Classifying different chain maille weaves (often called patterns) into different categories can be a difficult task, as opinions on how they should be classified vary among different maillers. I learned chain maille primarily from Maille Artisans International League (M.A.I.L.), and as such generally follow their way of classifying maille, although more along their older style than their newer style. A weave, specifically, as defined by M.A.I.L. is:
A unique and indefinitely repeatable pattern of rings, characterized by the connections between rings, and containing only rings that serve to maintain the physical structure thereof or to connect an instance of the pattern to an adjacent instance.
Within the chain maille community (primarily M.A.I.L.), there is disagreement as to if this is truly the correct definition of a weave, and what really constitutes a weave. To save myself, and the reader any confusion, it doesn’t particularly matter if something is in all technicality a weave. If it produces something aesthetically pleasing using unique ring connections, that could possibly used for a practical application such as armor, sculpture, or jewelry, it doesn’t really matter if it is a weave in the technical sense.
Maille Artisans currently classifies a weave based on its Family, Structure, Form, and Attribute. The family that a particular weave is categorized into is generally based off of the types of connections between the rings and how the rings act as a whole. The type of structure that a weave is categorized into is based on the general way that the rings interact to form a general structure, such as a sandwiching structure or an inversion of a weave, this does not refer to the stability of a weave to stay in one state. The form of a weave defines how a weave naturally expands, the terms sheet, chain, unit, and three-dimensional or dimensional are used to describe form. All weaves have one or more attributes. Weave attributes vary from having doubled rings, referred to as “Kinged” on M.A.I.L., to how the rings are angled, to possibly having additional rings not necessary to the stability of the standard weave added to the edges for decorative effect. I will now cover my take on weave families, as well as weave form.
I currently view weaves as encompassing six different families; European, Japanese, Persian, Spiral, Orbital/Captive, and Hybrid. The family that a weave will fall into is generally based off of their connection style and ring interaction, although in some cases a weave may fall into more than one family. These are labeled as being part of the Hybrid family.
European weaves tend to have a “grain” due to the rings alternating direction every other row. The name comes from the region in which these weaves (specifically the weave shown) were used as armor.
Japanese weaves are very geometric and have 90 degree ring connections. The name comes from the region in which these weaves (specifically the weave shown) were used as armor.
The rings in Persian weaves are oriented so that if a cross-section was taken they form an X, with the rings staggering in position. The name Persian does not denote origin in this case.
The rings in the spiral family have a helical form, or spiral form.
Orbital/captive weaves contain captive and or orbital rings. Captive rings are rings that are trapped in place by other rings, but do not pass through those other rings. Orbital rings are rings that are held in place by other rings due to the connection between those rings.
For those poor lost weaves that don’t belong primarily to one family, but to multiple families.
All weaves have a form, and only one form. There are four different types of weave form. The four weave forms are Unit (a weave that creates a single unit that cannot be expanded in any direction without linking multiple units together), Chain (a weave that expands linearly, or on one plane, indefinitely), Sheet (a weave that expands in length and width, or on two planes, indefinitely), and Three-Dimensional (a weave that expands in length, width, and height indefinitely). This is the most comprehensive way to identifying and classifying weaves, but doesn’t help much when searching for a specific weave, as the majority of all weaves fall in Chain.
I hope that this information will help you in understanding the differences and similarities between different chain maille weaves, even if you disagree with my method of categorizing weaves. For more information on weaves and their classifications please visit M.A.I.L.. Another good site for weaves and their classifications is http://www.chainmailbasket.com.