Viking Knit Part 1:  Single Knit

Viking knit is actually the oldest form of jewelry making known to date. Examples have been found at archaeological sites across the globe, but pieces found at a site in Scandinavia are responsible for this technique's namesake.  Viking knit is not actually a form of knitting at all, and the process is much closer to naelbinding (think about those little plastic mushroom looking tools you probably made yarn cords with as a kid).  It's an easy technique to learn, but is very time consuming when compared to most other chain-making techniques.

These are a couple of the pieces that I've made with viking knit.

This shows a few pieces of drawn single viking knit that I made.  The top chain was made with 24 gauge copper wire.  The bottom two were both made with 26 gauge copper wire but were drawn to two different diameters. 

 

What Tools Will I Need?

So let's get started........first you're going to need some tools.......although you can do viking knit with an allen wrench or a wooden dowel.......this is my tool of choice.

The purpose of a good tool is to make a process easier and more efficient.  That is exactly what this tool does for you.  It's called a Lazee Daizee and was invented by a lady named Stephanie Eddy.  You can purchase the tool directly from Mrs. Eddy, or you can also buy it at Fire Mountain Gems.  It costs around $25 for the tool by itself.  I do not know Mrs. Eddy personally, nor do I get any money for telling you about this tool.....I just simply love mine and want others to enjoy viking knit as much as I do. 

 

Several retail stores, along with Mrs. Eddy, also sell a kit with a drawplate.  I don't care for the drawplate that is included in those kits as it is made of a material that will mar up over time.  I use a delrin plate.  They're also available through jewelry supply stores.  I suggest spending the extra money.

 

Also pictured are the other tools you will need for this project.  I use (from left to right) an old pair of flatnose pliers for pulling through the drawplate.  If you don't have an old pair, you can purchase some cheapies from Harbor Freight or your local hardware store.  It's good to have a strong, old pair for "dirtier" jobs so you don't scratch up your good ones.  You will also need a pair of wire cutters or sharp scissors.  The wire you will be using is quite thin and will easily cut with scissors.  You will want a pair of good flatnose pliers for fine shaping.  Make sure that these pliers are smooth inside and along the edge so they won't mar up your wire.  Lastly, an optional tool that comes in handy is the nylon jawed plier.  These are great when you get a kink in you wire and want to straighten things out without scratching the surface.  

Throughout this tutorial, you will see the viking knit develop on the Lazee Daizee tool because that is what I use for my jewelry, however the beginning stages are also shown on an allen wrench to help you get started.  It is entirely possible to make viking knit on a wooden dowel, allen wrench, or any other tubular device that you might have.

 

What Type of Wire Should I Use?

 

Now before we begin the lesson.....let's talk for a second about wire.  The pictures you see below are all done with craft wire.  It is color coated wire (usually copper) that has a very very thin coating and will scratch off (or wear off) easily.  Viking knit requires the wire to be pulled several times.  The thin coating on craft wire will simply not hold up for very long.  Quality solid materials will end in quality solid jewelry that will look the same years after you make it.  Please keep this in mind when you purchase your materials.  The coated wires come in pretty colors, but you can easily add patinas to copper, bronze, and silver wire and these materials will stand the test of time.

I forgot to speak about what gauges of wire you can use in viking knit (thanks, Lennie, for reminding me!).  Typically, the largest gauge wire that you will use is 24g.  You can go up to 22g wire, but it will be very hard on the hands and make for an extremely stiff chain and can't be drawn down as small either.  I make the majority of my chain with 26g wire and have gone down as far as 32g.  The thinner your wire is, the more prone to kinks.

 

I just knit up my last bit of copper wire this week and my supply store isn't open on the weekend, so I had to buy some craft wire to make this tutorial.  If you look closely, you can see where the golden color has worn off to silver (probably nickel) wire underneath.  

 

 

How to Begin on the Lazee Daizee:

You can see that this tool has a daisy shape (see pic below) at the top with 6 holes.  These holes serve as your "loops" for the wire.  With the tool, your loops are always even....and pre-made so there's no wire wasted.  In the picture on either side of the tool there are indentations (one further to the left than the other).  These are actually holes and are how you start your wire.

Hold the wire with a finger.

Bring the other end of the wire down through the daisy hole that sits right above the hole your wire is coming out of (the top part of this tool is removable, so if the holes aren't lined up, just gently turn the top piece).

