EarthWorks Designs - How-To - Know Your Maille Terms
Know Your Maille Terms

by Blaise Hartley


With maille-making becoming more popular, and the rise of the internet bulletin board as the primary means of instruction for new maillers, communication has become the most important skill for the new mailler to possess. Newcomers to the boards are often overwhelmed by a flurry of new terms, or worse, terms they already thought they knew the meaning of, but which mean something completely different in this new context.

The purpose of this article is to provide a brief background for the terms a new mailler will need to understand to get started in the on-line maille world.


A maille weave is the design of the minimum repeatable unit in a particular kind of maille. The term 'weave' should not be confused with the term 'pattern' which describes the overall design of a finished piece, and can contain one or more weaves, in various configurations.

There are scores of basic weaves known, with names like european 4-in-1, Japanese 6-in-1, Half Persian, Full Persian, Full Persian, etc... Note that the name of a weave *rarely* has anything to do with its origins, but often can be descriptive of it's design. In addition to the basic weaves, there are literally hundreds of variants based on one or more of those weaves, many of which also have their own unique names. To make things worse, not everyone agrees on these names, so be sure you know for certain which one someone is referring to in conversations.

There is a basic system in naming that can help you out with simpler weaves. The appellations 4-in-1, 8-in-1, 12-in-2, etc. refer to the number of rings which pass through the interior plane of any one ring in the weave. For example, european 6-in-1 is a weave of the European family in which every ring in the weave has 6 others passing through it. This system also allows description of weaves in which a basic design is enhanced by doubling or tripling (or more) rings in the weave. For example, Japanese 8-in-2 is a weave of the Japanese family in which every ring is doubled (hence "in-2" instead of "in-1") and has 8 rings (4 rings doubled) passing through it.

Wire Guage

The basis of all maille production is wire. There are a number of issues regarding wire you should be aware of in order to communicate clearly on the subject.

The diameter of the wire you are using is extremely important to any design. It affects the choice of ring size, the weight, and the strength of a project. The simplest way to measure wire diameter is using standard measurement systems such as decimal inches or metric. Unfortunately, most suppliers and users of wire have been in the wire business since long before these systems came into common usage, and use much older and less intuitive GUAGE systems.

The confusing part of this is that there are many guage systems to choose from, and somehow the system you use never seems to be the one the person you're talking to uses. The two most common guage systems are Imperial Standard Wire Guage (SWG) and American Wire Guage (AWG), also known as Browne and Sharpe. Make sure you specify your system when talking about wire, and make sure you know the other party's as well.


The whole point of making maille is, of course, to produce a finished product. The following is a list of terms in general use for various items maillers often want to make or use with the things they make:

  • Byrnie - A shirt made of maille which comes to the waist and has no sleeves.
  • Haubergeon - A shirt made of maille which comes to the hips/upper thighs and has short sleeves. Historically, these were also often laced up the sides.
  • Hauberk - A shirt made of maille which comes to the knee or mid-thigh and has half to full sleeves. Late versions of the hauberk included maille mittens.
  • Mantle - A circular drape made of maille with a hole in the middle for the wearer's head. It covers the shoulders, upper arms, and upper chest.
  • Coif - A head covering made of maille with or without an integrated mantle. Usually worn over a padded cloth head covering which is unforunately often also called a 'coif'.
  • Gambeson - A padded garment worn under (and historically, sometimes over) a Hauberk. AKA Jupon, Aketon
  • Aketon - A padded garment worn under a Hauberk. AKA Jupon, Gambeson
  • Arming Cap - A padded cloth head covering worn underneath a maille coif. Also known as a coif.
  • Bracer - A forearm covering made of maille. A smaller version of a Bracer might be called a bracelet, for you students of linguistics. AKA Vambrace.
  • Chausses - Full leg coverings made of maille. Usually attached to a leather belt to hold them up.
  • Slave Chain - See Handflower.
  • Handflower - A piece of jewelry composed of an integrated bracelet-to-finger-ring arrangement which covers the back of the hand in whole or in part. AKA Slave-Chain.
  • Vambrace - See Bracer.
  • Inlay - A multicolored design woven into a piece of maille by using two or more different colored materials.

This is by no means an all-inclusive document of every term a mailler needs, but should serve to build a simple common vocabulary for communication between maillers.


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