Part 81 - Attaching Leather to Maille
by Lord Thomas the Black
Attaching Leather to Maille
Welcome back to another edition of Blackmaille! This month, we’ll be discussing something every mailler will have to face sometime in their mailling career: attaching leather to maille.
There are several reasons why a mailler would want leather attached to his maille. Camails are routinely attached to a leather strap, for example, which is then attached to the helm with vervelles. Early-period maille hauberks sometimes had leather trim around the sleeves and hem. If you have a coif with a ventail, you might want to line the ventail or the whole face opening with leather for comfort.
There are three main ways to go about attaching leather to maille, and we will cover each in turn. These methods are: 1.) Punching holes through the leather, then weaving the maille directly to the leather, 2.) Stitching the maille to the leather, and 3.) Folding the leather over the maille, and stitching through the maille. There are advantages and disadvantages to all three methods, and your choice of project may determine which method you’ll use.
Method 1 involves punching small round holes directly into the leather itself, and weaving the maille through these holes, in effect, making the leather part of the maille itself (Fig. 1). This method has the advantage of being the easiest, fastest method of attaching leather, but at the same time, is also the weakest, as the punched holes can weaken the leather, and the rings can pull through, tearing the leather if too much weight is put on them (Fig. 2). This method is best used to add a tooled leather trim to the bottom hem of a hauberk or Viking byrnie.
Fig. 1 Fig. 2
Method 2 involves stitching the maille to the leather through tiny stitch holes (Fig. 3). This method is a little more work than method 1, but is stronger, since the stitch holes are much smaller than the punched holes. This method is also easier to fix if the leather needs to be replaced, as you can just cut the stitching and sew the maille to a new piece of leather. This method is usually seen on aventails added to bascinet helms. A couple of brief notes: 1.) if this method is used for SCA-style fighting harness, you may find that repeated blows can wear through the stitching. For this reason, I recommend knotting the stitching every few holes. This way, if the stitching does break, you don’t lose a whole section of chain protection. 2.) This method is best used with riveted rings, as butted rings have a tendency to work their way out of the stitching (Fig. 4).
Fig. 3 Fig. 4
Method 3 involves folding the leather over the maille, and stitching it to itself through the maille (Fig. 5). This method is best used for the face opening on a coif, or trim along the sleeves or hem of a hauberk. It has the advantage of looking very nice, and being a period technique, but is not as easy to do as other methods. For this method, you’ll want to cut a strip of thin leather (3-4oz, maximum) approximately ¾” wide, then fold it in half lengthwise and punch a row of stitch holes along the edge (Fig. 6). Next, you’ll fold the leather over the edge of the maille (Fig. 7), and begin stitching the leather together, running the thread through the maille between (Fig. 8). This method can be tricky, and requires a lot of attention to detail, but the end result is well worth it.
Fig. 5 Fig. 6
Fig. 7 Fig.8
So that covers the three main methods used to attach leather to maille. I recommend thoroughly researching whatever piece you’re making to find out what method will work best for what you’re trying to achieve, and also what method was used in the time period you’re trying to portray.
Thanks for joining us for another edition of Blackmaille! As usual, any and all questions, comments, hate mail, or fan mail can (and should!) be sent to me at:
c/o Thomas Beckett
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Thanks again, and I’ll see you next month!
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