Happy New Year, Everyone!

2020: The Year Of Creativity, Connection & Kindness

 

rebeca-mojica-creative-guruI’d like to take a quick moment to wish you all a very happy 2020!

I’m not one to make resolutions, but I do make plans. As I was working on my plans for this year, I realized they were centered around three things: creativity, connection and kindness.

This feels like a “coming home” of sorts. These values have always been who I am … but I haven’t made it a priority to focus on them (which is a whole other blog post for another time).

I had a moment of reflection a few weeks back when I said “yes” to a project, and the reason I said yes was 100% because of the money. I instantly regretted it. It was at that moment that I vowed to never again in my life say yes solely for money. I realize that if a project isn’t going to be fulfilling for me in some way, no amount of money will make me feel good about doing the job. And it will only serve to pull me away from my life’s path.

I spent most of my freetime during December meditating and centering myself. During my holiday show season, I realized that since I connect best with people in person, I pretty much “gave up” on trying to build connections with customers once the retail shop closed down. Which is just silly! We live in the age of technology, and I certainly connected with so many of you before we had a retail store. So, I’m going to make it a point to *ahem* “figure out social media” 🤣, build connections and share ideas, inspiration and moments of kindness with you all.

I’ll be writing a lot more and creating content on other platforms and via other media (webinars and videos, I’m lookin’ at you!). I’m most excited to take part in a few Creative Challenges that I’m developing this year. I hope you’ll join me for someor all!of them, and I hope you’ll be inspired to reach out and share what you’ve been making.

I wish you success, the best health possible, and much happiness in 2020!

 

 

Meet The Person Behind The Company That Has Created Chainmaille For Mars And Middle Earth

Eric Matwe’s MailleTec Industries Is The Premier Manufacturer Of Welded Metal Mesh

In this edition of Blue Buddha’s Meet the Artist series, we’re heading up to Canada to get to know Eric Matwe of Swift Current, Saskatchewan.

If you’re newer to the world of maille, you might not recognize Eric’s name, or even his online handle, lorenzo. But you probably know some of the weaves he’s created, and you’ve almost certainly seen at least one movie or TV show with his work. (The Hobbit or Game of Thrones fans, anyone?)

Eric’s company, MailleTec Industries, has been making welded maille for customers all over the world since 2010. Their maille is a flexible, beautiful and highly protective fabric and is used for industrial guarding, movie costumes, protective equipment, architectural installations, and more.

Let’s find out more about Eric and his company! (Be prepared to see some BIG sheets of mesh in this post!)

Eric Matwe of MailleTec Industries

You’ve been doing this a long time. Exactly how and when did you get started with this craft?

I got started in the maille industry when I was 21, I had just dropped out of University and was trying to make enough money to pay for another semester towards a BFA. The best paying job I could find at the time was as a meat cutter at a meat packing plant in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan.

The butchers gloves that were issued to employees there were in disrepair and it was common for us to end up with infected cuts from the knife tip going through a hole in the gloves. Well, I took my own glove home and fixed it up with some brazed stainless rings, a couple of the other guys at work noticed my glove was fixed and asked if I could do theirs too. After that word got around and pretty soon the company had me on contract fixing all the gloves in the plant.

The money was good enough that I decided not to bother going back to University, I bought a house in town and started working on some side projects with The Ring Lord in my spare time. I did that for the next 4 years until the plant finally shut down and we were all laid off. At that point the girl I was dating moved to Saskatoon to finish her university degree and TRL had been offering me a job for the last couple of years so I just sold my house and moved there to work at TRL.

I’ll always be proud of the things we accomplished at TRL. We worked very hard over the years to improve the quality and variety of products available to the community but in the end I just wasn’t a good fit there. I resigned from my position at TRL with no real clear plans. Over the next year we still collaborated on projects and I would come in and do contract work when they needed me.

At the end of that time they approached me with an offer to sell the machine made maille portion of the business. I had been the one who operated and repaired the machinery and they weren’t able to find anyone else who could do it. I accepted the offer but I knew I couldn’t manage it alone so I reached out to two other former TRL employees, I brought them and my wife on as partners and we incorporated as MailleTec Industries.

chainmaille mesh chandelier in St Regis Aspen

How has the industry as a whole changed since you started making maille??

