|Crocheting Pure Silver Wire
Note: Welcome to all of the new subscribers! This is issue #43. Newsletters are sent out every other Thursday; until November, issues will be sent less often due to several teaching engagements.
My twin passions for crochet and for fine silver united like two soul mates eight years ago. I had high hopes of basing a jewelry business on crochet with precious metals and gems. I knew I wanted to start with pure silver, because it’s known for being an easy metal to work with, its cost didn’t scare me off (especially back then), and I simply love the look and feel of it.
Finding “pure” silver wire was my first challenge. I’d once spent a college semester hammering silver ingots at a forge, yet was treated like a li’l missy when I tried to buy silver wire in New York’s diamond district, based on spot prices. It was difficult finding out the yards or meters per 1-ounce reel of 28 gauge silver wire, or if platinum or 14k gold wire is as ductile (bendable, flexible) as "fine" (as in 99.9% pure as opposed to sterling) silver.
It was a crash course in bringing together the worlds of crochet and metal working. At home, I used plenty of trial and error just to pair a good crochet hook size with each wire gauge (thickness). I didn’t have a chance to build a jewelry business, though. In the short term, I developed muscle problems from crocheting wire. (I had been crocheting lovely silver birthday gifts!) Eight years later, I can now also add that in the long term, some wire crochet hasn't held up.
I’ve listed a few long-term wire crochet lessons I’ve learned, below. When I taught a 3-hour Creating Crochet Jewelry class in Reno, I mentioned that we could do a bit of wire crochet if time permitted; if not, I would make some of the material available online after the class. (Wire crochet actually needs to be a separate class to do it justice.) See my wire crochet links over in the right hand column for more. --->
You can also see other jewelry class resources here. http://designingvashti.com/blog/?p=182
1. Assemble a tool kit just for wire crochet: special scissors/wire cutter, jewelry findings and fasteners, fabric backings, rubber mallet, crochet hooks. Wire can be hard on hooks, so I prefer using old dull steel ones for strength, to which I add cushioned handles. The old hooks might even get polished a bit by the wire :-) Personally I usually prefer tighter wire crochet, but I'd use a steel hook even if crocheting it loosely.
2. Beads: Nowadays I’d reserve the finicky beads (the bigger beads with the tiniest holes, the irregular holes, or the rough holes that fray fiber) for stringing onto wire. For me, wire makes bead crochet a special pleasure. No beading needle required! No fiber bumps to impede sliding! And, wire crochet displays every bead prominently.
3. Pearls: A special case. Their bead holes tend to fray thread, while wire is impervious. I love pearls as much as I love silver, so I've paired them often. Nowadays I’d only pair them if I can find a silver wire that won't tarnish. Fine silver tarnishes as readily as sterling where I live, and pearls are sensitive to tarnish removers. Unfortunately, my pure silver + pearl jewelry pieces seem to age faster than other pieces.
4. While you're crocheting wire, it may look ugly or messy to you. Don't worry! Just the act of holding onto your work while making the next stitch will crumple it up. Pulling a loop through a loop makes a loop collapse. You just need to “block” it later (nudge some strands into place later with your hook). See pictures above: a purple wire bookmark of love knots. (It will end up being hammered and then probably mounted on a stiffened piece of satin unless I wish to wear it as a bracelet.) The prettier love knots on the left were opened with my hook after crocheting more rows.
5. Thinner wires (28ga and up) create fancy filigree looks with even the simplest crochet stitches. It is exhilarating to create gossamer crochet jewelry quickly and easily -- everyone should experience it at least once! They are also delicate: not only can they look almost invisible against the skin, the fine wire soon becomes brittle and breaks in places. Nowadays I would plan to mount these styles onto a contrasting background (mmm, black velvet!) which also buffer them from stress. A beautiful method is to use an armature of much thicker wire, say 22ga. Since it’s too stiff to crochet, I would also brush up on wire wrapping skills to combine this technique with crochet. (Here's my favorite wire wrapped bracelet. Pink wire!)
6. Over time I’ve noticed that recipients of these gifts have no idea how delicate wire actually is, and how would they? I didn’t know until I crocheted it. Traditionally, jewelry is strong enough to show off precious materials through several wearings, then get handed down as an heirloom. Crocheting the metal has already stressed it a bit. To stay looking new, it would be ideal if some wire crochet jewelry styles were handled like spun glass rather than flexed, tugged, bowed, banged, crushed, or twisted as if it’s Jelly Yarn® (the most durable material I’ve every crocheted!). Nowadays I'd consider reinforcing even substantial wire crochet pieces as described in #5.
That's it for #43! If you know someone who would enjoy this kind of newsletter, please forward this to them so that they can subscribe. (Click here to subscribe: ) If you have any comments or suggestions, please email me. Thanks! --Vashti