NOTE: If you have any questions at all about how this was made, please ask. I love talking about my work. 😉
Time taken: Approximately 120 hours in total, over the course of 5 weeks.
Materials: Jacket – dark blue cotton drill, wool batting, thread, nickel pyramid studs, black acetate lining for collar, leather front strap and 20mm buckle, nickel 12mm pyramid studs, eva foam, velcro dots for armband, 20mm leather strips for armbands. Tabard – royal blue cotton drill, hessian for backing, thread, 2000 small galvanised steel scales, 4000 5mm stainless steel rings, waxed heavy thread. Armour – cardboard and sellotape for templates, Wonderflex, eva foam, 20mm, 38mm and 50mm leather strapping, buckles (2 x 38mm, 1 x 50mm, 4 x 20mm), russet leather dye, 810 cap 9mm shank rivets, black felt, Rub ‘n’ Buff in silver leaf, acrylic paints (graphite, burnt umber, mars black), mod podge in matt. Gauntlets and knee guards – brown leather poached from an old jacket, 38mm, 32mm and 20mm leather straps, russet leather dyes, buckles (6 x 20mm, 4 x 32mm, 4 x 38mm), Wonderflex and eva foam, Ados F2 contact glue, waxed heavy thread, pair of gloves from op shop, own boots.
Tools: Scissors, pen, steel ruler, pins, sewing machine, pliers, speedy stitcher, craft knife, sponges for dyeing, heat gun, paint brushes, hole punch, rivet setter and anvil, leather edge beveller.
Techniques: Basic sewing, applique, leatherwork, thermoplastic moulding, maille making, awl stitching, fabrication, some basic modelling.
Difficulty level: Over 9000? Not really but it helps to have OCD, strong hands, a willingess to take the time to be finicky and a lot of determination.
I used these pictures for reference:
The jacket is made from cotton drill with wool batting sandwiched between, sewn together to make a quilted fabric. Once the fabric was quilted I added 250 pyramid studs.
Each stud has a small square of eva foam behind it to prevent the legs from pulling out. I only put the studs half way down the sleeves because they would be hidden by the gauntlets anyway.
The jacket was made up using a dress jacket pattern modified to make a bolero, with a mandarin collar from another pattern added on.
The lining and final piping wasn’t added until after the breastplate and tabard were completed because I wanted to fit them over the bulky armour before finalising the shape of the bolero to get them to sit right.
The tabard was made in two parts – the maille and the tabard base. The base was made using a hessian lining because the cotton drill of the outer part didn’t seem as though it’d be strong enough to support the weight of the maille. I cut a basic shape from the hessian and tried this on myself till I was happy with it, then cut the same from the blue drill. The maille strips in the ref pictures seem to lie in channels with fabric overlapping the edges, so I cut long strips of the drill and sewed them onto the base, creating four channels ready to receive the maille.
I had never made maille before and didn’t really know how much I’d need. My calculations came up with 2500 scales, which I ordered online, along with twice as many tiny rings. I chose galvanised steel because anodised aluminium (which is lighter) was too shiny for the weathered look of this armour, but plain steel was likely to rust. Making maille is easy but time consuming. Here’s the start:
I realised quickly that having the strips only three scales wide would not be enough, so I widened it to five.
*insert elevator music here, that plays for about a week while I do nothing but make maille*
I made 8 strips, each approximately 60cm long. (next photo contains some blood since I stabbed myself a few times with the pliers).
Once the maille was finished, each strip was sewn into its corresponding channel using waxed heavy thread.
Because the stitches from this went through the hessian and showed on the back, I’d left adding the reverse lining and piping until the end. Sewing this in with 3kg of maille attached was.. interesting.
The finished product:
To make the armour pieces, I spent an afternoon drawing and cutting various shapes from cardboard and trying them on myself to make a template. The tassets were quite fiddly because they not only had to fit my body, but they had to fit inside each other and hang straight as well. I went through a lot of sellotape!
Once I was happy with the templates, I cut out two of each piece. At the same time I cut and prepared the shapes for the knee and elbow guards. These were my ‘practice run’ using Wonderflex for the first time, as they’d be covered with leather so I didn’t matter so much if I messed them up.
The knee and elbow guards were lined with eva foam to give them a bit more structure. To make the main armour pieces, I made a sort of sandwich, with the pieces of Wonderflex on the outside (smooth side out), and a piece of yoga mat foam in the middle, with the edges pinched together to seal it. This was to make the armour thick the way it looks in the pictures, and strong enough to handle movement when worn.
It was tricky lining all the holes up, especially on the uppermost tasset pieces which needed holes for three belt loops (also made from Wonderflex). This process took maybe 2 afternoons, and once they were done and shaped, each one had a very thin strip of Wonderflex run around the outside edge and the holes, to resemble the edges in the picture.
The next step after shaping the armour was to add the gryphon relief to the breastplate and armband. I started by sketching them into a quad book for the size and shape.
