To make a pair of sturdy, believable angel wings you'll need:
- Corrugated Cardboard
- Utility Knife
- Steel Wire (from the hardware store - it comes in coils that are shrink wrapped in plastic)
- A Multitool or Needle-nose Pliers
- Gorilla Tape
- Duct Tape (any color)
- Acrylic Paint (a color that will blend in with your feathers)
- Large Turkey Feathers
- Smaller Goose Feathers (I used satinettes and nagoire and trimmed some of them)
- Feathers should be in your desired color or colors
- Hot Glue Gun
- Hot Glue Gun Sticks
- Tights or pantyhose (This is to create the 'harness', I used beige pantyhose because it will blend with my trench coat, but tights come in a wide variety of colors and patterns)
- Sewing Needle
- I also used spray craft glitter, but that's optional
Step 1: Create the Wing Base
On corrugated cardboard, draw the basic pose that the fleshy part of the wings will be in. Looking up reference photos of bird wings in different positions is very helpful. I wanted the wings to be partially unfurled, so I created the shape accordingly.
- Keep in mind: the primary flight feathers will stick off of this base, so unless you want huge wings, don't make this part larger than it needs to be
Cut the shape out with a utility knife and trace it onto the cardboard again to get two identical shapes.
Step 2: Create a Wire Frame for the Wing Bases
Use the steel wire to create a wire framework that roughly follows the shape of the wing bases. The wire framework will be stronger if it is one continuous piece of wire - wrap and bend where the wire overlaps itself rather than cutting. The only cut that should be made is at the end to separate the wire from the main coil. Duct tape over any wire wraps or bends to re-enforce the connection and cover any sharp edges.
Step 3: Attach the Wire to the Wing Base, Paint the Cardboard
Use Gorilla Tape to attach the wire to the cardboard wing bases. Paint both sides of the cardboard with acrylic paint to match your feather colors incase of any molting or feather gaps. I'm using black tape and black feathers, but if your wing color will not match the tape color, paint that too.
Step 4: Begin Attaching Feathers
On what will be the back or top of the wings, begin attaching feathers using a hot glue gun. I arranged the large turkey feathers as primary feathers first and then glued them in place. If you look at the photo you can see that some of the feather overlaps the cardboard, but you can just glue the quill part of the feather to the cardboard if you want bigger wings.
Once the primary feathers are glued down, layout the smaller goose feathers to create the next row of plumage and hide the primary quills. Glue these in place and repeat until the back of the wing is fully covered. I found that as I was working towards the top of the wing I would have to trim down the smaller goose feathers and use just the rounded ends to fully cover the quills of the previous row. Placing the rounded tips of the feathers at an angle also helped to create a more 'realistic' feather pattern.
Step 5: Feathering the Underside
Flip the wings over and repeat the process. It is not necessary to use primary feathers on the interior of the wings. Again, looking at a reference image of what the undersides of bird wings actually look like is helpful. Or you can just wing it, heh.
With the undersides of the wings I made it more of a point to stagger the rows of feathers (see second photo) to ensure maximum coverage.
Step 6: Create the Harness
- Chop the legs off of the pair of tights and put them aside - these will be the arm loops.
- Slice the waist section into 1 inch wide loops, these will be used to pad and cover the middle segment of wire.
- Slice the loops from the waist open to create strips - hot glue one end of the strip on to the wire close to where the wing starts and begin wrapping.
- If you need to use additional loops, sew or hot glue them onto the end of the preceding strip and continue.
- When you reach the start of the other wing, sew or hot glue the end of the strip into place.
- Knot, sew, or hot glue one end of a tight leg directly next to the wing. Repeat with the other leg on the other end.
- Sew the other end of the tight legs near where the first end is attached.
- If these wings are for a small person, the length of the tights can be shortened
Step 7: Ta Da!
Completed wings! I dusted mine with spray glitter in silver, but that is not necessary. The wings can be bent at the harness joint, allowing them to stick straight out of your back rather than out from your shoulders.