Making chain mail armour yourself (4-in-1 pattern)

There are several reasons why someone wants to make their own chain mail armour (hauberk, coif, aventail etc). On the one hand, you can have a free hand in terms of the overall finished dimensions, materials and decorations. On the other hand, it is great to finally hold your self-made chain mail as an actual finished piece at the end.

There is also the work itself. And no, we don’t want to gloss over anything that you may find difficult: Especially for beginners, the work at the beginning is not easy. You need patience, perseverance and to keep an eye on your handiwork as things progress. But once you’ve started, weaving chain mail has an almost meditative effect, and its creation is a great hobby that will give you many satisfying hours. Weaving chain mail is a great hobby. In this article, we will show you step by step how to knot the 4-in-1 pattern. Here we go!

A few tips for weaving in advance

It is recommended to start with a smaller chain mail armoured part, a coif or an aventail for example. You get a first feeling for the process of putting the mail links together, reflecting upon your own experiences and see your first successes relatively quickly. This can be followed by larger projects such as a Hauberk as well as using various different materials and weaving techniques.

Many of those who start their work do so in winter when the markets and the re-enactments are in hibernation. But the beauty of weaving is that you can basically always take your project with you anywhere and have it at hand. Even in summer, when you listen to the conversations at the medieval camp, or when you travel, if you find a small table and somewhere to sit you can continue. And as a rule, once you start, you can’t stop.

Reihe um Reihe entsteht ein dichtes Kettengeflecht.
Row after row, a dense chain mesh is created.

The 4-in-1 pattern

Different historical weaving techniques have been handed down from different cultural circles. In the European Middle Ages, the so-called “4 in 1” pattern was the most common. As the name suggests, five rings are needed for this: four closed rings and one open, on which they are threaded before it is also closed.

What you will need to weave

  • Chain mail rings: You can choose from different rings that differ in material, diameter, coating and closure. In our blog post on the selection of rings for your chain mail we explained the advantages and disadvantages of the different ring types.
  • Pliers: You need two different pliers in the manufacture of chain mail. The choice also depends on whether you want to take historical pliers, for example, because you want to show off your craft skills as a historical presentation. Our Sarwürker pliers, as well as the riveting pliers, are hand-forged according to the historical model. Of course, you can also use modern pliers. Two standard pairs of pliers or a combination of standard pliers with needle nosed pliers are suitable. Just try out what feels better in your hand, and that’s obviously different with everyone.
  • Patience

Step 1: Create quintets

As already mentioned, for a quintet four closed rings are threaded on an open ring, which is then closed. If such a quintet is spread flat, the rings can be arranged like the number “5”.

Kettenhemd knüpfen: Beim 4-in-1-Muster verbindet ein geöffneter Ring vier weitere Ringe.
In the 4-in-1 pattern, an open ring connects four more rings.
Dein erstes Quintett: Fädel vier geschlossene Ringe durch einen geöffneten, den Du im Anschluss ebenfalls schließt.
Your first quintet: Thread four closed rings through an open one, which you also close afterwards.

Step 2: Expand the size

When your first quintet is ready, you now have several options to continue working. Either you work away “at a piece”, and continually bring the next quintet to the already partially assembled mail piece, or you first produce a certain number of quintets, which are then connected to each other afterwards. Or you could work on one piece: The chain mail being extended ring by ring in one piece.

Arbeiten am Stück: Das Kettengeflecht wird Ring für Ring am Stück erweitert.
Working in one piece: The chain mesh is expanded ring by ring in one piece.
Manche stellen lieber erst viele Quintette her und verbinden diese im Anschluss.
Some prefer to create many quintets first and then combine them afterwards.

Alignment of the rings when weaving

No matter which method you prefer, it is important to pay attention to the correct and uniform alignment of the closure ring! With individual rows you won’t notice this so much, because the mail rings align almost automatically, but depending on the pattern and procedure it can get more complicated.

Achte beim Knüpfen des Kettengeflechts darauf, dass die Ringe in alle in die gleiche Richtung zeigen.
When weaving the chain mail, make sure that all the rings point in the same direction. Here in the picture, both quintets are aligned differently.

Once you have finished a larger piece of chain mail, you will find that the rows form a line. Depending on how you rotate the assembled piece, the line is horizontal or vertical. You can therefore decide how you want to wear the rows in your later chain armor. If the rows fall horizontally, the chain mesh sits more flexibly and provides better protection. This orientation is the historically correct one, with a few exceptions for depictions of the Middle Ages. Roman chain shirts, on the other hand, were worn in vertical rows.

Note: If you wear your chain mail armor in horizontal orientation, it will taper down and adapt to your body shape. But if you don’t pull a Gambeson underneath it, the chain shirt may look ill fitting. Even though it’s not in the pattern. Not everyone finds this aesthetic pleasing.

What’s coming next

We hope this guide was helpful for you! Soon we will delve deeper into the subject matter, because this first part is only the absolute basic knowledge. In the next step, you will find out why you need sewing patterns (for use in the fashioning of comfort seams and the like) and other such important instructions. But everything as always will be explained to you step by step.

If you have any questions or comments at this point, please send us an email to silke@battlemerchant.com.