Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Using Crochet Jewelry with Wire Free Patterns

I've been thinking about how to crochet wire jewelry since posting one of my free patterns 5 days ago. Within the first 36 hours alone it earned over 70 "hearts" in Ravelry (was favorited by over 70 people), and this brought a big smile to my weekend! 

Yet the bracelet did not become a new project for these Ravelers. 

Handmade beaded wire jewelry crochet patterns use materials that are not available everywhere. I shop for beads in 5 local stores and every store has a very different bead selection. Some craft stores don't carry nice jewelry wire in different gauges. (For this reason, jewelry wire crochet kits are probably ideal.) 

As a crochet designer, I know that yarn substituting is not always easy. Substituting crochet jewelry wire might be even trickier. It was for me when I made a second Love Knot Embracelet yesterday! Here's what I learned:

Lesson #1: 
There's a good chance that the wire gauge you want is the one that you don't have.
I wanted to use pure silver wire for my 2nd bracelet but I only have fine gauges (30-gauge or "30ga" and 26ga), no thick 22ga. I can't just go out and buy pure silver wire locally, only online.

Lesson #2: You can make your own thick gauge wire if you have a thinner gauge on hand.
I cut 3 pieces of 26ga silver wire, all 26 inches long, and twisted them together into one thicker piece.

Lesson #3: Wires of the same gauge, different metal, and sometimes different brand, can behave differently.
Pure silver (a.k.a. "fine silver," more pure than sterling) is softer, more pliant than the copper I used for the first bracelet. Also, some copper wire has an invisible coating, such as the 22ga I bought from Radio Shack. I think if I'd twisted 4 strands of 26ga silver together instead of 3, the result would be closer to the stiffness of my 22ga copper wire.

Lesson #4: Big round beads will require a longer 
bracelet than flatter, streamlined beads.
Laid flat, the two bracelets are the same finished length. When worn, the bulkier red one fits just right and the flatter blue one is just too big.

Wire is a fascinating crochet "yarn" that makes pretty beads even prettier. More tips on how to crochet wire are found in one of my 2006 free patterns for crocheted doilies: Coffee Hotplate Doily.