Polymer Clay Jewelry Projects – Chainmail Charm Bracelet with Beads

Charm Bracelet

“Amassing so many beads that I’m really going to have to brush up on my jewellery making skills.” ~Polyanya

What do you do with 500 or so gold tone jump rings? Well you make a chainmaille charm bracelet of course… complimented with polymer clay beads that you made yourself.

If you are unfamiliar with chainmaille, it is the art of weaving jump rings into chains and armor (like the woven chain link vests that Knights used to wear for protection from swords). Since medieval sword fighting is not real big these days, crafts people now mostly use chainmail techniques to make really cool jewelry necklaces, bracelets and earrings.

The simple beginner’s pattern that I used to make the charm bracelet in the photo above, is called ‘Flowers’. This technique involves using three jump rings put together in such a way that they end up looking like a little flower. To make the chain, you combine a whole bunch of these ‘flowers’ and link them together with two single rings.

The cool thing about making your own chainmaille is that you can have it any length you want. As you can see in the photo, I added polymer clay bead charms to my chainmaille bracelet, along with some glass beads.

Some of the charms were added with more jump rings, some with head pins and the rest were attached with colored beading wire. You may recognize the a couple of the beads from the photo in this other post: Polymer Clay Charms

One of the things I love about making polymer clay beads is how many different ways they can be used in jewelry making projects. So I just thought you may enjoy seeing yet another example of how I used my polymer clay beads to make yet another style of handmade jewelry.

Ever worked with chainmaille before? Share your thoughts below.

Cindy Lietz SignaturePolymer Clay Tutor


  1. Polyanya, 10 September, 2009

    Wow thats lovely Cindy, very definitely on my to do list!

  2. Anna Sabina, 10 September, 2009

    i know there a lot of free tutorials at jewelry sites. Any suggestions where we can find an understandable one on this technique?

  3. Freda, 10 September, 2009

    Try googling it or go to youtube.com. You’ll probably get a lot of junk listings, but you may learn a lot about chainmaille.

  4. Silverleaf, 10 September, 2009

    I love chainmaille! I’m not very experienced yet but I’ve made a few things and it’s good fun.

    I actually started by altering and actual suit of chain mail – my ex-boyfriend and I used to do Live Action Role Playing games (LARP) where we dressed up and pretended to cast spells and fought with rubber swords with about 2000 other strange people.

    A friend of mine had a suit of chain mail made for him (with really heavy galvanised sprung steel rings, the whole thing weighted about 70lb) and later my ex bought it from him, but he was a lot smaller than the guy it was made for so he had to alter it by cutting out sections front and back and fastening it back together.

    He was fine with the removing part but couldn’t figure out the linking pattern (European 4-in-1, a really easy one)so I ended up doing the repairing job. It was really hard because the links were so difficult to open and close and hurt my hands. Needless to say I could only do it slowly and he got bored and finished it himself all wrong so it looked awful!

    But yeah, compared to that, jewellery is very easy. ;)

  5. Silverleaf, 10 September, 2009

    Oh and I remembered I’d seen the chain pattern before, here’s a nice clear tutorial. It uses coloured jump rings and calls it a “Mobius link” bracelet but it’s the same as Cindy’s “Flowers” pattern.

    The site has some cool easy chainmaille patterns and explains about aspect ratio and other stuff you need if you want to do more than beginner’s patterns.

    beadsisters.co.uk/library/pages/learnaweave6.htm

  6. Laurel, 10 September, 2009

    If you are really interested in chainmaille go to theringlord.com. They have great prices on jump rings, wire and they have a bunch of downloadable instructions but I think most, if not all, cost some. I have seen some free instructions on jewelrylessons.com too.

    So speaking of the renaissance period (kind of :) There are picture of my daughter in the wedding dress I made, the polymer clay broach I made, the polymer clay rings I put on the centerpieces and the wire work we did for the centerpieces for her wedding and the lovely little flower girl in her Butterly Fairy costume I made, also the bridesmaids headpieces and Jessi’s gold circlet I made with wire wrap and the necklace I made her at snapfish.com. If anyone wants me to send them a link to see them, send your email to me at jewelryjungle.vpweb.com/ContactUs.html and I will send you an invite to see them.

