Thursday, October 30, 2014

How to Make a Penannular Brooch (Fibula) Pin without a forge : Tutorial Part 2

So, this is part 2 of how to make a Penannular Brooch without a forge. (Part 1 here)

To make it from a coat-hanger and cheap galvanized steel wire.


  • Galvanized Steel Wire Gauge 18, (It's cheap, $5 for 110 ft, this uses a few feet)
  • Coathanger
  • (Optional, for decor) Steel Wire Gauge 24 (Also at Lowes, $5 for 250 ft)
  • (Optional, for decor) Metallic Spray paint
It's a much better deal than craft wire than the craft stores, which you get 10 or so feet for the same price. However, galvanized steel is really strong, and much harder to work with. An order of magnitude in price makes it worth it for me, and I like it's strength, but do know that its stiffer.

  • 2 sets of good pliers (with flat part for gripping)
  • Wirecutters 
  • ruler
  • permanent marker

So from last time we had this. (Tutorial part 1 here) And today we are going to make the pin.

 So the way Penannular brooches work, is the pin is a little longer than the diameter of the brooch. It can slide, so it dips down and picks up fabric, and then slides up into the "locked" position, and the pull of the cloak on it keeps it nicely shut. This works waaaay better than little modern pin brooches on heavy cloaks. (My wool cloak kept snapping open with the little modern pin, that's why I resorted to making these)

So we're going to make the pin out of the steel wire (gauge 18). If you are doing this out of pricier copper wire, you should probably go up a gauge or two, as you want it to be stiff.

So first measure the diameter of the pennanular brooch. Mine is around 2.5 inches so I want the finished pin to be 3 inches . We are going to fold the wire twice for strength, so you want the wire you cut to be 4X THE DESIRED LENGTH OF THE FINISHED PIN plus some for the loop and for little for finishing off raw edges etc. I wanted to be safe so I cut 15 inches for a 3 inch pin.

Measure and mark the middle (it wasn't 6 inches, the pic is wrong, you get the idea)

Fold it along the middle, around the brooch.

 Now this is the part you determine how long you want the pin to be, I want it to be 3 inches, so I mark a little more than 3 inches on ONE WIRE, and use the flat part of the pliers to bend it sharply.

(You do this by gripping it with the flat part, and using your hand/the table, to fold the wire crisply over at that point. I needed my other hand to use the camera, but my thumb had just been there)

You do the same thing to the second, but mark the site for bending a tad shorter than the first, so that they nest nicely, like this.

 Then you use the pliers to pinch done on the L bends until they are nice little tight hairpin turns like this.

 Then you fineagle them a bit with your hand or the pliers to get them to nest nicely like this.
 This is the head of your pin. We don't want sharp pokey wire ends snagging on your cloak fabric, so that is why they are like this.

Next, you grip the head of your pin FIRMLY with the flat part of your pliers. You do not want this to twist, you want this part to remain intact.

 You use the flat part of your other pliers to grab the rest of what will be the pin, and twist the wire. You are holding both pliers, the (blue) ones in your left hand staying still, keeping the head of the pin intact. The (black) pliers in your right swirling around in a clockwise motion, working your way to the base of the pin, twisting it all. My hand had just been on the black handled pliers, before I removed it to take this picture.

You twist till you get to the base. (you don't want to overdo it, remember, you want the pin to have a nice loop so it can slide freely)

 You see there is the loop, and the tails. I didn't fold it carefully, so one of my tails is longer than the other, which is fine. You want to cut one of the tails very short anyway, and then wrap up its pokey end with the other longer tail.

 All wrapped up. I did it mostly by hand, but pliers are also very useful to get nice tight wrapping and clamp down on the pokey bit at the end.
 You see one pokey end is covered up by the wrapping, the other is still exposed. You could cover this with some more gauge 24 wire (which is kinda like metal thread), or if you were really clever, use the long tail to stick a bead on it and then poke the last pointy end on a bead or something.

