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Make a Roman Fibula Brooch Jewelry Tutorial

This tutorial will show you how to make a simple pin suitable for hanging whatever you like on it, with just a few tools and some wire. My instructions assume you have some basic experience with jewelry making, but even if you don’t, this is still pretty simple. Practice on some thin, cheap craft wire if this is your first project, and if you have any questions, just ask. I’m happy to help!

But why do you call it a “fibula”? It looks like a safety pin.

Simple. Because that’s what the Romans called it, and yes, they did invent the safety pin. Here’s a link to a ​super-simple example. Roman pins typically had high backs because they used pins like this to keep their clothes on, and the fabric needed room to bunch up. While the first example is dead simple, others were lavishly decorated, ​like this one. Even the highly decorated fibulae were still intended to be semi-functional.

While this pin is appropriate for light to medium fabrics, I made it specifically for my SCA and Rennie friends to hang favors, bits of largesse, or even small tools on. You could even give these pins as favors with a small starter token already on. These could make great presents for people who make or use beads – There are always a few “orphan” beads laying around they can’t bear to part with!

Tools and Materials

  • Round Nose Pliers
  • Chain Nose Pliers – These are for holding, so any pliers with smooth, flat jaws will work.
  • Wire Cutters
  • File
  • Ruler
  • Marker
  • Safety Glasses – Not kidding on this one. I’ve personally seen people get wire ends flung into their face hard enough to draw blood when they’re just nipping the end off a little coil. If you’re using tools, use eye protection.

Optional Tools:

  • Hammer – I have a chasing hammer, but you can use a normal hardware store ball-pein hammer. It just needs to be flat and relatively smooth so it doesn’t mark up the metal.
  • Steel block – or similar hard surface to hammer on
  • Ear protection. There’s not a lot of hammering, but you should still wear ear protection when you do it.

I tried to use tools that most people I know have laying around the house. If you have fancier/higher quality tools than these, feel free to use them.

16 gauge Copper Wire – From the local craft store is fine.
If you want fancier tools than this or square/triangular/thicker/titanium/whatever wire, here’s some Suppliers:

Just to be clear, I have no connection to these sites, these are just places where I and/or my jeweler friends buy from. Just be careful of your wallet, especially if you’re a tool junkie like me!



Step 1: Measure, Cut and File

  1. Using the ruler, marker, and wire snips, measure and cut an 11 inch length of wire. If this is your first project, give yourself another inch or two of wiggle room in case you make your loops a bit big. We’ll be cutting the excess off at the end.
  2. ​Round the end off with your file* so it’s smooth. This is the end we’ll start working with.

* Most files only work one way – When you “push” the file away from you. This is copper, so there’s no reason to go crazy and muscle it. Just move your arm forward and let the file do the work.

Step 2: Make the Catch

The catch is the part of a pin that secures the pin stem, which is the part that goes through your fabric. Some of this might be tricky, but you can do it!

Picture 1: ​Measure and mark at the 1 inch and 1 1/2 inch points from your just-filed end.

Picture 2 (The Tricky Bit): Using your round nose pliers, make a bend at the 1 inch mark. It won’t be a tight fold like you see here, but that’s where your flat pliers come in. Squeeze the rounded end carefully until you get it nice and tight, as close to this as possible. If you have a hammer and something to hammer on, you can use those to tap the loop down, too.

Picture 3: Make a 90 degree bend at the 1 1/2 inch mark.

Picture 4: Wrap that end around the wire. I recommend using the flat pliers to hold onto the folded part right above the bend, and using the round nose pliers to wrap. You’ll probably need to use the flat pliers to squeeze the end in close to the wire.

Step 3: Make the Hanging Loops

Here’s where you’ll be making the loops, and where you can go crazy with the design. You loops might turn out bigger or smaller than mine, and that’s fine. You might decide you only want three loops, or maybe you have some of those fancy square pliers and want to make diamond-shaped loops. You could even add beads between the loops as you go, or forego the loops all together and add your beads on right now. Go Nuts!

But if you’re just starting out, keep following along.

Picture 1: Make a 90-degree bend right under your catch, and make a mark about 1/4″ in. This will be the top of your loop. I made my loops at about the midway point on the jaws of my round nose pliers.* You can make them wherever you like, depending on how big you want your loops.