    Whew!! October 3 is almost here. Still have stuff to do but getting closer to being done.

  7. Melinda, 10 September, 2009

    How fabulous!!! Thanks Cindy for the fabulous idea! That bracelet is so pretty.

    Thanks Silverleaf for the site. The impulsive part of me went right to my jumprings and started throwing them together and I finally got the pattern right after a while but it would have been easier had I had that site before. I do not keep much on my to do list… I just do it.

  8. Jocelyn C, 10 September, 2009

    Cindy, you’ve struck again. Love this chain pattern for displaying polymer clay charms, and can see it used for multiple jewelry items.

    Is it possible to achieve using copper wire? Think that would be incredible, the green tarnished copper with Fall season color charms all over the chain. How about using a flattened wire to make the jump rings, just make them a little bigger.

    Might even get a nice “manly” with bigger ring patterns.

  9. Ken H., 11 September, 2009

    I know some of you are going to say “here he goes again” but you don’t need to buy rings, all you need is a dowel rod of whatever diameter you wish and wind the wire around and around on the dowel, be careful not wind too tight or you’ll never get the wire off the dowel, it should look like a spring if it’s too loose (while on the dowel) press it together until the coils are touching each other, take the “spring ” off the dowel and with a pair of flush cut wire cutters or a hacksaw or dremel with cutting blade, cut through the spring, and voila you’ve made jumprings. Then they get treated as you would store brought rings.
    .

  10. Ken H., 11 September, 2009

    The cut edges should be flat so they cloes neatly and tightly. If they’re not flush file them so they are.

    It sounds like a lot of work but it really isn’t.

  11. Silverleaf, 11 September, 2009

    I often make my own rings too Ken! It’s more convenient for me because I can quickly just make whatever size, gauge and colour I want without having to go out the the bead shop or order online. I use a mandrel with several different sizes, from 1.5mm to about 10mm, and I make however many rings I need for each project.

    That said I keep a stock of my most commonly used rings in silver and I buy those.

    It’s awesome when you’re in the middle of making a necklace and you think, “That would look so much better with a slightly bigger ring in purple enamelled copper” and you can just make it and get on with it.

  12. Ken H., 11 September, 2009

    I like doing what I think is called Farie Maille, it’s worked in the smaller diameter and gauge wires. I haven’t done all that much of it, but in the learning process I seem to like the look of the smaller rings.

  13. Ken H., 11 September, 2009

    BTW Cindy,

    Beautiful charm bracelet. Sorry should have said that first.

  14. Kimberly H, 11 September, 2009

    I do chainmaille quite a bit on my charm bracelet. I usually use the Helms pattern or the Persian 3 in 1 technique. They are both very beautiful.

    There is a FANTASTIC website with every chainmaille technique you can think of. All of them are sorted into categories like European, Hybrid, Japanese, etc… just click on whichever category sounds interesting and a huge list comes up with all sorts of guides on different techniques. Some are easier than others, and some of the directions are more easier to follow than others. :)

    Here is the site: mailleartisans.org/weaves/

  15. Cindy Lietz, 11 September, 2009

    Wow everyone, thanks so much for the great comments and the wonderful resources!!

    Great points Ken and Silverleaf, making your own jump rings is a great thing to be able to do. I have a couple of tips to add…

    – My flush cutters are only ‘flush’ on one side and the other side is tapered. So to make sure the cuts are straight on both sides, I make a flush cut on one side then flip the cutters around for the other side. This means the next ring will have a tapered end, but if you just nip off that end with another flush cut, you’ll have much better fitting rings that way. (Of course this would be way easier to show in video than with words, so maybe I’ll make a tutorial some time.)

    – Another tip is to toss those rings, (especially the finer gauge ones or the larger diameter ones which bend easily) into the rock tumbler with some steel shot or river rocks. This action acts like tiny hammers that will work harden and polish the rings to make them much stronger.

