making your own medieval dress pins

Dress pins
Dress pins are a must have for the person wearing veils and wimples and so. But they are surprisingly expensive for what they are. I do understand why but still, I am a student and sometimes it is hard on the wallet to pay around four to five Euro for one single dress pin.

A metal working friend of mine said “well do them yourself, they are really not that hard to make”. But I did not really believe her, nothing is hard when you already have the skills of the material.
But when cleaning my worktable I found a piece of silver wire I bought a few year ago to wire wrap some jewellery and I thought that I can try it anyway. You can not really do anything worse then failing and if you do you don not have to tell anyone that you even tried.

But really, they ARE NOT that hard to make. It took me around 20 minutes to complete my first two needles, they are not all that pretty, but they are not ugly and works perfectly. And they cost me virtually nothing at all and are in fancy real silver.

A popular type of pin heads are the wire wrap and there are a lot of extant medieval pins found with this type of heads.

Dress pins - 1
I started with a piece of wire, it is quite soft at the moment but don’t worry, we will harden it later.

Dress pins - 2
Using a round nose pliers I started to make the wire wrap.

Dress pins - 3
Keep twisting the loose tail around.

Dress pins - 4
Here are my tools, the small pilers are a bit to small to be easy to use, but I got them ages ago and they were dirt cheap. The big one is just a ordinary wire cutter.

Dress pins - 5
Work your heads and try to make them look even and nice. When you have finished the wrap, cut the remaining tail of.

Dress pins - 6
I make two pins at the same time, to save time.

Dress pins - 7
On my tiny anvil I hammer the thread with a hammer. Any hard surface will work, but there can be marks on it after so use nothing to fancy. The hammer is just an ordinary builders hammer nothing fancy at all. We hammer the thread to make it harder, as it first was to soft to be able to use as pins.

Dress pins - 8
I try to hammer the thread all around, it will become a bit flat but we will sand it later so no worries.

Dress pins - 9
Sand it down with a piece of fine sand paper.

Dress pins - 10
Then cut the pin in two, try to cut at an angle. This will save you time later.

Dress pins - 11
When just cut the end are a bit to blunt to be used as they are.

Dress pins - 12
I use a file to file the ends to sharp points.

Dress pins - 13
See the difference.

Dress pins - 14
And that was that, they are now ready to be used as dress pins.

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19 thoughts on “making your own medieval dress pins

  1. Fantastic tutorial and very clear photos. I would like to make them myself; do you mind if I link your blog if I do?

  2. 14th to 16th century pins used brass wire. 18-20 gauge wire appears to be the most popular. Extant wire wrapped headed pins ended up looking like modern plastic headed pins. However, if you wrap some brass wire around the end of the pin, then solder it in place, you get a pin that looks really similar to extant finds and pictures in period.

  3. Crystal: Sorry, I don’t have a clue about what the cutters are called in English. But any kind of cutters will do the trick.

  4. Eric: Not all 14th to 16th century dress pins used brass wire, but yes it seems as it was a very popular material. There are for example one from London that is dated around 1350-1400 that is in silver. If you have the book Dress accessories it can be found on page 300. There are also finds described in Dress accessories of bronze and pewter.

  5. This is a really great tutorial! Thank you!

    I wonder, what dimension (diameter) is your silver wrie?

    I realized, buying silver wire is not so cheap :)

  6. Wow, really cool idea! My mum occasionally dresses up in medieval costume and she’s been wondering about the pins. I have done silver work before, jewelry and stuff, but never thought of making pins myself. Now I can make couple and give them to her as a present! Thanks!

  7. I tried it with 18 gauge silver wire that was half hardened and it was way too hard to bend the wire into a neatly wrapped top. Then I found some 22 gauge soft silver colored wire in one of my bins and that was very easy to wrap, and made the most delicate and SHARP pins I’ve ever had. Thank you thank you thank you! It was so easy and I now have a few 9 cm pins for my wimples.

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  9. Loved the tutorial! I make medieval pins and such, from recycled materials. Your blog has encouraged me to write on my blog about that, as it was enormously more interesting than I had previously imagined. Thanks.

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