15 July 2012

Cuisses: pattern-making

Well, I was going to be good and get some photos of the blue dress to show off, but that completely didn't happen. So, now for something completely different, as the Pythons would say.

Himself has been scheming over a late 14th Century harness of transitional armour. Some of it he has already bought, some he is going to make and some he has yet to buy. However, it (along with most re-enacting things) got shelved when we moved. Now, finally, most of our stuff is out of storage - including the half-completed armour.

General perusal of the effigies of armoured men on the Medieval Combat Society's website indicates that (at least temporally) plate armour started on the legs and then progressed to the torso and arms. However, there are few if any men wearing plate on their arms but not on their legs. Himself has plate rerebraces/couters/vambraces and has plate polyns/greaves. However, no cuisses yet.

This seemed to be a reasonably easy project. Many effigies and brasses show spotty cuisses, suggesting a coat-of-plates type construction with leather or fabric uppers over pieces of iron/steel, with the rivets making the spots. This is within his metalworking capabilities. However, first a pattern was needed for the leather. Hence, I got recruited. I basically did it the same way I measure for hose, but didn't bother cutting on the bias and (obviously) made them upper thigh only. So:

1) Measure:
 a) inner leg height (high as comfortable, down to the the top of the polyn)
 b) outer leg height (tip of hose, down to top of the polyn)
 c) lower thigh circumference (around the thigh, just above the top of the polyn)
 d) upper thigh circumference (around the thigh, at the widest point)

2) Plan it out:

In this case, 9 is inner leg height, 14 is outer leg height,
25 is widest circumference, 18 is upper thigh circumference and scale has gone out the window...
3) Cut out from scrap fabric, adding 1" seam allowance in the height (so 15" not 14") and in the width (so 26" not 25", 19" not 18"). A non-stretchy fabric is best for this, though a stretchy one on the bias is best for hose.

4) Test it, by pinning it on over hose and then putting on the polyns/greaves:

5) Mark on any adjustments. In our case, it extended a little too low, so we marked the ideal position of the top of the polyn, then plan to make the cuisse extend about 1" below this line, so the two can be joined together.

The plan is to make it so that the two edges on the inner thigh just butt together, then are laced with spiral lacing. Almost all of the armoured effigies do not show any visible closing mechanism on the cuisses - odd, considering many effigies are highly detailed and you'd think buckles might be quite obvious (and, indeed they are on later armour, e.g. the brass of John de St Quintin, Brandsburton, c. 1397). Also, the cuisses appear too tight to simply slip on. However, at least one effigy shows spiral lacing on his greaves (Thomas Berkley, c. 1362). So, we will experiment with this method for cuisses. A challenge may be how to prevent the eyelets stretching and/or breaking.

As for the pattern, the plan is to test it once more in corrugated cardboard. This will be a bit too thick, but make it easier to perfect the shape of the bottom edge as it will be easier for the occupant to feel - particularly at the back of the knee where we do not want to restrict movement. He will then trace it into leather and start on riveting the metal on - something I know nothing about!

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