Thursday, May 28, 2015

Wire wrapping necklace tutorial: Closing the frame

This is a pretty quick tutorial to finish up the frame. What you will need is the same as the last tutorial, except now you'll want to put away the thicker gauge wire and break out the thin gauge wire. Again, the thin gauge should be about 28. Cut your self a generous portion of wire using your best judgement. Don't worry if it's too short, you can always add more later as long as you end it okay. I'll go over ending a wrapping later.

To start off you'll want to pinch together the two ends and make a loop around them with plenty of wire at the bottom and the top. These loops may not end up being used as they are, but they're basically there to start your hard core tighter loops. From there you'll want to pinch the larger gold wire ends together while also holding the silver thin wire in place. The fact that it's looped will help it stay in place. You can use your fingers, or you can use a flat head pliers. The pliers allow you to pull the loops tighter. What I do is I use my hands for the first few loop pulls just to get situated and then switch to the pliers. It's just really difficult on this particular portion of wrapping since everything is moving so much to do hands only.

As you loop around and pull, you'll want to keep the looping round. If you pinch the wire there's a good chance it'll kink, break, or both. Kinking for the smaller wire is similar to having a knot when you're sewing- it holds up the works and looks terrible. Only pull when you're sure the loop isn't going to pinch or kink. Now that I think of it, this is very similar to sewing when it comes down to it.

Once you're to a point where you think you're done with the wrap, you will want to trim the excess off. With binding two larger wires together, you'll have a groove between them where they meet. Try to trim your wire wrapping so that the end is just enough to press the pointy part into the groove. Like with the thicker gauge wire, cutting causes a sharp edge. Sharp edges from the smaller wire can actually catch clothing and pull threads, so its best to try to hide the edges into grooves and parts of the necklace less likely to make contact with anything. You can also decrease the chances of sharp edge catchers by square cutting, micro looping(like we did to the large wire ends only veeery tiny), sanding it, or putting a bit of acrylic or matte medium on the very end. It's a lot of work to do that with every tiny end you'll get though. I wouldn't bother with it for your first try.

And now you're done with your frame. YAY! In the next tutorial I'll be showing you how to get into the meat of the wire wrapping for the main part of the necklace.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Wire wrapping necklace tutorial: Creating the basic frame

Now the time has come! We're actually going to start making this thing! Aren't you excited? No? Oh well. This portion of the tutorial is to create the frame from which the wire will be wrapped and woven around. It's the back bone of your necklace.
Finished frame

To start out you'll need to get your tools, your thick gauge wire, and your pattern. First you'll want to cut a length of wire for your piece. Unless you want to sit there and measure out each twist and turn which could take a long time, you can just 'eyeball-it'. The problem you might run into if you eyeball-it is not giving yourself enough wire to do the whole pattern. You've been warned. What I usually do is find the middle of the length of wire and then start forming the middle of the necklace. For this tutorial though, I'll be going over the smaller piece in the back. It's just more photogenic.

Using your guide you'll want to rough out the shape. Give extra wire for sharper angles, but don't do the sharp angles now. This is important because once you've done a sharp angle it's there. No matter how much you want to undo it, you wont really be able to recoup the wire's smoothness, and most likely you'll start wearing on it's durability. Bend the wire enough and it'll become weak and break. This is especially so for the thinner wire. I've used the cloth covered pliers to do this so that I can keep the integrity of the wire as perfect as possible.

Using the guide is imperative, but don't forget
to check the frame on it's own.
Once you have the general shape all done and dandy, you'll need to deal with the ends. Your pattern should already tell you where you want the ends to be. If you just snip them at that point you'll be creating a sharp edge which will be a stabbing danger to who ever wears the necklace. To avoid this you'll make the smallest loop possible to bend the wire back onto itself. Take your fine point jeweler's pliers to make a tight angle back. From here you'll now want to snip off the extra wire. Remember to keep a a small tail of wire so we have something to work with to make the rounded end.

Use the flat nosed pliers to tighten this loop, finishing it so that it's more of a rounded edge. A loose loop has the chance of opening, a larger chance of snagging on clothing, or getting caught in other things, so tightness is important.

Now we need to tighten up our frame's angles where it needs it. 90 degree angles don't really need much touch up depending on how loose you were making the angles from blocking out the design. With the smaller piece I have 4 angles that are still pretty okay and don't need touching, and 2 angles that need some help, and 4 others that are extreme. Let's start with the extreme ones!

