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Hardened leather armour

This leather armour would be suitable for fairly generic larp kit, although it seems particularly good for either Carthaginian or Greek cultural armour at PD's Odyssey game.


I managed to get the whole thing out of one side of veg-tan leather, purchased from leprevo. It had flaws in it so was on sale, I can't remember how much but less than you'd think.

I also bought lots and lots of their thonging which was sold by the kilo for hardly any money. This was crucial as my intent was to make the armour without any metal fastenings at all.

I dyed it down to a darker brown using leprevo's leather dye at about £4 a bottle iirc.

Time taken

Not long, you could probably do most of the work in an evening. Drying the leather takes a couple of days though so you need to leave a gap at the end for full drying.


I googled for some breastplate patterns and designed a pattern based on what I saw. Please note that all the following pictures are of the armour made up, so make the pieces much larger - the leather shrinks when you wet and heat it and also, some of the curves in the armour won't show the full shape of the piece, although I stretched it as flat as I could. I strongly recommend making template pieces to fit your body out of newspaper or card.

This is the front.


Once the front and back piece and the shoulder pieces were cut and neatly hole-punched by careful lining up of the pieces, I laced them together across the shoulders (wrong side to wrong side to replicate them being on my body) using the Four Weave Pattern (see below) and then got in the shower, as hot as I could take it, wearing the whole thing over the shoulders.

Ladies, pad your boobs, too big is better than too small. And this stuff shrinks.

With stinking hot water, mould the leather to your body as best you can. I stayed in about 15 mins.

When you get out, have some belts ready so you can, y'know, do stuff for the next three hours while the leather dries on your body. Put one high on your chest, one around your ribs, one around your waist. Keep stroking the leather to mould it into position as it dries.

Ladies pay particular attention to the bit between your boobs (unless you're big-busted and don't have any space between them). Encourage the leather to mould as closely as possible. It's worth it at this stage.

After about three hours I took the damp leather off, and hung it over an (off) radiator to try to maintain some of the shoulder curve while it dried fully. I also obsessively tried to maintain the body shape, at least a bit. Bear in mind that this isn't really hardened leather. To get leather really rigid you need to boil it, which you can't do if moulding it to your body for obvious reasons. So this armour keeps its shape a bit while not on me, but as you can see, lies pretty flat. Which is great for packing. But it moulds nicely when properly on and laced up.

I hope you can see what I did here.
I laced up across the top of the shoulder using the Four Weave Pattern (see below) and then when I got to the junction with the leaf-shaped shoulder piece, took two threads one way along the join and two along the other. That's a good tip. It took me ages to work out how to attractively join this 3-way junction!

While drying, be really careful as your leather thonging will stretch more than the rest of the leather. Don't let it dangle with weight on the thonging, it will pull the holes out of shape a bit and you risk losing the structure of the armour.

Close up of shoulder weave (opposite way around to other pic)
The skirts are made of 8 simple tapered long rectangles, cut really carefully from the remaining leather. The outermost of the skirts you see here actually attach to the back piece. Scroll up and look really carefully at the back piece (image gets bigger if you click it) and you'll see a little hole punched about 2 inches or so in on the bottom edge. That's where the bits of leather you see sticking out at the sides tie on, which curves the skirts around the thighs to the back.

The skirt lames are attached to each other with a TwoThread Weave (see below) and to the breastplate with a Four Thread Weave. Boy, that took some careful laying out and marking of the holes.

The One Thread Weave. One thread from each side, criss-crossing over each other.  This is what attaches,  for ease of getting in and out of the armour, the sides of the breastplate to the corresponding sides of the backplate.

You'll need to knot the thonging really tight at each start and finish and if you need to join bits of thonging to each other, try to keep the knot on the inside (it'll be big and unsightly).

I strongly recommend you leave one side laced up, wriggle into it, then lace up the other side (or get a friend to). Otherwise you'll be there all day.

This is the Two Thread Weave, two threads from each side. Used to join the upper-arm pieces to the curved shoulder pieces (my upper arm bits are simple rectangles but are the worst bit of the armour, work with what leather you have left and design your own that are better). Also attaches the skirt lames to each other.

This is the Four Thread Weave. Four Threads from each side, just make sure to keep alternating over and under and pulling the pieces together to the distance you want them for flexibility as you go. It's a bit of a hassle but the result looks great I think and makes a lovely woven belt-type feature.


Well, the only thing that was hard about this armour was working out all the thonging weave joining patterns, which hopefully I've explained clearly enough to save you some bother with. It cost about £38 total iirc and I really like it when it's on.

Here is a pic of me gurning in the armour, photo by Clare Selley.