  16. Ken H., 11 September, 2009

    You never know when you’ll need a ring or two to add a clasp or something. I keep several sizes of “springs” and cut off what I need, that way I’m not playing 1000 pick-up of 4mm rings off the floor if I drop the bag. :oP

  17. Dora A., 11 September, 2009

    Beautiful bracelet, Cindy ! I love the look of chainmail. That’s a wonderful tip about using a tumbler to work harden flimsy jump rings. I have thousands of those (bought them very cheap at a ‘going-out-of business-sale’) but have never used them to make anything like chainmail because they are so weak and bend very easily.
    Making one’s own jumprings is great because you can make them any size/shape you need, and can use a better quality wire. I have Sharilyn Miller’s DVD ‘Tribal Treasures Bracelet Workshop’, and she does a great job of showing how to work with wire and use tools correctly. The only problem is that her directions are for right handers and I’m left-handed ! She often uses the terms ‘right hand’ and ‘left hand’ and I have to reverse her directions which can get very confusing.
    .

  18. Jocelyn, 11 September, 2009

    Ken, thanks so much, sounds fairly straight forward. Dowel, wire, Dremel. Can this be done with the flattened wire Cindy has used here in previous videos? Want them thick and chunky.

    Thanks to all for all the great links. Going to be busy tonite learning new stuff. What could be more fun?

  19. Ken H., 11 September, 2009

    They make rings out of any wire that is made, there is a site (don’t remember which one) that sells square wire rings, I would think that they’d be harder to work with (wouldn’t lay as easily in the pattern). Haven’t had the courage to try square wire rings yet.

  20. Barbara Rymarquis, 12 September, 2009

    I also make my own rings. After I make my coils, I put a piece of masking tape on each coil before I cut it with my Koil Kutter. The tape keeps the rings from going all over the place when they are cut. After I cut the rings, I run a piece of wire through the coil before removing the tape. I then twist the ends of the wire I ran through the coil together before placing the rings in the tumbler. When the rings finish tumbling, it is much easier to remove them from the shot. Since they are on a wire, I don’t have to pick them out individually.

  21. Cindy Lietz, 13 September, 2009

    @Ken: I do the same thing. I love to be able to clip off any sized ring out of any material whenever I want to. Thanks for passing along the tips. You can buy square wire too, if you wanted to make your own square rings.

    @Dora: That must be a bit of a pain! Never really thought of things being tricky for a lefty. If you have any problems with the way I explain things just let me know, I’ll try and make sure things are easily doable from either direction.

    @Jocelyn: I make jump rings around anything round. Brush handles, dowels, mandrels, pencils. If I want a certain size I look for something that I can wrap some wire around. Edges need to be straight enough so that you can slip the coil off though.

    @Barbara: Cool ideas! Way better than picking through all the shot in the tumbler. Thanks for passing along these great tips!

  22. Silverleaf, 14 September, 2009

    @Cindy – that’s a great tip about cutting both sides of the wire in the rings. I have that problem too and never thought of your technique!

  23. Jennifer, 17 September, 2009

    This topic could not come in a better time. I just started making jump rings and am having trouble. When I cut the jump ring off of the coil I get one side that is nice and flat and the other side is beveled. I use the methoed that Cindy described above. Can someone give me any clue on what I am doing wrong?

    I have filed every single one as well, which is a pain when you need alot, but that does not seem work much either. Plus it is very time consuming and time is not something that I have alot of with two little kids. Is there a faster more reliable way to cut them without having to file them and it costing a fortune?

    Thank You,
    Jennifer

  24. Ken H., 17 September, 2009

    A hacksaw or dremel should work if you have one. That’s all I can offer.

  25. Ken H., 17 September, 2009

    Are you fliping the cutter when you make the 2nd cut?

  26. Jennifer, 17 September, 2009

    Ken,

    If I used a hacksaw, how would I hold the coil in place? And how would I use a dremel to cut the coil? I have a dremel, but unsure if it would need a special attachment.

    Yes, I flip the cutter. Maybe I am not cutting enough off of the beveled edge? I hate to waste so I try to cut close to the beveled edge. I have saved the tiny pieces that I do cut to use in clay for inclusions.

    Thanks Ken for the quick response!

  27. Ken H., 17 September, 2009

    the dremel might have a cutting blade, keep the “spring” on the dowel and cut the rings off the spring that way, the hacksaw might work that way also.