Pull the wire through the hole/loop and pull until you have something looking like this.

Take wire and put it through the second hole/loop, and pull through again.  Don't worry if they're uneven.....the first loop will get pulled down when you get to the second row.  Now, continue with your wire and pull through each consecutive hole/loop until you've gone around once. It's not important to make this look pretty....just make it fairly even around. We're ready to begin making the knit and you can skip down to the section titled, Making the Knit.

 

How to Begin on Another Tool :

To use another tool to make viking knit, you need to make the starting loops that your knit will build upon.  Take some cheap craft wire or copper wire and wrap the wire 5 to 6 times around your hand (this will create 5 to 6 loops for your knit....either is fine, it's simply your choice).  Don't use your expensive silver wire to do this as it's only going to be cut off and thrown away. Leave a couple of inches a the top of the wire and leave the other end attached to your spool for now.

Then pinch the wire together in the center and wrap the ends of the wire around the loops about 1/3 of the way down.

Next, fan out the loops into the shape of a daisy an press in the sides of each petal to make them narrower.

Slip the daisy over your tool, like so.

Tape your daisy onto the tool and cut the wire attached to the spool to approximately 1 foot long.

 

 

Making the Knit:

 

 

With the Lazee Daizee tool, take your wire and instead of going throughanything now, you're going to go behind the loop that is formed.  

Pull your wire to form a tiny loop like you see in the picture. 

With the Lazee Daizee tool, put your wire behind the next loop and pull again. You will now have two tiny loops formed.  Continue putting your wire behind each consecutive loop until you have made it completely around once.  

You have successfully completed your first row of viking knit. Each row, as your chain grows, will consist of a set of tiny loops and horizontal "rungs" between those loops. To make the next row, and each row after, you will stick your wire up one rung and behind the tiny loop to the left (see pics below for reference).

Continue this process until you run out of wire. 

If you are using another tool, stick the wire through the first loop.

Pull your wire to form a tiny loop like you see in the picture. 

With other tools, stick your wire into the next loop to the right and pull down forming your second tiny loop.  Do this same process until you have completely went around one time.  

You have successfully completed your first row of viking knit. Each row, as your chain grows, will consist of a set of tiny loops and horizontal "rungs" between those loops. To make the next row, and each row after, you will stick your wire up one rung and behind the tiny loop to the left (see pics below for reference).

On other tools, you haven't actually begun your chain yet.  You are making the "starting chain" with wire that will be cut away from your finished chain and tossed.  When you reach the end of your wire, you will begin your real chain when you tie in your next piece of wire.  (See instructions below)

Your chain should look something like this.  Don't be discouraged if yours doesn't look this even and neat.  Keep in mind that I've been doing this for years and have knit over a mile's worth of wire.  Your technique will improve over time, and the drawplate will even up your chain in the end anyway.

You can see how the chain will just "grow" up off the tool.  You can let the chain work it's way down the tool a couple of inches, but don't let it go much further than that before you push it up some.  The longer you work down the tool....the tighter it grabs onto the tool which makes it harder to slide up.  The same goes for any other tool you might use.

Start your next piece of wire in the tool the same way that you did the first time. Slide your chain gently back on the tool and line the end of the chain up with the beginning wire.  With the Lazee Daizee tool, stick your wire up one rung and behind the first loop, just as you did before. This will leave you with two wires together (one wire is the last loop formed, and one is the new wire your starting). 

Pull the new wire down until it looks like this. 

Bring the wire behind the next loop in line just as you would have before.  Work your way around again, row by row.  

With other tools, you will simply cut a length of wire at least 4 ft long and.... stick one wire end behind the last loop you made.  Take it down to match the length of the tail of wire from the starting chain.

Pull the new wire down until it looks like this. 

Hold the new wire with your thumb and bring the long end of wire up one rung and behind the next tiny loop in line.  You are ready to work your new wire just as you had been working before.  The starting loop for every new section of wire will be doubled up.  While it's slightly visible in your knitting, it won't be once the chain has been drawn.

Sometimes the space behind your loops gets tight and you can't easily slide the wire behind them.  When this happens, just gently remove the chain from the tool and slip the wire in place.  Put the chain back on the tool and continue on.  Occasionally, you will get kinks in your wire.  This is more common with very thin gauge wires, but it's also easier to smooth out.

