Guest blogger series | Whittled twig hairpins tutorial

by Admin on 19/10/2011

in Ceramics+Wood+Glass, Guest blog series2 2011

Joanie Gorman is from Northern California but has lived in the UK for 14 years; she lives in Hampshire with her two children and their dog. She writes for The Green Parent magazine and teaches art part time. You can find her most mornings in the woods nearby hill walking with her funny border terrier, Pippi. Her family call her Nini, she blogs at Nini Makes.

Twig Hairpins

Thanks Kathreen for the invitation, it’s a real treat to guest post on

I love making objects that serve a purpose and even better, objects made with found or recycled supplies. I also love trees and take daily walks through woods so fallen branches and twigs are one material that I return to time and again. I came upon the idea to make hairpins after finding small, straight twigs that had fallen from fir trees after a windy night. I took a few home, whittled some hairpins and wondered why on earth it never occurred to me to make them before.

Here’s what you need:

  • Twigs or tiny branches (should be fairly straight)
  • Garden clippers or tiny saw
  • A small knife or carving tool for whittling
  • Medium and fine sand paper
  • Optional decorating supplies: wood stain, paint, beads, buttons & clear thread, embroidery thread
  • Wood wax, olive oil or nut oil to nourish the wood

To get started collect a small bundle of twigs that are roughly the diameter of a pencil or chopstick; the length should be a little longer than a pencil or chopstick (about 9inch or 23cm). Give each one a gentle bend to make sure they aren’t too brittle and breakable. Look out for twigs that are fairly straight and not too knobbly. Even if you only want to make one hairpin it’s good to have at least a few sticks to choose from in case the whittling goes awry. If your twigs are wet, leave them indoors in a warm area for a couple of days to dry.

Choose a stick and use a small sharp knife to whittle a point at one end.

After you’ve made the point cut off any knobbly, bumpy parts down the length of the stick then carefully strip off the bark. I used a flat, straight-edged wood engravers tool that worked well but gentle stripping with a knife works too.

When you finish de-knobbling and stripping the stick use garden clippers or a small saw to trim the non-pointed end of your twig to the final length you want your hairpin to be (you may want to try it in your hair first). Next use medium sandpaper to smooth out the rough, trimmed end and any ridges and remaining bumps along the length of the stick, then follow up with the fine sandpaper. If your point is sharp be sure to smooth it out a little so you don’t pierce your head.

As a final step, decorate your twiggy hairpin any way you like. The simplest way is to rub oil in to nourish the wood and bring out the grain. You can even use nut oil by simply rubbing a large nut over the hairpin. Or try painting, staining or wrapping it in embroidery thread, the way you might decorate a walking staff. Beads or buttons are also easy to attach using clear jewelry cord or embroidery thread.

Some wood loving links.

One of my favourite books is Shel Silverstein’s,  The Giving Tree. Though some people dislike it for the selfish child character, I still remember hearing this simple story for the first time when I was very young and feeling an overwhelming love appreciation for trees.

I also enjoy visiting the following artists regularly to see what new and wonderful creations they make with wood: Nanou, aka Les Fabulations on Flickr and Lisa of lil fish studios. Nanou makes curious creatures from fallen branches. She crochets clothes for them, gives them accessories and spins stories for each one too. Lisa is well known for her brilliant, needle-felted objects but I also adore her woodwork. Reading Lisa’s blog about her life and home in the woods reminds me of reading Laura Ingalls Wilder’s, Little House books with my daughter.

Lastly, if you go out and collect more twigs here’s a flowerpot project that’s easy to make.


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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Sonia October 19, 2011 at 10:31 am

this is such a wonderful idea ! Joanie is such a wonderful person filled to the brim with such creative & sweet ideas ! I’m so happy to see her post here ! Thanks Kathreen, and thanks Joanie ! (just regretting my hair is extra short & can’t make this for myself … but can totally make it for gifting !)


2 Johanna October 19, 2011 at 11:41 am

I love these! If only I could just bully my hair into a pretty chignon suitable for something like that. :)


3 margie oomen October 19, 2011 at 9:48 pm

joanie sent me one of these lovely inventions as a little gift and it is beautiful and practical for a long haired person such as I


4 Pam October 21, 2011 at 1:21 pm

You make me wish I had never cut my hair! How simple and how beautiful! Brilliant, Joanie.

I am sending a link to my sister who just moved into the woods – seriously – and who still has lovely long red hair!

Thank you! And Thank you Whip-Up!


5 electricbluebird October 26, 2011 at 10:07 am

You just talked me into keeping my super long hair!


6 Eviti May 20, 2012 at 2:39 pm

Very- very clever use of branches! I don’t know if I can accomplish the point but I will give it a try.


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