Bits and Bobs: Hair and Veil Accessories made from Brass Wire

            Recently when I did not want to work on my current sewing project, or leave the warmth of my couch, I decided to try and make a couple of the hair pins listed in Egan and Pritchard’s Dress Accessories. The copper alloy wire pins were found in the Finsbury Circus dig, and are dated to the 14th-century. The ones in Dress Accessories are U-shaped and about 2” long, decorated with curled wire, they are shaped similar to modern hair pins, although they are larger than most modern hair pins.

            In reproducing the hair pins from Dress Accessories, I started with two gauges of brass wire, the thinner wire is 24 gauge and the wider wire is 20 gauge. I cut the 20 gauge wire at about 6”, I could probably have cut it about 4”-5”. The 24 gauge wire started out at about 25”-30” long.

I left a 1” tail as I started to wrap the 24 gauge wire tightly around the 20 gauge wire, there is also a jewelry tool that you can purchase that makes this process a little faster and easier. This is a great time to sit down and catch up on a couple television episodes. When you have about 1” left on the other end of 24 gauge wire you are finished and can slide it off of the 20 gauge wire.

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The finished twisted wire ended up being about 3” long.

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At this point you should harden your 20 gauge wire by gently hitting it with a hammer up and down the length of it. Do this on a mini-anvil or piece of metal. I did not harden mine, because I had no desire to leave the warmth of my couch, and you can tell by how bendy the wire still is.

The next step was to wrap the coiled 24 gauge wire around the 20 gauge wire. There are two ways to start this and I did not find much difference between them. One, you can start by tightly wrapping one of the tails on the 24 gauge wire tightly around the 20 gauge wire in the same way your wrapped the bulk of the wire and then wrapping the coiled part around the 20 gauge wire until you get to the other tail and then wrap the other tail tightly around the larger wire. Two, start about midway along the coiled wire and start wrapping in opposite directions until you reach the tails and then wrap the tails tightly to hold the coiled wire in place.

I found that once the coiled wire had been wrapped I still had to help it a bit by continuing to twist the coil around the 20 gauge wire until it was tighter. It also helped if I pulled the coiled wire apart a bit before wrapping it around the 20 gauge wire. I was able to pull apart the coiled wire a bit by pulling it slowly through my fingers to create more space between the coils, not making the coils larger, just pulling them apart gently.

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