Well, on the small business side it’s grown and diversified exponentially. When I started there was almost nothing; if I remember correctly, only Lord Randolph and Master Knuut were operating full time businesses. TRL didn’t exist yet, and options for rings and wire were limited and expensive. The craft industry that exists today is, I would say, largely built upon the work we did at TRL developing and improving products for all of you creative people to use in your work.

On the other hand, the large industrial concerns such as Whiting & Davis have declined. Corporate mergers and bankruptcies have resulted in almost all of those companies moving their remaining operations overseas. Of course there’s still a market for safety equipment but instead of a few dozen companies in that market there’s now two or three.

machine made metal mesh by MailleTec

One of the first pieces of yours that I remember drooling over when I was starting my own maille journey in the early 2000s was your scalemaille vest.  Can you talk a little bit about how that came together? I feel like you had to be one of the first persons (if not the first?) to make such a piece?

Sure. That scalemaille vest was the first of its kind. I designed the scales and the method of attaching them in 2001. I was inspired after hearing about the difficulties that Weta Workshop had in making scale armor for the LotR movies.

gold scalemaille vest by Eric Matwe (lorenzo)All of the options available at that time were bulky, inflexible, heavy, expensive and most of them were ugly to boot. My goal was to develop a system of scale armor that was simple, inexpensive, light, flexible and above all beautiful. I went through half a dozen linking systems before finally choosing the one we use now. It was the simplest and could be adapted to commercially available parts without too much expense. Aesthetically I chose the shape of the scales to mimic the look of a rattlesnake.

After that first prototype vest TRL assisted with funding that allowed us to order custom tooling and have the scales mass manufactured instead of punching them by hand. Eventually they took over manufacturing completely and have invested a lot financially into new scale product lines while I handled the bulk of the R&D for them.

 

I thiman wearing chainmaille vest in trinity weavenk two of the most significant weaves you introduced to the world are Captive Inverted Round and Trinity. Can we take a minute to talk about the Trinity shirt!?!? It’s amazing. What was the motivation to create such a masterpiece? Do you have the stats for it (# of rings, and/or anything else you’d like to share?)

Sure, so my motivation was to make the best shirt I possibly could at that time. I wanted something light, strong, flexible and pretty. I already had the rings woven into a E4-1 shirt, and it was strong but the weave was too tight, it was stiff, it was ugly and just didn’t fit right. The Trinity weave came to me in a fever dream one day and I just knew I had to convert it. The front, back and shoulders fell into place as if they were meant to be but the side panels took some work to get right. They’re J4-1 hung at a 45 degree angle for maximum stretch, which is how the shirt is so form fitting in a tight weave.

The rings are #10L mil. spec. lock washers and there are about 20,000 of them. The vest weighs just over 10 lbs. I wore it to a bar for Halloween ’97, if I remember correctly, and some guy straight up stabbed me in the back. So it probably saved my life, even though I’m reasonably sure he only stabbed me because I was wearing it.

RS 5-206

What are some your favorite projects that you’ve worked on, and what were the challenges of each?

Well, besides what we’ve previously discussed, I really enjoyed making scale armor for The Hobbit movies. It was generally awesome to spend two weeks in New Zealand at Weta Workshop and meet some of the very talented people involved. More than that though it felt like coming full circle from my inspiration (LotR) to make better scale armor in the first place. There were a lot of challenges, design revisions mostly, and the pieces that made it into the final cut were nowhere near as epic as they were when we originally made them. They didn’t even get much screen time so it was a bit of a disappointment.

I’m very excited to have been a part of the NASA Mars Insight lander mission, I consider that to be probably the most significant project that I’ll ever work on. Having something that I invented and helped make with my own hands being flown to Mars is so surreal. It was an extremely demanding project, I had to modify our machinery to work with the Ti alloys. Getting the welds down to 0.01% errors with .5mm reactive metal wire was difficult to say the least. Besides that there was a lot of weaving to be done with the scale pieces and we were up against a tight deadline, everyone in the shop pitched in to get it done. I really hope that the experiment is successful and we will have helped advance human knowledge in some small way.

