This post discusses the construction of the front bodice scalemail plate, and work on contractions. Please note, that the current scalemail plate is being held together with giant rings as it has been more convenient for testing, modeling, and fitting.
I knew from the start of my project that I did not want a clunky, unfit bodice as I feared it would look sloppy and unfinished, in addition, I also wanted the bodice to be more like “skin” and less like armor. A tighter fit, I reasoned, would not only look more attractive, but by staying closer to my body, and even resting on my hips, it would possibly help with weight distribution to the top. During my initial research as to when to implement tailoring, I came across several forums (listed below in resources) which discussed the process of tailoring through contraction, but there was no definitive conclusion on the best time to implement contractions. Some comments pointed out that if you know where the contractions would be, it is easier to put contractions in as you went, while others recognized that it wasn’t much harder to include contractions after the piece had already been created. There seems to be a difference, however, in large scalemail and small scalemail, and there seems to be more repercussions for post construction contractions with the small scale.
So with no conclusive decision on when to implement the contractions I decided to research where the contractions should be implemented. I did not have much luck here either in specifics, but some helpful people came forward in the forums. Through my research I found an image of a halter top, in which a man created four contraction points along the breast equidistant from each other to create a pulled in look, and that the distance would change according to the size of breast. In addition, Stefan found a PDF created by Danny Ace entitled, “A Brief Tutorial to Crafting Armor From the Ring Lord’s Scales,” from which we were able to understand the technique of contracting, in addition to learning other techniques for scalemail. So with a relative uncertainty, I began my work on the chest plate by adding a contraction to the right breast plate in order to determine how difficult it would be to add a contraction after something has already been made (particularly now since the plate was small and the project early) compared to during construction. In addition, I also needed to use the right plate as a pattern to properly mirror to construct the other breastplate, so its shape was vital.
For my first practice contraction, I decided to work on the contraction on the lower breast (as compared to the sides) as it was the easiest to identify, and I knew this area would be easily fixable, it was discreet, and the weight of the stomach plate would pull the top down. It would also help me quickly identify the effectiveness of the contractions and whether additional tailoring was needed. Sadly, I cannot state that the placement was an exact science, but instead it was by the eye. Stefan was right to point out that you should not look at the placement of the scalemail, but instead consider the placement of the rings, since the rings were actually the pivot points of the contraction. So, based off of gut, trial, and discussion with Stefan, I decided to do a contraction about 8th rows down from the very top scale, and starting 1 scale to the right. At first, this did not work correctly, as there was too much bunching and it was overall messy, but it also looked simply wrong. The issue, as was later pointed out to me, was that in order to create a contraction within work you have already completed, you need to remove 3 scalemail: the scalemail that is directly below the contraction, as well as the two scalemail that are in the next row directly beneath. It was quite easy to overlook, and it required a second pair of eyes to catch the mistake, but once you understand contraction it is easy to spot this mistake. Overall, after that minor fix, the contraction was easy to fix and implement after a piece had already been constructed, and even 1 had an instant effect on the overall hang of the scalemail. Please note, that this will lift all the rows so it does have an overall effect and may require more material to correct.
After the contractions had been implemented, I then proceed to attach the stomach plate I had created onto the “completed” right breastplate. I started here for several reasons: firstly, it was simply combining two pieces together; secondly, I wanted to make sure that the pieces transitioned smoothly between a contracted piece and a regular piece, which turned out great; lastly, it would allow me to determine how much champagne from the trial piece I would need from the second breast piece to bridge the gap between the gold on the breast and the stomach. The last point was actually the most important, as I found that the stomach plate and left breast plate nearly touched, but being as I did not yet know how wide the breast area would be (since I also needed to take contractions into consideration), it helped me determine that I actually did not need much of the original trial piece for the breast plate, but instead most of it was incorporated into the stomach region. That being said, I still needed to take off the gold pieces, which I was able to reattach to the neckline in a single strand of scales instead of individuals, and additional champagne rows in order to make room and keep the entire thing consistent in length, which were incorporated into the breast plate.
For the second breast plate, I started by filling out most of the gold to match the other side, and filled in champagne scales until I reached the 6th diagonal row (rows going from right to left). At this point, I wasn’t certain as to how long the v neck was going to be on either side, or whether it would actually intersect with the stomach plate without much interaction. At first, I allowed the neckline to be about 10 scales long diagonally on both sides, and both would intersect at an 11th row (for trial I left most of the left breast plate incomplete). But after doing a mock fitting, I found that the chest was simply too large and did not fit properly. From here, I tried a neckline that was 9 scale diagonally on both sides, converging on the 10th, which fit perfectly. From here I proceeded to work on filling in the rest of the gold, and complete a basic diamond before again implementing another contraction mirroring the first. Then, I connected the piece to the slowly growing chest plate to make a somewhat basic halter top.
Having added most of my trial diamond to the stomach region, and any additional champagne groups that came off from the contraction, the left side actually extended to a near complete bodice design by the afternoon, and over the course of the evening I worked to fill in the space on the right, having neared completion by the end of the day. The following day, I replicated the design on both sides, and gradually expanded the design to be 27 ½ “ long, which was my waste plus additional room to accommodate for fabric and rings. Through this, I ended up reaching the last bag of champagne and brushed gold, and although I was excited to see the end, I was terrified that I wouldn’t have enough to complete my design. When I did a fitting with Stefan I found that 27 ½” was far too big, and I had to remove two columns of scalemail on each side, to bring it down to 27”, which is surprisingly close to my actual size. Happily, I gained 14 champagne and 2 gold scalemail. With it now fitting properly, I was able to start work on creating the section of the back that would connect to the shoulder cap on the back side.
I would have never guessed, after worrying about contractions and fitting, that the hardest part of the costume to figure out would actually be how the shoulder cap was going to be held in the back. Initially I created a diagonal row of 9 scalemail (similar to the front) that I thought would easily connect to the shoulder, but the angle that I was trying to achieve was too much for the row I created, and it ended up angling the scalemail out, exposing the rings. Since then I have tried a number of different options, including just a chainmail strap, and a create a 4-1 scalemail row (found in PDF). After working on it intermittently for two days, however, I think it is time to take a small break to gain perspective. . . and get a post up. Next post will be working on the back strap and finishing up the design of the chest plate.
For the time being however, I took some images in my chest plate, with mocked straps to hold the chest plate properly. As you can see in the left image, the left side of the chest plate is sagging and not very form fitting due to the fact that it wasn’t strapped to the back, which is apparent when comparing the left and right side of the image. In the right image, both sides are strapped up, creating a substantially tighter fit.
And finally fitted chest plate at an angle, where you can see the effect of tailoring.
Forum Posts on contractions
Chainmail weaving: http://www.cgmaille.com/tutorials.shtml