Scale Maille – Part Three

I’ve finally finished the first piece of scale maille for my tabard, so tomorrow I’ll make a start on painting it and see how it turns out.  I did initially start by painting the individual scales, but they were too light for my airbrush (even with Blutac on the underside to weigh them down!)  and I kept dropping them when I tried hand-painting so I decided to have a go at painting them once they were secured together.

Cutting the scales is the most tedious part but the knitting goes surprisingly quickly.  I’ve got about 2ft 3in of maille and the knitting has taken me about six hours.  Don’t ask how long cutting out all the scales took!


A number of people have asked for a guide to how I made it, so here’s my…

How to Knit Foam Scale Maille

I’m using A3 sheets of 2mm craft foam (about 80p each in HobbyCraft), 4.5mm needles and some navy blue yarn that I had left from an earlier project that’s a good match for my fabric.

I used an office holepunch for my first attempt at putting holes in the foam, but I found the scales weren’t really large enough to hide the hole and the yarn underneath, so I used my knitting needle instead to make a smaller hole, slightly further to the top.


The foam only needs a little bit of heat before it will hold a slight curve. The pattern is four repeating rows so, for the narrow width I wanted for the Regalia of Weisshaupt, I worked on just enough scales to do a few rows at a time.




As I want my maille to be narrow strips, I cast on seven stitches which has given me a width of two and a half inches. To give me a bit of length to secure the bottom of the strip to my tabard, I knit two rows before starting to add scales.

It’s ultimately a basic garter stitch with scales added every second row. You need two stitches to secure each scale, so the repeating pattern is:

  1. knit, scale, knit, scale, knit, scale, knit
  2. knit the whole row
  3. knit, knit, scale, knit, scale, knit, knit
  4. knit the whole row

Once the first stitch has been knitted, push the right needle through the next stitch as you would to make a new knit stitch, then slide a scale over the point, with the curve to the outside.  Loop the working yarn around the point of the right needle, then gently pull the needle tip and the working yarn back through the hole in the scale, and through the stitch on the left needle.  I found the foam ripped quite easily if I wasn’t careful here, so I lost a couple of scales while I found a technique that worked for me.  Secure the scale with the next stitch.

Once you reach the end of the first row (make sure it ends on a stitch, not a scale), knit the second row all the way across.  The third row will have scales on alternating stitches to row one, which gives the diagonal pattern.  Knit the first two stitches, then add a scale to the third.  Follow the pattern of scales and securing stitches until you reach the third stitch from the end of the row.  Add a scale to this one, secure with the next and add another knit stitch to finish the row.  Knit the entire fourth row.  Once four rows were done, I adjusted the scales slightly so that they lay how I wanted them.

That’s pretty much it.  Once you’ve reached the length you want, knit two rows before casting off.  The scales will move a little bit, so you can adjust them to sit neatly.

Painting begins tomorrow, so if it all goes horribly wrong I’ll have some pictures to share!