Tuesday, 10 February 2015

This year's big nerdy project

This is 20 meters of linen.

It's all intended for April's Historical Sew Monthly project, which I'm quite excited about. I'm going to make a linothorax.  If you're unfamiliar with this term*, the linothorax was a piece of body armour made of linen, which was used by the ancient Greeks and Etruscans.

The recent book by Gregory Aldrete, Scott Bartell, and Alicia Aldrete focuses on linen armour as used by Alexander the Great's army, and as you would hope it contains instructions and a pattern for the reader who wishes to make their own at home.  The authors have used research and practical experimentation to determine how linen armour might have been made, and whether it could have provided reasonable protection in battle.  It appears the linothorax worked a bit like kevlar in that it absorbed and dissipated the force of a blow, and it offered pretty good protection against the weaponry of the time.

Here's a picture of a chap wearing a linothorax:

Image found here.

If, like me, you have a Classics degree, you know that armour like this is pictured a lot in Greek art, which implies it was quite common.

Predictably, I bought the linen before I got to the part of the book that describes how much linen is required, and probably bought a lot more than I will actually need, but linen isn't cheap and I had to take advantage of The Fabric Warehouse's 40% off sale while it was on.  Yes, I could possibly have got the linen cheaper online somewhere, but with the Fabric Warehouse I know what I'm getting.  For one thing I know it is linen, and not some dodgy mystery blend.  It'll still have slightly different properties to ancient Greek linen, because it has been produced using modern industrial methods, but it's the closest I'm going to get on my budget.  It's is a medium-weight linen which is, I suspect, a reasonable approximation of what the ancient Greeks might have used.

*Strictly speaking, "linothorax" is an Anglicised version of the Greek term λίνος θώραξ  .


  1. I really look forward to hearing about your plans--good luck.

    By the way, (in case you decide to do this more than once), Aldrete et al. also note (even later in the book) that it doesn't matter whether all of the layers are the same weight, or even whether each layer is made up of uniformly sized pieces of fabric, so long as the resulting laminate is the necessary thickness (1 cm, I think, though I'd have to check). So you could have made up the total by buying remnants, or purchasing whatever color was on sale. Fabrics-store.com knocks down the price on various colors and weights all the time.

    1. Thanks! I'm really looking forward to trying this project, it's going to be interesting.

      I was quite surprised that you could piece together the inner layers of the linothorax out of scraps. For some reason I would have expected that to affect the thing's structural integrity, but it appears that's not the case. I suppose all the glue keeps it together.

    2. I think that's exactly right; the glue is key. It turns a bunch of fabric into a laminated mass with entirely different properties. I think you will do well with the project; your experience with sculpture should be very helpful.

  2. This looks really interesting! I'm looking forward to your posts on the making process :)