Mars In Sight Nasa JPL CalTec
animated gif of Mars landeranimated gif of Mars Lander

I also really value having worked for so many years with Neptunic, designing and manufacturing their sharksuits. I’ve spent months of my own time trying to work out better designs for the suits, getting feedback and slowly improving them. All things considered, that’s probably made it MailleTec’s least profitable product line but we’ll keep improving them as much and for as long as we can. It’s worth it to know that we’re helping to save lives, especially since most of those lives are working to protect the ocean ecosystems.

 

That’s really incredible! Anything else on the horizon that you’re excited to be working on?

Well, amazingly, the original patent for our maille making machinery was filed more than 100 years ago (!), in 1911 to be precise. The machines have been updated sort of piecemeal over the last century but have stayed more or less the same. I can’t get into too many details but we’ve been working on some new technologies to really bring maille back into its own in the 21st century.

iRings CS Neptec McGillOoo, that *is* exciting! I had no idea the maille-making patent went back so far! I wish you much success and can’t wait to see what your company comes up with!

 

One of our blog readers would like to know: Have you ever hidden a secret message in any of your projects?

Yes.

Ha! That’s great. I’d ask what it was, but then I guess it wouldn’t be secret anymore. 😉

 

cutting machine made mesh

What is the best part of running your business? What was the most challenging part?

The best part is being able to work with my wife and my good friends as business partners. The most challenging part is the toll that working too hard has taken on my health.

 

Care to share a current goal?

I need to lose 40 lbs

 

What is one tool that you cannot live without?

Hmm… I make most of my tools, so I can usually just make more. I do have a ballpeen hammer that’s been passed down to me from my grandfather, I’d say that would be my most valued tool. It’s the only one I can’t replace anyways.

chainmaille curtain

 

And now for the quick questions that I ask all participating artists:

Nova Shield HD-2Do you listen to music/podcasts/tv/etc while mailling? If so, what are your favorites?

Nope. Since I work with a lot of machinery I find that splitting my attention is counter-productive and sometimes dangerous.

What are your favorite artists (chainmaille or otherwise)?

As a Fine Arts dropout I have far too many favorites to list but Leonardo Da Vinci and M.C. Escher are likely at the top of that list.

What do you do when you’re not making chainmaille?

I make other things too, I dabble in a lot of crafts and I always have a couple of projects in process. I spend a lot of my time learning new things and I like to travel and spend time outdoors when I can. To relax I usually play video games with my friends and family.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Always keep an edge on your knife.

What would your superpower be and why?

Immortality, getting old really sucks and I hear dying isn’t great either.

What’s one thing Blue Buddha readers might be surprised to know about you?

I grew up in a house with no plumbing, heat or electricity.

Before we let you go, please tell us where we can find your work!

MailleTec Industries, Inc.
Facebook: MailleTec Industries
M.A.I.L.: lorenzo
The Ring Lord Movie & Commercial Projects

Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with us, Eric!

 

 

Meet the Artist Behind Several Of The Most Beloved Modern Chainmaille Weaves

Sara Sherlock Bastin, Chainmaille Weave Inventor Extraordinaire, Has Been Making Maille For 30+ Years

In this edition of Blue Buddha’s Meet the Artist series, we’re reaching out to the other side of the pond to chat with Sara Sherlock Bastin of Somerset, UK.

If you’re a mailler and Sara’s name isn’t familiar, you almost certainly will recognize her work. Known online as Corvus or Redcrow, Sara has been making chainmaille since 1988. She’s made 350+ weaves, of which 60+ are her own invention. She has thousands of images in her Redcrow flicker albums, so after you’ve read this post, head over there to check out all the amazing designs!

And now, let’s get to know Sara!

Sara Sherlock Basin chainmaille artisan headshot

You’ve been doing this a long time! Exactly how and when did you get started with this craft?

