Three Ways to Keep Weaving Railroad Straight
by Linda Gale
You don't have to be a beginner to be frustrated by 'netting' weaves that vary in width along the length of the piece.  The problem increases as you widen the 'gap' for thicker cabochons or large beads.  How do you control your weaving so your parallel wires remain 'parallel'?
How do you control your weaving so your parallel wires remain 'parallel'? It's easier than you might think - if you use one of these three techniques. All of them are so simple, you'll wonder why you didn't think of this yourself! ....and they use things you probably already have in your 'stash'.
Bead It!
The easiest, and quickest technique: Just put a bead on your 'top' frame wire! It's quite likely you already have boxes of beads for the narrow-width 'gaps'. You may not have a large enough bead at hand for a wider gap - but we'll address that problem in the last technique.

The bead should be symmetrical and center-drilled. A round bead is perfect, but you can also use a squared bead*. Locate a bead that is twice as wide as the width of your weaving 'gap'. For example, if you want to have a 4mm gap, use an 8mm bead. Only the bottom 'half' of the bead will be doing the actual spacing. The other half will be above the wire, out of the way of your weaving.

Slip the bead on the top wire. You may put it on the bottom wire, but it is more likely to interfere with your weaving when in the lower position. Note that the bottom half of the bead just touches the bottom wire - perfect! (Spoiler alert: The bead in the photo wasn't quite large enough - but the only bead I had on hand to illustrate the technique.)

*If all you have on hand is a squared bead, double-check its actual width with a piece of wire, from the center of the bead, around the angle, and then around to the center of the other side. Choose the squared bead size accordingly. Note that the dimension of the gap may change if you don't keep the square bead perfectly straight and aligned with the wire frame. (If it turns a little bit, you will be creating a wider width, because the width across the bead, from top half to bottom half, including the corner angle, will be greater than just a 'side' dimension.)

Start weaving. Keeping the bead's edge riding along the bottom wire, just in front of your weaving, so you can continue to double-check that you are maintaining the proper width.

The bead will slide easily as you work. You may want to bend a little curl on the end of the wire that holds the bead, to keep it from slipping off accidentally, then snip off the curl when your weave is complete.
Pro Tip: Tip: Hold the previously woven end tightly as you bring the wire over the gap, to make sure that the wire is reasonably tight as you make your first 1-2 coils on the top (or bottom) wire. Keeping the correct tension on the wire prevents 'sagging', which allows the wire to curve a bit, and also creates a place for variation in the width to occur.
Linda Gale's Three Ways to Keep Weaving Railroad Straight - Bead It!, Wire Weaving, Weaving, Wire Weaving, Weaving Wire, weaving straight
Coil in a Coil
Sometimes 'frustration' is the greatest Mother of Invention! I was having a problem keeping the spacing on a weaving pattern sequence (a triangle, square, or pattern over multiple wires). In addition, the spacing for the wire to pass through had to be a bit larger than 'normal'. It seemed that I was un-weaving and straightening, more than I was weaving!

I had been using coiled wire (using the 'Gizmo' for coiling), and had a small piece of unused coil. Ah-ha! I cut the little coil to the length I needed for the pattern - slipped it on the bottom wire - and discovered I had an 'automatic measuring tool'!

The best thing about using a 'coil spacer' - or a 'coil-in-a-coil' spacer - is that you have everything you need to make one quickly, and adapt it to any size you need by using - a) different gauge of wire, or b) a different size of mandrel for coiling.

I was working on 20-gauge frame wire, so I used the smallest mandrel, and 20g wire for the coil. It slipped easily over my frame wire, and gave me the height of an additional 20g wire for 'upper' spacing (above the wire you're working on).

I then realized that I could further enlarge this coiled length and height device by making a series of coils that could be slipped one inside the other. This is another way to achieve a larger diameter 'bead' needed for greater height spacing. By making coils using larger and larger gauge wire, and larger and larger mandrels, you can get a good 1/2-inch of width (or more) to use as a spacer.

Another way to create a 'super spacer coil' is to create a coil, then coil that coil over a mandrel to achieve the size you need. It's the same technique used to build those beautiful cabochon wraps - now made into a real time and labor-saver!
Linda Gale's Three Ways to Keep Weaving Railroad Straight - Coil in a Coil, Wire Weaving, Weaving, Wire Weaving, Weaving Wire, weaving straight
The Railroad Tie Method
This is my favorite technique to keep those parallel wires going 'parallel' - like a railroad! It may require a trip to the hobby or arts/crafts store, but there is a quickie 'desperation substitute', which I'll describe later.