Picture 2: I’m figuring out where I want the top of my next loop to be. For me, it turned out that 3/8″ away from the top of my first loop would look the best, so I marked it. You want to keep some space between your loops so you have space for all the cool things you’re going to dangle from them. My loops are 1/4″ wide, so I put in an extra 1/8″ buffer. Alternatively, you could always just make your next loop where you want it and use that as a guide for spacing. Whatever works for you to keep it consistent.

Picture 3: Make the other loops, being sure to keep their size and spacing even. This is the more fiddly part, but congrats! You’re almost done!

*Feel free to mark your jaws with your marker so you always bend the wire in the same spot. This keeps your loops nice and even. If you don’t want to mark them up, a shred of masking tape wrapped around one of the jaws works just as well.

Step 4: Even It Out

Chances are good that your pin is looking quite loopy and nice, but it’s probably a little wobbly. Here’s where we fix that.*

Picture 1: Looks a little wavy, doesn’t it? That won’t lay right when you’re wearing it, so let’s take care of that.

Picture 2: Put on your ear protection (do it) and give it a few gentle taps with your hammer. You don’t want to hammer it, or otherwise you’ll flatten the wire and get horrible squash marks where they cross over. You just want to even it out.

Picture 3: Nice and even! Much better, isn’t it?

*You could always squish it between some books or carefully bend it straight with your hands if you don’t have a hammer. So long as it’s flat.




Step 5: Make the Spring & Finish the Catch

Picture 1: Using the lowest point on your round nose pliers, wrap a loop of wire with the end going back over your hanging loops. This is the spring part of your pin.

Picture 2: Looking mighty pin-like, isn’t it?

Picture 3: Now you can bend the end of the catch over so it actually “catches” the pin stem.*

Picture 4: Almost done!

*We didn’t do this earlier because the wire tends to get caught in it while you’re making the hanging loops if you do.

Step 6: Trim & File the Pin Stem

Picture 1:
Catch the stem and use your cutters to nip off the extra wire. Don’t cut too close, or else it might come undone easily. Keep about 1/4″ on the end.

Picture 2:
File it sharp. You don’t need a long needle point on this, just enough so it can get between the fibers.

Picture 3:
Nice and pointy, like a little cone.

Picture 4:
You’re done! High Five! ^_^

Variations & Final Thoughts

As I said earlier, there’s a lot of variation to be had here. You can use thinner or thicker wire, square wire, or colored wire. You could hammer the loops for texture or leave them off altogether. You can replace the loops with a fun squiggle or a pattern, or add beads.

I want you to take this Tutorial and make something beautiful with it.

Make a couple of these to start, then go nuts! I’d like you to comment with links back to your creations so we can all see them!


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It’s 2016 – What’s the Plan?

That’s the big question, isn’t it? It’s the beginning of January, so it’s time to make some plans and start getting things done. If you’re in the SCA like us, you probably got some cool new Society-themed toys for Christmas. Now that it’s 2016, you’re making plans to finally get that weaving done, or learn how to sew. Perhaps you’ve got your eye on a top combat spot, and you’re eager for your local practices to start up again.

I know it’s early, but Gulf Wars isn’t that far off. If you meet weekly, you’ve got only 8 or so more meetups until it’s time to hit the field! With that in mind:

What do you need to make your persona complete?

I do metalwork, and I know literally dozens of professional artists and craftspeople. I can help you get your look together in more ways than one! Leave a comment and I’ll do my best to get you in touch with people who either sell what you’re looking for, or who can make it happen. My commission schedule is wide open now that the holiday orders are finished, so if you need metalwork, we’ll get it done.

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Thank You for an Amazing Summer!

Wow, where to begin? Well, Pennsic was amazing and wonderful and, just like everyone said, felt like coming home. Brian got to fence, I met some wonderful people, and Lemony made a ton of new friends! I’m counting down the days until next year.
Of course, we couldn’t rest long, because two weeks after Pennsic is the Pittsburgh Renaissance Festival, which is a whole six weeks of fun and insanity for us. I had to explain to Lemony’s teachers that if she comes to school saying that she watched a war, danced with fairies or sang with pirates, that she was telling the truth.
Normal is a matter of perspective, after all.
And now Fall is upon us. I have some shows that we’ve applied to, and some other events planned that we will be vending at. I’ve also been told that there are A&S competitions that I simply must enter, so that’s in the works, too.

Here’s some shots from the Faire!
I only sell my chainmaille at the Faire. Should I make a section in the shop here for chainmaille? Let me know in the comments.


