Other than the few chainmaille/scalemaille pieces that I had tried at GenCon, I started my chainmaille adventure with a sad lack of available patterns. Although chainmaille has been around for centuries, available patterns for jewelry can be a little tricky to come by. Especially since I have been trying to minimize the use of additional accessories such as beads, crystals, and wire. Right now, with a few exceptions, I am interested in seeing how much you can do with just the various metals and colors available in jumprings. Jumprings give the jewelry an intricate feel and give it a simple elegance I really enjoy. Plus, I have enough trouble keeping all my rings straight without adding bead organization to my list of things I have to find the time and space for.
So it was a thrill when I found the book "Chained" by Rebeca Mojica at a local craft store. Rebeca is the owner/founder of Blue Buddha Boutique (http://www.bluebuddhaboutique.com) in Chicago, IL. She is also an accomplished chainmaille artist with her own line of chainmaille jewelry and a chainmaille instructor. Although I have not had the pleasure of taking one of her classes (yet, hoping to change that in 2012), I can honestly say that the rings and supplies I have purchased from Blue Buddha are fantastic and her book changed the way I think about chainmaille.
If you are at all interested in chainmaille jewelry, I don't know how you can NOT be caught simply on the cover of this book. Even though it shows only 2 of the 20+ patterns outlined in the book (the Japanese Cross Pendant and a Coiled Japanese Lace Bracelet), it succeeds in showing the variety of colors, sizes, shapes, and textures available in chainmaille. The book also has a nice 'heft' to it that makes you feel like you are getting your money's worth. The print quality is strong, although I have to admit that after months of opening the book and looking at patterns, the binding is starting to feel a little loose. I think this book would be a great candidate for spiral-binding allowing people to have it open to a specific page for extended periods of time without trying to weight the corners down to keep the book from slapping shut. The table of contents is clear and easy to understand, you quickly understand how the book is organized and what it can offer to you. The pictures of each finished project, as well as the instructions, or full-color and glossy without overwhelming the (all important) text instructions.
This book is a perfect 'beginning mailler' book, but it also has a lot to offer those who have been launching rings across the room for years. The first section of the book outlines a brief history of chainmaille (with pictures of chainmaille armor that exhaust me just looking at the density of the rings), as well as discussing the various characteristics of the most common jumpring materials, care and cleaning of completed pieces, and the all important tool discussion. This book is where I learned about the wonderful product known as 'Tool Magic'. Since I've started using this product on my pliers, I have lost far fewer rings to the infamous 'slingshot' effect (you know, when you lose your grip on the ring and hear it ricochet off the wall across the room?). There is also a clear in-depth discussion of the appropriate ways to open and close jump rings and how to salvage warped rings (what Rebeca calls the chicken dance technique). All of these are invaluable tips for a beginning mailler, but even an experienced jewelry creator can benefit from Rebeca's discussion of choosing the appropriate clasps and embellishments for your pieces and fantastic finishing touches to give your jewelry that stand-out quality necessary if you are looking to sell you pieces (or even are just a glutton for compliments like me).
The patterns in the book are divided into 4 main families (Japanese weave, Byzantine weave, Helm weave, and Rebeca's coiled mail designs), and then within each of these weaves there are patterns ranging from beginner level to expert. Each pattern is rated by difficulty (which is fantastic, and in my experience the ratings are very accurate), but each pattern also has an estimated time committment listed. This allows you to determine approximatly how long the project will take you to complete (from under an hour to epic-level projects that take 6 or more hours). And many of the patterns also have variations listed (such as how to make the earring pattern into a bracelet or the necklace into a multi-strand cuff bracelet). The pictures are clear and the directions are easy to understand. Having made most of the items listed in the book (I haven't experimented with the coiled patterns yet), I have rarely had any difficulty even if it was the first time I was making a particular weave. The directions for the Byzantine chain were the clearest I have seen in quite some time.
The one characteristic of the book that may cause some difficulty for maillers, especially if you chose to not use Blue Buddha as your ring supplier, is Rebeca's shorthand for ring sizes/gauges. She doesn't use the more standard '5/16" 18-gauge' description, but has developed her own ring classification using an alpha-numeric system that describes rings with terms such as 'D20'. The letter indicates the inner diameter of the ring, while the numbers indicate the gauge. Blue Buddha uses this alpha-numeric system on their website, but if you use other ring suppliers you will have to convert the descriptions to determine what rings you need. This can be time-consuming if you are looking to order supplies for a variety of projects. However, this naming convention has saved me a ton of space on my ring container labels...
As you can imagine, in any book that involves lists of numbers and ring sizes, there are some mistakes/errata in the book. However, as errata are discovered Rebeca lists them on the supply page for the book on Blue Buddha's website ('Chained' errata and updates) along with the correction. I simply went through my book, compared the identified errata, and wrote the corrections in the appropriate place. If you notice errors while you are doing a project, you can e-mail or call Rebeca or Blue Buddha and inform them, their contact information is easily obtainable in the book or on the website (which is refreshing).
Overall, this book would be a great gift to any accomplished or aspiring chainmaille artist to help them expand their horizons, develop a full understanding of a variety of weaves, and experiment with variations on classic chainmaille techniques. It's probably available at your local book store, but you can also check out Blue Buddha's website to purchase a copy. I've also seen it available as an e-book on the Barnes and Nobel Nook Bookstore. Pick it up where you will, but you can't have my copy...