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Philip Renne




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PostPosted: Sun 01 Oct, 2017 1:02 pm    Post subject: The Eyelet Coat or Doublet: Its Role in Combat         Reply with quote

I'd like to get a survey of thoughts on the role of the eyelet doublet in defense. I'm referring to the armor made by sewing small rings together with cord or thread as opposed to onto a backing of some kind. It seems to be a very inferior form of armor in that thrusts would only by chance be caught in the rings rather than pass through the fabric, and any cuts the armor managed to block would destroy the armor. Were it reinforced with a second layer of rings offsetting the gaps in the first it would greatly increase the protective capabilities of the garment but no such effort seems to have been made. Yet it was produced and presumably used.

Was the eyelet doublet more affordable than a shirt of mail? It seems almost as laborious to produce as a haubergeon, but this may be my lack of skill as a weaver on display. Perhaps such an elaborate product would be a simple task for a skilled sewer to manufacture.

Was there some specific role that the eyelet doublet would exceed at, some situation where one would choose to wear one of these things rather than other forms of armor? To my own way of thinking, if I knew I was headed into a neighborhood where I was likely to be stabbed and needed an expedient and flexible way of protecting myself I would likely choose a jack of plates or even a very thick gambeson, or even just wrapping a thick bunch of beach towels around the vitals before I went with the eyelet doublet.
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Sun 01 Oct, 2017 3:19 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Instead of relying on suppostion it would be better to look at the primary accounts. According to Sir John Smythe* it was perfectly capable of stopping weapon points.

"Archers should wear either eyelet holed doublets that will resist the thrust of a sword or dagger and covered with some trim to the liking of the captain... or else jacks of mail quilted upon fustian."

The passage implies that it was just as good as a mail.

* John Smythe, Observations and Orders Militarie, (1591). 185

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Philip Renne




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PostPosted: Sun 01 Oct, 2017 6:09 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dan Howard wrote:
Instead of relying on suppostion it would be better to look at the primary accounts. According to Sir John Smythe* it was perfectly capable of stopping weapon points.

"Archers should wear either eyelet holed doublets that will resist the thrust of a sword or dagger and covered with some trim to the liking of the captain... or else jacks of mail quilted upon fustian."

The passage implies that it was just as good as a mail.

* John Smythe, Observations and Orders Militarie, (1591). 185


I've read that passage in Ffoulkes, and had intended to include it in the OP. Is there any reason to suppose it actually was as good as mail? Or was it merely sufficient to increase the chances of the archers in a melee over nothing at all?

I've also seen a dog armor made of the stuff intended for boar hunting, as task for which it seems suitable.

Maybe I'll make a section of eyelet armor and test it against different things.
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Luka Borscak




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PostPosted: Mon 02 Oct, 2017 11:25 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dan Howard wrote:
Instead of relying on suppostion it would be better to look at the primary accounts. According to Sir John Smythe* it was perfectly capable of stopping weapon points.

"Archers should wear either eyelet holed doublets that will resist the thrust of a sword or dagger and covered with some trim to the liking of the captain... or else jacks of mail quilted upon fustian."

The passage implies that it was just as good as a mail.

* John Smythe, Observations and Orders Militarie, (1591). 185


I'm not sure jack of mail should be interpreted as a complete mail shirt inside a jack, I think it would more likely be small patches of mail sewed inside of a jack because they can't stand as a standalone mail shirt any more. That would be more or less equated with eyelet doublets.
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Mon 02 Oct, 2017 4:05 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The term referred to an entire mail shirt sandwiched inside padding. Originally they were called "jazerants". Then they were called "gestrons". In the 16th century they started calling them "jacks of mail".

I can't think of any extant examples of a shirt made of various patches sewn individually onto a garment. Why would anyone do that when it is so easy to link them back together? We have plenty of examples of mail patched together from pieces from various sources.

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Philip Dyer





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PostPosted: Mon 02 Oct, 2017 7:36 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dan Howard wrote:
The term referred to an entire mail shirt sandwiched inside padding. Originally they were called "jazerants". Then they were called "gestrons". In the 16th century they started calling them "jacks of mail".

