Fancy Headpins in Six Styles – Free Tutorial by Athena Gowton

Five varieties of headpins
Five varieties of headpins as taught in Athena Gowton's free tutorial.

Making your own headpins is a great way to save money on supplies, and it allows you to control another design element in your work.  Athena Gowton has posted a wonderful free tutorial on jewelrylessons.com that teaches how to make five varieties of headpins without a torch.  She has a number of other tutorials for sale as well, including several ring tutorials.

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Connie Fox’s Swan Clasp

All you need to turn a chain into a necklace or bracelet is a clasp, and one of the best wire wrapped clasps is Connie Fox’s swan clasp (beginning on step 9).  The swan clasp is as decorative as it is easy to make, and it has become a staple for wire wrapped jewelry makers.

I like to strengthen the wrapped loop on one end of the chain by curling it into two loops rather than one.  This doubled loop is the loop by which I attach the clasp to the necklace/bracelet.  On the other end, I make a larger double loop.  I sometimes form this larger loop by wrapping the wire around a household object such as a crayon or marker rather than the round nose pliers.  However, in the piece below I simply formed the loop on the largest part of the round nose pliers.  This is the loop into which the wearer will insert the clasp to close the necklace/bracelet.

The clasp below is similar to the swan clasp, but go learn the swan clasp, it is better than this one!

The clasp is attached to a doubled wrapped loop.  The opposite end of the bracelet has an extra large doubled loop into which the clasp can be inserted to close.
The clasp is attached to a doubled wrapped loop. The opposite end of the bracelet has an extra large doubled loop into which the clasp can be inserted to close.

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Making and Joining Wrapped Loop Links

A wrapped loop link chain
A wrapped loop link chain

Linking wrapped loop links is a common way of making necklaces and bracelets.  This tutorial assumes that you already know how to make a wrapped loop.

To make several wrapped loop links, you will need:

  • a few feet of dead soft wire (I like 20 gauge for this purpose)
  • several beads whose holes can accommodate the wire you are using
  • round nose pliers
  • flat nose or chain nose pliers
  • flush cutters
  • a sharpie marker and rubbing alcohol
  • a ruler for measuring

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How to Make a Wrapped Loop

The wrapped loop is a cold connection that is frequently used in wire wrapped jewelry making.
The wrapped loop is a cold connection that is frequently used in wire wrapped jewelry making.

The wrapped loop is used very frequently in wire wrapped jewelry making.  It can be used to link beads together to form beaded chains

Beads linked by wrapped loops
Beads linked by wrapped loops

or to attach dangles to other jewelry components, such as ear wires.  In fact, attaching a dangle to an ear wire by means of a wrapped loop is probably the most common way of making earrings (though simple loops are often used instead).

These earrings were made by threading the beads onto a headpin, then attaching the headpin to an earwire by means of a wrapped loop.
These earrings were made by threading the beads onto a headpin, then attaching the headpin to an earwire by means of a wrapped loop.

Wrapped loops are more secure than simple loops.  The coiled “wrapped” portion is decorative and provides spacing between beads.  As with simple loops, it is important to use a wire gauge that is appropriate for the weight, size, and hole size of the beads you will be using.

To make wrapped loops, you will need:

  • wire.  2o gauge dead soft wire would be a good wire to practice with.
  • round nose pliers
  • flat nose pliers
  • flush cutters
  • sharpie and rubbing alcohol (if you wish to mark your pliers in order to make your loops uniform in size.)

If you wish to make several loops of the same size, it is helpful to mark your pliers’ prongs at the position at which you will be wrapping your loops.  Mark all the way around the outside edges of both prong with a Sharpie marker.  These marks can be easily removed later with rubbing alcohol on a cloth, cotton ball, or cotton swab.

These round nose pliers have been marked with a Sharpie marker.  The mark can be easily removed later with rubbing alcohol.
These round nose pliers have been marked with a Sharpie marker. The mark can be easily removed later with rubbing alcohol.

To begin, grip your wire about 1 1/2 inches from the end with your round nose pliers.  If you have marked your pliers, grip the wire at the marked spot.

Grip the wire at the marked spot on your round nose pliers.
Grip the wire at the marked spot on your round nose pliers.

Rotate the pliers so that the long part of the wire wraps around the nose of your pliers (along the mark if you made one).

Rotate the pliers so that the long end of the wire wraps around one of the prongs.
Rotate the pliers so that the long end of the wire wraps around one of the prongs.

Continue to rotate until the two wire ends form a straight line.   Partway through rotating you will find that your wrist would be uncomfortable were you to continue rotating.  When this happens, simply loosen the grip of the pliers, rotate your wrist and the pliers back to the position they started in, then continue rotating until the complete loop is formed.

The two tails of the wire form a straight line; a complete loop has been formed.
The two tails of the wire form a straight line; a complete loop has been formed.
The loop
The loop

Next, turn the loop at its base so that it sits neatly on the end of the long wire like a lollipop on its stick.  To do so, grip the loop at the point where the two wire ends cross with the tips of your round nose pliers, and use the pliers to bend the loop into position.

Positioning the loop atop the end of the long wire
Positioning the loop atop the end of the long wire

Adjust the short wire slightly so that it approximately forms a right angle with the long wire.

Move the short wire slightly so that it forms a nearly right angle with the long wire.
Move the short wire slightly so that it forms a nearly right angle with the long wire.

Grip the loop portion with your flat nose pliers, with the long tail emerging to the side and the short tail pointing down.

Grip the loop with your flat nose pliers.
Grip the loop with your flat nose pliers.

