A step-by-step guide to knitting chain
By Munya Avigail Upin
Making your own chain is a great way of helping you distinguish your work from the competition. One of the easiest ways to make your own is to knit one. Although this style of chain is often referred to as being woven, there is no warp or weft so it is technically knitted, just without the knitting needles. This low-tech style is easy to make and requires no solder. Many metals may be used, including sterling silver and gold, but the softer the metal, the easier it is with which to work. Regardless of the metal you choose, the wire should be between 20 and 26 gauge, as heavier wires are too difficult to manipulate while thinner wires create a fragile chain.
1. For this project, you will need wire cutters, flat nose pliers, and a single pointed scriber.
2. Begin with an 18-inch piece of 24-gauge copper wire. Even if the final chain will be silver or gold, always start with copper as the beginning piece (it will be recycled at the end). With one end pointing toward the floor, wrap the wire around two fingers five times. If you want more loops, wrap it around the fingers once for every additional loop needed. Finish with both ends of the wire pointing down toward the floor.
3. Slide the loops off your fingers. Grab the top and bottom of the loops and twist the wire into a figure eight.
4. Twist until the top loops are about 1/4 inch in height.
5. Arrange the top five loops side by side so that, when looking down on them, they resemble a flower.
6. Lift the loops to 45 degrees.
7. Cut a new wire to approximately 28 inches in length. As you become more skilled, you’ll be able to work with longer lengths of wire but don’t go over 36 inches because the wire will become too work hardened while knitting. Measure in 1.5 inches from one end of the wire and bend it into a right angle with your fingers or pliers.
8. Place that angle directly under the top loops with the short end of the wire against the twist, and wrap the long end of the wire around the center twist three times.
9. Take the long wire and, from the outside, stick it through one loop and out (from the inside out) the loop directly to the right of the first loop. (If you’re left-handed, you may find it easier to go in the opposite direction.) This should be done gracefully with one movement.
10. Pull the long wire until the new loop being created is about 1/4 inch in diameter. Insert the scriber through the loop until the loop is about 3/4 inch from the end of the scriber. Pull the wire again until it is snug around the scriber. Using the scriber, twist the loop 360 degrees. Meant to keep the loop from falling out of place, this twist is only done on this first loop and won’t be repeated.
11. With the tip of the scriber still in the loop, lift the loop straight up so it is locked into place.
12. Now it’s time to start knitting. Take the end of the long wire and, from outside the chain, stick the wire into the loop it is coming out of and go directly out the loop to the right. If necessary, you may put a slight curve on the end of the wire to help thread it through the loops.
13. In your left hand, hold the soon-to-be chain and the scriber, with the tip of the scriber in the loop. Pull on the wire until the loop is tight around the scriber.
14. Repeat step #11. Always lift and lock every time you make a new loop.
15. Continue knitting the chain by placing the wire into the loop it is coming out of and then out the loop to the right. Make sure that the wire going in is on top of the old wire coming out.
16. As you work, squeeze the loops closer together and make the loops smaller by moving closer toward the tip of the scriber. Once you’re happy with the consistency of the loops and resulting chain, cut the remaining wire to 2 inches. Make one final loop by going in the loop that the wire is coming out but do NOT go out the loop to the right. Because the wire is so short, you may need flat pliers to pull it through.
17. Finish the loop by lifting it and locking it into place, leaving the end of the wire coming up through the center of the chain.
18. Now it’s time to switch to the metal of your choice. Cut a piece of wire approximately 2 to 3 feet long. From the outside in, place 1 inch of the wire into the next loop of the chain—the loop that you would have come out of if you had finished the last loop.
19. Twist the ends of the two wires together with your fingers or flat pliers. Make sure you twist evenly.
20. Be careful not to wrap one wire around the other, as this will come apart. The photo demonstrates what not to do.
21. Cut the twisted wires to 3/8 inch.
22. Continue knitting. Take the long end of the new wire and go into the loop it is coming out of and out of the loop to the right. The twisted wires will disappear inside the finished chain. Continue knitting and adding wires in the same manner until the knitted chain is almost as long as you would like it to be. It doesn’t need to be the exact desired length, as the chain will be lengthened in a later step.
23. Buy or make a hardwood or Delrin drawplate with 10 graduated holes from 5/32 inch to 3/8 inch. Place the drawplate in a secure vise. Starting with the beginning end of the chain, place the chain into the largest hole it will fit. If the end is too big for all the holes, lightly planish it until the diameter of the chain is compressed. Use draw tongs or heavy flat pliers to pull the chain through the drawplate.
24. Gently pull the chain through the drawplate holes until the desired diameter is achieved. Do not skip any holes or pull too aggressively, as the chain could break. If done properly, it is not necessary to anneal the chain while reducing its diameter in the drawplate.
25. The chain will elongate as it is pulled. That amount will be determined by how far down the chain is drawn. A chain could elongate as little as one inch or as much as four inches. Keep a journal of this process so you’ll know what to expect the next time you’re working with the same gauge wire and materials.
26. Once you’re satisfied with the chain, clip off the copper beginning of it, one loop at a time, with a pair of wire cutters. Tuck the end of the wire inside the chain using a pair of needle nose or flat pliers. Attach an end cap or cone to the end of the chain using a 1.5 to 2-inch piece of 20-gauge wire. Bend one end of the wire into a J-shaped hook and slide it through several of the loops at the end of the chain. Squeeze the hook closed with pliers. Slide the other end of the wire through the end cap or cone, and then bend it into a loop and wrap the end around itself to secure it. The two ends of the chain can then be connected with an S hook.