I can't think of any extant examples of a shirt made of various patches sewn individually onto a garment. Why would anyone do that when it is so easy to link them back together? We have plenty of examples of mail patched together from pieces from various sources.
. What advantage does tiny rings sewn to each other and doublet have over a mail shirt which covers the same area?
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Mon 02 Oct, 2017 8:33 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Philip Dyer wrote:
What advantage does tiny rings sewn to each other and doublet have over a mail shirt which covers the same area?

Does it need a specific purpose? Fashion isn't rational.

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Matthew Amt




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PostPosted: Tue 03 Oct, 2017 6:21 am    Post subject: Re: The Eyelet Coat or Doublet: Its Role in Combat         Reply with quote

Philip Renne wrote:
...I'm referring to the armor made by sewing small rings together with cord or thread as opposed to onto a backing of some kind...


Wait, did such a thing exist?? I was under the impression that an eyelet doublet was a fabric garment covered by rings sewn to it. It's not my era and I may be wrong about that, but that's certainly the impression I remember from photos that people have posted! Rings sewn together with no backing just sounds bizarre, to me!

Matthew
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Philip Renne




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PostPosted: Tue 03 Oct, 2017 11:11 am    Post subject: Re: The Eyelet Coat or Doublet: Its Role in Combat         Reply with quote

Matthew Amt wrote:
Philip Renne wrote:
...I'm referring to the armor made by sewing small rings together with cord or thread as opposed to onto a backing of some kind...


Wait, did such a thing exist?? I was under the impression that an eyelet doublet was a fabric garment covered by rings sewn to it. It's not my era and I may be wrong about that, but that's certainly the impression I remember from photos that people have posted! Rings sewn together with no backing just sounds bizarre, to me!

Matthew


Maybe my description isn't correct or suffers from imprecision but all the examples I've seen seem to be situated on the same plain as the fabric that binds them as opposed to say, being backed by layers of linen or leather. The exact means of manufacture I'm ignorant of and they could well be made by taking a section of fabric and sewing the rings into the matrix as opposed to onto it as we see in some examples of oriental "ring armor".
Here's an image that shows the construction of one such coat, credit to forum poster Carl Koppeschaar:
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Philip Renne




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PostPosted: Tue 03 Oct, 2017 11:52 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

another example, same source:


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Philip Renne




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PostPosted: Tue 03 Oct, 2017 12:50 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

One more to show what I'm talking about:

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T. Kew




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PostPosted: Tue 03 Oct, 2017 3:08 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

This almost certainly has a full fabric layer which has been completely sewn through with eyelets, each reinforced with a ring on the outside (under the thread).
Instructor and scholar, Cambridge HEMA
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Tue 03 Oct, 2017 3:12 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

T. Kew wrote:
This almost certainly has a full fabric layer which has been completely sewn through with eyelets, each reinforced with a ring on the outside (under the thread).

Yep. It is virtually impossible to make something like this without a foundation. In the first photo, above, the blue-green foundation is partially exposed. It is hard to tell but it looks like felt to me. It is regular ring armour, just like Asian examples, except that some fancy sewing is involved.

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Philip Renne




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PostPosted: Tue 03 Oct, 2017 4:15 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dan Howard wrote:
T. Kew wrote:
This almost certainly has a full fabric layer which has been completely sewn through with eyelets, each reinforced with a ring on the outside (under the thread).

Yep. It is virtually impossible to make something like this without a foundation. In the first photo, above, the blue-green foundation is partially exposed. It is hard to tell but it looks like felt to me. It is regular ring armour, just like Asian examples, except that some fancy sewing is involved.