I was talked into joining a re-enactment society just after my 18th birthday. It was an 8th century re-enactment group so mainly consisted of Celts, Vikings and Saxons. Somehow I became a Viking and felt pretty naked compared to the guys in maille, so I talked one of them into teaching me basic Euro 4in1. He did and there was no stopping me, my first project was a shirt with sleeves for battle. In 8 days, I had a vest and several blisters. This was galvanised steel 2mm fencing wire wound on an old metal rod I found in my mum’s garden.

I soon realised I could make this stuff on a smaller and more wearable for everyday scale.

group of people wearing 8th century garb

Wow, 2 mm (14 SWG/12 AWG) galvanized steel is NO joke. I can only imagine those blisters!

How did you turn your chainmaille into a business?

Not sure how it became a business but might have had something to do with more and more commissions and my ex husband’s accountant mentioning issues with tax. So thought I’d better make it all official.

 

How would you describe your style and what made you different from other artists?

What is a style? I’m not sure. I always liked figuring things out for myself, so I supposed my style was trial and error. I still think it’s the best way to work as so many new weaves and variations on weaves are discovered this way.

As far as I know I was the only person in the UK making maille for something other than armour, at that time. That made me different from other artists.

I did shows, usually one or two a month and to everyone doing shows who feel disheartened, just keep going. Shows vary so much. I had for years a place in a local art gallery selling my things but again this can be disheartening as they add on so much commission.

Commission orders were what I did most. Nearly all my big sales were custom made things.

 

How has the industry as a whole changed since you started making maille?

The biggest change to me is the lack of sharing in the maille community. Ten years ago everyone shared their weaves, variations and tutorials freely, well most did. And we understood those things that weren’t shared were fair enough. I think now a lot of newbies are buying tuts they don’t really need to, either because their skill is enough or there’s another tut free somewhere.

Also there’s so much more supplies available now. You guys in the US didn’t really have this problem so much but in the UK the only suppliers were armourers.

 

You’ve come up with many, many weaves. Can you talk a bit about your creation/design process?

I used to maille in the evenings but I never really had a set time and I never really had to get into the right mindset. It was more a case of picking up the pliers and playing with rings.

As I said above most weaves were created by accident, usually while trying to make something else. Other times it’s a case of ‘I wonder what will happen if I do this?’

 

Ah, yes!!! That is my approach as well! It’s fun, isn’t it? What are some your favorite designs that you’ve come up with?

I love Aura most as it’s named after my daughter. And Persephone is pretty.  Honey Bee I love too.

Aura2 chainmaille necklace in silver with draping chains on dark grey background

I’m proud of JeanHP3Sheet5IR: it has a tech name, It’s a structural weave and something I never thought I would be able to make, let alone invent a new one.

JeanHP3Sheet5IR chainmaille weave in copper
On the flip side, is there a design that you just couldn’t get to work the way you envisioned?

There have been many I struggled with, especially Half Persian 3-in-1 joined. I struggled with this for several days, I eventually did it, but not before suffering a severe headache which actually is now thought to be the start of my health issues. I did join the weave eventually and then I wrote a tut on how to join Half-Persian 3-in-1 on M.A.I.L. The health issues were eventually diagnosed as MS, which is why I am now retired.

I’m sorry to hear that – chronic illnesses can be so very frustrating and challenging. I’m glad that even though you’re retired, you’re still a part of the community!

 

You’ve created so many weaves. Which are the ones you think most people don’t realize YOU were the original designer?

There are a lot of people who think Aura is someone else’s. As for the other weaves I doubt anyone knows they are mine. Nearly everyone on M.A.I.L. thought I was a dude for years 😁

 

*whistles innocently* I’m sure I was one of those people. (Though, to be fair, back in the day, I think the vast majority of the people on M.A.I.L. were dudes, heh…)

Do you have any go-to jewelry pieces that you’re nearly always wearing? If so, what are they?

Sterling Jens Pind Linkage bracelet, Aura necklace, Euro 4-in-1 ring

 

Your profile indicates you’re a retired maille professional.  So, tell me, are you ACTUALLY retired from maille, or do you still pick up your pliers and create pieces to sell? And what was it like deciding to retire from a creative business?

