Making Chain-mail Mittens And Gloves

Typical 13th-century hauberks come with integrated protection for the hands. From period depictions and sculptures we know three different types.

Mittens are the most popular period choice for hand protection. I had a look at 30 English effigies from the 13th century. I found 21 of the knights had mittens. Only 9 wore gloves.

Chain-mail-mittens

Regular chain-mail mittens

The construction of mittens is very simple. The mail pattern is continuing that of the sleeve. Generally, mittens and gloves seem to come with a slit to get the hands out. The mitten in the picture is connected to the sleeve by a lace of leather. It can also be connected by rings.

Bifurcated mitten in St John’s College Psalter England, 1270-1280

Bifurcated chain-mail mittens

A special form of mittens is dividing the main pocket in two. As a result index finger and middle finger share a pocket. The ring finger and little finger fill their own pocket. That form is following a civil fashion. Although it may seem strange to modern people it was not extraordinary in 13th century England.

Chain-mail gloves

Chain-mail gloves allow for a slightly better grip in my experience. Their construction bears one major difficulty. If the gaps between the fingers are covered by mail the fingers are forced to be spread all the time. The rings between the finger tend to catch on each other. Thus moving fingers individually can be hindered some times. If only the top of the fingers is covered in chain-mail the side of the fingers is left with less protection.

Tips for making chain-mail gloves and mittens

  • To attach chainmail to leather it is enough to sew the edges. You can sew the rings directly or have a leather lace run through the rings. I believe that the latter lasts longer.
  • I recommend to make mittens yourself yet to buy gloves. This is because making gloves is a bit more difficult.
  • It leads to a more smooth looking result if you use small rings – especially for gloves. I prefer 6mm rings. The rings don’t necessarily have to match the size of the rings in the hauberk.