Chainmail Lessons

On April 7, 2011, in Articles of Awesomeness, by Emily

I recently got some chain mail rings from The Ring Lord in response to getting a chain mail hacky sack at the convention that I was at two weeks ago. When I started playing with this thing and rolling it around with my fingers, I was totally convinced that I would be able to make my own hacky sacks with just a little bit of practice. So, when the rings arrived, I was absolutely convinced that I would be able to follow the directions on ANY site, and just make a sack that was equal to the sweetness of the one that I’d bought.

There is a difference between conceptual and experiential.

I know that there’s folks out there who will go ‘duh!’ at me, but this is a serious point. To conceive of something and plan it out within the head is much different than actually hunkering down and doing it. There’s a LOT of really smart people who will plan and figure out the entirety of some scenario and figure that just by thinking it… it’s already been done. Hell, I’m guilty of this too. I’m pursuing experience, not concept, so I started playing with the rings.

It’s a bitch to get the damned things open. It’s even more of a bitch to get them closed because there’s stuff on them. People who work with chain mail have strong wrists. They have strong palms. They have a high tolerance for BS, because it’s a repetitive motion. These people also have some spacial orientation which gives them the ability to see tiny little holes to weave rings through. After doing it, I can say that armorers are awesome.

I tried doing the 4-in-1 weave. This means that there are four rings attached to a single ring. This was the most common chain mail style in Europe, and it is one of the primary styles that you’ll see in the SCA. I’ve also been told that this is one of the easiest weaves, and that it doesn’t take that much to understand it. There are countless tutorials on the internet to demonstrate the creation of 4-in-1.

It didn’t make any sense.

I tried to follow the directions for the creation of chain mail, looking at several tutorials in the process. Essentially, the process went like this…

Loop, loop, loop, CRAP!
Loop, loop, loop, loop, loop, loop, CRAP!

I was developing quite the little pile of 4-in-1 mistakes, and it wasn’t coming together. I valiantly tried to understand, then decided that I’d try something else. I watched a tutorial which demonstrated the 4-in-2 weave, and understood it on the barest of levels. Within two hours of owning the rings, I had a useless pile of metal and a pair of earrings. The earrings looked good, but I was feeling a bit defeated because I had been told that this 4-in-1 stuff was so very easy. I wasn’t thinking that chain mail was easy as the CRAP pile grew.

After several more attempts, a tutorial by The Unlikely Mage, and a instructions which likened chain mail to Mickey Mouse, I started to understand what I was doing. This synthesis of ideas made the direction of the rings relatively obvious if I was making sure to only put on one piece at a time. I was able to make the hacky sack. And, well, I made a hacky sack that has some neat holes in it. These rings are like little molecules which must be fastened together in some fashion to make patterns.

When faced with difficult things, it’s really easy to just give up because it’s not something that’s been done. There’s a ton of awesome people who will say ‘oh, I didn’t know that it *couldn’t* be done’ as they go ahead and do something ordinarily spectacular. Everyone else is faced with the conflict between doing cool stuff and looking silly while they mess up. You know what the potentially awesome people do? They make the decision to do the cool stuff… allowing themselves that fear of looking stupid with the knowledge that it will turn out right.

That comfort level that comes with doing stuff perfectly the first time… doesn’t happen very often at all. But you know what? It’s perfectly okay to jump off the bridge without a trampoline at the bottom, because there are no expectations involved. Yeah, you might look stupid flailing around, but after you fail, and push through, and fail again… it becomes one of those seriously moving experiences. If you’ve got something that you’ve been itching to try… do your best to weasel your way around the fear, because the rewards are pretty neat (and in some cases, jewelry laden!).