American Sewing Expo starts tomorrow for me! Feeling bittersweet as I prepare for it, this will be the first year I haven't participated in Innovation Generation... (sigh). However, for the first time in 11 years attending I will simply relax and enjoy myself! No pre-contest stress, just classes, shopping, and cosplay!
Since it is that time again, I felt now would be an appropriate time to write about my Chainmaille Leather Jacket.
This creation has been in the works for quite awhile. Flashback to my childhood, when we studied the middle-ages for history. I always had a vague idea about chainmaille, some metal, hoodie-like thing knights wore. It wasn't until learning about the different fashion styles through the centuries that I actually understood.
In a nutshell, chainmaille is a bunch of small circles linked together by hand in a specific sequence. There are a variety of patterns (and so many more just waiting to be created) which evolved through different cultures and countries. The most commonly recognized is the 4 in 1 European. It's usually the first pattern you learn how to make when building chainmaille and is the foundation of other intricate maille designs. Before plate armor was invented, knights and other warriors used chainmaille tunics, hoods, and skirts to protect themselves when fighting.
Thinking my brothers would enjoy making it, my mom bought two tutorial kits for them to try. On the contrary, I was the one who ended up loving it; eagerly picking up the pliers and easily understanding how the rings linked together. (Thank you knitting! The 4 in 1 European is formed similarly to the garter stitch in knitting, but that's a blog post for another day.)
Since then, I've been trying to find a way to integrate maille into my clothing designs. In the 21st century, you rarely see it except as jewelry or at Renaissance festivals. I do not want this beautiful, elaborate craft to die out- its techniques forgotten! So I contemplated how to use it in modern day fashion.
Two years ago, while standing at a concert with some friends, the idea struck me. A chain by the player's hip, though now I believe it was really a mic cord, kept bouncing back and forth as he moved on stage, distracting me. For some strange reason this movement triggered chainmaille thoughts. Have you ever had that moment during a concert when you zone-out? Not that I wasn't having fun, my brain just took a second train of thought while listening. I couldn't wait to get back home and begin sketching!
I wasn't entirely sure how it would come together, but I was confident I'd find a way.
Thanks to our modern day technology, rings in several different sizes, metals, and wire thickness are available. In my jacket's maille piece, I used stainless steel and 7 different ring sizes. (No, I didn't coil my own rings. I considered it for about 2 seconds then realized I'd never finish in time if I did.) The smaller rings allowed me to form a more precisely pointed triangle at the jacket's back top, and the gradual enlargement of the circles added an interesting texture element. It took 2 re-do's and 3 extra ring orders before the chainmaille was completed the way I desired.
The red leather I used to make the body of the jacket was once a large, lady's coat, which my uncle found at Salvation Army. (An extremely rare find!!!) Gotta love upcycling! Without it, I could never afford to purchase enough leather. Plus there's an extra thrill about ripping apart an old, trench coat and using its material to create something new. I also cut up the old coat's lining to line my jacket.
Once the body and chainmaille were done, here began the long and boring task of hand-sewing them together...
I originally used normal, all purpose thread to attach the links. Unfortunately, this was too thin and allowed the rings to slip out when the jacket moved. (Thankgoodness nothing came out until after I walked the runway!) So later I sat down and restitched everything, this time using thicker, quilting thread. Many a Star Trek episode was watched during these long sewing periods..... Lol!
Because it was my final chance to participate in Innovation Generation, I wanted to go out with a bang! However, I was nervous about entering the chainmaille jacket for several reasons. 1) I wasn't sure if I could finish it in time and 2) the judges would possibly hate it. In the past, they haven't liked it when I mixed fibers and textures that “technically” do not go together. Thankfully my ambition and enthusiasm for the project out-weighed my desire to win. The first pattern draft to the last snip took 3 ½ months, finishing only a few days before the mailing deadline.
I cannot begin to describe the excitement and joy I felt being named the 2014 Grand Prize winner! Honestly, I was surprised how much other people loved my jacket. What a blessing and honor!
I've been asked how will I top this??? And I have no clue, but as my brother would say, challenge accepted!
More pics of the Jacket on my Portfolio
P.S. I'm always told how the rhinestone/crystal zipper is the perfect touch, and everyone wants to know where I got it. I received mine as a special gift from some very dear friends at fabric-creations.com. They come in several different colors and lengths. To purchase your own zipper and add a little bling to any creation, click here! I can't wait to use them in another design! :D
I'm Jasmine, a young designer passionate about creating! I hope my work inspires YOU to think outside the box and use your talents to do amazing things!