Sunday, 13 April 2014

The Dragon Scale Necklace

This weekend my obsession has been making this dragon scale necklace. My first chain maille project, my first time using scales (apart from the knitting sample I tried earlier in the week) and my first time making jewellery of any kind. I'm not going to lie, it was a little trickier than I imagined but I had some really good tutorials to hand and I learnt a lot as I went along. I'm really happy with how it worked out but I also know what I'd do differently next time. So without further ado: The Dragon Scale Necklace Project.

The Supplies

For this project I used:
93 Anodized Aluminium Scales
Approximately 400 RD4-50 Anodised Aluminium Saw Cut Jump Rings
1 Silver Toggle Clasp

I ordered 100 Scales and 500 jump rings from Bead Sisters which is a UK supplier that offered good prices, free postage and a wide range of colours and so many jump ring options that I was really glad of the guidance. They also had some really good beginner projects so big thumbs up all round really. For this project I think Bead Sisters were my best option supplier wise. There aren't many UK suppliers and these were the most helpful and the best prices for buying small amounts.

Fun story - The champagne/ pale gold scales are the same ones used for the Mirkwood Elves armour in The Hobbit films!

If I were going to embark on a bigger project I think I would have to look at a better bulk supplier like The Ring Lord which is based in Canada but works out much cheaper for buying in bulk, even taking into account the postage and the UK customs which are getting ever more expensive.

The pliers and clasps came from an eBay shop called Bead Delighted. They're about what you expect from an eBay shop to be honest, good price, fast delivery, good but nothing out of the ordinary.

The Tutorials

I didn't really follow a tutorial to the letter but I did have a lot of guidance from three places in particular.

Bib Necklace Tutorial - This is a free tutorial from the aforementioned Bead Sisters and particularly helped when I was first starting out, working out how to lay out my scales. The pictures were helpful to a point but I didn't really like the final product as I wanted something wider, more colourful and with a chain maille choker to hold it up.

How to Weave Scalemail - This video from The Ring Lord was absolutely brilliant to learn from. It's really clear and really gave me a good idea of what the pattern should look like and how best to handle the jump rings and scales. 

2 in 2 Chain Maille Weave - There are so many weaves that you can achieve with chain maille that there are oodles of projects in those alone. This one was a simple pattern that looks really delicate and wasn't too thick for a choker.

The Project

I started out with four scales of each colour and linked them so that each scale had two links in it. It wasn't immediately apparent which ones I should be adding the next row to so to make it easier I added links to alternate scales and threaded an old chain through them. By lifting it slightly I could see which scales would make the top row and which were the row to add the next layer to. To make it even easier I lifted the second row scales so they sat on top.
Laying out the scales was made easier by adding a temporary chain through the top row
The scales were attached in a diamond pattern with each scale having two links to the above row. Each row added two scales of each colour moving slightly to the right with one row then back to the left with the next to keep the lines straight. Once you get started the pattern is really easy to pick up although in hindsight, I wish I'd drawn up my pattern before I started so I knew how I wanted the bottom to look.

I made a couple of mistakes as I went along but they were easy enough to fix with very few rude words! The tricky part was getting the shape right since I didn't plan in advance and hadn't made a middle row. This meant that my pattern couldn't be perfectly symmetrical and I had to make do as best I could. My OCD is still itching that there are more of some colours than others but the shape looks right and my OCD doesn't itch enough to make me want to take it apart (yet). I know better for next time.

The chain was actually the easiest part and I knocked it up pretty quickly using the tutorial linked above. With every link I was very aware that this would be sat on my neck, perilously close to my very long hair so I took extra care with every part to make sure that the rings were closed with no sharp edges or bits that could catch on my skin.

I originally attached the scales at every fourth ring which stretched out the scales so they hung slightly strangely. By removing it all and attaching them to every third ring I got a much more natural hang. Once I had those all attached I started adding links starting from the middle and working my way out from either side to make sure everything hung central.

The final part was adding the toggle and trying it on. The first time I tried it on it was a little tight so I added two more links and tried it again until it was comfortable. If I were making it for someone else I probably would have measured their neck first but for myself I'm happy to suffer in the name of art!

The Final Product

 Ta-da! One dragon scale necklace!

I learnt so much from this project. The important of planning being the primary one I think. Whilst I'm happy with how it looks, part of me knows that it's only a matter of time before I pull it apart and fix the symmetry issue. Or maybe I'll sell this one on and start again with a new batch of scales, who knows? I do need a way of funding my crafting habits - any volunteers to sponsor the next project? ;)

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