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Mart Shearer




Location: Jackson, MS, USA
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PostPosted: Wed 13 Apr, 2016 12:31 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

So a simple Google search for "brined fabric" shows a number of people doing this to soften fabric. Vinegar added to the wash also bleaches whites and softens. Are we mistakenly presuming the goal is to make the fabric stiffer? The Ordonnance of Louis XI concerning jacks of 25-30 layers and a deerskin cover specifically says, " Et premièrement leur faut desdit Jacques de 30 toilles où de 25 a ung cuir de cerf à tout le moins; et si sont de 31 cuir de serf ils sont des bons. Les toilles usées et déliées moyennement sont les meilleurs...." (And first there wants for those Jacks 30 or 25 cloths, and a buck-skin at least, and if they be of 30 and a buck skin they are best. Cloths, second hand, and undone, nevertheless are better...).
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Timo Nieminen




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PostPosted: Wed 13 Apr, 2016 2:19 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Soft sounds good. Apart from comfort, the energy of an arrow needs to go into stretching the fibres. Soft will let that happen over a larger patch of the armour; stiff will tend to localise where that energy can be absorbed and the arrow will be more likely to cut through the armour before it slows down.

Compare with mail. Free-hanging mail is much more resistant to arrows than the same mail backed tightly by a board. In the free-hanging case, energy goes into moving the mail and only the leftover energy is available to actually pierce the mail.

For cuts, soft is probably good too. At least the fabric will deform and have a large part in contact with the cutting edge.

Stiff is good if
(a) it's stiff enough for a point/blade to have to expend significant energy against that stiffness to widen an initial cut (plate does this well), or
(b) you want to protect against blunt impact force (whether from blunt things or sharp things).

"In addition to being efficient, all pole arms were quite nice to look at." - Cherney Berg, A hideous history of weapons, Collier 1963.
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Michael Curl




Location: Northern California, US
Joined: 06 Jan 2008

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PostPosted: Wed 13 Apr, 2016 8:22 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Brined fabric theory comes from the belief that aztecs soaked used brine on their armors. However according to Ross Hassig there is nothing to this. One Spainard wrote it, but the word for sew and brine in Nahuatl are like a letter off. So we have to decide which is more likely, that the native told him it was a sewed garment and he misheard it for the food word he was using all the time, or that it actually was a pair of pickled pants :P
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Sean Manning




Location: Austria
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PostPosted: Tue 09 Jan, 2018 8:54 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Michael Curl wrote:
Brined fabric theory comes from the belief that aztecs soaked used brine on their armors. However according to Ross Hassig there is nothing to this. One Spainard wrote it, but the word for sew and brine in Nahuatl are like a letter off. So we have to decide which is more likely, that the native told him it was a sewed garment and he misheard it for the food word he was using all the time, or that it actually was a pair of pickled pants :P

Hi MIchael,

thanks for that citation! I had been wondering which source mentioned that the ichcahuipilli was soaked in brine, and
page 88 of Aztec Warfare: Imperial Expansion and Political Control has a useful explanation with footnotes.

Some modern linen armours experiment with soaking the raw cotton before they stuff it into the armour. They find that this helps them reproduce the density of surviving armours from Europe. I don't know if anyone has examined and published surviving Mesoamerican quilted armour in detail.
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Tue 09 Jan, 2018 3:57 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Did the Aztecs have cotton? Apparently Columbus found cotton in the Bahamas but I didn't think it grew on the continent before European colonisation. If not then we need to identify the correct fibre before experimenting with treatment processes. Maguey is a likely contender.
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Tue 09 Jan, 2018 4:05 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Timo Nieminen wrote:
Soft sounds good. Apart from comfort, the energy of an arrow needs to go into stretching the fibres. Soft will let that happen over a larger patch of the armour; stiff will tend to localise where that energy can be absorbed and the arrow will be more likely to cut through the armour before it slows down.

Compare with mail. Free-hanging mail is much more resistant to arrows than the same mail backed tightly by a board. In the free-hanging case, energy goes into moving the mail and only the leftover energy is available to actually pierce the mail.

For cuts, soft is probably good too. At least the fabric will deform and have a large part in contact with the cutting edge.

Stiff is good if
(a) it's stiff enough for a point/blade to have to expend significant energy against that stiffness to widen an initial cut (plate does this well), or
(b) you want to protect against blunt impact force (whether from blunt things or sharp things).


