A quick and easy way to make spangles

Spangles

Taught by Lady Ursula von Memmingen/ Leah Wilson at Great Southern Gathering, October 2013

 For an overview of the use of spangles and historical context, please see the Research page. (NOTE: It’s not up there yet, but it will be at some point – I promise!). This is just a quick and easy explanation of one way to make them.

Before I start – as you’ve probably guessed, scrapbooking punches are not a period way of making spangles, but they give a quick and easy result that resembles some of the period spangles floating about the place. I initially started making them, because I had a couple of  rather spangle-heavy projects in mind, but couldn’t find an affordable teardrop shaped spangle for sale anywhere. The round ones are out there, but the more unusual shaped ones like teardrops and ovals are a lot harder to come by. While they were used on many different items, and in many different countries (Germany especially, England, Italy etc), my focus to date has been on the German uses and styles of spangles (flinderlein).

I’m currently conducting a few experiments with other types of punches which are closer to the period ones, I’ll update you all as it progresses.

Materials and tools

  • Thin metal embossing foil – either silver, pewter, tin, aluminium etc will do the trick and are probably easier to obtain. Try either online, or art supply shops. There is an extant flinderhaube in Germany is actually covered in gilded tin spangles. Just a note with brass – if you use this, it will dull. And I’m pretty sure you don’t want to spend your weekends polishing spangles…
  • Scrapbooking punches in the shape you want your spangle to be (see pic below for the sort of punches I used). Teardrop or oval are good choices, and make for versatile spangles.
  • Scrapbooking punch to make holes in the spangle (small circle) or a thick sewing needle and cork mat to punch a hole.
  • Pliers, preferably without gripping ridges, or with a nylon coating (to protect the metal spangle from marks). Otherwise, double sided foam tape can be stuck to the pincers to prevent marking.
  • Mallet or hammer with smooth surface (any dents will cause marks in the spangles)
  • Jeweller’s anvil, or a solid, smooth flat surface that can take a few hits with a mallet/hammer
  • Small nail scissors to cut foil and trim point

Optional materials:

  • Metal stamps
  • Piece of medium thickness leather (say, 5 by 5cm or so)

Instructions

1. Cut a long strip of the metal foil off the roll or sheet, approximately two spangles wide. – this makes it easier to manipulate the punches around and punch as many spangles as possible from the piece of metal.

2. Using the oval or teardrop shaped punches, punch out as many spangles as required. See pic below for the sorts of punches I used. I picked mine up from Lincraft, but I’ve seen similar in a lot of other different craft supply shops too. They only cost me about $4-5 each, from memory.

scrapbooking punches

3. Now to create the hole in the spangle. Use the small round punch and punch where required on the spangle. On a tear shaped spangle, place the hole towards the top at the pointy bit (but leave enough space to trim of the pointy bit if you’re planning to) or on the oval one, towards one of a longer end. On round spangles, either towards the top, or in the centre is fine, depending on their intended use. The pliers can be used at this point to make it somewhat easier to position the spangle in the punch, particularly if you are making smaller spangles. If you are unable to find a punch for a small hole, a large sewing needle can be used to make a hole, but it will tend to leave ragged edges which may be a problem, depending on your project. If this is the case, use a cork mat underneath, and use the pliers to carefully push a hole through the spangle at the required spot.

Examples of positioning of holes for the spangles:

P1030467

4. If making teardrop shaped spangles, you might like to use the scissors to cut the sharp point at the top into a gentle curve. sort of like the diagram below. If you’re lucky enough to have a punch with the curved tip, you can omit this step. (EDIT: Since writing these notes, I’ve come across pics of extant ones on German headwear, where the sharp tips were left on. I still cut mine off, so I don’t have pointy things near my face on my headwear, but it’s perfectly period to leave them on. Up to you!)

P10304705. From here, place the spangles onto the anvil or smooth flat surface, and hit them once or twice with the mallet. This will flatten them into shape nicely, as depending on the metal used, they can get slightly bent out of shape by the punching process.

6. Optional: If you have any decorative metal punches, use one of these and the mallet to imprint a design on the spangle. To do this, rest the spangle on top of a piece of medium thickness leather, then rest this on a solid surface (I use the stone step in the entrance to my kitchen). Hold the punch vertically, decorative end down, resting on the spangle. Hit it once sharply with the mallet. Remove the spangle from the leather and onto the smooth hard surface, then flatten the spangle again with the mallet, which should still allow the imprint to show. While this wasn’t done on all spangles in period (many appear to be left plan), there are some images of spangled items that look like they could have plausibly been stamped, such as some of the images in the Babenberg family tree. This is something I’m currently looking into, and will write up something about them when I have more info – so watch this space!

spangles

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