    I make rings ahead of time so I sit while I’m watching t.v and cut and file so that when I have enough then I start the project

  28. Jennifer, 17 September, 2009

    With the dremel cutting blade, would it give me a clean straight cut where I would not have to file, or would I still have to file?

  29. Ken H., 17 September, 2009

    If it’s what I’m thinking of (since I don’t own a dremel brand tool, and the one I do own didn’t come with a cutting disk(my fault for gong cheap)) it looks like a disk, sort of like a saw blade but no teeth, it should make a straight cut if the tool is held straight. Some adjustment might be necessary on the rings but I don’t think it would be as bad as filing down a ring cut using a hand cutter. Experiment on inexpensive wire from a dollar store or something before you use your ring wire.

  30. Ken H., 17 September, 2009

    There is a tool to make rings but it is sort of expensive, It comes with different sized mandrels to make rings, I would like one but can’t justify the cost yet. It has a jig to hold the “spring” while you cut it with the dremel.

  31. Cindy Lietz, 17 September, 2009

    Great dialog guys! Thank you Ken for helping Jennifer like that. I’m sure she really appreciates it!

    Jennifer, just nip off a little more of the bevel before you cut the next ring. That way you won’t have much of a gap. You really won’t be wasting much wire that way.

    A Dremel with a cutting wheel should work and you shouldn’t need to file. Though you will need to be extra cautious and wear safety glasses to protect your eyes. Also make sure you’re holding that coil properly so that you don’t cut your hands.

    Lots of people cut jump rings with a jewelers hack saw. But since you already have a flush cutter, that will probably be your easiest and cheapest bet for now.

  32. Ken H., 18 September, 2009

    Jennifer and Cindy you’re welcome, I enjoy doing maille when I get the chance( and any info I have or discover that can help with making the rings I’ll share). I have the hopes of someday making a head dress(coif I think it’s called) and a shirt for a Rennasiance Faire costume (or to use in a show should the opportunity present itself).

  33. Jennifer, 18 September, 2009

    I think I found out what I was doing wrong. At least it seems to help. I only had to file like 5 jump rings out of 30. Which is a great time saver.

    After I remove the coil I stretch the coil to make it look like a spring. I think that my flush cutter could not get in there enough and it did not make the end as flush. It seems to of helped. I watched a video and she said that the further down you cut on the flush cutter the better the flush cut will be. Before I could barely get the tip in there. Not sure if this is the “right” way because alot of websites say that the coil has to be tight, but this works for me :)

    Thanks Ken for the help :)

  34. Ken H., 18 September, 2009

    Well “right” ot “wrong” it seems to be working for you, and that’s what is important.

  35. Cindy Lietz, 26 September, 2009

    Very cool idea Jennifer! I think the reason for wrapping tight is to make sure the ring is a complete circle. If you wrap tight, then pull them apart, it shouldn’t effect the size or shape too much. I tried it and it works especially well for the tiny jump rings. Thanks!

  36. Peggy B, 06 October, 2009

    You guys are terrific. I don’t know what I am doing wrong or maybe my computer. I come to this site often and was just here a couple days ago and didn’t see any of this information on jump rings. But very happy I came across it because all of you have help answer so many questions on wire work. I love polymer but until just recently have bought all my chains or used stringing wire to make jewelry. I am very interested in doing more wire work. Any other web site ideas or books that I could buy please let me know.

    Cindy you are building a wonderful family here. I love and appreciate each and everyone of you for all your comments. Thanks so much

  37. Polyanya, 06 October, 2009

    Peggy – see if you can get hold of a couple of books by Sharilyn Miller – Contemporary Copper Jewelry and Bead on a Wire – I’ve got both and can thoroughly recommend them.

  38. Cindy Lietz, 06 October, 2009

    @Peggy – Once something is posted at the blog it is always here for you to come back to. One of your best friends here at the blog (besides all of the wonderful people like Polyanya and her wire working book recommendations), is the search box at the top of the page. Type in a keyword like “jump rings” and you will get a long list of links where this topic is discussed in different articles and comment threads.

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