Once you layer a fabric till it is two-three fingers thick and compress it with quilting, it is going to be rigid no matter how soft the original material was.

FWIW vinegar is a very good fabric softener. Try some white vinegar in your washing machine instead of the commercial fabric softeners. It will make your machine last longer because there will no longer be any gooey residue gumming up the works (no your clothes won't smell of vinegar). Vinegar also makes a good rinse aid in your dishwasher.

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Sean Manning




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PostPosted: Thu 11 Jan, 2018 2:03 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dan Howard wrote:
Did the Aztecs have cotton? Apparently Columbus found cotton in the Bahamas but I didn't think it grew on the continent before European colonisation. If not then we need to identify the correct fibre before experimenting with treatment processes. Maguey is a likely contender.

Well, books by specialists in the Aztecs mention "cotton" again and again, so I am happy to believe that they had cotton until I read differently. But it is always a good idea to look up the differences between the fibres commercially available today, and the ones used before the 20th century.

But if I understand Hassig and the Internet Sacred Texts Archive edition of de Landa correctly, there is only one source which says that salt was used to make Mesoamerican cotton armour. This source does not mention quilting, and in Maya "salt" is /tab/ and "tied/quilted" is /taab/, so it is possible that he asked his parishioners how they make armour, was told "with quilting and cotton," and wrote down "with salt and cotton." But my paper copy of Hassig is still in the post!

So I definitely agree that people should check the sources before they try soaking cotton in salt and quilting it! But it seems like there are a few sources from different cultures which mention soaking materials for soft armour in salt or vinegar, and it might be fun to play around with their instructions.
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Ron Reimer




Location: Australia
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PostPosted: Mon 15 Jan, 2018 5:58 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi, I'm just wondering if what is being ,in the case of the South American armour , called cotton, might actually be Kapok. It was used as stuffing in amongst other things life vests etc.
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Leo Todeschini
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PostPosted: Tue 16 Jan, 2018 12:47 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Needle felting is a modern method.

Historically felt can be made in two ways, but both are similar.

1. weave your woollen cloth, add soap and water and rub lots and lots and the fibres simply interlace in what is basically just a massive sheet of hair knot. Takes a while, but because the cloth is woven it starts with an inherent structure.

2. comb your wool and lay it onto a mould or flat surface with all the fibres aligned. Lay another layer of wool fibres at 90 degrees to the first, then repeat these steps a couple of times to build up a thickness of alternating layers.

3. rub round and round to start and later back and forth and round and round with your hands and always keep it wet with a water and soap solution. After a few yours you will have a decent thick felt. Again a thick sheet of 'hair knot'.

A similar process I have not looked at is used to make the walls of yurts. Have a look on you tube for this process and there is also a Turkish application for thick felt I cannot remember, but do remember a TV doc where barrel chested guys were slamming around unreasonably heavy rolls of felt and basically battering it with their chests.

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Sean Manning




Location: Austria
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PostPosted: Tue 16 Jan, 2018 9:33 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Ron Reimer wrote:
Hi, I'm just wondering if what is being ,in the case of the South American armour , called cotton, might actually be Kapok. It was used as stuffing in amongst other things life vests etc.

Well, that would be a possibility to keep in mind as you research this armour! I think that cotton can describe any woolly fibre which comes from a plant, but the only armour stuffed with kapok which I know comes from 19th century Sudan.

But all I know about Aztec armour is how the Codex Mendoza paints it, and how conquistadors described it.

An article by Susan M. Strawn says that gossypium hirsutum (the kind of cotton which is most often grown today) has been cutivated in Mexico since at least 1700 BCE The conquistadors would have probably been familiar with one of the old world species which are not grown as often any more.
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Timo Nieminen




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PostPosted: Tue 16 Jan, 2018 2:05 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Gordon R. Willey, "Handbook of Middle American Indians, Volumes 2 and 3: Archaeology of Southern Mesoamerica", University of Texas Press, 2014, very briefly notes the use of kapok for Mayan quilted armour.

It's possible that the Aztec armour was kapok. It's also possible that it was cotton. Kapok is a New World native (a sacred tree for the Maya), and there are both New World and Old World cottons (as noted above, New World cottons now dominate commercial production). Since the Spanish new cotton already, but not kapok, it would not be unsurprising if they mis-identified kapok as cotton.

"In addition to being efficient, all pole arms were quite nice to look at." - Cherney Berg, A hideous history of weapons, Collier 1963.
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