But there  you have it. All ready to be washed and painted.


See how nicely it slides! (One of my first mistakes was making one with such a tight loop I couldn't slide the pin, and it was useless)
Now, it needs to be washed (several times) thoroughly with dish soap, because wire has machine grease on it, which keeps the paint from sticking. It can be spray painted, preferably with primer. I plan to post on that in the future.

Here is it in action a scrap of fabric (because my wool cloak is packed away in the desert).
This scrap is actually quite tightly woven. I've found it can go through pretty much any fabric if you work it through by pressing the pin tip onto the fabric and rubbing your finger on the other side.

 However it does leave these little pin marks on very tightly woven fabric. I don't care as it was a nice place for me to remember where to stuff it through, and I thought it looked more weatherbeaten and historically accurate.

If it bothers you, you could make a thinner pin from just 1 bend of wire, although it wouldn't be as strong in holding the tug of your cloak. But if your cloak was made out of a tightly woven light fabric to start with (like the tightly woven scrap above), than its not going to be as heavy as my wool cloak anyway.

Part 3: Painting the brooch, coming soon.
Here's pictures of one I did with a single bend of wire. You just have to be a little more creative at the loop to cover up the pointy ends. (here I used beads and beading wire), but this pin isn't as strong as the doubled one, it would probably bend with the weight of a heavy wool cloak....

 Comment if you have more questions :)

Part 3: Painting the brooch, coming soon.


  1. Excellent, thank you. Any ideas for making a torque out of household materials please ? and maybe an earlier "brooch", thats well and truly Iron Age. Again, thank you.

    1. Yes, actually, I was just thinking about this :)

      About a more authentic looking brooch, I've been experimenting with copper, and using pliers to bend metal, and now I think it would be very feasible to buy a REALLY thick gauge of copper (from Lowes, sold by the foot as "bare copper wire" for electrical purposes, I think "gauge 6" is about a dollar a foot, and foot is plenty) and bend it with pliers into the c shape, and then hammer it a bit to give it the shape. The pin would just be some really thick gauge copper wire that you would file down the point to sharpen it (copper is softer than steel) and just hammer and twist the other end of the pin to make it fit onto the base. I am probably going to try it soon.

      A torque has a good bit of metal more in it than a pennanular brooch. You could try twisting a ton of wires together (I think the way they were actually made, many wires of a silver-gold alloy or something), but a cheap option would be to make a base frame so to speak, that you twisted wires around on the outside, giving it
      Also if you are doing a torque, as it is on the neck and should have more "bend" to it than a brooch (I think it needs to be sort of "reshaped" to squeeze onto your neck, unless you are building in some sort of hinge...) as well as the fact that I personally think it looks better made with a thicker gauge of wire, I would experiment (with the alas, somewhat more expensive, but not prohibitively so) with craft copper wire (which is often colored gold, etc) or aluminum wire (also often colored, It think that's a lot cheaper than copper wire, but is more lightweight) which feel like bending butter after working with steel wire :) (seriously, you can bend aluminum gauge 12 wire with your hands, wheras you'd need heavy duty pliers to do that with steel)

      But, to minimize your cost, I would do it on a base (much the way this is done on the base of the hanger, but with little wires decorating it). Your base could be a combination of cloth/stuffing/metal/paper/plastic depending on what direction you wanted to go. Just thinking about it, I would experiment with a few lengths of wire doubled over, and then bend into a c shape, wrapped in strips of cloth (perhaps with some wood glue smudged to keep the cloth down, and then wrapped in gold colored copper or aluminum wire to cover up the cloth frame...I don't know if that would work, but its worth a shot. I'd finish the ends off with big beads on the ends, to cover the poky wire ends...perhaps wood beads painted metallic, or big metal beads if you could find them...maybe even clay ball on the end, painted metallic, although I'd worry those might pop off with bending...its all experimentation really :)