[related-post align=”right”]To collect the brooches I purchased two “lots” like these of vintage enamel brooches from eBay.
I could have done it less expensively by digging through bins at the flea market, but I wanted only enamel flower brooches (no rhinestones or non-floral brooches), and I needed to limit the colors to blues, greens, whites and pinks (I wanted to emphasize silver tones over gold, as well). I needed to make sure that the bouquet complimented but did not compete with my colorful bridal outfit, which includes a marine blue chiffon dress and a colorful silk wrap of watercolor azaleas.
Materials to make a brooch bouquet
- Approximately 60 brooches or clip-on earrings
- Pre-cut 18″ long 20 gauge green floral wire
- Small needle nose pliers
- Re-purposed bath toy with foam “noodle”
- Masking tape
- Scrap pieces from the hem of an article of clothing (or ribbon)
- Decorative bouquet pins
Instructions for making a brooch bouquet
See what you have. First, I spread out the collection and tried to find groupings that I liked together, or that seemed to fit nicely together (for example, a curved leaf to wrap the edge of a round flower).
Because I collected mostly brooches, I needed a way to wire them without damaging the clasps. The clip-on earrings were simpler to wire, but I did have one that broke when the clip pulled off due to the weight of the wire. I was able to use it anyway by wrapping the wire in the same way that I wrapped the brooches, but if it had been a different design, this earring would have been lost (or would have needed hot glue repair). The flower brooches that I collected had either bendable petals or small holes. I wrapped the wire around a couple of lower petals or through holes (barely noticeable because I used the dark green wire), and then wrapped it to itself underneath the pin to create a stem.
Note about “vintage style” versus actual vintage brooches: I purchased two brooches that were vintage “style” brooches. Avoid these. Both of them broke, and none of the vintage brooches had this problem. Also, they were harder to wire because they were made from casts or molds and did not have the moldable, bendable petals or the tiny detail holes, just the illusion of those details from the molds.
For larger brooches, I used two wires, one on each side of the pin, and then wrapped the wires together underneath to provide a better anchor. I created small groupings of one larger pin surrounded by 2-4 smaller pins of complimentary colors, arranging them together and then twisting their wires into a single stem. I then would add the small grouping to the larger bouquet, looking for places where the bouquet felt unbalanced.
Be sure to turn your bouquet frequently, hold it upside down and “fluff” out the brooches/wires. This will help you keep a nicely rounded/balanced shape. I didn't do this at first and have a couple of spots that are not as rounded as I would prefer. For added dimension and flexibility in design, I also twisted larger single brooches directly to the large bouquet in addition to the multiple smaller groupings. This made it easier to adjust the pins to fill in gaps, move things around as the design shifted, and “fluff” the bouquet to improve the shape.
I found that as I added pieces, some pieces would naturally reposition themselves to become background/underside pins, whether I liked it or not. To fix this, I set the bouquet upside down. In this position, I would reposition the wires to pull the pins that were naturally gravitating to a lower or side position back to a top position. This position was also best for repositioning brooches to improve the overall roundness of the bouquet and to help recreate a wider umbrella shape. The weight of the pins causes them to fall in a smaller mushroom shape and they need “fluffing,” for lack of a better expression, in order to bring the pins back to the top of the bouquet and spread them out better.
The wires created the stem, but it was lumpy because, as I added brooches to the outside edges of the bouquet, the bulk of the wires were wound at the top of the bouquet, and the long wires were substantially thinner because those were limited to the first bunch of brooches to be wired together (where there was less built-up bulk).
To increase sturdiness and even out the width of the handle, I folded up the long ends to a length I liked, then wrapped them securely by wrapping a few more lengths of wire around the area.
Disassemble the foam toy, and take the top off. The foam noodle has a hole drilled through the center, which covers the plastic tubing of the squirt toy. Discard the tubing and cut two short lengths of the foam noodle. They are a nice perfect length of foam noodle to cover the pokey wires on the handle. Because this was a bath toy for toddlers instead of a larger pool toy, the foam noodle fits neatly in one hand.
After I got the bottom portion of the stems thick enough by wrapping additional wire around the folded up portion of the stem, I slipped the foam noodle over the wires. It fit snuggly, and made a nice, soft comfort-grip handle. I used the masking tape to cover the hole at the end of the noodle and keep the pokey wires at the bottom from sticking out. To make sure that the end was secured sufficiently, I also wrapped tape around the noodle up the stem. The handle was now a uniform width and a comfortable length. If you are taller or have larger hands, you may want your handle to be a few inches longer.
The bouquet looked great, but the green masking tape over the purple noodle was obviously not going to cut it. For the handle, I used the dress scraps from the heavier silk under-layer. I used the chiffon to create a chiffon “bed” underneath the bouquet umbrella shape to help protect my hands from errant pokey clasps and floral wire.
Wrapping the handle was honestly the trickiest part of the project, and it's not a super fancy or neat and tidily wrapped handle. The dark color of the dress fabric helps it look nicer than it really is. Because one edge of the fabric/ribbon was unfinished from the trimming shears, I tried to roll and twist the fabric a bit to keep the frayed edges from showing. The hardest part was figuring out how to wrap the bottom of the handle, and I still may unwrap it and try again. I found that it helped to use a couple of pins to pin the fabric in place along the bottom edge and then wrap from the bottom up, and back down again. I used decorative head pins to pin the ends in place.
I then used the chiffon dress trimmings to create a soft chiffon under-base under the head of the bouquet, to help reduce risk of getting poked by wires or clasps. I made small loops all the way around the bouquet, pinning the loops to the top of the foam noodle (I had to do this a few times to get the pins to go straight into the noodle and not poke out the other side). The noodle was really key to making the handle look “right” and pretty, because it gave me something to push the pins into so that I could create the chiffon ribbon bed underneath the pins.
A note about hot glue: I did not use any glue in this project. I didn't want to hot glue the pins and ruin the brooches, although there are a few pins with clasps that keep coming undone, and I may go back and glue those shut so that I don't get poked while carrying the bouquet.
How to store the bouquet: We have a long wait until the wedding next year, so I need to store the bouquet in a way that will preserve the shape. I found that it sits neatly in a tall Mason jar (this one is from Classico brand spaghetti), which helps give some support to the weight of the bouquet. I then placed the bouquet and jar into one of those zippered bags that blankets and pillows come in to help keep it clean and dust-free. It is now safely tucked onto a tall shelf inside my closet waiting to come out and play.