I do still make maille, just not everyday and not for hours at a time, my hands just can’t take it. It was horrible to give my business. It wasn’t just my living, it was my passion too but I’ve learned that chornic illnesses make you accept things you thought maybe you couldn’t. Plus I had so much going on in my personal life, I just couldn’t cope with any more.

I don’t sell unless it’s an exceptional circumstance but I still maille for myself and for presents.

 

Any other accomplishments you’d like to mention?

I’m proud to have taught in a jewellery university in Cornwall.

 

What was the best part of running your business? What was the most challenging part?

Best part was providing for myself and my children. Most challenging part was probably trying to keep it going in the slow times. And what to do about design stealers, don’t be one of those.

 

If you could go back and tell yourself one thing before starting your business, what would it be?

Don’t rely on anyone else for anything.

 

Care to share a current goal?

To stay alive, lol! Seriously though, I just want to be here and do the things that make me happy as long as possible.

 

Hear, hear!


What is one tool that you cannot live without?

Pliers that were modified by ZiLi.

 

I’m so used to your online names Corvus and Redcrow, and I’m wondering if there’s any significance to them?

Corvus and Redcrow originally came from.just liking crows but in 2011-2012 a crow was part of my family. Jack lived with us for 18 months and then went back to the wild. He fledged too soon and couldn’t fly, so needed teaching. I had the business name Corvus before him but felt like destiny. 😄

montage of Jack the Crow with chainmaille artisan Corvus/Redcrow

Ahhhh! So cute!

And now for the quick questions that I ask all participating artists:

Do you listen to music/podcasts/tv/etc while mailling? If so, what are your favorites?

Yes Pink Floyd, Nine Inch Nails, Awol Nation, Porcupine Tree, Unkle, Queen …

What are your favorite artists (chainmaille or otherwise)?

Too many, really too many to mention cause I’ll forget someone and then I’ll feel bad. There’s you, ZiLi, Lloyd, Spiderchain, really this could fill the page.

What do you do when you’re not making chainmaille?

Think about making chainmaille, lol. I love walking when I can and I have dogs, so I’m usually outside and muddy.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Care less about what other people think of you and concentrate on liking yourself.

What would your superpower be and why?

Flight. I used to have dreams of flying when I was a kid and that feeling is still with me. I want to fly.

What’s one thing Blue Buddha readers might be surprised to know about you?

I dunno! Maybe that I’m 49, or that I’m a beekeeper.

Before we let you go, please tell us where we can find your work!
M.A.I.L.: Corvus
Flickr – Redcrow

Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with us, Sara!

 

DIY Crochet Fail That Will Make You Feel Pretty Great About Your Last Craft Project

The End Product Is A Mess, But I Had Fun Trying!

 

nicely made crochet cowl at left, with heading "Expectation", and at right, too-tight, knotted, misshappen version with heading "Reality" written in comic sansI spend the vast majority of my creative energy on chainmaille, and while that will probably always be my focus, I love stepping outside of my comfort zone to learn a new skillusually jewelry-related, but not always.

Sometimes I take a class and wind up up creating something amazing in a classlike my first (and only!) polymer clay pendant or the silver knot ring made from a single strand of wire). Other times, the end result is, frankly, not nearly as awesome.

Last month, I attended the amazing Craftcation conference. I mostly took business seminars, so I was definitely excited about the sole craft class I signed up for: a crochet cowl. I’ve never done crochet nor knitting, so I had no idea what to expect. Well, no, that’s not quite true. Based on my chainmaille experience (and my experience teaching that artform), I figured I would probably have a steep learning curve right at the beginning, and then, once I “got it”, I would find my “zen” zone and settle into a soothing and meditative rhythm.

That’s, *ahem,* not quite what happened.

The class started easily enough. Our yarn came in a hank instead of a skein. (Hey, check me out, learning new crafts jargon!) The first thing we needed to do was turn the hank into a ball of yarn so we could easily pull from it as we worked.

chunky ball of grey yarnThis just took a few minutes and by then, I was feeling pretty accomplished and ready to tackle the next challenge.