Simply unkink your wire (you'll have something that looks like this) and use your nylon jawed pliers to smooth the wire.  Don't worry if you can still see a little indentation in the wire when it's knit up, all of this will go away when you draw your chain.

When several rows have been made after the second section of wire was added, you can trim up your loose ends if you'd like to .

Beads can also be added to your knit.  Just slide the bead onto your chain in between loops.  Remember to leave enough slack that you will be able to get your wire behind the loop when you get down to the next row. Chain sections that contain beads cannot be drawn.  Chain leading up to a section with beads, and after a section of beads can be drawn though.  For pictures of examples of viking knit with beads, check out Jan Raven's site.

When you have reached the length you want (remember that the chain will grow in length as you draw it), simply snip the loops on top of the daisy (or at the starting chain if you're using other tools).  You can knit a chain to very long lengths and then come back and cut only the chain that you will need for a project.  The chain will not unravel, so feel free to knit to your heart's content.  I find that making bulk chain is easier for me so I have whatever I need when I need it, and it wastes less of the wire as well.

After clipping, your chain will look like this.  Just pull out the little pieces of excess wire.

Your finished end will look like this.

Now get some scrap wire and stick it through the knit about two rungs down.  Twist the ends of the wire to form a nice strong piece to pull through your drawplate. 

A drawplate is used to lengthen your chain, even up the knit, and make your knit chain into smaller diameters.  If you are using a Lazee Diazee tool, your chain should fit through the 10mm hole on a drawplate. If you are using a different tool, your chain's diameter will depend upon the tool's diameter.  Larger holes are available on the drawplate if needed.

This should pull through very easily, but do it a couple of times anyway to start evening things up.

Next, pull through the 8mm hole.  Do not be tempted to try to jump holes.  Part of evening up the chain so nicely is drawing slowly and systematically through each hole.  You can already see the chain starting to change.

Next is the 6.5mm hole.  Please note that your drawplate may have slightly different sized holes than mine, just use them all in order and you'll be fine.  I usually stop at this diameter for my single-knit necklaces.  I like the lacy look of the chain and it's very bendable and slinky feeling.

You can pull as far down as you like.  You'll notice the weave starts getting very tight. It won't bend as easily and starts to "crush" the weave.  The 3.5mm hole really elongates the holes of weave and makes more of a cable feeling necklace.  

 

 

I have been asked how I know how much wire I will need to make a bracelet/necklace/etc. Over the last year, I have recorded down some of my measurements that will hopefully help you decide what you will need for you project. Please understand that there is some wiggle room in the following measurements. Your knit might be slightly tighter or looser than mine. Drawplates can also be different as well as several other factors. But this will at least help you get a general idea of how much wire you will need.

 

24 gauge wire:  I have not recorded down measurements for this gauge because I simply haven't made enough of it to get multiple measurements to compare. I have carpal tunnel syndrome and personally find 24 gauge to be very difficult to work with. Thicker gauges build a chain faster (simply because they take up more space), but when pulled, they do not grow as much as thinner gauges do because you can't draw them down as small.

 

26 gauge wire: I have used this gauge more than any other. It will take around 40ft of wire to make an 18in necklace in single knit. This means that you need approximately 2.22 feet of wire for every inch of pulled single knit chain. If memory serves me correctly, the difference between non-pulled and pulled chain is about 1.4 inches. (Please keep in mind that these are not as exact as the measurements for the gauges listed below). This is for chains pulled to a 5mm diameter. Obviously smaller diameters will produce a longer chain.

 

28 gauge wire:  This is the point where I became a little more methodical about recording measurements because I knit fine silver using this gauge. We all know how expensive silver is these days.  For single knit chains, you will need approximately 2.75 feet of wire to make 1 inch of chain in it's non-pulled state. When pulled to 5mm in diameter, there is approximately 1.85 feet of wire per 1 inch of chain. So you know how much non-pulled chain to make....1 inch of non-pulled chain will pull to 1.5 inches of 5mm chain.

 

30 gauge wire:  I personally felt that this gauge would be too delicate in single knit chain.  I have measurements in part 2 of this blog series using double knit chain, however (see link below).

 

So there you have it.....how to do single weave viking knit chain. 

 

​© 2014 Katrina Lum Designs

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