Hey everyone! I hope you enjoyed our last Tutorial Tuesday, where K showed you how to make a square knot. This week, we’re moving into the wonderful world of wire, and I’ll be showing you one of the most basic techniques you can use to create just about anything. It’s called the Rosary loop, or the eyepin loop. The Rosary loop is basically a simple loop created at the end of a piece of wire. It is often used to attach two different pieces of wire, or other elements, like clasps and hooks, together.
Working with wire is a little different from working with cord with respect to the tools you need. When K shows you how to knot, the primary focus is on quality of cord, and accuracy of technique. In wire working, technique is extremely important, but you can’t refine your technique unless you have good tools. The basic wire-working tools include:
- A pair of round-nose pliers – which, as the name suggests, have round jaws. These taper towards the end
- A pair of chain-nose pliers – which have flat jaws, also tapering towards the end
- A pair of wire cutters – which are basically pliers with blades. A normal scissors isn’t enough to cut through thicker wire, so you need special wire cutters.
My pliers. From top to bottom: Wire cutters (note the cautionary “Use safety glasses” on the blade, to remind you to guard against flying bits of wire; Chain-nose pliers; Round-nose pliers
All these tools come in different sizes, so you need to pick the ones that suit your purpose the best. There are other kinds of pliers that can be used, but if you’re just starting out, these are the essentials that need to be in your toolkit.
So getting back to our Rosary loop, here are the things you’ll need:
- Wire of choice – copper wire is an inexpensive medium in which to practise this before you move on to silver, or gold
- Headpins – these are lengths of wire that have a flat end, so you can string beads on them and they won’t fall off
- Round-nose pliers
- Chain-nose pliers
- Wire cutters
So, let’s get right to it, then! I’ll be showing you how to make loops on bead-strung headpins here. I find it’s easier without a bead, so if you get this down, making loops on long lengths of wire will be a snap.
I’ve learnt how to make Rosary loops in two different ways, from two different artists’ books. The first was a book by Maya Brenner, an established artist, whose designs have been worn by a wide selection of celebrities. Her book, Beaded Jewellery, was the book that sort of started us along this path, so it will always be one of my favourites! And, Maya’s technique for making Rosary loops is very straight forward.
The first step is to string your bead, or beads, in the order you want, onto the headpin. I’ve chosen a pretty cylindrical Chinese blue-and-white porcelain bead to demonstrate.
Note how the bead does not fall off the end, thanks to the ‘head’
Your next step is to use your index finger to press the wire flat against the top of the bead. Here you need to be careful to have the bead sit firmly against the bottom so that you don’t end up with excess wire anywhere.
Now, cut off the excess wire, leaving just enough for your loop. In the beginning, this is hard to estimate, so I suggest you measure it, and leave around 1cm (little more than 1/4inch).
Always cut with the flat end of the cutters facing the side of the wire you will use. This ensures your wire has flat ends and not sharp, pointed tips
You can’t see it in the photo, but it’s advisable to use another finger to hold the loose end of the wire that will be cut off. Otherwise, the wire bit will go flying, and is a safety hazard.
Once your wire is cut, you then take your round-nose pliers and hold the end of the wire between the jaws about 1cm in from the end. To begin your loop, twist your wrist holding the pliers towards the bead.
This movement gets easier with practise. Don’t be afraid to hold the wire firmly between the pliers. It’s best if the loop is made in one or two smooth movements, but take your time in the beginning. This is why everyone suggests practising on copper wire, or inexpensive headpins!
Mid-twist; you can see how the wire is curling around the pliers
This is fast and gives you an idea of how easy wire-working can be!
I was happily making all my Rosary loops with this technique until I bought Wire Art Jewellery Workshop early last year. The author, Sharilyn Miller, takes you step-by-step through various wonderful things you can do with wire, and I am totally hooked! I’ve not yet been able to try all the techniques in the book, but I love how there are things anyone can try, from the novice to the expert wire-worker. I am absolutely dying to actually go attend one of her workshops. Maybe sometime in the future!
Sharilyn’s technique is slightly different from what we’ve done so far. The intial step is the same, where you string the bead onto the headpin or wire.
You might notice that I don’t have a finger holding the other end of the wire, but I was cutting very gently, and trying to make sure the picture was as clear as possible! Normally, I would move the finger currently steadying the wire to the other end
Once the wire is cut, you hold the end of the wire (hopefully flat, because you’ve oriented the cutters correctly) between the round-nose pliers and start looping straight away. No bending the wire; just create the loop by twisting your wrist.
Halfway through the loop
You will notice that in creating this loop, you end up with a very lopsided-looking thing that isn’t at all pretty! But don’t worry, this is just halfway through the creation of the loop.
You now take your chain-nose pliers (which have been lying neglected on your workspace all this while) and hold the wire at the point where the loop touches the stem.
You now hold the wire firmly and twist the pliers about 90 degrees, towards the bead. Sharilyn calls this “breaking the neck” of the wire, which is an extremely apt description, if evocative of slightly gruesome images!
You can see that once you do this, the loop opens out slightly. This is not what we want, so we need to go back with our round-nose pliers and repair this. Re-insert the round-nose pliers into the loop, and bend the wire forward.
This will make the loop centred on the wire and also close the loop.
And we’re done. Again!
You might be wondering why I’ve shown you two different ways of doing the same thing. It’s just because I’ve tried both, and now use Sharilyn’s technique, because I get better results that way.
The loops made with the two techniques. The one on the left is made with the first technique, and the one on the right, with the second. Note that my second bead loop is nice and round, with much less ‘neck’ region between the loop and the bead
But this doesn’t have to be the case for everyone. So now you can experiment for yourself, and see which way you like the best. If you like Sharilyn’s technique, she has her own tutorial on her blog, showing you how to create this loop on wire lengths. So you can go check it out, practice, and come back on Sunday for our project involving Rosary loops!