A few years ago, I was wandering through the dealers’ room at CONvergence when I saw my first chain maille jewelry. I ended up buying one bracelet and commissioning a second one, and after that, I made sure to visit that vendor every year. Alas, they were not at CONvergence this year, and while there were other vendors selling chain maille, nothing in their wares called to me. I’d planned on commissioning another bracelet. Now there seemed to be but one answer: I’d have to learn how to do chain maille myself.
The Internet has many flaws, but when you want to learn a new craft, it is a glorious resource. I found books, and the books pointed me to suppliers. I decided on a kit as my first project. From the bracelets I already owned, I knew I liked Byzantine weave. So a kit to make a Byzantine bracelet sounded perfect. It would give me the basic supplies, everything except the pliers—and I already owned chain-nose pliers for beading—and would spell everything out for me. I bought the kit, read two introductory books on chain maille, and started my first piece yesterday.
The good news: the kit’s instructions are clear and easy to understand. But even though Byzantine weave is fine for beginners, I don’t think this particular kit is. I’d assumed the rings would be anodized aluminum, a good beginner’s metal because it’s pretty easy to manipulate. Instead, they’re enameled copper, and besides that, they’re pretty small. That’ll be great in the finished bracelet, because I prefer small, delicate jewelry, but it’s not good for a first project. The copper and the small size of the rings together mean that the rings are much harder to close than I expected. My pliers kept slipping and scratching the enamel. Plus, I need better magnification. I did get a magnifier, and it helps, but I’d like something stronger. I can knit by touch, but if that’s even possible in chain maille, I’m not there yet! In knitting terms, this was like doing your first knitting project with excellent instructions, but with only cotton fingering weight yarn and size 3 (3.25 mm) needles to work with, one of which keeps snagging your yarn.
In real life, that sample is about 1 cm long. I may not be able to salvage it for the finished bracelet, but I’ll still keep it as My Very First Chain Maille. (I’m sure it looks better than My Very First Knitting did.) I ruined quite a few rings to get this far, and I’m stopping for now because I don’t want to run out of rings to finish the bracelet. But I’ve got better tools and a bunch of anodized aluminum rings on order. I got the weave right (like I said, I have good instructions), and some of those closures are surprisingly good, given my complete lack of experience. I just need practice. How long until my order arrives?