In this Instructable you're going to learn how to make a chainmaille dice bag with a Triforce on both sides of it. The bag you see is the finished item and can easily hold five standard sets of D&D dice, with room for more. It's holding 61 dice in the photo, to be exact. I have notes for ways to modify this pattern to suit your needs, too. Feel free to experiment!
This project assumes some basic knowledge of chainmaille but I'll be including tips throughout for those new to the craft, so don't let it intimidate you. As I always say, "Making chainmaille isn't hard. The hard part is actually finishing it."
Step 1: Tools & Materials
2 Pairs of Pliers *
Not pictured - Scissors (to cut the drawstring later)
1100 Green anodized aluminum rings - 16 ga. 1/4"
200 Gold anodized aluminum rings - 16 ga. 1/4"
Drawstring material - I use leather cord
Drawstring stopper - You can find these in the "Sewing Notions" area of most craft stores. You could also use a large-hole bead for a more rustic "period" look.
Not Pictured - PATIENCE
A single 16 ga. 5/16" ring for the base. You could use one of the 1/4" rings, but it's kind of tricky to start and doesn't look as good.
Note: The ring amounts I give are rounded up to the nearest 100 to account for things like plier slippage, mis-cut rings, anodization goofs, etc. Better to have too many rings than too few!
* I strongly recommend bent nose pliers, but really any pair of pliers with smooth flat jaws will work. Don't use pliers with round jaws or those with teeth, as these will mar the surface of the rings and possibly scratch the anodization clean off.
Step 2: Begin the Circular Base
1. Open your 16 ga. 5/16" ring*. Otherwise, open one of your 16 ga. 1/4" rings and set it aside. This will be your Base Ring.
2. Close 8 rings. Make sure they are closed all the way with the ends flush. Bad closures makes for weak and scratchy maille, which translates into lost and/or damaged dice, so pay close attention to your closures!
3. Put your 8 closed rings onto your Base Ring.
4. Close your base ring and arrange your rings as shown, with each ring overlapping the next. This is Row 1.
Picture 2 - Row 2
1. Open a small pile of rings. You're going to need a lot of open rings for the steps ahead. In fact, you might end up opening all of them, depending on your technique. So go ahead and make a little pile right now to use for the base.
2. Thread one of your rings through two of the Row 1 rings.
3. Close the ring.
4. This is the tricky to relate in words, but if you look at the picture it should make sense. Take another ring and thread it through one of the Row 1 rings you just wove into, and the Row 1 ring next to it that isn't yet connected to a Row 2 ring. Your two Row 2 rings should be sort of overlapping each other, sharing a Row 1 ring between them.
5. Continue in this manner with 6 more rings, being sure to keep your rings overlapping correctly, like flower petals. A common mistake is to accidentally have one ring be overlapped by both of its neighbors, or vice-versa. It's a good idea to check your orientation by setting your base down once you've finished and comparing it to the picture. This is something you're going to have to be mindful of with every step of the process, but don't worry; you'll settle into the groove after a couple of rows.
* Beginner's Note: Always open rings with a twisting motion. Do not grab the ends and pull the ring into a "C" shape. This weakens the metal and deforms the circular shape, which makes it pretty much impossible to close it back into a nice, clean circle. You want your open rings to look like part of a spring.
Step 3: Add Expansions and Finish the Base
1. Panic at the sudden appearance of pink rings. Just kidding! ^_^ I'm using pink rings here so you can easily see where the expansions are. You keep using the green ones.
2. Take 8 rings and put one in between each of your previous Row 2 rings. Be sure to only go through one of the Row 1 rings. This is how expansion rings work, by adding extra rings to an established row. I'll talk a bit more about expansions at the end. You should now have 16 rings in Row 2.
Picture 2 - Row 3
1. Take 16 rings and thread each one through two Row 2 rings below it. As before, make sure all of your rings are overlapping correctly, and that each one is only going through two rings.
2. This is Row 3. It's not an expansion row, so once you get all 16 rings on there in the right orientation, you're done with this one.
