You cannot knit actual chainmail, but you can knit something that looks like it. Knitters can be very creative in that they can achieve the look of metallic armor just by knitting.
You can now stop wondering who wants to know how to knit chainmail. Many knitters have done it for theater costumes, and many moms have knitted chainmail for Halloween costumes. It is your turn to learn how to do it.
But first, you must know what chainmail is and its use. Chainmail is an armor made from metal mesh created from metal rings linked together.
The military commonly used it in Europe, Asia, and North Africa between the 3rd Century BC and the 16th Century CE. Chainmail is also called hauberk or byrnie.
Real chainmail is heavy to make and wear because it is made of metal. If you need chainmail for a theater play or a costume for a cosplay event, you can achieve the same effect by knitting it with yarn.
Knitters recommend that you knit in garter stitch very loosely using a cheap gray yarn or knit a cotton string yarn in loose garter stitch, then spray with silver paint.
Another suggestion is to knit using an armor stitch. The fabric you will produce by knitting using the armor stitch is similar to the effect of overlapping metal rings in chainmail.
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How do you knit armor stitch?
You can knit armor stitch using two different-sized knitting needles. The size of one of your needles should match the yarn you are using, while the other needle to use should be thinner.
The concept of using different-sized needles is to achieve very loose stitches that would mimic the interlocked metal rings of chainmail. The fabric created with a knitted armor stitch resembles the metal fabric used for medieval body armor.
Here is how to knit the armor stitch using different-sized needles:
1. Gather your materials:
- Silver metallic yarns or string
- Knitting needles (sizes 4.5mm and 7 mm)
- Silver spray paint
2. Cast on 21 stitches or the number of stitches you want on the larger needle. After casting on the big needle, you can start working the stitches with the smaller needle.
3. Start with a purl stitch. You make an armor stitch from one purl and one knit stitch. Make sure to hold your needles properly, as they may tend to slip off since they have different sizes.
4. With armor stitch, you start a row of stitches with a purl and end with a purl.
5. Repeat the process of making purl and knit stitches until you reach the number of rows you want. Spray with silver paint to make it look more realistic.
You will see that you have made a fabric that resembles the chainmail armor of ancient times.
Why is chainmail called mail?
Chainmail is called mail based on the Old French “maille,” meaning “mesh.” Chainmail is called ring mail, mail, ring armor, chain armor, or hauberk.
Chainmail is a flexible mesh material made of metal. It is a garment worn as a part of a suit of armor that knights wear for protection.
Chain armor is made from small metal rings interconnected to form a metal fabric. It can defend knights from cutting and slashing weapons but is less protective against sharp and thrusting blades.
Chainmail was worn in the Middle Ages as a more lightweight option for hard and heavy plate armor. This metallic mesh shirt is known as a hauberk.
How do you knit chainmail?
You can knit chainmail using yarn and loose garter stitch. You need not use metal rings to achieve the metallic appearance of chainmail.
Knit with garter stitch very loosely and twist the stitches to create the impression of metal rings instead of loops. A stiff thread will give a better illusion of metal fabric. The secret to mimicking the interconnected rings of the chainmail is not to knit very tightly and choose a yarn with some sheen but with very little fuzz.
You can make a hauberk or fake chainmail shirt by following these steps:
1. Gather the materials you need to knit the chainmail:
2. Use scrap yarn and a provisional cast-on. Cast on 30 stitches for the top of the shoulders of your chainmail.
Work back and forth using garter stitch to underarm. Put these 30 stitches on a string, then pick up 30 from the cast-on edge.
Work 10 stitches, then cast off the next 10. Work the next ten, then turn. Work ten, drop yarn, skip the ten cast-off stitches, and use the other end of the thread to work the next ten. Then, turn.
Neck increase row
Work to the last stitch of the right front, make one, then knit the last stitch. The right front of your chainmail now has 11 stitches. For the left front, do the same procedure as with the right front. Now, you also have 11 stitches for your left front.
Next, knit back across for the wrong side. You can use both balls of yarn to keep the fronts separate.
3. Repeat the right-side neck increase row and the wrong-side plain row until you have 30 stitches again. Make 15 for the right front and 15 for the left front. On the next right-side row, knit across with the first ball of yarn, joining the two sides.Continue working back and forth to underarm. Count ridges and make sure that the front matches the back. Put a marker where the front joins the back. Join with the back portion, then begin to knit in the round.Now that you knit in the round, you will need to purl every other round. It would help if you did this to stay in the garter stitch.Note: If you do not want to purl, you can knit the front and back separately. It would be best to sew up the side seams to finish.When the body is long enough reaching to the lower hip, work a split in front and back.
4. Put all 60 stitches on a string. Starting at the center front by counting 15 stitches coming from the side marker. Next, pick up 30 stitches to the center back. Make these 30 stitches back and forth until the flap is long enough. Then proceed to cast off.Get the remaining 30 side stitches and work the flap to match the other. Cast off. Weave in ends.You got yourself a chainmail top. But your costume will look more authentic if you wear other chainmail accessories like a coif and a cowl.Below is a pattern for a knitted chainmail coif and cowl to complete your medieval armor outfit.
Knitted Chainmail Coif and Cowl
1. Gather the materials for chainmail coif and cowl.
- Suggested yarn: Heavy worsted/high quality Aran weight yarn
- Equipment Needed:
- Size 13 16” circular needles
- Double-pointed needles
- Stitch markers
2. Cast on 100, and join in the round. Knit all for a row, then purl all for a row (garter stitch for six rows). Place markers at the start, at 25 st, and 75 st (6 rows, ending with a purl row)
Knit to 4 st before marker, k2t,(knit to stitch after tag), k2t, (repeat at next marker). Decrease 4 st per row.
3. Purl all stitches.
4. Repeat dec knit rows and purl rows until 40 st remain. End on a purl row.
5. Work six rows in a pattern even, removing side markers.
6. On the next row (right side), add markers five before and after starting the tag. Also, bind off four stitches in the center front, then continue around until work needs to be turned, maintaining the garter stitch, switching from knitting to purling at the center marker, turn to the wrong side.
7. Purl to center marker, knit remaining (which maintains garter st), even, turn (Right Side) knit to 2 before marker, then knit front and back of next st, knit next 2 st (mark in between those two), then make another st by knitting front and back, knit to center, purl to 2 before marker, M1, p 2, M1, p remaining, turn. Repeat last 2 (Ws even, rs inc row) 2 times (total of 48 st)
8. On the next knit round, three before marker k2t, knit 2, k2t at each side marker. Work even in a pattern enough to get to the top of the face (18‐20 rows usually seem about right). When you reach the end of a right-side row, cast off 8 st, join in the round again and continue purling to the center marker ‐ 58 st round.
9. Purl a row. Repeat two rows above three more times, but on the last row, add additional markers, nine after the side marker and nine before the following nine tags. 40 st total, markers after stitches 4, 13, 23, 36.
10. On the next two knit rows, decrease in the same manner one before and after each of the four side markers (not the center marker). Work all purl rows even (no increases or decreases).
11. When there are only two st left between the center and first side markers, purl one row as usual, then k2t all the way around. Remove all but the center marker as you go (switch to double-pointed needles if needed for the following steps). Purl all st k2t all the way around again purl all st K2t all the way around.
12. Cut yarn, run it through the remaining st, cinch in keeping with the looseness of the piece, and tie off. Finally, weave in ends.The chainmail coif and cowl can match your sleeveless chainmail top, perfect for theater costume or cosplay needs. Knitting a chainmail shirt and coif with yarn allows you to wear a costume that closely resembles the metal rings chainmail; this time, it is lighter and easier to wear.