Skin-tight maille....?

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IDEEDEE
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Skin-tight maille....?

Postby IDEEDEE » Thu Mar 14, 2013 4:59 pm

For my sins, I've been peering at pics of early-mid 12thC knights (like ya do... Morgan Bible etc al) and having spent my second day pottering round at home in my own maille shirt (don't ask...)I've been thinking about the apparently limb-hugging, "skinny maille" one sees (almost) everywhere for this period.... Does anyone on the forum have experience of wearing the kind of skin-tight maille on armses & legses which one sees? I'm interested re. the practicality & comfort of such close-fitting protection, ideas about what might lie beneath the maille and, indeed, pondering whether or not to taper the arms of one of (yes, one of.. Oh dear..) my maille shirts... Also thoughts on whether folk think this might be (another) artistic convention/idealisation, rather than actual reality.. Thoughts & comments anyone?



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Strickland
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Re: Skin-tight maille....?

Postby Strickland » Thu Mar 14, 2013 5:47 pm

I would say think artistic license on the period paintings, and having worn lots of mail over the years tight mail is no fun to get out of especially after cavorting round in it for a while! Granted it doesnt want to be too baggy but think practically about it. Mail give/stretches due to its makeup but if you take away the give with close fittting then its not comfortable to wear at all. Tailor it yes, also needs padding regardless unless you like being like the cheese in a grater!!!

Just my groats worth!!

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Re: Skin-tight maille....?

Postby Simon Fryer » Thu Mar 14, 2013 7:52 pm

I wouldnt wear it tight without padding underneath as I have experiance with tight mail.

My first shirt which i made for my wedding had a tight body. There were a few problems with this though. First was trying to get it on, with very little expansion it was really hard to get on and took 2 people to help, and while trying to get it on it kept getting caught in my hair. Another problem was when you try to bend over or lean forward, the shirt tried to rise up my back, scratching it up, even with wearing a cotton shirt underneath.

The last and main problem was that I let my wife "have a couple of shots" at me with a mace, the first shot wasnt to bad, but with just a little bit of effort it really hurt. You really need padding underneath, as mail doesnt protect you from brute force, it will only protect you from cuts and slashes.

Just my observations

Simon



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Re: Skin-tight maille....?

Postby Brother Ranulf » Thu Mar 14, 2013 9:04 pm

Things like the depiction of mail have to be taken in the much wider context of 12th century art conventions. For example, the depiction of hose is clearly unrealistic in terms of being impossibly close-fitting:

ABknights.jpg


Even in the case of peasants, their legs appear to be clad in lycra rather than baggy wool hose:

MS K 30 October.jpg


Clearly, the depiction of leg coverings is not to be taken literally and this can be extended to arms and torsos in the case of mail. I believe there was a kind of "canon of grace" behind this, much like the traditional Japanese convention of depicting Japanese women as tall, slim and leggy when the reality is very different.


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Re: Skin-tight maille....?

Postby Phil the Grips » Thu Mar 14, 2013 10:44 pm

For the contrary view-surviving mailshirts show a surprising amount of tailoring in their construction, far more than the "baggy t-shirt" look most reenactors have with their mail manufactured in neat squares and rows.


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Re: Skin-tight maille....?

Postby Biro » Thu Mar 14, 2013 10:58 pm

I have an osprey book kicking around somewhere that clearly shows a period illustration of mail being 'bagged' over the belt,.so the body definitely had a fair amount of width to it.

However my sleeves are quite heavily tailored, with a cup added at the elbow and a sharp taper on the forearm. It's comfortable over padding while still looking quite form fitting.



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Re: Skin-tight maille....?

Postby Strickland » Fri Mar 15, 2013 1:18 pm

I agree with the tailoring, it certainly helps. Ive made loads of mail in the past and to fit all kinds of body shapes!! Its easy to add darts and gussets to expand or contract a piece so dont be afraid of cutting in to the mail you have, provided you have the necessary 'spares' to make good and enlargement. I love plate armour but mail always looks fantastic when done well with the proper kit beneath it.

Neil


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Re: Skin-tight maille....?

Postby Colin Middleton » Fri Mar 15, 2013 1:44 pm

I'm with Biro on this. How many of us have 7 year's full time experience (almost 15,000 hours?), plus training from a suitably skilled master before we make our mail for ourselves? The people assembling these garmets were skilled craftsmen, so I would expect the fit on their garmets to be excellent and as Phil said, the amount of tailoring in mail is huge. By comparion, most of us by the 'off the shelf' one from a trader, which is pretty much a tube for the body and a tube for each arm (and I don't blame them as even basic tailoring would probably double the price).