Picture 3 - Row 4 - Expansion Row
1. Take 16 rings and add them on just like you did in Row 3.
2. You're going to expand by 8 more rings. Take the first expansion ring and put it between two of the rings you just added in. As before, make sure you only hook one of the Row 3 rings below it.
3. Skip two rings, and add in your next expansion ring.
4. Skip two more rings, and add in another expansion. Essentially, you are adding your 8 expansion rings evenly around the edge. Look at the picture. There are two rings in between each expansion.
5. Add in the rest of your expansion rings. You should now have 24 rings and a completed Row 4.
Picture 4 - Finish the Base
And you're done! Well, not yet. This is a picture of the completed base.
You just have to carry on as you have been. The pattern is pretty simple. Even rows are expansion rows, and you will be expanding by 8 rings each time. Odd rows are plain rows, with no expansions. Make sure to add in your expansions evenly, and try to stagger their placement. If you add expansion rings right on top of each other, you'll end up with a visible seam and the base will be octagonal as opposed to circular.
Here's a row-by-row breakdown by ring count:
Row 1 - 8
Row 2 - 16 (Expansion rings have 1 ring between them)
Row 3 - 16
Row 4 - 24 (Expansion rings have 2 rings between them)
Row 5 - 24
Row 6 - 32 (Expansion rings have 3 rings between them)
Row 7 - 32
Row 8 - 40 (Expansion rings have 4 rings between them)
Row 9 - 40
We want to end up with 40 rings around the edge. "But Brandy," you say, "Why not make every row an expansion row? We'll get to 40 a lot faster that way!"
This is true, but if you do that you'll end up with a cone rather than a circle. This means your bag won't sit very well on flat surfaces and it'll look like some weird, squat green carrot hanging from your belt. You'll lose that pleasing round "pouch" shape, too, which is what we want. "No matter what you make, making it takes time, so you might as well take time to make it look good." Sage advice from my Grandpa Smith, a lifelong "Maker of Cool Stuff".
"But Brandy," you say, "I've finished my base and it looks kinda small. I don't think this is going to hold all of my dice."
That's okay! You can simply keep expanding it, using the pattern we've already established. Just use this handy-dandy Bag Sizing Mini How-To to figure out how big your bag needs to be.
1. Find a cylindrical container with relatively straight sides. Jars work great for this.
2. Put your dice in it, but pay attention to the proportions. Do your dice pool along the bottom? Container's too big. Do they hardly fit? Container's too small. This is kind of hard to explain, but you want your dice to fill the container in a way that is pleasing to the eye, because the final outline of your bag will sort of conform to this shape, and you want it to look nice.
3. Put your dice-filled container on your base. You want two or three rows to be visible around the bottom edge of the container. This leaves space for the thickness of the maille, and to allow the "fabric" to move. If you see a few rows, your base is done! If your container covers your base, you need to add on a few more rows. Just make sure you finish with a plain row so our Triforce looks good later on. (Expansion rings can make the pattern uneven.)
If you're making your bag bigger, don't worry. The instructions to follow can be easily adapted to fit. I'll even include notes. ^_^
Step 4: Assemble the Triforce!
Before you begin: Open a bunch of gold rings and some green ones, but more gold than green.
Picture 1 - Begin the Triforce
Take 14 gold rings, and put them on the edge just like you were for all the rows before it. This is the base of your Triforce. I say 14 because I want some space between my Triforces (remember, there will be one on each side of the bag) and because I'm superstitious when it comes to gaming. Having 14 rings along the bottom means there will be seven rings at the base of each triangle that makes up the Triforce. Lucky!
Picture 2 - Row 2 of the Triforce
Add on 6 gold rings, 1 green ring, then 6 more gold rings. Your Triforce is well on its way! Just so you know, this row has 13 rings and your rows will naturally decrease in size by 1 ring as you go on until you end up with just one ring at the tip.
Picture 3 - Triforce Base
Like before, just keep adding in rings so they go through two rings under it. I hope the pattern is fairly easy to see here in the picture, but just in case it's not, here's a..