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We’re Going to PENNSIC!

Unfinished Sinclair Jewelry Banner for Pennsic
Look for the finished version of this banner! We’re at the northern end of Plunder Lane.

Yep! We’re SO EXCITED!

Come down and see us! I’ll be in the Merchant Area on Plunder Lane and Brian will most likely be running around with Lemony. Brian’s got his authorization in for rapier and buckler, too, so look for him on the field as well.

In other big news, we’ve got our casting equipment set up and running beautifully! I’m working on birthstone charms right now based on medieval heraldry. If you’d like to pre-order some, drop us a line and you can pick up your order at the show.


This is our first Pennsic, and we’d appreciate any tips or “must-do” / “must-have’ items you’re willing to throw our way in the comments.

See you in two weeks!


My first charms and the mold made for them. They will make their debut at Pennsic!



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Blackstone was AMAZING!

Okay, I’ve been doing the selling thing for a long time. Ten years, to be exact. And while I’ve been to many events where the people were welcoming and the atmosphere was great, I have never had an experience like the one I had this past weekend in the SCA at the Blackstone Raid.

We stayed in the Marshall Cabin with the Black Priory, a house that one of our friends is part of. Even though he wasn’t able to attend, the house members we met were gracious, welcoming, and tons of fun! As it turns out, many of the faces were familiar ones from local anime conventions, comicons, and the Ren Fest. Some of our old D&D friends are well known to them and others as well, so it felt rather like a reunion than a first meeting.

Dan Andre of Knights of the Classroom (an AMAZING chainmailler and all-around great guy) let me sell in a corner of his tent, and then spent the rest of the time introducing me to people. Among many others, I met Baroness Cerridwen, who encouraged Dan and I to enter the Arts and Sciences competition. Being brand new, I had no idea what this was, and despite being in the SCA since the early 80s, Dan had never entered his work into a competition.

I entered a fine silver and lapis necklace I completed last week into the contest, and Dan entered his handmade scalemaille dog armor. He took home top prize, and I took home some honors as well, which included a gorgeous illuminated scroll and a ribbon that are now hanging in sight of my design desk. I’ve never won an award for my jewelry before, so that was unexpected.

Brian and Lemony spent a lot of time wandering the grounds, meeting people, and watching the fights. He’s up-loaded some videos of them to YouTube; here’s the first of them:

The first night there, as I spoke with Lady Arianna, something amazing happened. I was getting out a book I had brought with me – “Jewelry, From Antiquity to the Present” by Clare Phillips – so that I could look up the proper documentation I needed to enter my necklace into the competition the next morning. She then exclaimed, “Oh, I LOVE that book!”

That has literally never happened to me before in my entire life. I read a lot of nonfiction, even back when I was in elementary school, so to have someone recognize, much less enjoy the books I read was astounding. I actually had to take a second to look around the room to make sure I was still awake.

On Saturday night I went to bed early after I completed my drawing and Brian spent some time that night wandering around, accepting drinks and meeting people. He later described to me a moment where he felt like he stepped back in time while hanging around some period tents. There was light flickering from candles in handforged fittings, the sound of people laughing around distant fires that shone in the lake and the smell of food cooked over an open flame in the air. There was not an electronic device in sight.

In short, we found home.

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Blackstone Raid XXIV

After a great weekend hanging out with old friends, we’re starting to prep for our very first SCA event! We’re going to be at Blackstone Raid in West Virginia on Friday and Saturday. We’ve never attended any events before, so we’re excited to get out there and meet people!

Brian is looking forward to seeing the fights. He’s getting gear together so he can join rapier practice on a regular basis and get himself into the fray! There’s a chance I’ll be in Knights of the Classroon’s tent most of the time we’re there, and of course the Little One will be running around and enjoying herself.

We’re going with our friend who is known in the SCA as Doga, and is a heavy fighter. I have no idea where in Blackstone we’ll be staying, but I hope to get a chance to wander the grounds and meet people and see the sights. Something tell me my Instagram is going to get particularly busy next weekend.

So, are you in the SCA? Any advice for a family of first-timers?

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Triforce Chainmaille Dice Bag Tutorial

Legend of Zelda Triforce Chainmaille Pouch tutorial You can learn to make chainmaille!