Grasping the short tail with your fingers, wrap the short tail tightly around the base of the long tail just where it meets the loop.

The shor tail has been wrapped around the long tail one time.
The shor tail has been wrapped around the long tail one time.

Wrap the short tail around the long tail two more times, with each coil touching the previous one.  Strive for a neat, even coil.  None of the long wire tail should show between the coils.

The short tail has been coiled along the long tail three times.
The short tail has been coiled along the long tail three times.

Cut the short tail flush to your work.

Cutting the wire end with the flush cutter.
Cutting the wire end with the flush cutter.

Use your pliers to neatly tuck the wire end in if necessary.

DSC06213You have completed a wrapped loop.

The wrapped loop
The wrapped loop

Instructions for making and joining wrapped loop links are coming later this week.

A wrapped loop link
A wrapped loop link

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Round Loops and Spirals: Free Tutorial by Fee

Jewelrylessons.com is one of the best places online to find jewelry making tutorials and interact with other jewelry artists, especially wire wrapped jewelry artists.

One of my favorite tutorials from the site teaches how to make perfectly round loops, and how to turn those lovely perfect circles into more attractive spirals than those that can be formed from slightly teardrop-shaped simple loops.

The tutorial was written by jewelrylessons.com teacher Fee, and she has generously made it available as a free download.

Free round loops and round spirals wire wrapped jewelry making tutorial by Fee of jewelrylessons.com
Free round loops and round spirals wire wrapped jewelry making tutorial by Fee of jewelrylessons.com

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How to Make Simple Loop Links and Rosary Style Chains

Once you’ve mastered how to make simple loops, you will find it easy to make simple loop links and rosary style chains.

Simple loop links connected to form a rosary style chain.
Simple loop links connected to form a rosary style chain.

For this exercise you will need

  • Several eye pins made from 1 1/2 or  2-inch lengths of 20 gauge dead soft wire.  The starting lengths of the wires (before they were made into eye pins) must be known.  The eyes of each pin should be of equal size.  This is achieved by forming every pin’s eye at the same point of the round nose pliers’ nose.
  • Several beads.  Beads around 6mm in diameter work well with 20 gauge wire.
  • Round nose pliers
  • Flush cutter
  • a ruler for measuring
  • Flat nose pliers (optional)

Before beginning, you should know that while simple loops are extremely useful in jewelry making, there is a more secure type of loop called a wrapped loop.  Some advantages of simple loops are that they are faster to make and use less wire.  However, there are situations in which simple loops should not be used, such as where they will

  • support a great deal of weight, such as when very heavy beads are used
  • be frequently manipulated; for example a simple loop should not be used to join a clasp to a necklace or bracelet
  • formed with inappropriate wire gauges.  Generally, the thicker the wire the more stable it will be as a simple loop.  The correct balance between wire gauge, bead size, and the overall look of a piece must be carefully considered.

To begin, measure the length of the eye pin’s tail.  That is, measure the length of the eye pin not including the eye itself.

Measure the tail of the eye pin.
Measure the tail of the eye pin.

Subtract the measured length from the original length of the wire before it was made into an eye pin.  This will tell you how much wire was used to make the simple loop.

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How to Make a Simple Loop and Simple Loop Eye Pins

The simple loop is the most fundamental “cold connection” in the wire wrapped jewelry maker’s arsenal. Very simply, it is made by turning the end of a piece of wire into a loop. These little loops have very important uses, though, from linking beads together to form rosary-style chains to attaching the dangly bit of an earring to its ear wire.

A simple loop eyepin, a fundamental component of wire wrapped jewelry making
A simple loop eyepin, a fundamental component of wire wrapped jewelry making

The following jewelry making tutorial will show you how to make simple loops and eye pins. An eye pin is a short piece of wire with a simple loop on one end.

To make several simple loop eye pins you will need:

  • Several 2-inch lengths of 20 gauge dead soft wire.  For practice (and for some projects!) use inexpensive copper or craft wire.  It is important to measure the wire accurately if you will be using these eye pins for a project.
  • A wire cutter, such as a flush cutter
  • Round nose pliers

The following instructions are written for right-handers.  Left handers must simply reverse the instructions.

To begin, hold your round nose pliers in your right hand with the hand oriented as though you were about to cut a piece of paper with a pair of scissors.

Turn your hand back and to the left so that the nose of your pliers are pointing to the left, and the back of your hand is facing up.

Pick up a piece of wire with your left hand.

Bring the wire to the nose of the pliers from behind.  As the wire enters the nose of the pliers, it will be moving toward you.  Grasp the end of the wire with the nose of the pliers.  The wire should be positioned such that its end just barely protrudes from the nose of the pliers, and the tail of the wire emerges from behind the pliers perpendicular to their nose.

If you will be using these eye pins for a project, it is important to make them uniform.  In order to make all of the loops the same size, you should either make careful note of which spot on the nose of the pliers you are grasping the wire with (such as exactly half way between the base and the tip) or you should mark the spot with a Sharpie marker.  A Sharpie mark can be easily removed later with rubbing alcohol.

How to grasp the wire with round nose pliers
How to grasp the wire with round nose pliers

Begin to curl the wire into a simple loop by rotating your wrist, hand, and the pliers away from you (so that your fingers move downward and your thumb moves upward).  Rotate about 1/2 turn, until it would be uncomfortable to continue turning your wrist.

Curl the end of the wire about half way or slightly further, until it would become uncomfortable to continue rotating your wrist.
Curl the end of the wire about half way or slightly further, until it would become uncomfortable to continue rotating your wrist.

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