Introduction: Chain Maille Embroidered Shirt

About: I design shoes, pants, shirts etc.... with hopes of one day starting my own company. I also drum, am learning the guitar, draw anime, learning to draw tattoos,

In this Tutorial (instructable) you will learn how to make the European 4-in-1 style chainmaille (the most basic of weaves) and sew it onto a shirt. You will have to decide what design you want to make, and how you do it is up to you. If you need help send me a message, and I will do my best to help you.

Chain Maille used to be worn by soldiers in the middle ages. It was used as protection from swords and arrows, and kept objects from entering the body. Although it stopped most weapons from cutting and stabbing, it did not how ever keep the force from effecting the body, and breaking bones, or giving nasty bruises. I tell you this because I want you to know that this chain maille is not strong enough to stop bullets. It might stop a knife, but if you decide to test it, I will not be held responsible for any injuries, deaths or anger because you ruined your project. :P Chain maille is a very time consuming thing to make, so if you do not have alot of patience or a large attention span, this might not be the project for you.

Chain maille has a few different spellings, such as Chainmail, chain mail, chain-mail, chain-maille, chainmaille, and chain maille.

Step 1: Tools and Materials

Two pairs of needle nose pliers,
one pair of wire cutters,
a thick needle,
wire strippers
a metal rod of some sort.

Thick fabric, I used some military canvas I had laying around.
coat thread. You can also use normal thread, but you will have to use more stitches to keep the chain maille on.
masking tape
wire of some sort.
A T-shirt

The metal rod is is what you will be using to make the chain links. Bigger links are easier to work with, but are pulled apart easier. Smaller links are harder to work with, but also stronger. I got the rod from an old printer I had laying around.

I stripped the insulation off some electrical wire, and used the copper wire inside. You can buy steel wire from a hardware store.

Step 2: Making Your Chain Links

Wind the wire you chose firmly around a metal rod. You can buy metal rods from hardware stores. make sure it does not have threads on it though. The threads may help winding the wire, but it makes it much more difficult to get the coil off the rod. You could also use a Phillips screwdriver shaft or any other long, round metal objects you might have laying around. You shouldn't use wooden dowels or pencils because while coiling your wire, it will compress the wood and give you rings of unequal diameters. Aim for even, consistent loops and try to avoid putting tight kinks in the wire. Try to keep the "spring" as tight together as possible. The more spaced the rings are, the longer the rings actually become.

Once you have wound your wire around the rod, slide the coil off. Use your wire cutters to snip the coils one at a time, making the links needed. You will need to make hundreds of these links, even thousands if it is a large design.

Step 3: Making the Chain Maille (European 4 in 1 Weave)

It is rather difficult to explain how to make chain maille, so here are two links that I used when I was first starting out:

(If you can't click on it, copy and paste it into your browser)
The reason why I gave you two links, was because I find that each one shows different steps better than the other.

I would suggest making a bracelet or two before attempting to make letters or designs. This way you will be a little more experienced with knitting Maille, and it will not be as frustrating.

Attached are pictures of the letters I made. Each letter took between 1 to 4 hours to make, the letter "L" being the easiest, and the letters "A" and "M" being the most difficult.
Look at how I made the different letters. For some of the more difficult letters I had to make the different sections separatly, then attach them with individual links.

If you have any questions with constructing the chain maille designs please ask by leaving a comment. This way other people will be able to learn from your question.

Step 4: Preparation for Attaching Your Design.

To attach your design to the t shirt, you must first decide where you want it. Will the letters go straight accross the chest? Diagonally down the shirt? Centered in the middle of the shirt?

Once you have done this, you will need to make a line of some sort on the shirt where the bottom of the design will go. Make sure it is is not crooked (unless you want it that way). I used masking tape to make my line. It is best to work on a flat surface.

Next you will need to start laying the letters where you want them to be.

Once you have figured out the spacing and made sure it is exactly how you want it.

Next you need to use masking tape to hold the chain maille in place. You will gradually remove all the masking tape as you sew the chain maille down.

Now turn the shirt inside out. Take the piece of thick fabric or canvas and lay it down opposite where the design is on the outside of the shirt. Tape it in place.

Now you are ready to start sewing.

Step 5: Sewing the Chain Maille On.

I used two different ways of stitching to hold my letters on. With the first type, I just weaved in one link, through the shirt and canvas, then up and out a different link. See the first picture. Green means the thread is above the fabric, red means it is below. The pink dots are knots. This was good for holding the letters in place so I could see if I needed to move any of them.

The next stitch I used was looping around one ring at a time, several times. once I had looped the thread around the wire, and through the canvas several times, I looped once more, then moved on to the next link. See second picture. Green is the thread above the fabric, and red was the thread beneath the fabric. The pink dots are knots. Please excuse my poor Microsoft paint skills.

If your design is large, you will have to sew the outside border as well as inside the body of the design. see picture 3. Pretend the DC logo is made of chain maille. The Green is where you would have to sew thread if it was a large and heavy design. The star would only need to have border because it fairly small and light. You may not need to sew quite that many stiches, but keep in mind, the more stiches you sew, the better supported the weight is and there is a smaller chance of the fabric ripping.

Attached is a picture of the X. You can sort of see what I did.

If you do not understand what I am trying to say please let me know, and I will try to explain it to you a different way.

Step 6: Final Words

Congratulations!!! You have completed the long road to making a shirt with chain maille on it!! Undoubtedly there were frusturating monents, but you pressed on through the pain and annoyance!

If you used copper like myself, you probably have noticed that the copper has lost it shininess. No need to worry!! you can clean it my either soaking the shirt in a weak mixture of lemon juice and water, or by pouring some lemon juice on a clothe and rubbing at the chain maille until it is as shiny as you wish.

Sources: Wikipedia,

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