Similarly, the aketon worn under the mail is going to be fitted to the body much more closely than modern ones do (aketons appear to show the earliest examples of fitting to the body), which allows the mail to fit that much better to the body over the top of them.

Both these points will lead to the mail being much more shaped to the body, which is what you see in these pictures (I wouldn't call them skin tight).


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Re: Skin-tight maille....?

Postby Colin Middleton » Fri Mar 15, 2013 1:48 pm

Brother Ranulf wrote:Even in the case of peasants, their legs appear to be clad in lycra rather than baggy wool hose:


While I accept that there is a degree of exageration in the fit, what makes you think that hosen were baggy in the 12th C? Careful cutting with a light weight wool with a good degree of streatch (remember that we simply can't buy wool of the variety and quality that they could 800 years ago) should give a much better fit than most of us manage to work out, even on peasants.

Colin


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Re: Skin-tight maille....?

Postby Phil the Grips » Fri Mar 15, 2013 1:58 pm

Colin Middleton wrote:(and I don't blame them as even basic tailoring would probably double the price).

Indeed it would- I reckon I easily have about 500K links under my belt over ten years of mail making as a youth and started off by making a T-shirt that was 8" bigger than the natural chest to make it viable in cost terms, whereas the better way is to make it to the natural chest size, slit it where it doesn't fit or allow full movement and then fill in the gaps with darts of mail which is far, far fiddlier.


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Re: Skin-tight maille....?

Postby Langley » Fri Mar 15, 2013 5:03 pm

If you have an archery safety net you need to put it up fairly loose. When an arrow hits it, it puffs up and absorbs the kinetic energy doing so so stops the arrow. Stretch it tight and you will find the arrows penetrate. I think the same happens with maille if you make it too tight. With a cutting blow loose maille will also track along with the blade as it is dragged across which minimises the damage and cutting through of the links. Again, if it is tight, a sword will actually cut through the links. On the subject of hose - I know many of the people who have done the basic research believe that hose were tailored closely to the leg and all mine are even with modern wool. THis is partly because it is cut on the bias to give as much stretch as possible but we ahve to be aware that there just are not sheep with a staple of up to 22" as is reported for the mediaeval period which my learned tailoring friends tell me would mmake it much easier to get something closer to lycra. There have been serious discussions about using wool/lycra mix if you can avoind the shiny aspect to get hosen which would not make a mediaeval time traveller laugh their own off. But back to maille - Yes, lots of tailoring but not so as to make it skin tight - it will stop working. You just have to look at the existing pieces to see how complex the patterns are. (The Wallace now has analysed everything in their collection by having someone who was an intern sit down and count every singel ring! He says he is still sane but now works for Museum of London! Where he is looking after their maille - glutton for punishment that he is!)



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Re: Skin-tight maille....?

Postby Nigel » Wed Mar 20, 2013 11:52 am

Brother Ranulf wrote:Things like the depiction of mail have to be taken in the much wider context of 12th century art conventions. For example, the depiction of hose is clearly unrealistic in terms of being impossibly close-fitting:

Clearly, the depiction of leg coverings is not to be taken literally and this can be extended to arms and torsos in the case of mail. I believe there was a kind of "canon of grace" behind this, much like the traditional Japanese convention of depicting Japanese women as tall, slim and leggy when the reality is very different.



Sorry but with careful fabric selection and good fitting my wife achieved a perfect fit on my last pair :D So I don;t see where youa re comign from on that arguement


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Re: Skin-tight maille....?

Postby IDEEDEE » Wed Mar 27, 2013 9:56 am

Once again, excellent responses on this most excellent of fora... :D

It was the many images (thanks for not picking me up for my typo - 12thC/Morgan Bible indeed - Ooops..) where much of the maille looks lycra-tight (and on already very trim-looking legs & arms) that intrigued..

Even allowing for folk being generally leaner in days-gone, my gut-feeling was that in terms of comfort and practicability alone we were likely to be seeing an artistic convention; reflecting maille which was reasonably tight and tailored, as folk have suggested, but over some kind of protective underthing (and not something tight to flesh or some thin undergarment). It was the "sprayed straight onto flesh" look that "felt wrong" - but I haven't the experience to back my thoughts..… Having struggled out of a not particularly figure-hugging, long-armed mail-shirt shirt (worn over just a tight-armed kirtle) on many occasions I was imagining the fight (even with help) to get out of the kind of giant metallic baby-gro, apparently with nowt much else beneath, as seemingly shown in the contemporary images & some of the tomb sculpture. Could forsee that as being something somewhat unpleasant (Strickland's cheese-grater image - ouch). I had mused on lacing being involved somewhere, but have seen no images whatsoever to support that idea... Again, it sees like artistic convention may be muddying the waters yet again..

