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Students redefine knitting with chain mail

Forget the sweaters, scarves and socks that most knitting circles take on. A group of students in Technology House have taken on a much harder project: making chain mail.

Last semester, Benedict Landgren Mills '10, along with John Hawley '12 and Nathan Partlan '12, began the Knitting Circle, a group inside the house where members create chain mail armor by linking together thousands of metal rings.

The group, composed of Mills, Hawley, Partlan and two other members of Tech House, "got to talking one day and all expressed an interest in the medieval armor," said Mills.

Hawley participates in live-action role-playing — "LARPing" — in which competitors assume opposing roles and battle with padded weaponry. Costumes are an important component of the activity.

"I played a character who required chain mail as part of the costume," Hawley said. "At the same time and completely unrelatedly, Benedict was like ‘Hey, guys, we should make chain mail.' I was like, ‘Wow, that's really perfect timing,' and so things took off."

Mills took the initiative to look online and research chain mail creation. "Each ring is made by winding steel wire around wood," Mills explained. "Then, you bend the rings open and closed using pliers."

Mills, who came to his Herald interview weighed down by his latest creation, said that "each ring goes through four other rings — two from the row above and two from the row below."

Mills' shirt, which currently weighs 22 pounds and is made of 8,800 rings, has taken him 110 hours to make — so far.

"I was wearing this more often when it was smaller, but now that it weighs so much, it gets tiring. I now wear it two to three times per week." Hawley said. "Oftentimes the three of us with completed shirts will wear them" to meals "to hook people and get them interested."

Their attire has been turning heads across campus. "I have found that it was really addictive to make chain mail and also that the responses you receive are also very gratifying," Partlan said. "People tend to enjoy the chain mail and express interest in it."

The next shipment of rings, which arrived at Tech House last week, will set off a chain of activities for the group. Mills said the group's future plans include creating a shirt with the Tech House symbol on the front in copper to stand out from the silver rings. Some members of Tech House are also interested in purchasing metal scales to start scale mail — made from overlapping metal scales. "Then, plate mail and shields are potential projects," Mills said. 

"Tech House has a budget for projects, which comes from members' dues from each semester," Partlan said. Currently the group creates shared House mail, and in the future, individuals may fund personal projects, he said.

Moving forward, "I kind of doubt it will become an official University club," Partlan said. But the group is happy to stand out with their creations.

"We want to keep it as a Tech House tradition, which we can preserve for future residents."


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