Chain mail crafters are embracing their medieval roles
By Mary Pickels
Published: Sunday, Sept. 22, 2013, 11:27 p.m.
Slipping a chain mail hood over his head while brewing Cuban coffee in a Keurig demonstrates Jason Good's embrace of worlds past and present.
Good, 40, wandered through his North Huntingdon residence as he rattled off his many interests.
Employed by day as an engineer with Philips Healthcare in Monroeville, he enjoys spending nights and weekends pursuing hobbies including cooking, cutting gemstones, restoring cars, working with leather and making items from chain mail.
He draws a blank on the concept of “free time.”
During the recent Westmoreland Fair, Good's wife, Amy, showed her rabbits while he sat nearby, weaving together pre-punched metal scales into a sleeve.
“It's like knitting for men,” Good joked.
The two enjoy being “playtrons,” dressing as an armoursmith and bar wench while holding court at the pub at the Pittsburgh Renaissance Festival in South Huntingdon.
“For six weeks, we get to play Halloween every day,” Good said.
Through his website, Good sells jewelry, bikinis, toys, belts, Maid Marian wedding crowns and other wares made from chain mail, metal rings linked together. He makes his own patterns and designs custom pieces for some clients.
“People will see me and say, ‘Where did you get that bag?' or ‘Can you make me x, y or z?' ”
He became interested in the medieval period while playing Dungeons and Dragons, a fantasy role-playing game, in a school program for gifted students.
When Good later came upon someone weaving chain mail at an arts festival, “I said, ‘I think I can do that.' ”
He finds himself teaching others the craft at the Renaissance Festival's pub and at his wife's soccer league games.
Washington County resident Mallory Miller, 26, is another playtron who makes her own chain mail, a skill she learned from Good.
“I actually bought a (chain mail) bikini from him. When I went for my final fitting, I said, ‘I should know how to do this,' and he taught me,” she said.
After attending Renaissance festivals since age 8, Miller began assembling costumes, including a warrior, a Viking and a fairy.
Miller, who is allergic to Good's dogs, and Good, who is allergic to Miller's cats, will meet in a restaurant to work on chain mail. Miller, of Houston, occasionally makes jewelry for a customer when Good does not have the time to take on a project.
Good, whose tools include a hand-crank sewing machine and a faceting machine, worked with Miller when she became interested in scale mail, small armor scales attached to each other in a pattern resembling fish scales, backed with cloth or leather.
One year she made Christmas ornaments for friends and family, contributing several pieces to Penn State, where her sister studies, for its Renaissance Faire.
Neither is particularly concerned about profiting from their creations.
“I just love learning. The core of my hobbies is figuring something out. As long as my hobbies break even, I'm happy,” Good said.
Mary Pickels is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-5401 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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