Yeah... I probably should have used some cloth to protect the edge for this, but here's a good reason why you need a soft nose or to use cloth!  The compression of the pliers will almost always create marks on your wire otherwise. Sometimes this is unavoidable. Sometimes it doesn't matter because you're going for the hand-made look and not the machine perfect look (as if that were possible with these tools anyways). Anyway, you want to take the angle and using flat pliers, pinch it so the wire is laying back against itself. This is the only way to get the sharp-yet-not-too-sharp angle you want. It's sharp enough to look good but not sharp enough to stab someone. So go over your design and make sure your corners are what they should be. Please note that once you do this you can't reform the frame, meaning if you need to fix the symmetry a part do it before you do the angles.

The next tutorial will go over closing the wire frame with basic wire wrapping.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Wire wrap necklace tutorial: Materials and tools

So you have your design all thought out and your pattern is ready! Now what? More designing! That's right! Just when you thought you'd be ready to break out the pliers, right? Well there are reasons for my perceived madness!

This is the time we gather our supplies and tools together. This may not sound like it's part of your design, but it is. Aside from the tools you will need (I'll talk about those later) you will need some embellishments for your necklace and your wire colors down. Embellishments can be beads, a shell, maybe a piece of wood, gemstones, micro gears, whatever. For this particular necklace I had no idea what I was going to include with it except that there was going to be a center piece and smaller beads littering the wire wrappings in the centers. I came up with the small pearl colored glass beads and the carved stone roses when I went to my local craft store. You can find stuff for your necklaces anywhere though- buttons, re-purposed broken jewelry, thrift stores, yard sales, bits of neat looking natural stones or wood from the forest.

You can also make your own beads. Do some googling on the subject and you'll find a million tutorials on making your own beads. Sky is the limit here. If you're heart is set on gem stones though, you're in for some hard times. I would wait before trying to create a wire setting as the difficulty level is about as high as it gets for that. Plus you would need special square cut wire and such. Maybe another time I'll do a tutorial on gem setting for these types of necklaces or making your own cool beads.

*** An important thing to note is that your beads will need to be able to be strung on your thinner gauge wire.

All this talk of gauges and wire and color might seem confusing, but have no fear! All will be revealed. When doing a wire wrapped anything you'll always start with a larger gauge wire. This means the wire will be strong and the diameter will be thicker. Unfortunately the packaging of the wire I'm using is gone so I can't tell you the specific gauge of my thicker gold wire. It's actually a finer gauge than I normally use, but it's tensile strength is pretty high for it's thickness/gauge so it should hold up just fine. When purchasing your wire, you really won't know what you're getting till you get in there and use it usually. Sure there are sites out there that sell high grade jeweler's wire that will tell you the wire's gauge, diameter, tensile strength, and so on, but if you're starting out you won't know what any of that actually means to your jewelry anyways. Also if you feel adventurous you can check out your hardware store for all sorts of other wire.

While the look and size of your wire is important, there's also a few other thing people tend to forget. Will the wire age well? Will it rust? Change color over time? Will the wire react to the wearer's skin? That last question is really important. I can't tell you how many earrings, bracelets, necklaces, and rings I've worn that have left a weird color on my skin, or my friends have worn and then told me about how they broke out in a rash. I'm not really an expert on the subject, but I try to get nickle free coated wire where I can to avoid issues. I also keep a look out for good deals on safe metals, but usually those only happen with settings or fasteners. It's just prohibitively expensive to get a spool of silver plated wire or gold plated wire usually. If you want to know about about the subject though, I recommend google for all your research needs.

Onto the nitty gritty though! Number wise, the smaller gauges = thicker wire.The thicker wire, I keep calling the larger gauge, which obviously is wrong an confusing, but it's basically me saying the thicker wire. I'll try to be less confusing about it, but I can't promise anything as it's just a bad habit that's hard to break. For the fine wire, 20 gauge is too large a circumference, you'll probably want something along the lines of 28 gauge. Of course with craft stores and all, the gauge may not be on the packaging, so you'll have to eye ball it. For the thicker wire I'd say somewhere around 14- 10 gauge.

The tools you'll need are as follows: Thin precision jeweler's pliers, regular larger jeweler's pliers, Flat nosed pliers for those precision angles and straightening, wire cutters(sometimes included with jewelers pliers) and soft tip pliers. If you're poor like I am, you can just wrap a pair of jeweler's pliers in fabric. It's harder to use but it'll do in a pinch. You also have the option of wrapping the wire part in question in a small piece of fabric. Honestly you probably need only one pair of jeweler's pliers at all. I have two pair because sometimes I use one in either hand like a boss (though I doubt it looks like I'm a boss from anyone else's perspective haha).

That's about it!

Quick list:
Thin gauged wire
Thick gauged wire
Flat head pliers
Jeweler's pliers
Some sort of wire cutter
Soft nosed pliers or fabric

Wire wrap necklace tutorial: Designing your necklace

I haven't done a wire wrap necklace in forever. A couple days ago I dreamed up a necklace design that I sketched out later. I'm totally being serious, it came to me in a dream haha. I wish more important things would do that, like how to cure cancer in an affordable maintainable and reliable way, but nope! I get a necklace design out of the blue. Anyways!

