Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Tutorial: Viking Wire Weaving

I hang around bad influences. My friends get me to try all sorts of stuff that I wouldn't even think of on my own. But you know, it is kind of fun!

In the most recent case, a dear friend of mine has been teaching Viking wire weaving anyone who will sit still long enough to look at what she is doing. Viking or Norse wire weaving (also called trichinopoly), as suggested by the name, dates back to the Viking era. ( Through my friend, I ordered directions and a small kit from Tom Kassens, and I was off and running.

To learn the technique, I made a practice bracelet out of some scrap copper wire I had lying around. Once I posted a picture on my FaceBook, I had folks ask me if I was going to do a blog tutorial. So I started a matching necklace, and took pictures. Mind you, I'm nowhere near an expert. But this technique is easy enough that even beginners can come out with wearable pieces of jewelry.

Here's what I did:

craft wire in two sizes
a wooden dowel (or fingers, or allen wrench)
a draw plate (make one by drilling different sized holes in a board)
wire cutters

For this necklace, I made a 5 loop chain. You can experiment with more or less loops. To make a starting anchor, take a length of your wire, and wrap it around your fingers the right number of times.

Twist the ends of the loops together.

Spread the loops out evenly, and kind of squish them into long ovals. It will look kind of like a flower.

Now, bend the petals around your mandrel. I'm using a wooden dowel that has a rounded end. It also has a slight indentation in one side up near the end, to make it easier to pass the wire under the loops as you get weaving. I have a friend who just uses her fingers for a mandrel. I've also seen folks use an allen wrench in a vise, for a more stable work surface.

Cut a working length of wire, somewhere between 18" and 3'. Secure one end by winding it around the twists in your starter flower.

Bring the other end in one loop and out the next door loop. With the mandrel in my hand coming towards me, I was working from right to left.

Pull the wire through, and tighten up the resulting loop. I found that I was most comfortable feeding through the wire by hand, then using a pliers to tighten the loop. Now, move to the next petal to the right, and make another loop with your working wire. Continue around, until you are back to your first working loop.

On your next row, you are going to insert your wire under the X made at the base of your loop. Snug your wire into place with pliers again, but be sure you leave enough room in the weave to get the next pass of wire through. Continue around, building your chain loop by loop in this manner.

You will run out of wire quicker than you think. I've found two ways to add the next length of wire. The first way is to insert the end of the new wire back the way you just came with the old wire...

...then bend the ends down, and hold them in place while you continue looping around. When you get back to the ends of the wires, work over them so they are in the inside of your weaving. After a few rows, snip the remaining ends.

The second way is to twist the old and the new wires together while you are between loops. Again, continue on with your new wire, and make sure the ends are hidden inside your weaving.

After you've gone through several lengths of wire, it is time to think about finishing your piece. For my choker, I made my rough weave 9 inches long. Obviously, that isn't long enough to go around an adult neck. But the magic happens next.

Using pliers, hold on to your original wire flower as a handle and pull your rough weave through the biggest hole in your drawplate. Then pull it though the next smaller hole. Keep going until you can't easily get it though a hole. This will lengthen your finished chain, and at the same time decrease its diameter. The chain becomes more flexible, and little irregularities get lost to the eye.

My 9" of chain became just over 15" long, which is a great choker size for me. If your resulting chain is too long for your finished product, you can unweave some of your work. It isn't really possible to add more at this point though, so be sure you have enough rough weave before you draw it out.

Carefully snip off your original starter flower.

You can finish your chain in several different ways. In this case, I chose a simple wire hook and eye clasp. Take your thicker wire, and make a loop in the end. Thwap it with the hammer for a bit to work harden the wire.

Stick the end of your wire down through the middle of your chain and out the side a few openings down. Pull it down, until the eye you just made is settled against the end of your weave.

Take this wire, and tightly wrap it back up toward your eye.

Take the end of your wire, and stick it down through the middle of your chain, and out the side underneath that coil you just made. You might have to use an awl to squeeze open a pathway. Use your pliers and grab the end sticking out, and pull the wire down tight, making sure not to kink up the loop as you pull it down and in. Snip off the end of the wire flush to your chain.

To make the hook side of your clasp, fold another wire over, wind the short end around the long, and snip off the short end. Thwap it with your hammer to work harden the wire.

Fold the double wires over into a hook shape.

Add this hook to the other end of your chain the same way you did the eye.

And here you go! A lovely choker, ready to wear. I've got it on right now, and it is light weight, flexible, and comfortable. I think I'm ready to move up from copper to silver wire next...


  1. Wow, nice work! You make it look easy, but I know better than to try, lol!

  2. Thanks! Once I figured out which way to feed the wire so the loops were right side up, it actually was pretty easy. And the materials are cheap, so I didn't feel bad about experimenting and possibly screwing it up. I'd say go for it!

