Wired Pop/Pull/Soda Tab ChainMaille




About: An open book, filled with blank pages.

 So I've been looking at different methods of making Pop Tab Chain Maille on this site. The ones that use wire tend to be rather ugly, and the ones that don't tend to mangle and weaken the tabs. 

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

Things you will need:

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

 The proper way to remove tabs is to wiggle them back and forth as though opening the can and pushing the tab back repeatedly. DO NOT simply pull the tab. If you do this, more often than not the tab will rip, bend, or still have the rivet loop attached. This is bad.

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

 To start a row, you are going to take the wire and loop it around the top of a tab.  Make sure it is secure.

This first row is the hardest part. Once it is over, do a happy dance, mm'kay?

Step 4: Tab Two

 Place second tab over top the first, with the second's bottom hole over the first's top loop.

Step 5: Move the Wire~

 Thread the wire over the top tab, through the overlapped bottom and top holes, and under the bottom tab.

Step 6: Tab Three

 Add a third tab, under the second one and beside the first.

Step 7: Move the Wire Again

 Bring the wire up through the third tab and the overlapped second tab.

Step 8: Tab Four

 Add a fourth tab the same way you added the second tab. Keep repeating this until you have enough across the bottom to be the length you desire.

(I'm doing a shorty to show~)

Step 9: Row End! Yai~

 When you hit the end of the first row, it should look like this. This is actually the first two rows. Congrats! Do a happy dance now~ 

But we're not done with the project yet. Oh lords no.

Step 10: Starting Row Three

 Bring the wire up through the top loop of the final tab in the top row

Step 11: Continuing Row Three

 Add a tab, and go over the bottom loop. Go under the two loops of the ones below it, and back up. Then place a new tab beside it, and repeat.

Step 12: Ending Row Three

 Continue Step Eleven until you hit the end of the third row. This should stick out as much as the first row, half more than the second row. 

The entire piece will continue this 'zig-zag', but will end up straight. 

Step 13: Ending the Piece

 To end the piece off, loop the wire around and around the end tab of the previous row. 

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

 At first your maille will be quite stiff. Don't worry. Just start pulling it in every direction, squishing it, rolling it, just generally messing with it. It will loosen up a bit. 

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



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    18 Discussions


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Thank you for this tutorial! I made myself a nice potholder from "basic" silver tabs and golden Battery tabs. I used normal yarn instead of wire (mine was too heavy and made annoying knots) as it won't have to endure wear from movement. :)
    Now I need to collect more tabs to make a chainmail-bikini :D!

    1 reply

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    I like to use yarn too, for smaller projects. Gives it a nice drape :)
    I just find the wire easier to travel with, the stiff end weaves more easily -shrug-

    I'm glad you like it, and good luck with the bikini-- I recommend lining it with something, the metal against skin (especially those sensitive bits!) is realyl unpleasant...

    you don't need a lot of money, just time. you can make some decent maille out of baling wire or other wire you can find around your house or in scrapyards


    8 years ago on Step 14

    so I see you completed a sheet, but how did the whole vest work out? i'm sure a sheet is easy enough, but i could forsee creating a wearable shape to be problematic.

    1 reply

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    I never got the whole thing done (it is very time consuming) but I got it about 2/3rds done before taking it apart again (I no longer do this, so gave my tabs to a friend) it was reasonably simple to make the object. Very similar to sewing. Make the pieces and stitch them together.I made a front panel and the back panel, and stitched them at the side with leather thread, making it more flexible at the join. If I were to do it again for some reason I'd make only the back panel and sew on thick fabric front panels.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    I make tab maille really similar to this, I use 5/16 butted maille rings to hold it all together instead of wire though. the end effect looks almost identical, but it's floppy like leather instead of holding it's shape

    3 replies

    Do you think you could post where to get that, because I'm looking to do something very similar to what you're describing, i just can't find enough rings!

    I made my rings. i just spent $5 on a roll of rebar tie wire and wrapped it around a bit of 5/16 bar stock to make my rings. you should be able to find both at any reasonable hardware store. otherwise for pre-made rings I'd recommend www.theringlord.com


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

     That sounds pretty cool. I would've done something similar to that, but I have several hundred meters of this wire on hand from an uncle... Free materials are the best materials, eh?


    9 years ago on Step 14

    This is the method I like best so far - glad I didn't go very far yet with other ones!  Very consistent pattern and aesthetic to boot!


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Holy crap thanks for posting this.

    I've been looking for a proper Tabistry tutorial for what seems FOREVER (had it sort of figured out but kept starting in the wrong direction apparently for the effect I was looking to achieve) and this is a life saver.

    1 reply

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

     xD Tabisty, I like that.

    I'm glad you like it~ This method took a little trial and error, but it's been worth it.


    9 years ago on Step 14

    Nice way to do it ;-), its good to see something new!
    I'll try this somewhen this summer