Maille: More than Just Rings

These are a few samples of maille-like fabrics I've experimented with using various things that are quite far from your average rings that come off from a coil of wire. I first started with some hexnuts, but I feel those are too ring-like in shape to be included here. I have also worked with maille-lamelar made from flattened and punched pennies, tabs from pop cans, and parts from bicycle chains. There are a lot more weaves possible than what I show here, and a lot more variations on these weaves. This is just a small sample of what I have been playing around with.

Bicycle Chains
A scan of several things from a bikechain that can be mailled... a flat, squarish sort of ring (shown laying on its side, and resting on edge); two sizes of steel plates shaped sort of like the number 8. I call the large ones "Roller Plates" because they are from the part of the chain that had the rollers inside, and the smaller ones are "Connective Plates" because they were the ones connecting the roller links together into a chain.

One anoying thing about bike chains is that ones made by different companies are often slightly different from each other. They all have to have the same basic shape and size, but some companies use slightly different colors, very slight variations in shape, and different things (company logos, country of manufacture, etc.) stamped on the sides of the plates.

This was one of the first weaves I found for bikechains. Its made with roller links, in an overlapping, almost scale-like weave based very much on Japanese 4-1. Because of the way the roller links overlap, it flexes very well from side to side but not at all verticaly.
This European 4-1 based weave was the second weave I discovered with roller links. This is a scan of the first small section I made, with lockwashers on the left and normal maille rings on the right. A fine weave for bracelets and chokers... since I've started playing wround with this weave one of my popular items has been a double-wide choker made from two ribons of this, with the maille rings along the sides connected in euro fashion with a third (center) row of maille links (or it could be thought of as a ribon of euro 4-1 with a row of roller links woven onto each side, and a row of maille links on the outside edges of the roller links).
This is a Japanese 4-1 (I'll explain in a bit why I did not say it's a 3-1 weave, which it is if you count the maille rings) based weave that uses the connective links/plates, though roller plates also work. Roller plates make a more open looking and slightly larger weave, which can be used with tighter patches (like this example) made from connective plates to create some degree of tailoring. The aspect ratio (ratio of wire thickness to internal diameter of the maille ring) is such that the plates overlap when put together in a configuration based on Japanese weaves. It is not like other japanese weaves where none of the horizontal rings touch each other. This sample also shows how the plates match up when the direction of the grain is switched. In reality, this is a jap 3-1 weave, but in theory, I consider it to be much more like jap 4-1... I'll try to explain. Each plate has two holes - a maille ring has one hole - so if we think of the plates as being two horizontal rings, because there are two holes per plate - then the part between the two holes is like a vertical ring which is integrated into the plate
Another Japanese based weave. This one forms a sort of open laticework. Also shown in this scan is how the edges of the laticework can match up to the edges of the weave shown above. This one also uses the same size maille links as the above example, which are stainless steel, .045" diameter wire (about 18ga), with an ID of approximately 1/8". One other thing to notice about this example is that the pattern of overlaps has a consistant flow from side to side and top to bottom. This consistant flow matches the directional overlap of the section of the other weave it is woven into, which makes for a very smooth transition between the weaves.

Another open Japanese-based weave. The trim along the bottom uses standard round wire maille rings in combination with they cylindrical tubes from the inside of a roller chain.
Here are a couple sample patches of weaves made from 1/4" pitch roller chain. I have included part of a patch and individual plates from 1/2" pitch chains (standard bicycle chain) for comparison.
One more thing I have to mention about bikechains... a bike chain is a type of chain called roller chain, which can be found in several sizes. "pitch" is the most commonly used term to describe the size and is a measurement of the distance between the centers of the pins in the chain. Bicycle chains have a pitch of .5". I've seen roller chains with a 1" pitch (which might be what is used on motorcycles), 5/8" pitch, 3/8" pitch (I have one foot of this type, but have not had a chance yet to play with it), and 1/4" pitch (the size some large film projectors use, I've used some of this size for a very fine laticework weave and a small sample of the other jap4-1 that's really jap3-1). Most of the half inch pitch chains I'm trying to find now are the type from exercise bikes. These ones seem to be the ones with the most consistant shape and color, which is good if your working on a clothing sort of project and need to scrounge up a dozen or so chains.

Pop-Tab Maille
These are the same basic sort of shape as roller chain links, that is to say that they are a metal plate with two holes. A pretty basic shape. The two major cola companies, which is where most of these come from, each use slightly different shapes.. and I think I've seen some other odd shapes on a few other cans. Some products of these companies make their cans a bit more distinctive and eye catching by anodizing their aluminum tabs. I have seen them in yellow-green, blue, and red... I'm sure there are, or will be other colors... I have fond memories of diving into a bearproof dumpster somewhere in the Canadian Rockies because I saw a can with a bright blue tab. This sample of tab-maille is just one of many weaves (how many? I have no idea...) possible with these tabs. The special thing to take note of in this pic is that the lower half of the patch is made from slightly larger rings than the upper half. This allows for some tailoring, without using funky things like idle rings and odd angles.. which would work with normal maille, even works to some degree with links from roller chain, but I've found tabs to be too big and bulky for those techniques... but a slight increase in ring sizes for a few rows at the edges will cause the sides to flair out a bit, which could be usefull if making a corset type of thing... or a couple rows of smaller rings along the bottom of a wide strip could contract the weave enough along the bottom to make something that would work as part of a haltertop sort of garment.

Round discs or Coins
This is an old scan of a my first experiment in the late 1990's with maille and something else joined together as a new form of maille. This one is made from flattened pennies with eight holes punched along the sides. It's a maille weave based on lammelar, which was a type of armor made of metal plates held together by laces woven through holes at the edges of the plates. In this case, I used maille rings (stainless, .045" wire, ~1/8" ID) in place of lacing. The holes were punched with a whitney style metal hand punch, and placement of the holes had to be very precise for the plates to overlap just the right amount... if they were a little off the the edges of the plates that are diagonal from each other would overlap and make the weave inflexable; or the plates diagonal from each other would have gaps between them, making the weave look to open and sloppy. Also, if you want to see more examples of maille made with coins, find your way through this website to the page with sculptural things and maille balls... near the bottom of that page there are some maille balls made partly with coins.