, varying from simple pieces with just one or two woven elements to elaborate creations of entwined wires and stones.

This style is called free-form wire weaving, and it’s characterized by its use of frame wires (to outline the shape of the piece) and weaving wires (to follow the outline, stitch all the parts together, and give the design its stability). Free-form designs can take on almost any shape and can be crafted with wire only or incorporate cabochons, beads, or other objects.

Here are instructions for three different wire-weaving techniques:

 

SUPPLIES

  • Fine silver wire, round, dead-soft
  • 18-gauge (1.0 mm) for the frame wire, 7 ft. (2.1 m)
  • 26-gauge (0.4 mm) for the weaving wire, 30–35 ft. (9.1–10.7 m)
  • Wirework toolbox
  • Soldering toolbox
  • Masking tape
  • Bench vise
  • Bail-shaping pliers: 3⁄16–1⁄4-in. (5–6.5 mm)-diameter jaw or a dowel of similar diameter
  • Needle tool
  • Liver of sulfur or other patina solution (optional)
  • Pumice or steel wool #0000 (optional)

INSTRUCTIONS

Braided wire bracelet Step 1
Photo 1
Braided wire bracelet Step 2
Photo 2

Part 1: The clasp eye

Measure and weave the section for the clasp eye. Cut three 24-in. (61.0 cm) 18-gauge (1.0 mm) fine silver frame wires. Place them side by side, and tape them together at one end with masking tape. Find the midpoint of the wires, then use a permanent marker to mark 7⁄8 in. (22 mm) on each side of the midpoint on each wire. This will give you a 1 3⁄4-in. (44 mm) section that will become the eye of the clasp. Using 26-gauge (0.4 mm) fine silver wire, weave the double-plus-one pattern within the marked section, starting and ending with a weave across all three wires [PHOTO 1].

NOTE: You can use sterling or base metal wire for this bracelet instead of fine silver, but torch-fired balls made with fine silver are the most uniform and fine silver does not need to be pickled.

Shape the clasp eye. Clamp a 3⁄8-in. (9.5 mm) round mandrel in a bench vise so that 2 in. (51 mm) extends out from the jaws. Place the center of the woven section on its edge so the double-weave side touches the top of the mandrel. Shape the eye by pulling down on both sides [PHOTO 2]. Work slowly, and make sure the woven ribbon remains flat. Continue until the frame wires cross under the mandrel [PHOTO 3].

Straighten the frame wires. Using flat-nose pliers, grab each frame wire at the base of the loop and bend it outward until the frame wires no longer cross but instead run parallel to each other [PHOTO 4].

Braided wire bracelet Step 3
Photo 3
Braided wire bracelet Step 4
Photo 4

Part 2: The body of the bracelet

Add the last frame wire. Cut a 12-in. (30.5 cm) 18-gauge (1.0 mm) fine silver frame wire. Ball up the end with a torch, quench it in water, and dry it. Place it in the center of the six frame wires so that the balled-up end extends slightly past the outer frame wire of the clasp eye [PHOTO 1]. Secure this frame wire with a piece of masking tape. Weave around all the frame wires to secure the seventh wire [PHOTO 2].

Braided wire bracelet Part 2 Step 1
PHOTO 1
Braided wire bracelet Part 2 Step 2
PHOTO 2

Separate the frame wires. Separate the frame wires into three sets, with one three-wire set in the center and two two-wire sets, one on each side [PHOTO 3].

Weave the ribbons. For the bottom set of frame wires, weave 1 1⁄4 in. (32 mm) of the double-weave pattern. This short woven section will become the decorative wrap in the next step. Leave the remaining length of this two-wire set bare; I call this set the weave-free ribbon. For the three-wire set in the middle, weave 7 in. (17.8 cm) of the double-plus-one weave pattern. For the two-wire set on the top, weave 7 in. (17.8 cm) of the single-plus-one weave pattern [PHOTO 4]. Leave a 12-in. (30.5 cm) or longer tail of weaving wire at the end of each of the 7-in. (17.8 cm) ribbons. You may need this extra wire to add to the weaves when braiding the ribbons.

Braided wire bracelet Part 2 Step 3
PHOTO 3
Braided wire bracelet Part 2 Step 4
PHOTO 4

Make a decorative wrap at the base of the eye. Bend the bottom two-wire ribbon set (with the section of double weave) so that it is perpendicular to and under the two other wire sets [PHOTO 5]. Wrap it all the way around the other ribbon sets twice, then bring it back to the same place it started from and bend it so it again runs parallel to the other wires [PHOTO 6]. Make sure the other ribbon sets inside the wrap remain flat and do not overlap. 

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