Heavy Metal: How to Make Chainmaille

Last year my partner and I decided to make barbarian costumes. We figured we could use them for Halloween as well as a themed dinner coming up, and it was a fine excuse to teach ourselves how to make armor out of foam and for me to learn how to make chainmaille.

It’s a lot like knitting, in that you manipulate a thin object with two longer tools, except in this case you have two pliers and a metal jump ring instead of needles and yarn. Chainmaille can be used to make more than armor: earrings, necklaces, scarves, even clothing is available, and in a multitude of colors and materials. I’ve found jump rings in every type of metal as well as rubber and glass. People make fantastically elaborate 3D shapes out of these little metal hoops, but I was starting out with something a little more practical.

After we determined that an actual chainmaille shirt was a) totally not happening in the amount of time we had and b) surprisingly heavy in real life and probably not all that comfy, I decided to make a couple of accents to hang off of my partner’s armor.

There are different patterns you can make with the rings, and I decided to go with a weave called a European 4 in 1.

To make this pattern, you open one jump ring and slide four closed ones onto it. Spread it out, and it looks a little bit like a flower. Then to make the next bit, you slide two closed rings onto an open one, then slide two of the ones from the previous 4 in 1 onto it as well. Now you have a total of eight rings and the beginning of a nice little row.

Now, continue for what feels like forever, until you finally get something like this:

photo of costume

I’m a slow knitter, so it figures I’d be slow at this as well. I also bought a kit to make a bracelet for myself, and I haven’t finished it yet, as it’s a lot more complicated. Chainmaille has a satisfying weight to it than my knitting lacks, plus it does give my costumes a badass flair. The sound of it clinking together and that weight reminds you that you’re wearing metal, little bits of armor that were meant to protect someone from arrows and swords, and you wove this with your own two hands.

So if you want to do your own chainmaille, start small, maybe a kit for earrings or the like, and flaunt your inner shield maiden around the office. It can be your own kind of stealth cosplay. As soon as I finish my bracelet, it will certainly be a go-to accessory for nights out on the town.

Sarah Richardson

Sarah Richardson

Sarah Richardson is a graphic artist living in Chicago. In addition to illustrating and laying out tabletop RPGs and zines, she burns through comics and books as fast as her eyes can move. Sarah swears a lot on twitter as @scorcha79.

4 thoughts on “Heavy Metal: How to Make Chainmaille

  1. I’ve been itching to try out chainmail for a while…maybe this is the inspiration I need.

  2. Yes! So great! I made chainmaille in college for a few years until my wrists got sore. I still have the supplies, though! Maybe I’ll bust them out again…

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