Thursday, August 9, 2012

Working with Vintage Brooches

Good morning, dear readers!  I have received several inquiries about the vintage brooches I add tatting to and decided to do a post that will, hopefully, answer most of your questions.

Selection of a Brooch:
Selecting a brooch that is "workable" is key.  The brooch needs to have spaces and places to anchor tatting and beading.  The pin back also needs to be sturdy, in good working order and it must not impede the adding of accents.  Some brooches are attached with a V-type support and these can interfere with anchoring spots.  Examine the brooch very carefully- are the rhinestones prong set or glued in?  Are the stones loose?  Are any missing?  Take into careful consideration the overall condition and quality of the piece. 

For those who do not know, I adore vintage costume jewelry- especially Juliana, Regency & Weiss pieces.  Juliana pieces are not marked, but are easily discerned by their superior quality of stones, prong settings and distinctive mountings.  Tara pieces are often mistaken for Juliana, but usually feature the V-type pin backs and are not quite as fine in quality (IMHO).  Regency & Weiss pieces are usually marked.  Do your own research and discover what appeals to you.  Visit an antique/junque shop and peruse the costume jewelry.  I take a jeweler's loupe with me and examine each piece in minute detail.  After examination, I then determine if the price is fair or if I feel it is over or under priced.  Is is worth the asking price?  Use your judgment and select what you like that is workable.

Thread & Accents for a Brooch:
Most of you probably have a bead and thread stash.  Take the brooch and place it near your stashes.  Determine what thread and accents you wish to use.  Be adventurous- try adding pearls and other beads to the brooch.  You never know what you may come up with!

Adding Tatting & Accents to a Brooch:
Take your time and look at your brooch.  Determine how you want it to look and where your best anchor points are.  Adding tatting and accents/beads to a brooch is quite easy for needle tatters, but can be more difficult when using a shuttle.  I typically begin in the center and work out, but in some instances, it is best to save the center accents for last.  Start where you feel the design starts- I know this is ambiguous, but, that's how I do it.  Continue working on the piece until you are satisfied with the results.  I have been known to wear a brooch with accents for a week or even years, then I just up and remove all the accents and add new ones.  The point is to enjoy it & have fun.

Here is a lovely purple Juliana brooch I've had in my stash for a while that I decided to accent:

It is a small star brooch that is being accented with ruffled tatting using Valdani Luxury Pearl Silk in S 541 (Mauve Orchid).  I'm considering adding lavender freshwater pearls and deep purple velvet colored Swarovskis to it.  I'll just see how it looks after I get all of the larger rhinestones surrounded with ruffle work before I make my final decision.

I hope that this has provided you with a bit more insight to my creative process concerning the brooches.  Let me know if any of you give it a try! 

Well, the Atelier is waiting with lots of projects.  The "Glamour" necklace needs more components tatted & beaded, the Juliana brooch needs work, and I have a gorgeous green Regency brooch awaiting embellishment.  So much to do...
May you have a marvelous day filled with creativity!
Until tomorrow~
Happy Tatting!


  1. Thanks Rachel,
    It would help to see the back of the brooch on occasion as you do your embellishments. That would help with understanding how the work progresses.

    1. Ladytats,

      I will do a post tomorrow to show a couple of examples!

  2. Yes! That would be interesting!
    Fox : )

  3. Very interesting post, and the way you decide and think about how and what to do with each item.

  4. I am going to give this a try, we are still traveling about, but there are some great old antique stores and garage sales, as well as flea markets here, so I am going to keep my eyes open for some I think I might be able to work on, and see if I can make something pretty :) thank you for the tutorial :)

    1. Bree,
      Please let me know what treasures you find and what you do with them! I know whatever you do will be pretty;-)

  5. Thanks so much Rachel for sharing your hints and process.

  6. Hi, Rachel. I can't believe I'm just now discovering your blog. I found it through a reference in another blog. I think it may have been in my reading list long ago, but I had not noticed that I'd lost it--shame on me. I've enjoyed reading your posts (backwards), finding lots of wonderful inspiration and patterns. Thank you! Then I discovered this post--so timely. I have some jewelry that belonged to my grandmother and my mother-in-law that I've so wanted to do something special with. This article and your beautiful work encourage me to see what I can do. Again, I thank you. I look forward to following your blog.