The felt is part of the museum's display stand. The original is in the "Skokloster Slott" in Sweden. Photo is from Carl Koppescharr's Flickr album https://www.flickr.com/photos/98015679@N04/albums/72157634624367756/with/9276603547/

On reflection, and trying to set up an experimental samples of this armor type I think it does need some kind of base fabric, although I don't know if that fabric would add much defensive value to it-maybe all the tight cordage would act as a kind of "mini gambeson"
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Andrew Gill





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PostPosted: Thu 05 Oct, 2017 3:48 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I'm no expert on eyelet armour, but here are a few thoughts and observations:

1.Eyelet armour has fewer metal rings (by a factor of nearly 2) than a similar piece of mail armour because the rings don't overlap so it will be lighter and possibly more flexible (depending on how thick and tightly bound the eyes are).
2.It will also use less metal, which may have been less expensive by the late renaissance than in the high middle ages, but this could still have been a factor.
3.The labour in stitching the eyes may have been significant, but I suspect that the cost of sewing labour was considerably less and more ubiquitous than metal workers capable of producing mail, so you could have more people making them, more cheaply.
4.The rings can all be made either by punching from a from a flat sheet, or possibly by winding around a mandrel. If the latter, I suspect they can be butted rather than riveted with far less loss of effectiveness than mail would experience. A ring opening doesn't compromise all the rings around it, or even its own attachment to the garment. So the actual metalwork required is simpler.
5.The tailoring is probably a lot less tricky, as you have a foundation garment to build on. The foundation is probably distorted or shrunk slightly in making the eyes, but this will be relatively uniform and by a constant factor across the entire garment, for a given ring size and fabric.
6.The rings are so close together in the extant examples that the gaps between the rings are actually smaller than the hole in the centre of the rings. See the relative sizes of the pink circles in the attached picture.
So the relative chance of a piercing weapon passing between the rings is actually rather small (if there is even a serious risk of armour failure associated with this). Also, remember that the people wearing the doublet aren't going to be standing still while you try to poke them with something sharp - the armour just has to stop or deflect the odd blow that isn't avoided or deflected with a weapon or shield.
7. Cutting at the armour will be much less effective than thrusting, because you have to cut all the many threads binding a ring in before you can remove a single metal ring. The blade may at best cut one or two per ring, and possibly less, considering that the whole garment is flexible.

So although it looks like a goofy idea at first, there were probably some good reasons for using it.

Edit: I may be wrong about the lower weight (point 1): I assumed that the rings were of similar size and mass to those used in mail, but they may be heavier.



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Matthew Amt




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PostPosted: Thu 05 Oct, 2017 6:43 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Andrew Gill wrote:
I'm no expert on eyelet armour, but here are a few thoughts and observations:

1.Eyelet armour has fewer metal rings (by a factor of nearly 2) than a similar piece of mail armour because the rings don't overlap so it will be lighter and possibly more flexible (depending on how thick and tightly bound the eyes are).


Lighter, yes, but certainly not more flexible. These rings are not floating free as they do in mail.

Quote:
2.It will also use less metal, which may have been less expensive by the late renaissance than in the high middle ages, but this could still have been a factor.
3.The labour in stitching the eyes may have been significant, but I suspect that the cost of sewing labour was considerably less and more ubiquitous than metal workers capable of producing mail, so you could have more people making them, more cheaply.
4.The rings can all be made either by punching from a from a flat sheet, or possibly by winding around a mandrel. If the latter, I suspect they can be butted rather than riveted with far less loss of effectiveness than mail would experience. A ring opening doesn't compromise all the rings around it, or even its own attachment to the garment. So the actual metalwork required is simpler.


Why get hung up on the cost? Metal certainly wasn't a significant factor by this time, but I strongly suspect that this kind of doublet was meant more for non-battle wear, best for strolling the town or going to parties. It was great against rapiers and daggers if you got into a duel, but I just don't see it being the armor of choice in war.

And this really doesn't look like something "cheap" cranked out for grunts, there was plenty of munition plate for those guys. This strikes me as something worn by gentlemen, or at least aspiring gentlemen, with enough coin to spend on something protective but still stylish. Being armored without being overt about it.

Quote:
5.The tailoring is probably a lot less tricky, as you have a foundation garment to build on. The foundation is probably distorted or shrunk slightly in making the eyes, but this will be relatively uniform and by a constant factor across the entire garment, for a given ring size and fabric.


The folks who made things like this were extremely experienced. Any problems we might perceive were probably just business as usual for them.