  3. I am dieing to try Viking Weave. I did about a year ago and didn't work at it long enough to get proficient. Maybe it will be my weekend project this week. Love the look and great tutorial. By the way, found you by a search for Copper Wire.

  4. Wow! What an interesting necklace. I have never seen this. Your instructions are wonderful, detailed and clear. It makes me want to try. Now you are being a bad influence. (In a good way!)

  5. I get to be a bad influence too. Woo Hoo! :) Give it a try!

    And Lois, speaking of bad influences, your web site there qualifies. Beautiful work, and very inspirational.

  6. Hi, Melissa, Tom Kassens here. Great site and good pics of your work. I am always pleased when someone learns a new craft, or in your case, a new art, especially when I had a little to do with that education.
    I also make shuttles for weaving from exotic woods.

  7. Melissa,I think I tried every other tutorial on the net for this 'viking knit' with NO success...then I found yours and it immediately made sense! Not only that, but I sat in front of my computer with your illustrations in front of me and completed my first couple of inches of work saying THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU! I'm so glad that you found Tom Kassens to clear up your confusion and that I found you to clear up mine. And to think I was considering spending A LOT of money to take a 2 hour class on this technique that would include some sort of 'special tool' to make it easier...although I don't know how anything could make it easier unless someone else did it for you. Thanks again, RtisticallBent (Chicago)

  8. Oh, I'm so tickled!! I'm glad you found the pictures useful. I've been having such fun with making necklaces, that I'm glad to know that someone else is enjoying too. :)

    Thanks for stopping by, and letting me know.

  9. thanks! I learned wire knitting at a SCA public relations gig in Montpelier, VT a few years ago, and didn't have enough money to join or continue the craft. Your tutorial was the perfect one for me, with my antique computer unable to play videos of anything. I know it's easier to do a vid, but thank God for you doing this the hard way with pics! If it hadn't been for you, I'd have had to continue to go without this lovely craft! Peace!

  10. Thanks for stopping by! I'm glad that the pictures helped. :)

    If you're still interested in the SCA, most local groups will let you come to their practices for free. You need to join when you want to get the newsletter, or do things like hold offices to help run things. At least that is how it is in my neck of the SCA woods.

  11. Hi! Great tute! I will be linking at in future post.


  12. Thank you, Jane! I'm so glad you found the tutorial helpful. Thanks for stopping by.

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  14. Thank you for your tutorial, I just started my first project and it's very useful! Haven't finished yet, so I don't know how it'll turn out, but it seems to be working :-)

    The link you shared is broken--do you know if the information there exists elsewhere?

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  16. Thanks for the tutorial. Just was introduced to this old art form at a Medieval Days Festival and was shown the technique. With your tutorial, I should be able to continue to learn

  17. I was just introduced to wire weaving as well, at Balticon -- Lady Ingeborg of Bright Hills (Atlantia) was an excellent teacher, one of several SCA crafters introducing the society to people attending the SF/fantasy convention.

    She had a dowel with some wire already woven on it, and would begin by showing you how to continue the weave. (Not possible when you're starting from scratch with a web tutorial!) The starter flower was the second step.

    Two things in particular that she demonstrated might be useful to pass along:

    - After drawing the chain a few times, you might find wire ends (from where you joined new wire to the chain) poking out. It's good to periodically check the chain and snip and/or tuck in errant ends so they won't scratch you in the finished piece.

    - A chain that's not long enough for a bracelet or choker on its own can be made into a piece, by threading a leather thong through it before drawing it. Before the chain becomes narrow enough to grab the leather tightly, more or less center it on the thong. After it's as narrow as you want, you can tie the leather ends, or attach findings.

    Melissa, I'll heartily second the other commenters and thank you for an extremely clear and inspiring "bad influence" of a tutorial! (Thanks especially for directions for making a hook and eye to finish off a piece.)

  18. He Who Requires Specific Instructions would like to know the diameter of the various pull holes? My suggestion of starting at a half inch and working down by sixteenths was met with a scathing glare.

  19. She who kind of ballparks everything says he ought to go with your idea. :) Alternately, Fire Mountain Gems has something you can work with here:

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  22. My husband and I are fairly new at this,about four months. He likes to experiment and so now we always weave extra and when we cut it off we leave a couple of inches to start the next one. There's less waste and easier to get start on the next one. So we have a aboard with several different sizes and color short pieces ready to do a new chain. Also he uses a small pair of plyers to open the chain back out and put back on the dowel and add more chains if needed, it works great. Hope this helps others some.

    1. Thanks! I'll have to try that next time I'm working with the wire. You're awesome.

  23. Having just stumbled upon this little gem, I was wondering how much wire you ended up using?