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Saturday, July 21, 2012

Custom Made Metal Findings

There truly is not much I do, outside of weaving beads on a loom. My mode is to take my favorite art medium to the highest levels, by staying with it. But, sometimes it is necessary to kick up a creation, with other mediums.

Point in fact is the idea to add some 'wire wrapped fringing' to this Swap Cuff, I have been sharing the past week or so. The poll here states 'no fringe', so far. But the poll on my FB page, where the swap cuff idea began, is totally opposite. Therefore, I am starting to create the head pins, for the fringe. If anything changes, then I will have a nice supply of sterling silver head pins on hand to use for a future bead weaving!

When I started including some metal findings, to my pieces, I looked at catalog suppliers. Everything was very standard looking, not what I had in mind for a 'creative feel'. My friend, Liz Owens is a Smithy and puts together fabulous wearable art. I asked her for some simple instruction to create head pins that look more creative than the 'flat bottom' pins I can purchase. I am amazed at how simple and perfect they work out! I never considered my self comfortable enough to get near a flame, but this aspect of jewelry making gives no reason to be fearful.

Below are the simple tools needed to start. A burner and some pickle. Both are readily available. The flame, given off by this burner, is very mild and controllable. I breathed a big sigh of relief, on my first try. The pickle is mixed with water to soak the newly melted silver, removing the dark ash created.

Silver wire is bought in bulk, cut to lengths, (for any project), melted, by holding the cut wire with a pair of flat nose pliers, dipped into the pickle solution to whiten, and tumbled to shine. Now the tumbler may be the most expensive part of having this option of 'hand made head pins' available. But it can also be purchased used.

Below you can see each phase, including the dark ends that were newly melted, soaking in the pickle, white tips shown after the pickle bath and shiny silver tips, when removed from a tumbler.

The act of wrapping each one is something else I had to practice. Use less expensive wire options for practicing, before you begin using the good sterling.

There are many tutorials on line showing this process. I think I needed my friend Liz to talk me into considering it. But now that I do, make my own creative head pins, I realize the money I am saving and how much the addition of some good quality findings add to my pieces.

Clasps are also very easy to create. I have shared how to make the clasps I show on some of my cuffs, in my book, (due out the first quarter of 2013). Not every bead loom woven creation screams for metal findings, but if they can be included, I feel they add more quality to the overall finish.


  1. How amazing to be able to control every element in a creation. The sky is really the limit! And the fringe beads look beautiful - that special twist to them that makes them extraordinarily accomplished.

  2. Super article, lovely outcome. Congratulations on your amazing journey.
    -Eva Maria

  3. Thank you both. I am amazed at so many simplistic means to add more to the piece. I will never allow the finished looming take a back seat, when finished, but I find the beading stands out to be more 'upscale' when something like wire wrapped fringes are noticed first. Then the beading on a loom become much more respected.