We were going to do double stitch crochet, but first we needed to create a foundation row to work off of. It took me a while to get going on this. I’m a kinesthetic learner, which means I learn best by doing. I watched the instructor as best I could, but I had a real difficult time translating her movements into my point of view, and trying to get my fingers to do the same thing. Eventually I got the hang of it, and found it quite easy … BUT I had no idea at the time that what I was making was way too tight.

foundation row crochet in chunky yarn, too tightIt was downhill from here. We moved on to adding rows, which involved a lot of language like “yarn over” and “pull through” and while I dutifully repeated those phrases as I worked, I really had no idea what I was doing. There was someone at my worktable table who had done crochet before and she was very generous about helping everyone … but honestly I think I probably would’ve needed about 20 minutes of one-on-one time to learn to double stitch properly.

Seeing the clock tick down, I knew I wasn’t going to finish my cowl during class, but I wanted to get as much done as I could. I thought that if I could get the muscle memory down, then I could take it apart and re-do it once I got home. So, I kept going, mumbling “yarn over, pull through” along with a lot of expletives. At the end of it all, I had this:

tightly woven and knotted gnarly attempt at crochet made with thick gray yarn

I don’t even know what to call this thing. It’s definitely not a cowl.

 

Back in my hotel room, I couldn’t stop laughing at how ridiculous it looked. I sent the photo above to a close friend who makes amazing crochet pieces. Her response had me cracking up even more.

screenshot-emoji-funny-convo

 

But, you know what? Even though I had no idea what I was doing, I still enjoyed the challenge of learning something new. My brain was super happy doing this, and I even surprised myself with how little frustration I felt. I had no ego in the game, I was just in it to have fun. I can be such a perfectionist with my chainmaille work, it was liberating to let go of perfectionism and just embrace the experience for what it was. It was also valuable to me as an instructor to remember how students can feel when they take their first class; I believe it makes me a better teacher when I have sincere empathy in relating to “being a newbie”.

crochet fail - chunky grey yarn in a tight messI was hoping to finish off this blog post with a photo of my completed piece … but sad to say, after undoing it, I was unable to complete it on my own. (Heck, it took me about 10 minutes just to make the slipnot at the beginning!) I re-created the first row, and while it’s much looser this time around, there’s definitely a mistake or two in it. (How on earth does one screw up the beginning?!? Leave it to me…) Just for 💩 & giggles, I tried to start the double crochet part to see if could still do it, but it wound up being an even bigger mess than the first time around. So I’ve aborted for now. The next time I’m in Chicago, I’m gonna see if my friend will give me some one-on-one guidance, because I’m still convinced that once I understand what I’m supposed to do, I’ll be able to do it, and it will be easier than I’ve been making it out to be. And I am determined to finish this cowl. I don’t care if it take me 10 years, I will make this yarn submit!

Do you have DIY fails of your own? I know I’m not alone — feel free to share your stories in the comments section below.

 

That’s So Metal: Creating a Chainmaille Quilt Square

Disclosure: Some of the links to products below are affiliate links, meaning, at no cost to you, I may earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. It helps me create content like this for you, and I thank you for your support.

UPDATE May 2019: See the second square I made on the Rebeca Mojica Jewelry website.

A Behind-The-Scenes Look At The Planning & Weaving Of My Colorful Contribution To The Chainmaille Quilt Project

chainmaille-quilt-animatedFrequent readers of the B3 blog may already know about the chainmaille quilt – a massive collaboration between maille artisans all over the world. Artists are each contributing a patch, and all the patches will be stitched together to create the world’s largest chainmaille quilt! OK, to be honest, I haven’t verified that it’s the world’s largest … but neither I nor any other artisans involved know of a bigger quilt, so that’s my story and I’m sticking to it! (If you do come across a larger chainmaille quilt, do let me know because obviously I’m going to want to blog about it! 😉)

The quilt project is spearheaded by Jenifer Lawrence Martinez of Steampunk Garage and Lis Guy of Linton Creations. One main purpose of the quilt is to showcase the diversity of chainmaille – the seemingly infinite number of designs that can be created from various colors, metals and weaves in this medium. You can keep up with the quilt’s progress in the dedicated Facebook group The Chainmaille Quilt – Started 2018.  If you look through the 70 patches posted as of this publication (with dozens more patches to go!), you’ll develop a newfound appreciation for the versatility of chainmaille.

