May 272009

I had so much fun designing these new “french post” earrings, I made about 8 pairs of them the other day!  A clean and classic design, and comfortable to wear make them a winner in my book!

Instructions are very easy – simply take two headpins with a ball end and thread a wafer-style bead on them.  On the back of the bead, bend the wire at a 90° angle, and then use a round nosed pliers to form the “post”!  Hammer just slightly at the front, file the end to eliminate any burrs, and you’re done!

I found with my handmade headpins that Sterling Silver (22g half hard) worked better than Fine Silver – while the Fine Silver pins will work, they’re a little less stable than the Sterling ones.

Have fun with this design – I can see loads of possibilities!

Mar 212009

Been a busy couple of weeks here on the ranch…between traveling for Bree’s bridal showers, the Art & Soup show, and everyone in the family having their own version of The Plague, I haven’t had much time for blogging!

I’ll get caught up with “Everything from Weeks…” this weekend.

In the meantime, I thought I’d share one of my favorite tips on findings! For the last several years, I’ve been making my own headpins, ear wires, clasps and other basic findings. Rather than make a set of simple ear wires every time I make some earrings, or ball up a few headpins when I need them, I like to make in bulk and have on hand whenever I’m working on a project that requires those supplies.

Yesterday I made up 100 copper head pins…they’ll last me quite a while, so I may list some in my Etsy shop. Copper head pins take a little longer to ball up with a small butane torch than fine silver, but it is possible. Just make sure your torch has plenty of fuel and you turn the flame up pretty high.

I also made up 64 (32 pairs) ear wires while watching a movie last night. (Good Will Hunting, if you must know!) I can sit down with a beading mat, pliers, cutters and a spool of 22g half hard wire and feel like I’ve accomplished something!

For these “make in bulk” projects, I generally just make basic findings, nothing too fancy…but it’s always good to have plenty of basics on hand. When I find I’m getting low on findings, I’ll have a production day again!

Easy Earrings

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Oct 182008
Whether you are making them for yourself, for gifts, or to sell, earrings are always a hit. My favorite earrings to make (and wear!) are simple dangles – just a headpin with a single bead and a wrapped loop at the top. Hang from a pair of french wires, and you’re done! Dress it up with some spacers or a bead cap if you’d like.

Tonite I made up several pairs of simple dangle earrings for my fall shows. I like using my fine silver headpins (no tarnish!) and earring wires that I’ve made myself – it really adds to the individuality of the piece, no matter how simple.

I strung one 6mm freshwater pearl, a Swarovski crystal wheel, another pearl, and finished off with a sterling 2mm round bead. I’ve got the Swarovski wheels in several colors, so I made up a few colors to offer in the same style.

Simple, stylish, classic. I love this style!
Jul 192008

Yesterday, I posted photos of making headpins. It’s really quite an easy process, and sort of fun (DH thinks that I’m goofy to think it’s fun, but I’m easily amused….)

You’ll need:
Fine silver wire (I use 22g for most headpins)
Cutting pliers
Heat-resistant pliers
Butane torch (get them at any hardware store, just the little one!)

Clean and straighten wire using a polishing cloth.

Cut several lengths of wire in approximately the same length – I like to cut about 2″. It seems to be about the right length to give me enough wire to work with after I’ve “balled up” the end, without too much waste. I generally do at least 2 dozen headpins in one sitting…since it takes very little time, I will even go up to 100.

Prepare your working area.
Keep safety in mind – tie back hair, wear clothing that won’t accidently fall into the flame, protect your eyes, and have some water nearby!
You’ll also want to have a small cup of clean, cool water to quench the headpins in after they’ve been torched.
I have a firebrick under my work area, just in case I drop a headpin or heaven forbid, the torch falls over.

Time to get started.
Once you are ready, go ahead and turn on the torch, using the setting to keep it running hands-free.

Using the heat-resistent pliers or tweezers, hold one headpin by the end. Place the opposite end directly in the flame, just at the tip of the blue part of the flame.

Very quickly, the wire will start to glow – don’t blink! You’ll see a tiny ball start to form at the end, and it will begin “chasing” down the length of the wire. When it’s the size of a small BB, remove the pin from the flame, and immediately drop in the cup of water.

Continue until you’ve done all the headpins…I hold about 6 in my left hand, sort of fanned out so that I can grab one as soon as I’m ready for it. Less butane wasted when you can move quickly from one headpin to the next!

Make them Superman Strong!!
After quenching, you’ll need to strengthen your headpins – they will be very soft (too soft!) after being annealed in the flame. I toss mine in the tumbler with stainless steel shot, water, and blue Dawn dishwashing liquid overnight. After removing from the tumbler, I straighten using a nylon-jawed pliers (hold just above the ball with a chain-nosed pliers, pull the rest of the headpin through the nylon ones). If you don’t have a tumbler, just pull through the pliers several times.

You now have some *fine* headpins!!!

Jul 182008

Ornament Thursday’s heating up with the July project teaser for our monthly theme of RED HOT….check out Lisa’s little snippet!

Today’s jewelry making activities included making about 60 fine silver head pins. I set up my camera on a tripod and attempted to capture the process…will check out the photos over the weekend. I’d like to put together a tutorial for making headpins using a small butane torch – it’s not hard, but a little intimidating until you’ve tried it. Will try to get that done this weekend as well!

Finally, my own Ornament Thursday project for July will be a little outside the box…can you guess what I’m going to focus on? 😀 Be sure to check back on Thursday, July 31 for the entire OT roll call.