Chainmail Without the Attitude

“Save the pop-top tabs, please. I have a friend who is making chainmail out of them.”

The mundane woman across from me rolled her eyes before grudgingly agreeing. The reaction irritated me. This same acquaintance has no problem happily donating old t-shirts to my granny-style rag rug projects. She might even use a wood pallet for herb gardening in her backyard. So what made the pop tabs so different that the project merited her distain? The fandom “nerd” factor, of course.

Renaissance cosplay on a budget

“Knitting” chainmail, whether you use O rings or pop tabs, is a time-consuming effort lasting months while you collect the raw materials and put the nearly endless metal bits together. However, cosplayers and the Faire-oriented are rewarded with something that looks pretty cool and often fits them better than off-the-rack armor. The effort takes a year of construction but is preferable to the $100+ price tag of buying one.

Recycle and Upcycle

In addition, I really like the idea of upscaling the pop tops into clothes. Something about it strikes me as an idea that a true Renaissance man would be proud of. After all, they didn’t have that much in terms of materials back then (as compared to now), so they didn’t waste things. Use and reuse was simply part of the lifestyle back then.Either way, recycling and upcycling most of our possessions is what the world needs today, no matter what the project or the nerd factor.

Don’t get me wrong. If you can afford to do so, buy the chainmail shirts, jewelry pieces, leather corsets, or silky shirts, whatever you want to accent your costume, from the professionals. The community needs to support all the artisans and craftsmen who help us celebrate our fun and crazy world, particularly since their market is usually limited to fandom folks. Their beautiful things often look better, making them well worth the price tag.

So dear mundane folk, climb off of your modern day high horse and grab some pliers. It’s time to knit some clothes.

If you are interested in any of the upcycling projects mentioned above, here are some how-to websites to get you started.

Chainmail Projects
“Genuine chainmaille from pop tabs” from the instructables website:

“How to Create Chainmail from Pop Taps” from the wikiHow website:

Rag Rug Projects
There are many options. These are just two that I found offering different methods. A third method is to get a large crochet hook and simply crochet the rug using the pulled t-shirt strips. You can also search the Internet for making the same type of rugs out of old bedsheets. However, if the sheet is a solid color that is not barfy, consider making a Renfest style shirt out of the light cotton, particularly if the fabric is queen or king size.

“Make a braided t-shirt rug” from instructables

“Make Rag Rug from Old T-shirts” from A Piece of Rainbow

Pallet Gardens
“Creating a Pallet Garden” by Growing a Greener World:

3 thoughts on “Chainmail Without the Attitude

  1. Honest question… Why pop tabs? For the level of effort it’s going to take to make actual chainmail with them I’ve found it almost as easy to make my own rings (or buy them for five cents a ring or less…) than it would be to use pop tabs. I’m betting my 14 or 16 gauge wire rings hold up better too…

  2. I’m not sure why he chose pop tabs except for the fact that he and I are both heavy soda drinkers so the tabs are readily available (over time). I know he could use gauge wire but he doesn’t have the jewelry pliers to cut it with. In the end, I think he simply saw a video and found the idea interesting.

    I thought it would be interesting to use different colored wire and actually “weave” a pattern into a chest piece. It would take some planning but the results would look cool.

  3. Great answer, and I really do respect the artistic choice. I was just curious what was behind it.

    I also really understand on the cutters. My first chainmail shirt was cloths hanger wire and I killed three sets of cutters before I found one that worked well for me.

    Colored wire really could look great but like you say it would take some planning.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s