I buy 1/8-inch thick basswood in the various widths that I will use for 'gaps'. Note that I advise using basswood. There is usually balsa wood for sale near the bins of basswood - and it is not a good choice for long-term use. Basswood is a harder wood, and keeps its edges well. Balsa wood is soft - you can imprint it easily with a fingernail - and it's shape will distort with very little use. (I used a piece of plastic quilters 'applique strip in the phone, which I happened to have on hand, but I much prefer the basswood strips. They are much less expensive - and are a bit more 'conforming' over the weave and between the frame wires.)

There is almost no difference in the price of these woods. A strip of basswood usually starts in price at about 70 cents. Each piece of stripwood is 24" long - so you can share with friends, or use for multiple other projects - especially for measuring or template devices. You can also find buy online.

Google 'dollhouse miniature supplies' and you'll find many other sources. Be aware that many online suppliers, like Amazon and others manufacturers or distributors, only sell 'blocks' of many pieces of the same size 'mini-lumber' that are pre-packaged together, at a higher price. Search for suppliers that sell individual pieces.
Buy 1/8" thick basswood in the following sizes: 3/16, 1/4, 5/16, 3/8 & 1/2-inch widths. Each piece is identified as: 1/8 x 3/16 x 24 which means: 1/8" thick by 3/16" wide by 24" long. It's unlikely that you will need anything wider than 1/2", but widths from 3/4" to 3" are available. Some of these wider widths might be handy for bracelets.

Making these 'width templates' takes much less time than simply explaining about the wood!

Cut a 2-inch length of each width. You don't need a saw to do this. Use a ruler (preferably a metal ruler with a cork back - a plastic ruler will 'nick' and catch the razor blade). Hold it firmly on top of the wood strip at the 2-inch mark.

Use a single-edge razor blade (or an X-Acto knife if you have one) to make several 'passes' along the edge of the ruler - putting a little bit more pressure on each pass, until you've cut through the strip. Gentle pressure over 2 or 3 passes is all that will be needed. This gives a nice, clean edge that should be straight up and down.

Yes, you can simply press the razor into and through the wood - but this can sometimes snap the razor - and your fingers are at greater risk!

If you need a gotta-have-it-right-now! template, cut strips of sturdy, but thin, cardboard - like cereal boxes or 'shirt' cardboard. Glue 2-3 pieces of thin cardboard together, in one large enough piece for all the sizes you need. (Laminating the cardboard like this makes it a little stronger; I prefer rubber cement for gluing things like this.) Measure and mark 2" lengths of the widths you need. Use sharp, strong scissors to cut the pieces and keep your cutting lines as straight as possible. You can use these as 'temporary' helpers, until you get the sturdy basswood that won't bend and distort like cardboard.

Using the Templates

Begin your weave, using the stripwood template to act as a guide. Place the stripwood exactly inside the top and bottom frame wires - like the outside rails of a railroad track. Weave a few 'stitches', and double-check by sliding the stripwood guide back into place over the woven wire and extending forward between the frame wires. Remove the guide, weave, and repeat until you have the desired length woven.

A FINAL HELPFUL TIP

You may find it useful to attach a wire 'hanger' to an out-of-the-way corner of the guides. Punch a little hole through the wood and loop a wire through it. You can keep it dangling on your 'opposite' little finger (the hand that isn't weaving the wire) so it is instantly handy when you need it!
Linda Gale's Three Ways to Keep Weaving Railroad Straight - The Railroad Tie Method, Wire Weaving, Weaving, Wire Weaving, Weaving Wire, weaving traight

Materials

26 Gauge Round Dead Soft 1/10 Sterling Silver Filled Wire
H10-26D
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26 Gauge Round Dead Soft Copper Wire
H11-26D
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20 Gauge Half Round Half Hard 1/10 Sterling Silver Filled Wire
H10-20HRH
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20 Gauge Round Half Hard Copper Wire
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Tools

5 Piece Steel Mandrel Set
G7-5
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WireJewelry - Ultimate Wire-Pliers Jewelry Pliers with Case, Set of 5
G15-20
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  • Category: Weaving
  • Technique(s): Weaving