Persian chain

According to Matt, “persian” 6-in-one chain is “rare as hen’s teeth”. Well, I’m finding out why. It’s a bitch to start, and difficult to weave. The most difficult aspect is the mathematical-puzzle-like nature of it. You make a bit that should be right, then a link slips down and looks wrong, so you unlink it, then work out that it was right in the first place. The edges are very prone to this, as there aren’t all the other links around it keeping it in place.

I was wrong about the geometry of the weave. I thought that it was chiral, in fact it isn’t. It does have this extremely weird 3-d glide/reflection symmetry. If you hold it up to a mirror and shift it diagonally by half a link, that’s a symmetry. But it has a diagonal rib that makes it asymmetrical if you turn it over. So my options are to have the entire garment with a “bias”, or to have two halves. The problems there being 1) should the ribbing point down or point up, and 2) how do you link the seam? Difficult as simply weaving it has been, making a seam between two bits running in opposite directions is going to be an exersise. I don’t have enough length yet to try to work it out with the bits I already have.

Anyway. The stuff that I made the shirt out of is just not feasible for persian mail. Persian is 6-in-1, and the AR of the 4mm/1-inch links I was using results in mail that is very stiff, not to mention heavy. As you can see from the photos, it would be like wearing a brick.

So instead, I have gotten the next grade of wire down, which is 3.1mm. Whenever you see a number like “3.1mm”, it’s a fair bet you are dealing with an imperial size, that system of weights and measures much beloved by our warmongering cousins to the east. 3.1mm is 1/8th of an inch, of course.

Although 3.1mm is 3/4 of 4mm, the area (and therefore the weight) is the square of that – 9/16, a little more than half per ring. As you can see, the links are vey much finer, and the mail considerably more flexible.

Of course, because the links are thinner for their diameter, they are considerably weaker. You would think that 6-in-1 would be stronger than 4-in-1, but I suspect it is weaker for exactly this reason, and that this fancy-ass persian mail will actually not be as good as the 4-in-1 shirt I have already made. But I don’t care. After all – I’m not going to actually be fighting for my life in it. The point is … well, I suppose there is no point. But no matter!

I had though to do the weave the same as the 4-in-1: make chains then join the chains together. This is not feasible, as making chains is damn difficult, and joining them is a puzzle. The easiest way is simply adding rows. This was not possible with the 4-in-1 because it was too heavy to work with without a hand-held gas nozzle for soldering.

The trick, of course, is to make a load of closed links. In fact, half the links in the garment are premade closed links. The first link you add to a row gets three closed links on it, and then each link gets one new closed link put on it. The sanity check is that every link goes through six others – three from the row above, and two from the new row plus the new link. Each new link goes down through an eye in the existing layer, through the new link, up through the other eye formed by the previous two links of the new layer, and then up around the back of the other eye of the top layer.

Starting the weave is difficult. The way I found that worked was to put a row of overlapping links down onto some gaffer tape so that half of them was exposed. Do this twice, but in opposite directions so that when you face the links together they lay the same way. Then join the two rows. This gives you a start.

Here you can start to see the 3-d nature of the mail. One edge is halfway over the top of the other. The single link that joins them goes through three links on each edge, and there is only one way to do it. In this pic if we start at the top of the link where the join is and go anticlockwise (because I am right-handed), the top left of the link goes “around the eye”, then then link goes down “through the eye” in the lower layer, then up around the eye at the bottom and up through the eye at the top. There’s only one direction you can possibly do this, because when going through the eye your link has to follow the lay of the links in the eye.

Getting this right is very important – the links in each row do not go through one another: they lie parallel. It’s obvious when you look at closed links, but when slipping an open link through, it’s easy to pass it through the wrong gap. The edge that passes through the eye lies entirely behind the other link in the same layer, because … well because it does. The sequence that you follow to perform the link is the same – just shifted over by one. A mistake I frequently made was to skip a gap, on account of how closely the links have to lay together.

I haven’t tried it yet, but it seems obvious here that one way to reduce a row is to put two links on the usual spot in the top layer but to run them through the same gaps as each other in the lower layer.

Fill in the row. Remember not to put the final link in unless you are happy with the width, because the final link does not go through six other links: only ever close a link if it’s going through six closed links unless you are at the edge. Once you have a piece to start with, adding more links is a matter of repeating the pattern, whether you are lengthening the chain or widening it.

You will notice that a row built this way is flexible across the diagonal. This means that getting a rectangular section that’s flexible the right way means that you have to fill in a corner. I have not found a simple way to do this, except counting the links, being methodical, and not soldering up the links until you are absolutely bloody sure that the weave is right (sigh). Here’s a pic of the section I did this weekend. The working edge is at the bottom. At the moment my plan is to extend it like a scarf until it hangs over my shoulder as far as I want it to go. Not sure about the width … Just trial-and-error at this point.

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