The design itself wasn't very different from other ones I've done but this one has this elegant way of using the ribbon tie as more than just a way to keep the necklace on your neck. Now, I'm not going to actually GIVE you the design, if you want to copy it for your first try, that's cool, but please don't copy it and sell it. That's not cool. What I DO think you should do is look at some Victorian architectural work or text embellishments for inspiration of your own design. Or you could do something more geometric. Really it's up to you.

SO! Again, do not use my necklace design for profit. It's not just illegal, it's harmful to me, and my well being. Don't make me starve on the streets and my cat would perish under a car tire without a home all because when you steal someone's work, you steal from their ability to pay their bills and feed themselves (and their cat if applicable).

Alright, let's get this show on the road. Remember where I said I sketched out my design? Well that's where you start. It doesn't need to be fancy, it just needs to get across the nuances and shapes you want. It would be good to keep in mind that when doing this sort of necklace, there is a beginning and end to your larger wire gauge (the structure, that which holds the design) and you should be mindful of where you want to put it. You'll see what I'm talking about later. Another big thing is that you will want to plan how you'll close your necklace. You can't just make a full circle, wire doesn't really expand and putting the necklace on would be impossible. If you wanna make your necklace a crown, then by all means go full circle.

Some ideas that go well with this sort of necklace:

Satin ribbon tie- tie it in the back
Chain with a clasp (ring or lobster claw types)
Chain/ribbon with toggle
Leather cord with crushed wire wrap to ring plus clasp

Rough Sketch
There's a ton of ways to close the necklace. If you're low on money and have a tone of wire, you can make your own chain and toggle clasps pretty easily. I won't be going over that in this tutorial though, and if you reeeeally want to know how I'm sure google can find something.

The most important thing is that you can read your sketch, not that your sketch is clean and pretty. The only thing that needs to be pretty is your final product.

Once you have your sketch down, now you create your life sized design that will act as a pattern or guide. It's going to be similar to what sewing patterns do for making clothing... sort of. What you want is a large piece of paper, and you'll want to sketch out your design, but only half of it (unless for some reason you're doing something asymmetrical then you can sketch the whole thing out and skip the rest of this portion of the tutorial).

Sketched out half of the pattern
You'll want this sketch to not be super messy, but you don't need to worry about it being some fantastical work of art. Don't do what I did and use a pen. Use a pencil and an eraser. If you don't feel like you can do good shapes and angles free hand, use all those tools they made you get for geometry back in high school. In fact you probably would just need a ruler and a compass. If you want to be creative without spending money you could probably fine household items that would make neat stencils. If you have money to blow, you can visit your local craft store and get some. This particular design is way bigger than any others I've done so far. I honestly don't know how well this will end up, but I have high hopes so far. A good thing to remember is that the paper is flat. This means that your wire structure will need to be formed to actually fit a person and not be just flat. The skinny bit at the top will fold over the shoulder's of the wearer for instance, so keep that in mind when creating your pattern. If this seems difficult, then keep your design simple, or split it into parts. You can always connect your pieces after with links or wrap it directly onto other parts.

Fold pattern in half
Turn over and trace
pattern on back

Once that's done you'll want to fold it in half. Then flip it over and trace the design on the back of the paper. When you open the paper to the original side, you should now see the faint mirrored outline on the back. If you don't, you traced the wrong side of the back of the paper. If that's so, then just fold it, turn it over and trace the side you didn't trace.

Make sure you traced
the correct side
Now that you've traced the back, you'll want to complete the design and trace what's on the back. OR if you did it wrong the first time, just use the back of your design as the front. No need to keep tracing everything all over the place. You just want the whole thing done on one side.

What the finished design/pattern should look like.
Once you've got everything done there, you'll want to make a note where the ends of your design are. In this design the ends are in the center of both pieces. When actually putting these together I'll be wrapping them with smaller gauge wire, so in the pattern I use a different color marker and add wrapping to the end areas.

I also make note of the corners. A true sharp point isn't something you want in your necklace as you don't want to stab the wearer, nor is it something you can easily achieve with your pliers. When making a point in the design there's a good chance you'll be damaging the wire or stripping it of it's color, so keep that in mind. Also with colored wire, unless the actual metal is the color, it's going to be a sort of thing polymer coating. This coating will rip at extreme angles. This is also something to keep in mind when you're designing. If you just GOTTA have those angles and your color wire is stinky, you can always dip the points in a polymer based paint, or even acrylic paint. It'll help out with the issues, but it'll be really messy.

Pro tip: don't use a pen, use a pencil.