Thursday, January 15, 2015

Book Review - Chain Mail and Wire Reimagined

By on Thursday, January 15, 2015 4 Comments

Don't get me wrong.  I do like chain mail.  But after a while, the weaves kind of blur with each other. When you've seen one Byzantine bracelet, you've seen them all in many ways.  But artisans who add colored rings, beads and other beautiful components do revitalize this jewelry making technique.

Chain Mail and Wire Reimagined,  a new book by Karen Rakoski and Barbara Deyoung, which I recently received for review, is a game changer in many ways.  The authors, who are both instructors, teamed up conventional chain mail with imaginative wire work.  The combination is simply amazing.

There are 18 projects in this book which progress from the basic wire loop formation in the beginning to much more complex designs towards the end. The basics are covered in the back section. The chain mail weaves are well illustrated with different colored rings. Some experience though, with both wire and chain mail, will help when tackling this book.

The chain mail weaves needed include the Box Chain, Byzantine, Double Half Persian, Full Persian, European 4-in-1, Helm, Dragonscale, Scallop and Victorian Lace. The latter two are modified Japanese style weaves. The chain mail weaves are often used as the chain portion such as the designs shown below.

The authors showed how to make the wire loops using dowels. Dowels are easy for the learner to get hold of. However, they did mention the bail forming pliers as well in the Tools section so they probably meant to suggest it as an alternative to dowels although I didn't come across them actually saying so anywhere.

The spiraling wire connectors of the Triple Twist necklace were also formed on a dowel.  Again while the chasing hammer and raw hide mallet were included in the Tools section, the work hardening step especially with the open spirals below was not mentioned. However, as the book is not really geared for rank beginners, more experienced jewelry makers will know what to do.

The pretty mix of scallop weave and wire work stars in the Stars of the Sea necklace below evokes starfish and and ocean waves.  There is a wire work starfish clasp, too.

My favorite section of the book was the one featuring frames.  The scroll detail in the diamond focal and clasp really make the European 4-in-1 weave pop!

The most stunning of the framed designs has to be the Three Wishes necklace.  What a gorgeous use of prong set gemstones nestling in helm weave flowers!  A beautiful single helm flower was used to adorn the wire work clasp end (not shown).

The authors also cleverly showed how the basic helm flower can be used in a ring, single flower pendant or wire work bangle.

I also liked the delightfully named Dragon Pillows bracelet design below. It uses dragonscale weave and I had visions of dragons napping on the wire wrapped domed "pillows"! This stunning design is one of the most challenging from the book.

A worthy book for those who wish to take their wire work AND chain mail up a notch.  This marriage of techniques is a match made in heaven!

Before You Go: 
Original Post by THE BEADING GEM
Jewelry Making Tips - Jewelry Business Tips 



  1. I agree, chain maille can get boring after awhile. Nice to see some new ideas.

  2. What stunning designs for chain maille!

    Reminds me of sitting in an aisle in a huge book store in New Orleans beside a woman. We both had piles of books around us.

    She told me that once she took a course on chain maille she didn't want to do anything else.

    I imagine this book will make her eyes light up and sparkle with delight! Now I wish I had got her email address so I could forward her this. Drats!

    A great review Pearl! I always like how you show the pictures from the books and give your opinions on the projects. Your honesty always tells me where I stand in relation to them.


  3. I think we all need to revitalized by new ideas!!

  4. I just love some of these designs in this book but I would be considered a rank amateur with chainmail. I have picked up some books but never really ventured into this arena.