06 August 2009

Making Chainmail step two: Weaving maille.

We're back, and we're on to learning the basics of actually weaving maille. Note that I didn't use the term "chainmail". Either one is acceptable these days. "Maille" is taken from the original term "mail" meaning armour made from chain. The spelling has been prettied up a bit to make it distict from Postal Mail.

There's another tangent... I'm good at that.

Alright, you have some rings cut, begging to be used, so let's get them and your hands a short workout. Pick up your pliers, one in each hand, and grab a ring. No, not with your teeth... either the pliers themselves, or you can free a thumb and finger and use your hands. Keep holding the pliers though. You'll be surprised how much time you start to save when you can craft without setting them down.

Set the ring in the jaws of your pliers with the opening at the top. You should be gripping about half the ring in each set. Now twist each end of the opening away from one another so it makes a longer spiral. It should still look like a spring. If you're opening your rings like you're turning an O into a C, you won't be able to get them back into shape. Open them about far enough you can fit two wire widths in the gap between ends.

Practice this, open about 5 rings to get a feel for it. Then go for some more new rings and close them with the same kind of twisting motion. Each end should meet as flush and close as you can make them. It helps to push the ends in very slightly toward one another while you're twisting them closed, so they almost snap together. Close 12 for now and set them in their own pile.

An open and a closed ring. Open and Closed rings

Starting a weave is always vastly more difficult than continuing one, so we'll go with something both recognizable and reasonable to follow. European 4 in 1. European maille is characterized by each row leaning the opposite direction of it's adjacent rows. Grab 4 of your closed rings, put them on 1 open ring, then close it. You have what we call a fivelet. Doesn't do much on it's own, but it's the foundation. 4 rings on 1 ring. Each ring (excluding those at the edges) will pass through four others, two above, and two below.
Your fivelet.A Fivelet

So lay your fivelet down a moment to get a look at how it the weave will expand. Two rings on top, leaning to the right. One ring in the second row, leaning to the left. Two rings on the bottom, leaning right. Now to add to that, take two closed rings, put them on an open ring, this open ring will become a new addition to the middle row. Weave that ring in from underneath the rightmost ring the bottom row then down through the rightmost ring in the top row. Close your open ring.

With a little jostling, you should be able to lay out your work and see that everything leans properly, and falls into pattern. Now you repeat that last step again. Two closed rings on an open ring, weave it into the final two rings on the adjacent rows, and close. Repeat this until you reach the desired width.
Red rings are the original fivelet, Green are the three added afterward, and Blue the step after that.
A strip of E4-1
All well and good that you can make it as wide as you want, now how about expanding the other axis. Even simpler. Put two closed rings on an open ring again. Weave your open ring through the two leftmost rings in the bottom row, and close. From there, you add one closed on one open. Weaving through the rightmost on the bottom row, and the next two rings on the row above. Repeat as desired.

In the photo below. Red rings are the first three added in the new row, followed by the Green, and Blue again. Untinted rings are the original strip of three rows you've just built.
A patch of E4-1
So here's the best part. I know this is what you've been wating for. You can make a barrel like tube out of a large patch, then add straps to the top edge, and you have a very simple mail shirt. In detail, it will probably take some tweaking, and there are alot of things you can do to tailor and fit. More on that another time.

If you're not looking for a shirt, say you went with a light gauge copper for your first project, maybe you'd like a choker or a bracelet. Clasps can be purchased for an impressively low price. Also hook, or toggle type clasps can be made using wire wrapping techniques. These same skills can be put to use to make earring hooks, chainmail earrings are my best sellers. If you want a look, check out my Etsy link in the sidebar. /plug
If you've been following along so far, I'd love to see your work. If it's a bracelet, just a small patch, or you whip up a full shirt thanks to what I've posted here so far, please send images to me here and they'll be featured in upcoming posts.
Have fun--

(A Special thanks to Glendon of Glendon's Chainmaille and Handmade Crafts for taking time out of his day at the booth to allow me to photograph E 4-1 in progress. I couldn't figure out how to handle rings, operate pliers, a camera, and a soda can all at once; he was wonderful to supply me with the chance to take these images. )

1 comment:

Heather said...

WONDERFUL! I'm playing with pliers tomorrow!

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