Here’s a tutorial I made for a chainmaille bag that you can use to hold your gaming dice, spare change, or what-have-you. While not a complete beginner’s guide to chainmaille, if you can make this bag, you can make a coif, a shirt, a bikini, or even a wall hanging. I’ve heard from a lot of people who’ve never made chainmaille before that they were able to make their own Triforce dice bags!

Click Here to get the PDF

Click Here for the tutorial on Instructables

If you make a chainmaille dice bag (or something else) from this tutorial, let me know in the comments. I want to see it!


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FREE Reference Books!

Screencap of MOMA page

The Met Publications Page has everything!

Guess what? The Metropolitan Museum of Art has put hundreds of their journals, books, and teaching guides online FOR FREE. You can read them, download them, buy them, and even get some of them printed on demand if you want to throw money at them.

Do you like to make garb? Guess what? You can search by “Collection/Department” and hit up The Costume Institute. Send the fighters over to the books on the Arms and Armor collection. I’ve been giggling like a maniac by just typing “Jewelry” into the Keyword box so I can Download All The Things.

So please, tell your friends, tell that cousin who loves to paint, that friend who’s really into cosplay, and send them to MOMA’s Met Publications Page. There’s literally something for everyone. If you only want to look for free downloads, make sure you select Download PDF under “Format” when you begin your search. Once you find a book you’d like, hit “More” and it’ll take you to that book’s page, where you can select what options they have available for that particular title. The screencap up top gives you an idea.

So, what are YOU looking for? Have you found a great resource? Share it in the comments so we can all see it!


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Medieval Ring Brooch Tutorial

Medieval Ring Brooch Tutorial

I’ve got something for you!

I’m doing a series of historical jewelry tutorials! Specifically, things you can make without having to buy a bunch of fancy tools or use a torch for. I’m starting off with the ring brooch, which is something that you don’t see too often, despite its popularity in medieval dress. You can use it on its own as a decoration, or to pin a shawl or scarf.

My instructions assume you have some basic experience with jewelry making, but even if you don’t, this is still pretty simple. Practice on some thin, cheap craft wire if this is your first project, and if you have any questions, just ask. I’m happy to help!

Click Here to get the PDF
Click Here for the Tutorial on Instructables.

If you make a pin with this tutorial, put a link in the comments!


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Dinner from the 14th Century

PicturePreparing Lombard Chicken Pasties from The Medieval Cookbook by Maggic Black

This is something I never thought I’d do: a blog post on cooking. Why? Because I’m a terrible cook. I have set ramen on fire in the microwave. Several times. I have no idea how I set noodles in water on fire, but I am strangely proud that I did. I’ve killed toasters, destroyed pans, and extinguished more kitchen fires than I can remember. Ask my first college roomie. I started a fire the first dinner we had together. (Hi, Rachael! Sorry I still owe you an oven mitt. And a pan.)

So, yeah – I suck at cooking.

Brian makes all the food, but he’s got a lot of stones to cut and the final edit of his book to finish, so he’s asked me to try my hand at cooking again. I agreed, but I hate cooking. To make it fun and interesting for me, I bought two cookbooks on Amazon.


I got The Medieval Cookbook by Maggie Black and The Classical Cookbook by Andrew Dalby and Sally Grainger. They arrived Saturday, and I decided to try the “Lombard Chicken Pasties” from The Medieval Cookbook for dinner. Now, these aren’t your typical cookbooks. They’re full of historical information, including cultural notes about how and when food was served. If you’re like me and like to learn as much as you can, however and whenever you can, these are perfect. When I realized that I had spent more than an hour reading a cookbook without even thinking about cooking, I knew I’d made a good buy.

Out of respect to the author I’m not posting the recipe, but they were easy to make, even for someone like me. Most importantly, they were delicious! The Little One loved them! I did make the mistake of not pricking the tops of the pasties before I put them in the oven, though. Considering how my cooking escapades usually turn out, I’m happy I only had to clean up the filling that leaked out and got baked on the pan.

I had planned to throw a steam bag of veggies in the microwave to go with them but I forgot, and I’m glad I did. These things are filling! Granted, I did use slightly more chicken than was called for, but only by a tiny bit. They’re just filling. There were three left over, and while I have them in the fridge for leftover night, I imagine that they would freeze really well.

PictureSo delicious! I have a feeling this will become a regular dinner item.

So far, cooking like it’s 1399 is working out.

Have you ever tried your hand at historical cooking? If you have, tell me about it in the comments; I’m eager to learn!