 

Planning My Square

When I heard about the quilt, I knew I wanted to contribute. But first, I needed to figure out what to make. The requirements set forth by Jen and Lis are purposely very free and open: essentially, so long as each patch fits into an 8″x8″ square, is strong enough to handle weight and pressure from the rest of the quilt, and doesn’t closely duplicate an already submitted patch, the artist has free reign.is!

For help narrowing down my options, I turned to the Blue Buddha fans on Facebook and asked them what were the first weaves that came to their minds when they thought of me, in terms of patterns that I created. The results indicated one weave in particular:

RebecaMojicaWeaves-word-cloud That wasn’t surprising to me, since Rondo a la Byzantine has consistently been one the most popular patterns we sell, and it was also featured in my book CHAINED. So, Rondo a la Byzantine it is!

First, I needed to see if the ring sizes I had in mind (Blue Buddha’s H18 and N18) could be used to make a sheet version that was close enough to 8″x8″ without needing all sorts of crazy edging. I did some rough calculations based on a bracelet I had, and it seemed like it would work, but I wanted to render a life-size illustration to be safe. Plus, I knew I’d need to put together a mockup in order to figure out my color pattern, so this was a way to tackle both these projects at once.

Looking through the old photo files for the original Rondo a la Byzantine tutorial, I found an image that was exactly what I needed: a small, uncolored section of the weave.

Rondo-ghost-baseAfter lots of copying and pasting in Photoshop, I wound up with this image.

rondo-a-la-byzantine-sheet-coloring-paperI adjusted the size so that the printout would exactly match the real life version … and much to my astonishment the square measured in at 8″ x 7.9″. Woo-hoo!

Now that I knew the weave would work in theory, I needed to test it using actual rings. This part was important because I had lots of rings from different vendors, and sometimes the different suppliers’ components don’t play nicely together. I was also mixing two gauge systems, which is usually OK, but every now and then things get finicky.

I already had a bracelet sample of Rondo a la Byzantine, so I removed the clasp, extended it to 8″ and then added a second row, using rings from various suppliers in various permutations, just to make sure any combination I might want to use would work.

rondo-a-la-byzantine-ring-testingThankfully, all the rings worked perfectly with each other! (Note – if you want to know ring sizes, scroll down to the bottom of the post for full stats including ring sizes.)

The next step was to figure out my color pattern, so I could order any rings I didn’t already have in my stash. This was definitely time-consuming, but well worth the effort, because I would not have been able to weave such an intricate pattern without any planning. I wanted to use lots of color and also have a vaguely fractal-esque diamond-shape pattern. After pretty much a full day’s work (spread over a few days) in Photoshop, I was satisfied with my design.

rondo-a-la-byzantine-sheet-coloredThere are two main ring sizes used in this weave. For the large ring size, there are two positions (doubled rings vs singled rings). Each of these is in its own group in Photoshop, allowing me to create printouts of a single ring size. The large-ring printouts in particular were helpful as I wove, because it would’ve been too difficult to try to ascertain each ring’s color in the master printout above, especially for the single large rings which are essentially buried beneath all the other rings and difficult to see in the master printout.

all-jump-ringsAs I designed, I also created separate layers for each color within the size groupings. This allowed me to isolate a single size/color and view those rings by themselves, for instance, dark blue small rings:

H18-cobaltThe isolation was helpful when tallying how many rings I needed in each color/size. It also helped me clarify a color if I couldn’t distinguish between closely-related colors on the printout.

Tangent for designers, math nerds, etc.:

The design has 2 lines of symmetry. When counting rings, I just looked at the upper left quadrant and then multiplied by 4 to get a grand total. (Along the borders, there were sometimes half ringsor, in the very center, a quarter ringand because I’m a math nerd, I took that into consideration with my calculations. But really, if you’re doing a similar project, it’s not a big deal if you stick to simply multiplying by 4.)

