Introduction: How to Make a Brigandine Without Knowing How to Sew or Work Leather: AKA Why Would You Pay $100 at a Renfair for Something You Can Make in One Weekend for Under $30?
Skill level: easy
Total project time: 8 hours
Materials and cost: $24 total
• Measuring tape/long ribbon
• 1 yard fabric: about $12
• 1 bag of 1.5 inch brass fasteners, 60 count: $4
• 1 roll duct tape: $4
• 2 packages D-ring buckles: $2 each
• 1 roll scotch tape: $2
o 1 bag of 1 inch brass fasteners: $3
o Hobby Lobby 40% off coupon, found here.
Step 1: Choosing Your Fabric:
Real brigandines were made out of leather. However, if yours isn’t going to be used as protection against flaming arrows, I recommend you don’t use real leather. Real leather is expensive, difficult to work without the proper tools, and unforgiving of mistakes. Most craft stores carry a selection of leather-like substitutes that are cheaper and easier to work with.
The downfall of fake leathers is, well, they’re fake, and some of them look more fake than others. The two things you need to keep in mind when choosing a fabric are:
1.) Does it look good close up?
2.) Does it look good from far away?
Take these examples that I found when I was out shopping.
The black one is a solid color, and while it has some texture, this won’t be visible from more than a few feet away. It looks okay close up, but not from the end of the aisle.
The second one is better. See how the multiple shades make it look less synthetic? The only problem is it’s completely flat, which means someone standing next to you would notice the lack of detail.
This one has both texture and multiple shades. It looks nice close up and from a few steps away. This is the kind of fabric you want. Oh, and don’t worry about the thickness. I’ll show you how to fake that in a few steps.
Step 4: Assembling the Body:
1.) Lay out your fabric flat and back side up on a table or some other hard, flat surface.
2.) Measure around the widest part of your chest and mark this length on the back-side of the fabric. Make sure to allow extra length for folding over the edges of the panel.
Now you need to decide how wide to make each panel. The thinner you make the panels, the more form-fitting the brigandine will be. However, a brigandine made out of thinner panels requires more panels. Keep in mind that more panels means more construction time and more opportunity for error.
As it turns out, real brigandines weren’t meant to flatter the figure. And, more importantly, I’m lazy and I don’t want to spend more than eight hours making one piece of armor, so I’m going to make each panel one-fourth the width of my torso.
3.) Mark the width of the panel at each end of the length line. Again, make sure you add a little more width than what you actually measured.
4.) Take the measuring tape (or ribbon, if you don’t have one) and lay it from the outer edge of one width mark to the other. Lightly tape it in place using scotch tape. The measuring tape will make sure you keep the panel the same width from end to end.
5.) Cut along the outside of the measuring tape. If you can’t keep the edge smooth, don’t worry, you won’t be able to see it anyway.
6.) Check the fit of the panel by wrapping it around the area you measured. The ends should overlap.
7.) Cut the panel in half.
8.) Cut ONE of the halves in half again.
9.) Fold over the edges of both short sides and one long side on each panel, and tape the edges in places with duct tape.
Folding the edges makes the panels appear thick, like real leather. You can fold the edges as many times as you want to make the panels appear thicker, but the more times you fold them the harder they are to cut through and tape down.
10.) Lay the short edges of the long piece over a short edge of each smaller piece. The folded long edges should all be on the same side. The overlap between the panels should be slightly larger than the heads of the 1.5 inch fasteners.
11.) Cut the smallest hole you can in the corners of each piece and thread the fasteners through the holes. Don’t open the arms of the fasteners yet, because you’ll have to add more panels to them later.
12.) Measure the width of your torso directly under the area the first panel will cover, and make the panel for that area.
13.) Lay the folded long edge of the first panel over the unfolded long edge of the second panel. The folded edge will always form the bottom of the panel.
14.) Cut the smallest hole you can at the middle of the area where the long pieces overlap, and thread a fastener through the hole.
15.) Unfold the arms of the fasteners that are between the two panels. Your brigandine should look like this.
16.) Repeat the process of measuring, making, and attaching panels until the brigandine covers the top of your hips. You can add extra panels along the side to cover the top of your legs, but these shouldn’t be connected to each other, or else it will be very difficult to walk.
17.) If there is room between the top of your first panel and your armpits, add another panel on top of it.
18.) Make two short pieces that are the same size as the short pieces of the top panel. These should cover from the top of the last full panel to the bottom of your collarbone. Fold one edge of each piece at an angle so that it slopes from your arm to you collarbone.
19.) Attach these pieces to the short pieces of the top panel, with the angled sides facing the long pieces of the panels.
Step 10: Adding the Buckles:
1.) Measure the width of the buckles you have, and mark that on the back side of the fabric. This will be the width of the belts that hold the brigandine together.
2.) Decide how many buckles you want, and how far apart you want to place them. I did one buckle per panel, but that may not work for you, depending on the width of your panels.
3.) Cut two strips of fabric for each strap. Make sure they are longer than you think they need to be, because it’s much easier to trim them than it is to make them longer.
4.) Cut a strip of duct tape just shorter than the belt strips. Fold this duct tape into a tube so that the sticky side is on the outside.
5.) Stick the duct tape tube to the backside of one of the belt strips and flatten duct tape onto the strip.
6.) Attach the back side of a second strip on top of the duct tape. I know this sounds bad, but it looks fine.
7.) Repeat this for all the other belts.
8.) Attach one of the short ends of each belt at each spot along the brigandine where you want a buckle to be. You can attach them to the same side or alternating sides, depending on the effect you want.
9.) Create a small loop of fabric to hold each pair of D-rings, and attach them opposite the belts.
10.) Check the fit and trim the belts if necessary.
Step 13: Adding the Shoulder Panels:
This gets its own section because there are a lot of different ways to do it, depending on your skill level and the effect you want.
The easiest way to create shoulder straps is to use more belts. This leaves most of your shoulder uncovered, and is great if you plan to wear your brigandine with pauldrons.
If you’re really good at measuring things and calculating angles in patterns, you can continue using the horizontal panels. However, that pushes the required skill level higher than I want for an “easy” article.
The method I used in the example, and the one I’ll give instructions for, is using a single vertical panel for each shoulder. This gives your shoulders some “protection” and isn’t very complicated.
1.) Measure the distance from the top of the front of the brigandine, over your shoulder, to the top of the back of the brigandine and mark this length on the back-side of the fabric.
2.) Measure the width of your shoulder from over the center of your arm to the point where your neck starts to rise, and mark the width on the fabric.
3.) Make two panels of this size. Fold over and tape all the edges, and don’t bother to cut them in half.
4.) Attach one short edge of each panel to the front of the brigandine.
5.) FOLD THE FRONT SECTIONS IN, as if you were wearing the brigandine, to make sure you don’t twist the shoulder panels as you attach them to the back of the brigandine.
Step 14: Finishing Touches:
1.) Open up your brigandine and lay it out so the inside is visible.
2.) Cover every joint and fastener in duct tape. This keeps the arms from poking you, and it makes the brigandine lay down better.
3.) Check the outside for any loose bits of thread or duct tape that might have snuck into view.
4.) Gloat to taste.
Congratulations! You are now the proud owner of a lovely piece of garb.