Row 1 - 14 gold
Row 2 - 6 gold - 1 green - 6 gold
Row 3 - 5 gold - 2 green - 5 gold
Row 4 - 4 gold - 3 green - 4 gold
Row 5 - 3 gold - 4 green - 3 gold
Row 6 - 2 gold - 5 green - 2 gold
Row 7 - 1 gold - 6 green - 1 gold
Picture 4 - Triforce Top
You'll only need gold rings for this part. Start by adding on 7 gold rings. Keep going, decreasing each row until you reach the top and have only one gold ring left. Guess what? YOU MADE A TRIFORCE! Now turn your base around and do it again on the other side, making sure to have even space between your Triforces. You'll end up with a circular bit with two triangular flaps coming off the sides. Put it on your head; it's fun! ^_^
Is your base bigger?
That's okay! Just make the gold base rows wider. Keep in mind that it will have to be an even number of gold rings so you end up with two triangles that are the same size on the bottom. If you're not sure how wide to make it, fold your base in half and set it down. It'll kind of "bowl up" when you do it. Look at it. Use your eye to determine what "Looks Good" in terms of base size, and you're all set.
A Note about Construction:
There are several ways to go about this phase of construction. Some maillers go ring by ring, completing each row before they go on to the next. Others will start a brand new flat panel of maille and stitch it onto the base once they're finished. Still others like to do as we are here, by making a small panel with their pattern on it, and filling in the "background color" once their patterned area is done. I tailor my technique to the pattern I'm doing. Complex patterns get charted out and made flat, then stitched to the base. Simple geometric patterns are done row by row, and small panels of patterned inlay (like our Triforce here) are made individually before I fill the edges in. I guess what I'm really getting at is there are many ways to go about this. Just do what feels right for you. For this particular bag, this method is really easy to photograph.
Oh, and you have no idea how happy I am to use the phrase "Assemble the Triforce" in a legitimate fashion.
Step 5: Finish the Body
Okay, I'm going to be blunt. Even though you're going to keep doing pretty much the exactly what you were doing before when you made the Triforces and the base, this is "The Hard Part." This is where a lot of people give up, especially if this is their first chainmaille project that isn't a bracelet. They give up because this is the most boring and tedious part of the entire process. It's just green. Green, green and yet more green.
I know it sounds odd, but it's true. I've seen it a million times.
But you have to muscle through it. Trust me, you'll be downright excited when the bag shape starts to set in! I have been making chainmaille full-time, professionally, for seven years. I have lost count of how many shirts, bags and bikinis I've made. Even for me, this is The Hard Part. But I've done this enough times and taught enough people to know that once this part is done, the rest is smooth sailing. You will smile when you put your almost-finished bag over your hand, and all the tedium will be totally worth it.
So open a ton of green rings, and start adding them in.
Picture 2 - Finish the Body
We're almost done! You need two plain rows of green rings on the top. 80 more rings, and the main body is finished. So do it!
Did you make a bigger bag?
You might need more rows up top. Take your dice and put them in your bag. If they don't fit, add another row or two until they do. Be sure to have a few rows over the top level of your dice so you have enough room when you close your bag, and so you can add more dice.
Step 6: Put in Decrease Rows
Picture 1 - Row 1 - Add a Decrease Ring
Take a ring and thread it through THREE rings instead of the two you've been doing this whole time. Close it. You have now decreased your number of rings on this row by 1 ring.
Picture 2 - Row 1 - Add More Decrease Rings
1. Take three more rings and add them in as Decrease Rings. Space them evenly.
2. Fill in the spaces between them to complete your row. You should have 36 rings when you're done.
Picture 3 - Row 2 - Add in Decrease Rings
Instead of adding in a plain row like we did with the expansions, this time we're going to decrease again. Take 4 rings and space them out as evenly as you can between the other decreases. You don't want a seam or weird bunching happening when you add in your drawstring later!
Picture 4 - Row 2 - Fill in the gaps.
Fill in the gaps between your expansion rings. You should have 32 rings when you're done.
"But why 4 rings? Isn't 8 the magic number here?"