Quote:
6.The rings are so close together in the extant examples that the gaps between the rings are actually smaller than the hole in the centre of the rings. See the relative sizes of the pink circles in the attached picture.
So the relative chance of a piercing weapon passing between the rings is actually rather small (if there is even a serious risk of armour failure associated with this). Also, remember that the people wearing the doublet aren't going to be standing still while you try to poke them with something sharp - the armour just has to stop or deflect the odd blow that isn't avoided or deflected with a weapon or shield.


Agreed with that last bit! But all of the threads on these doublets can be cut with any slash or prod. I can even see a point going between rings and just sheering open a line to slide through. But that's just me!

If it weren't for those (pretty unambiguous) historical references to eyelet doublets, I'd be inclined to think of them as almost amusement pieces, like those dinner forks with guns built into the handles. Cute but not serious. As Dan says, why argue with fashion?

Matthew

PS: Philip, thank you for the photos!
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Philip Renne




Location: New Jersey
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PostPosted: Sat 07 Oct, 2017 1:44 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Andrew Gill wrote:
I'm no expert on eyelet armour, but here are a few thoughts and observations:

3.The labour in stitching the eyes may have been significant, but I suspect that the cost of sewing labour was considerably less and more ubiquitous than metal workers capable of producing mail, so you could have more people making them, more cheaply.

6.The rings are so close together in the extant examples that the gaps between the rings are actually smaller than the hole in the centre of the rings.


Good points, I wanted to address these two specifically

3. Yes, you could recruit any grandmother, washerwoman or girl to put some of this together like a sweater, which would bring costs down.

6. My preliminary experimentation suggests this is the case, that the "gaps" are almost as well defended as the rings themselves.

I began a small patch of sample material from stuff I had lying around, in this case a single ply of cotton fabric as a matrix, artificial "sinew" the leather crafting stores sell, and a handful of 5mm 16 ga butted stainless steel rings. Obviously not historically accurate but a good enough approximation for what I wanted to find out. I sewed the rings very closely together so their was very little flexibility in the fabric but enough to work as a torso defense.

I jabbed the rings as randomly as I could and ended up landing in the intervals about 2 out of 10 to 3 out of 10 times after 3 or 4 trials. I then set the tip of a very sharp and pointy knife at the gaps and thrust one handed with decent force and did not penetrate the armor more than about a millimeter. After this I grabbed the knife with one hand and set the other other on the butt of the weapon and drove downward with my weight which did inflict a much better penetration, cutting a lot of the cordage but still nothing to threaten one's life.

I'm becoming more impressed with this armor form at least for lighter applications and would like to see how well it holds up when constructed from period materials.
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Sat 07 Oct, 2017 2:45 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

In Europe, making armour, including textile armour, was heavily regulated by the authorities and controlled by the appropriate guilds. You couldn't recruit grandmothers and washerwomen to make textile armour for you. You couldn't ask a blacksmith to make metal armour either. If they accepted the job, they ran the risk of a heavy fine and being run out of town.
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Philip Renne




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PostPosted: Sat 07 Oct, 2017 2:57 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dan Howard wrote:
In Europe, making armour, including textile armour, was heavily regulated by the authorities and controlled by the appropriate guilds. You couldn't recruit grandmothers and washerwomen to make textile armour for you. You couldn't ask a blacksmith to make metal armour either. If they accepted the job, they ran the risk of a heavy fine and being run out of town.


Do you know which guild had the monopoly on eyelet doublets then?

Edit- Weren't there industries that mass employed girls, women and grandmothers whether under the aegis of a guild or not? I'm thinking in particular of the lacemaking industry in Flanders. I'm ignorant of whose domain the eyelet coat business fell under...


Last edited by Philip Renne on Sat 07 Oct, 2017 3:37 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Philip Renne




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PostPosted: Sat 07 Oct, 2017 3:20 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

In the course of experimentation I quickly knit a floret without any fabric backing, it was pretty easy even with my crap skills and intermittent assaults by a kitten.

On close examination of most of the samples I've been able to find on the internet it does seem that the eyes are sewn into a fabric backing but I'm now unsure about the Swedish example which really does look un-backed.



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