Scale Maille – Part One

When I decided to go with the Regalia of Weisshupt for Mahariel, the first thing I thought about was ordering scales and trying to remember the best way to chainmaille it together.  Then I actually thought about the hours of swearing over pliers, jump rings pinging off into the distance and the added stress of fitting scales to chain, then I remembered how heavy the damn stuff is to wear and I started to back-pedal towards the Shadow of the Empire armour.

I was sitting with my husband, ostensibly watching a movie, when a mental voice piped up: “You know, foam would be loads lighter, cheaper and generally much less hassle.  You can cut it and heat mould it and it will be super simple to fix if necessary.”  I thought it over for a while, irritated that I didn’t have any thin craft foam to hand to test it out with… and then I remembered – I had bought two A3 sheets of 2mm fun foam on a trip to Hobbycraft “just in case.”

By the time the movie was over, I had fifty scales cut out.  Two hours later, I had a hundred.

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Fifty scales!

With a little bit of heat, I could shape them so that they were slightly convex, to give the piece a bit more dimension.  Then I sat and looked at my hundred foam scales and considered (and dismissed) ways to fix them together.  Hot glue was the immediate consideration, but I worried about scales falling off and thought that it might reduce any flexibility.  I turned up a small piece of silver foam tucked away in a craft box and cut a few extra pieces to run a few tests.

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Scales made convex using a little bit of heat to soften the foam then pinching the edges together.

I started out trying to use thread to replace the rings.  I didn’t expect it to work particularly well and when it wasn’t falling apart because my knots were rubbish, I couldn’t get the top section to “sit” properly.

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After a while, I got to thinking about the knitted chainmaille used in Monty Python’s Holy Grail (and by skint re-enactors when I was a kid!).  After a brief Google, I turned up the Crafty Mutt blog that showed me exactly what I was looking for.

It’s taken me a few hours to work out the best yarn that I have (fortunately in navy blue, so it shouldn’t be too obvious against the tabard), what size stitches to use and to wrap my head around the pattern that worked best with my scales, but I’m really pleased with how my test piece has turned out.

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I could do with punching smaller holes slightly higher up and pulling it a bit tighter in places, but it gives me a good starting place.  Next job is to paint all my white scales and start punching holes!

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