I've been making tab-maille for a few years now, and thought I'd share my wire weaving method to those who want another option.
Step 1: Ingredients
1. An idea: What are you going to make? I'm making a vest.
2. A pattern: If you are making clothing, you will want a pattern to follow so that you get things the right shape. For my pattern I am using a vest that I like.
3. Tabs. A lot of tabs.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Do not drink all the pop you will need for this craft! Not only will it cost you a fortune, you'll get very ill, and probably die. >.< Enlist your friends, family, co workers, school, and others to give you their tabs. Be not afraid to jump into recycling bins for tabs. You can buy them in bulk on eBay, even. Some charities collect them. If you offer a dollar or so per pound, you can usually get them. (they sell them to recycling plants for ~$0.48).
To find out how many you will need, you can use this for reference: a 4x4 inch square for me is about 8x10 tabs, when 'closed' (squashed together) or 8x8 when 'open' (spread out). This means that for an area of 2x2 feet I will need ~960 tabs. Always round up to the next hundred, to be safe.
Figure out the area for your project, then figure out how many tabs you will need. Make sure you can get that many. (You don't need them all at once, remember! A few hundred to start with is good though.)
4. Wire. You will need a lot. I use plastic coated 'telephone' wire, simply because I have a lot of it on hand. It is approximately gauge 22 (in American), and approximately .6mm across. It is plastic coated copper wire, and quite flexible. Any wire that you cannot snap by pulling will do.
5. Scissors. To cut the wire
6. Patience. This will take a fair amount.
Step 2: Collect and Clean Tabs/ the Perfect Tab
It's surprising how many people do not know this.
The best tabs are the round ones. The square ones are neat, but are better used for other things.
To clean the tabs just rinse in hot water. pat them dry, and then leave out on a towel.
If you got tabs from someone else, and they are bent, you can flatten them by placing them on a wooden board and whacking them with a hammer. Be careful. If you miss, you can end up with a sore thumb, or a pop tab in the eye.
If the rivet loop is still on, you can simply fold it down, or you can wiggle it back and forth to remove it. This is hell on the thumbs, so I recommend a pair of tweezers or nail clippers to do the work~
If the tab is broken or otherwise not usable, you can donate them to the charities that collect tabs. They sell them by the pound to recyclers, so they don't care the shape they are in.
Included are pictures of some weird things I've gotten in boxes of tabs I've bought on eBay. They won't be useful here, but they are interesting.
Step 3: Starting a Row
This first row is the hardest part. Once it is over, do a happy dance, mm'kay?
Step 4: Tab Two
Step 5: Move the Wire~
Step 6: Tab Three
Step 7: Move the Wire Again
Step 8: Tab Four
(I'm doing a shorty to show~)
Step 9: Row End! Yai~
But we're not done with the project yet. Oh lords no.
Step 10: Starting Row Three
Step 11: Continuing Row Three
Step 12: Ending Row Three
The entire piece will continue this 'zig-zag', but will end up straight.
Step 13: Ending the Piece
This will make a loose end tab. If you have no intention of tying this end down to something else later, I suggest looping the wire around the top of the previous row as well as the center of the end-tab.
Step 14: Properties of the Finished Piece
The loosest piece I have is also the first piece I made. It is about a foot across the top, a foot and quarter down the side. I can wave it around as loosely as a piece of card stock. Gravity effects it a fair bit. It will hold its shape if bent to much. It can bend almost 180 degrees width wise, almost 90 length wise.
If you need any help, or this wasn't clear enough, please shoot me. Er, a message, that is. =P