Still not clear what happens re. the integral mittens though (how you grip the weapon/how they stay on the hands/protect those delicate digits) esp. when they're seen not in use & hanging off the sleeves like dead kittens... Some sort of leather inner with a slit?

The ideal image seems to be the limb-hugging look (certainly for everyone of knightly status & above), so i guess we need to try to get as close to that as poss. (though of course as we see when we look at eras where photography IS available what the rule-book/convention dictates reality is often something very different indeed...). Oh, for a time machine & a digi-camera.. :D



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Re: Skin-tight maille....?

Postby Phil the Grips » Wed Mar 27, 2013 10:31 am

IDEEDEE wrote: get out of the kind of giant metallic baby-gro, apparently with nowt much else beneath, as seemingly shown in the contemporary images

If you really want to confuse the mix then there's the image of the dead warrior being stripped of his mailshirt on the Bayeux Tapestry border who's completely naked underneath!

Still not clear what happens re. the integral mittens though ... Some sort of leather inner with a slit?

Worked for me- a pair of leather "oven glove" shaped mittens with thumbs, which were then backed with mail and attached to the shirt at the wrist, then a split put in the palm just long enough to get the hands in and out of.


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Re: Skin-tight maille....?

Postby Biro » Wed Mar 27, 2013 11:59 am

Agh.. this is really annoying me because I can't find my sources on this. Been so long since I looked into it.

There are a couple of images/effigies/carvings(can't remember - gah) which do show a slit. Most show it being vertical (ie in the direction of wrist to fingers), but there is one showing it to be horizontal. This it the particular one I've been looking for and I'm sure it's a carving of some kind. It shows an open hand, facing you and you can clearly see that the mail is only covering the back/sides of the hand and that there is a covering on the palm (leather?) which includes a slit.

It's always bugged me how loosely they hang - how floppy they seem to be when hanging off in the images. It really does look like nothing was worn underneath... but then when you look at the morgan bible - it looks like nobody is actually wearing padded armour under mail, it's either/or - but there are other sources for the period indicating that it was done... The morgan bible also shows some padded armour with integral padded mittens. Can we assume that this is what was worn under mail? The tomb effigies don't appear to bear this out since we see a lot of bare hands.. I can only surmise that they weren't as concerned about blunt trauma to the hands as we were (which kind of makes sense when you think about it).

So what can we do? We need to make a concession here to handle the amount of hand hits we recieve and still let us go to work on Monday. For mine, I took a leather glove, backed it with some tough, thick-ish leather (about 2mm) - with some additional layers added to the bits that don't bend and slit it up the front. I then shaped my mail to go over it (making the gauntlet seperate to the hauberk first so it's easy to keep trying on) - and cut out a piece of leather to go over the palm. Stitched the glove to this (leaving a small lip on the leather all around the edge), slit it i nline with the glove and stitched around that, then stitched the mail to the lip around the edge. After that it was a simple case of getting the lenght right to join it to the sleeve of my hauberk (obviously, the sleeve had already been tapered etc.). You need to have some extra length to allow for movement - especially bending the elbow - but adding a 'cup' on the elbow for expansion there helps a lot and reduces the extra mail 'gather' you otherwise get at the wrist.
Looks great while worn, however, when I take the mitt off (ie push my hand through the slit), the mit is solid and holds it's shape - quite unlike the period images.

You really do have to shape them though - with a lot of trial and error or you end up with hands like table-tennis bats



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Re: Skin-tight maille....?

Postby Colin Middleton » Tue Apr 02, 2013 1:03 pm

I don't get an impression of this super tight mail. Sure, you can see where muscles are, but not their definition, like you can in the clothes. Can you please post some pictures?

The mufflers (mittens) are ones that get me too. My last attempt had a goat-skin palm and the back made of a layer of hair-on sheepskin stitched to a piece of leather a couple of milimeters thick. I put a leather rand in round the edge of the hand and wrapped the mail closesly round it. So-far the threads have snapped occasionally, but not pulled out of the leather. It's flexible enough to hold a sword comfortably and tough enough to protect my delicate little fingers. I think that next time, I'll just try it with 2 laters of hair-on sheepskin and see what protection/mobility that offers. Obviously there is the vertical slit in the palm to get my hands out.

However, it does surprise me how often you can see the fingers on the muffler, as though it is actually shaped to the hand. I can't beleive that it's worn without anything underneath, it would be too uncomfortable and the palms clearly don't have fingers on there. I'm wondering about sewing the mail onto the glove underneath in such a way as to make it look like the fingers are visible or separate, when there is actually good protection there.

Best wishes

Colin


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