“What, exactly, is it that you want us to develop for you?” The master weaver, Jacobin Goebblin, was flanked by the two most senior journeymen from his workshop. Beside them were his two most talented pattern improvisers, even though Isabel Beaudouin was still an apprentice.
“We need a new cloth armour,” replied Colonel le Bonnet. “We already have woven protections for the usual hazards of the battlefield that can be incorporated into uniforms, but explosives are developing at such a rate that we fear the ones we have been using are no longer adequate. There is a new innovation, made by a Swede working in Germany, which makes explosives safer to transport and use, and that will mean more explosions and bigger ones, I’ll warrant.”
His associate, Lieutenant Colonel Gascoyne added, “The layering method has always had its problems and these new developments simply make that clearer. Simply, no matter which layer you place outermost, it will be damaged by an element of the explosion that it does not protect against. After repeated explosions,” he shrugged, “our men might as well not be wearing anything.”
“What have you tried so far?” Artur Fermier may not be a skilled pattern developer but few were better at seeing how the properties of existing patterns could be applied to new problems. “Have you looked at the ear protectors we developed for the artillerymen?”
“Those still do their job,” Colonel le Bonnet confirmed, “but the new propellants mean we need to upgrade their body protection as well.”
“What I meant,” explained Journeyman Fermier, “is that they protect the inner workings of the ear from the blast of the gun firing. I realise that there is the fire and shrapnel to consider as well, but they are the best blast protection we have.”
“We can’t send our men out in public let alone into battle covered in earmuffs,” pointed out Lieutenant Colonel Gascoyne. “They would think that they looked ridiculous and that would be bad for morale.”
“The weave patterns could be enlarged or repeated for a larger article,” pointed out Maximillian Gotier, the other senior journeyman.
Master Goebblin asked in clarification, “You would be happy for the final result to be in wool, would you not gentlemen? If you wish us to incorporate fire protections, then wool is the best textile to work with even if silk is best for most Virtues, Abilities and Utilities.”
“Wool is traditionally the fabric of the common soldier,” agreed Colonel le Bonnet. “Perhaps that is one of the reasons why.”
Apprentice Beaudouin finally spoke and asked, “How will you want to use the cloth armour in the uniforms? If it’s as a middle layer then we don’t have to consider how it looks, but if it’s going to be seen then….”
Colonel le Bonnet smiled. “We intend to use it inside the lining of the uniforms. There’s no reason to show our enemies, or even our friends, how we protect our men.”
“If you have no other requirements,” said Master Goebblin, “then I expect we can get you a sample of the normal size in…two weeks?”
“Most acceptable,” agreed Colonel le Bonnet, and the two men shook hands.