Breastplate part 2

Time taken: 7 hours.
Materials: 1/2 inch stainless 18g jump rings, red drill fabric, charcoal linen, gold acetate satin, waxed thread, cotton thread, small pieces of 1-1.2mm leather.
Tools: Craft knife, scissors, 2 pairs pliers, pins, sewing machine, iron, speedy stitcher.
Techniques: Leatherwork, basic sewing, maille making, applique.
Difficulty level: Hard on the hands, involves a bit of shaping and tailoring, otherwise straightforward.

No idea what this part is called, by the way. I have alternately called it a breastplate, a jerkin, a jacket, and a cuirass. I’m still not sure it’s even a real thing. Anyway..

When we left off, the breastplate had been sewn on to the leather jerkin and the belt. It still needed its fabric, its straps and some sleeves. Sounds simple, right?

Cullen back viewOK so I started on the chainmail first because this is boring and can be slow going. I especially struggle when getting started, because if you move it at that point it loses its pattern and I’m still fairly new to maille. I cottoned on to tying the first row of rings to a wire spreader which keeps them in position and this helped a lot:

breastplate015We can assume here that any time I’m not doing other work on this project, I’m adding jump rings to the ever-growing Bit ‘o’ Knitting up there. So let’s put that aside for a bit.

Meanwhile, before adding any more pieces to the jacket, each of which closes up the seams a little more, I needed to get the straps that will eventually hold the pauldrons on sorted. They had been attached to the breastplate in the previous post and left flapping around. Now, I cut holes in the front sections of the jerkin just below the shoulder (measure your model!) and pushed them through to the front. Here’s where I made my first real mistake – I cut too cavalierly and slipped and left a 2-inch long gaping hole in the front of my precious jacket!

So I stitched it up and tried to make it look like an old war wound:

breastplate017It’s totally meant to be there!

Now that those straps were where they needed to be, I could forget about them for a while, as long as they weren’t allowed to drop back inside. Then I got on with adding the fabric to the rest of the body.

For this I cut two large double-thickness back pieces of the red drill using a men’s jacket pattern. It’s a bit of a waste of fabric to do this but I had no idea what shape they’d end up being and didn’t want to cut them too small to start. I used the charcoal and gold fabrics to make the striped detail you can see in the reference pic. I knew how far this needed to be from the edge, so they could be sewn on straight away:

breastplate018I should point out that on the straight edge of this, there are two layers of charcoal so that the top ones will come together when worn and cover the fastenings underneath.

Then I got my (extremely obliging) model to hang about while I pinned and fitted and pinned some more, and ended up cutting them down to what was close to the eventual shape:

breastplate019Once they were this size they were much easier to handle, and I was able to pin them in their permanent position and trim away the excess. What I ended up with was about 1/3 of what I started with. Next time I won’t need to waste so much fabric because I’ll know. 😉

At this point I made some fabric ties from the charcoal linen, and sewed them under the cover flap that hides them. You could just as easily put a zip in here but I didn’t have one, and I find ties more authentic and also better for a custom fit.

breastplate021So then it was a matter of very carefully pinning the fabric in place:

breastplate020And then inserting some elevator music or maybe a Mass Effect conversation or two, while I stitched everything up. All of the seams are double stitched in the same way that the breastplate was attached, so it took.. um.. most of Season 1 of Vikings.. to do this. I do finally think I’m getting good at stitching though..


You’ll see in that last pic there are little bits of leather sewn onto the fabric at the sides and bottom. The side ones are to reinforce the fabric where the leather back strap will go through to join onto the breastplate, and the bottom ones are just to make the attachment of the bottom ties look a bit prettier.

Now, about that chainmail… how’s it going then? Not very quickly! This is because of spending all my time stitching instead. But look! Progress!

breastplate016NB this maille is not suitable for protection purposes – the gauge is too small and the rings are too large. For making a reasonable lightweight facsimile of chainmail, it’s ideal. But It wouldn’t stop a sword. Maybe a butter knife?

Next steps – add the leather strapping, the chainmail and the sleeves. I had no idea when I started that this would end up being a three-post process.


* I chose nickel colouring for all my buckles. If you’re luckier than me you’ll be able to get all the sizes/shapes you need in antique silver colouring.

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