Well, if we just did an 8-ring decrease row the opening would get really small, really fast. It sounds strange, but something as simple as that could mean the difference between whether or not you can fit your hand in it. The top of the bag should have a more conical shape as opposed to being flat like the bottom. If you've made a larger bag than what I have here, you may need to add in a few more decrease rows. Just try to space the decrease rings out as evenly as possible, and make sure the opening doesn't get too small. You want to be able to put your fingers in and get things out. But no matter what size of bag you're making, you need decrease rows so the sides don't fall down on your bag like a pair of ill-fitting pants when you loosen the drawstring.
Step 7: Add in Tabs
Picture 1 - Tab One
1. To make a tab, take 3 rings and add them on.
2. Add 2 rings to the top. That's it!
Picture 2 - Base of Tabs 2 and 3
This is to illustrate how you space your tabs.
1. Add three more rings, but do NOT share any rings with the first tab. You are effectively skipping a space.
2. Finish the tab if you want.
3. Add three more rings, again skipping a space and not sharing rings with the base of Tab 2.
Picture 3 - Finish Your Tabs
Continue as before, adding in tabs. You should have 8 tabs when you're done.
"What's with the tabs?" you ask.
The tabs allow the top to close really tightly and open widely. If you just threaded the drawstring in the decrease row under the tabs, you would have 32 rings trying to bunch around the drawstring. This leaves a hole that things could potentially drop out of. A pouch isn't much good unless it offers some security for its contents. It's also not much good if you can't get things out of it. Adding decrease rows down to the 16 rings that you end up with on the tabs isn't a good idea, either. You probably wouldn't be able to get things out of your bag very easily. The tabs open up like a flower when you loosen the drawstring, so you can hunt around and get out what you want, or at least easily pour out the contents. And you want two rings at the top of each tab. A single ring might have too much stress on it and could eventually wear out. Two rings will share the load, and your bag should last for years!
Step 8: Finishing Touches
Thread your drawstring through your tabs. Make sure you have a few inches on either end with your bag open as wide as it can go. This way you know you have enough cord.
Picture Two - Add your Stopper
Thread on whatever stopper you're going to use for your drawstring to keep your bag closed and tie knots on the ends of your cord.
Admire your handiwork and take some pictures. Show your friends, take it to your next game night, wear it with your Link cosplay... Enjoy it. ^_^
Step 9: Final Thoughts & Resource List
The techniques I've outlined here - Increasing, decreasing, and inlays - Can be used to make dozens of different projects. The other pictures here are just a few examples of things I have made using these techniques. If you can make this bag, you can make these!
Picture 1 - The Bag - Inlay, Circular Expansions, Decreases
Picture 2 - Standard Maille Coif - Circular Expansions
Picture 3 - Crest of Hyrule Wall Hanging - Inlay
Picture 4 - Hot Rod Flame Bikini - Expansions, Decreases, Inlay
And if this is your first chainmaille project, Congrats! I hope you're itching to make more. ^_^
Here are some resources to help out:
The Ring Lord - Supplier of rings. This is where I got the rings I used to make this project. There are lots of others (and with much lower shipping costs - The Ring Lord is in Canada) but I really like their color selection. I would also like to mention their forum. It's a great place to talk maille, show your work, and ask questions.
Ogre Rings - A Pittsburgh ring supplier, and great place to buy (by the POUND!) spring tempered stainless steel. But be warned - Spring temper fights back!
http://www.mailleartisans.org/ - THE place to go and learn about all things chainmaille! Weave library, ring fabrication articles, forums... Just go and join up.
Irregular Grid Painter - A free download that lets you paint on chainmaille-patterend graph paper. This is great for more complex inlays, and to test out what your image might look like before you make it. Although I usually just print out blank maille paper in the ring size I plan on using and draw out my pattern by hand. Still, a great program and super-handy for doing inlay work.
And of course, right here on Instructables! There's plenty of great maille resources here, just search "Chainmaille". ^_^
If you want to see more of my work, you can check out my deviantART page or my Etsy Shop
Feel free to ask questions in the Comments section. I'll try to help out as best I can.