I was already well into the design process before I realized that I could’ve also just colored a design for a single quadrant, and then copied and pastedflipping horizontally and vertically as neededin order to create the full patch. It would’ve saved a LOT of time trying to accurately color everything in. I took this approach on my next project (yes, I’m making another one of these squares, just because 😂). It definitely saved time and improved accuracy, though I learned something else: my brain isn’t very good at predicting what the complete design will look like once the quadrant has been mirrored along both axes of symmetry. I wound up periodically pausing to copy and paste the quadrant-in-progress into the full patch in order to see which design elements weren’t satisfying. Then I’d could go in and make tweaks before continuing.

Weaving The Patch

OK. Finally, the design was plotted. Rings were ordered and received. Now was time for the best part: weaving!!! *happy dance*

I’d guesstimated it would take about 20 hours to complete my patch, and I had a week in which to finish in order to make the soft deadline to have the patch on display at the national Chain Link Up gathering in Tennessee in March of 2019.

The first day, I made substantial progress and knew I’d be able to finish in time, unless some unforeseen disaster came up.

Day1-ABy day 2, my supervisor had comfortably settled into his spot.

cat-supervisorHere’s an image that shows what the piece looked like about halfway through, laid on top of the master printout. It was at about this point I started adding the finishing rings to the edges (along the bottom and top of the piece as laid out below). This helped create a more flush edge, rather than the jagged lines of the original pattern.

rondo-in-progress-halfwayAnd so it continued, ring by ring, row by row. At the end of the week, it was finished!
01-quilt-square-holdingAs you can see, the quilt can be tightly rolled in one direction. This is the direction that needs to be flexible to comfortably wear a Rondo a la Byzantine bracelet.

rebeca-mojica-rolled-quilt-squareAlong the other direction, the weave is rather stiff, and cannot be tightly rolled. This is as snug as it gets:

rebeca-looking-through-rolled-up-quiltIt Wouldn’t Be An Epic Project Without A Mistake

As I was sorting and editing the photos of the finished piece, much to my chagrin, I noticed an error!

oopsieLuckily, out of all the errors I could’ve made, this was a relatively easy one to fix since the ring could be easily removed and re-positioned, especially with my trusty Lindstrom Stubby Nose pliers. (If there was an issue with one of those single large rings, sandwiched between all the other rings, it would’ve been a different story, and a lot more cussing would’ve been involved!)

Truthfully, I made other errors as I wove (usually a wrong ring color, but there was one row where I put three rings in the wrong place, and after the third, I knew it was time to call it a night!) I definitely wove this project much slower than normal, because I had to check each and every ring to make sure it was the correct color. All in all though, I’m quite satisfied with how few mistakes I made and also the overall speed in which I was able to work.

02-quilt-square-zoomLooking at the weave close up is extremely satisfying to me. Seriously, this photo makes me smile each and every time.

01-quilt-square-super-zoom

Stats:

ring count: 3,398
weight: 209.5g / 7.4 oz
weaving time: approx 20 hours (includes un-doing and re-doing errors)

15 colors, 19 total different dye lots
5 exact ring sizes used (including 2 different-but-similar gauges – so it’s really like 3 basic sizes):
18 SWG 3/16″ (4.8 mm)
16 AWG 3/16″ (4.8 mm)
18 SWG 9/32″ (7.1 mm)
16 AWG 9/32″ (7.1 mm)
18 SWG 1/4″ (6.4 mm) <–used only in the outer black edging
Note: You can purchase jump rings in these sizes in the B3 Etsy shop to make your own Rondo a la Byzantine piece.

012-quilt-square-on-white-smallerI hope you enjoyed learning about the process behind my Chainmaille Quilt square. Follow my Instagram @rebecamojicajewelry for updates on a new 8×8 square, which I’ll begin weaving later this month. Why a second square? Simply because I had so much fun making the first, and this is what we crazy chainmaillers do. Always. Linking. More. Rings. 😂

If you’re a chainmailler who has contributed to this project, feel free to leave a comment below and let us know about your patch!