The armband one is bigger and more stretched out, so I needed two templates. These were cut straight from the quad book and used to cut out the same shape in eva foam. The breastplate one was glued straight onto the armour piece, and the armband one onto a piece of Wonderflex which was then shaped to fit the curve of the arm.
To get the relief that’s shown in the reference picture, I used heavy artist’s gel medium, which is normally used to create texture in paintings. This was spread on thickly with a palette knife and then the hollow parts scraped away. This made the relief stand out really well but looked sharp-edged, so I smoothed the raised parts off by adding Mod Podge with a fine paintbrush. It then went into the pile for gesso layers.
Meanwhile, I tested the tasset pieces with their supporting leather straps to see how they’d fit together, and was very pleased with the result.
The belt loops in that picture are made from two layers of Wonderflex, heat shaped and poked through holes in the main piece. I needed these to be strong as the belt supports most of their weight, and the lower strapping means each step you take pulls on them a little.
And then, each piece received 7 coats of gesso to create a smooth surface and also make the top layers of paint stick.
Sanding back the gesso to create a smooth surface can only be described as tedious. It probably took a week overall to do the prep work for this, doing a couple of hours each day after work. So finally getting to add the Rub ‘n’ Buff was exciting. I used just over a tube to cover the lot.
And then it needed weathering. I first gave it a wash with acrylic paint in graphite colour, which darkens it to a sort of patina and also gives a better surface for the next layers to stick to than the Rub ‘n’ Buff, which is a kind of wax and therefore often repels washes.
After that, I mixed burnt umber with mars black, and did a heavy wash over the whole thing, then followed up by wiping most of it off again to leave darker colours in the cracks and hollows.
Once the weathering was done, the whole lot was sealed with Mod Podge. I used matt because the armour in the pictures looks old and not shiny. The final touch for the armour was to glue a layer of felt-like wool fabric to the back. This was partly because I hadn’t painted the back and didn’t want to have ugly bits, and partly to prevent the hard Wonderflex from removing paint on the parts where the tassets would rub together.
All this armour is quite heavy, and needed to be held on somehow. The strapping as shown in the reference pictures is complex and it ended up needing 11m of leather to make it all. I bought 1.5m plain belt blanks in 20mm, 32mm and 38mm, which then had to be cut to length, bevelled, punched, and dyed. Working out how long each piece of leather needed to be took a whole afternoon – in total there are 25 separate pieces of strapping, and each needed to be estimated and then measured against my body for how they would make the armour hang before cutting.
I had also bought a pair of leather gloves from an op shop, and an old leather jacket which was to be cut up for the elbow and knee guards – these needed dyeing as well. It took three bottles of dye!
Each piece of leather strapping needed a corresponding buckle and keepers. Some of the keepers were from Wonderflex, and the others were cut from the old leather jacket, depending on what the picture showed. If I were to do this again I’d use heavier leather because they are a bit stretchy and floppy.
The buckles were riveted on using 810 cap 8mm rivets in antique brass colour, and then the pieces that are directly attached to the armour were also riveted on. While I think stitching would be stronger, I didn’t want to spend that much time, and also I wanted the look of rivets which seems to work better with the armour aesthetic.
The tassets are suspended on a piece of leather strapping which goes through the holes front and back, and then buckles down by the knee. The back strap crosses in the small of the back and then comes around to buckle to the bottom of the breastplate.
To keep the tassets from moving up and down their suspension straps as I move, I added a leather stopper behind each one so it couldn’t descend. Each stopper had to be added as its corresponding tasset piece was threaded onto the leather. This was very fiddly and involved some swearing as the whole piece got heavier and kept sliding off the anvil. This is somewhere where stitching may ha ve been easier than riveting.
Gauntlets and knee guards
The final parts of the costume were the gauntlets and knee guards. I had some brown boots already and I didn’t want to wreck them for normal wear, so instead of sewing the knee guards on I made a leather wrap that tucks inside the top. The boot zips up over this and then a thick strap goes around to make it look as if it’s all one piece. The gauntlets are similar, although they wrap around the outside of the gloves to the elbow.
Each guard is covered in leather inside and out, which is stitched around the outside edge with the Wonderflex part inside, and the straps and buckles all held in place by the same row of stitching.
Both the knee and gauntlet pieces have three straps each to hold them on – this outfit is all about the leather and buckles!
So – 20 buckles, 11m of leather strapping, 2000 galvanised steel scales, 4000 tiny stainless rings, 200 pyramid studs and a heap of Wonderflex later, the Regalia of Weisshaupt was finished (gloves not included in pics because I couldn’t work out how to hang them on the dummy).
The outfit weighs 10kg in total, but is pretty comfortable to wear and when we did the photoshoot I walked 3km in it without damage to myself or the costume. I’m pretty proud of how rugged it is, and pleased with how it turned out.
It took just over a month to make, but that was spending a couple of hours every weekday, several hours a day each weekend, and having a week off work sick in which I did nothing but work on this. Probably about 120 hours in total. It’s the first thing I’ve made that I’ve used a Gantt chart for, and I definitely found the challenge I wanted.