Sunday, 20 March 2011

Can brooches be left or right handed?

I have never been a brooch kind of person.  Even as a child I never wore badges.  A friend asked me if I ever made brooches so I thought I'd have a go.  I did actually buy some commercially made brooch backs months ago with the intention of investigating brooches but when I looked at them I decided that using them would be cheating in some way.  So I decided to have a go at making the whole thing from scratch.

I have loads of copper wire in different thicknesses and, as I would be hammering and filing it, plated wire wouldn't do.  I opted for 1mm copper wire in the end as I wanted something that would be firm enough not to bend once it was finished but not so thick that it would make noticeable hole in the fabric that it would be attached to.

The first and most important step was to hone the end of the wire to a point.  This is done in stages.  First of all, hammer the last few centimetres of the wire on a steel block or anvil to taper it:

To be honest, I'm not sure a ball pein hammer is entirely right for this job but it's the only hammer I have at the moment so it had to do.  A flat hammer would be more suitable I think.

Next job is to file the tip to a neat point.  I started off with a mini file for this and then used different grades of sand paper to smooth it off.

I have to confess to needing a magnifying light for doing all of this as my eyesight is just not good enough on its own to see if I've polished it up to silky, smooth loveliness.  And here we have the finished product, a brooch pin that is sharp enough to pierce fabric but not puncture skin.  Though I suspect with enough pressure the skin wouldn't stand a chance either.  Yes I know it doesn't look a whole lot different from the last 2 photos but I can assure you we have progressed from the blunt, cut end of a piece of copper wire to a honed brooch pin.  :o)

Next step, which I forgot to photograph, silly me, was to decide how wide to make the brooch and use the widest part of a pair of round nose pliers to turn a spring at the bottom of the pin.  Now the world is my oyster.  I have a piece of copper wire just asking to be decorated in an awsomely creative way.  But it's my first attempt so I have decided to keep it simple as this is still a learning experience.  I have some cloisonne beads that go really well with copper so I added a few Preciosa beads and made this:

I decided to keep the clasp simple as well.  I tried it on but not being a habitual brooch wearer I wasn't entirely sure what way to put it on.  You are probably wondering what on earth I'm on about but when I showed it to The Boy he told me off for having it on the wrong way round.  I was wearing it with the catch showing at the front but he insisted the catch should be hidden at the back.  I think that is a matter of personal taste and depends on how aesthetically pleasing the clasp is - or is it?  Anyway, when I turned it round to keep The Boy happy I realised I was now having to put it on left handed.  This made me wonder - do brooches come in right or left handed variations?  Is this something you have to bear in mind when creating your work of art?

I kept the brooch on for a while to make sure it was sturdy enough and soon had it pointed out to me by my daughter and her friend that I was totally ignorant of brooch wearing ettiquette.  I was wearing it attached my my top, which apparently is not the done thing.  It is apparently supposed to be attached to a coat or jacket.  I know I'm not an expert of brooches but can someone tell me when the rules changed?  In my day you could attach brooches to all sorts of things, blouses, jumpers, scarves, waistcoats, jackets, coats.....

Anyway, no-one criticised the actual brooch, only the way I was wearing it, so off I went to make more.  I got a bit more adventurous with the next one and made some loops on it so that I could attach dangly things from it.  Here is brooch number 2 with coloured chain hung from the loops and wrapped with tiny metallic beads:

And I didn't stop there.  I carried on playing with the chain and made another brooch without loops.  I still haven't made one with the standard, kilt pin type clasp, the shepherd's crook fastener.  That's on my list to do, as is getting more creative (fancy) with the decorated part of the brooch.  Here is what I've made so far:

I think I'm getting the hang of brooches.  Does anyone have any requests for my next creation?


  1. Well done....amusing and entertaining read too!! I wear brooches on anything. I've made some polymer clay ones with commercial fasteners. Made 1 similar to yours ages ago with silver that's too soft..I'll dig it out and take a's very shoogly & unwearable!!

  2. I read that if you hold the wire at each end with pliers and twist it, that work hardens it. I did that as well just to be sure. :o)