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The fairyland I believed in as a kid may not be objectively real, but when imagination, technology and a few button clicks on the internet gives you the tools to create your own glowing wings, who says you have to stop believing in magic?

When Natalina created her amazing fiber optic dress last spring, she opened up a whole new world of wearable lighting magic and costume possibilities. Since then, some of us who love making ourselves glow have been playing with different ways to use fiber optics on clothing and costumes. For this latest experiment I applied the idea to some relatively simple fairy wings, hoping to create a sparkling enchanting fiber optic costume piece fit for a real fairy. To power my wings I made an easy lighting module with leds, a battery and a microcontroller that allows me to program the color of the fibers, or give them different patterns or fades.

Fiber optics are an amazing way to create illumination in costumes because you only need a single light source to add glow to a whole costume. This also makes them a lot more durable and less likely to have electronic issues than some other forms of illumination. These wings are actually quite light, sturdy and wearable... which makes it easy to flit through the forest on fairy related business.

The line between science an sorcery is really just a matter of perception and understanding... so from my perspective, being a maker really does give you supernatural powers ;) For anyone who ever wanted to grow up to be a magical fairy princess, this project is for you. Clap your hands if you believe... then go use them to make some magic.

*fantastic fairy photos by audreyobscura

Step 1: What You Need

For the Wing Structure:

  • Stiff but still bendable wire - I used 12 gauge galvanized utility wire, available at most hardware stores
  • Very thin flexible wire - I used a 24 gauge steel galvanized wire
  • Strong tape like Duct tape
  • Wire Cutters
  • Plyers
  • Measuring Tape
  • Thin tights or thigh highs preferable in a light color because this will show the light from the fiber optic best
  • Leather or a strong fabric to create the cover for the center of the wings
  • Faux fur or another decorative fabric to cover the light module in the center of the wings
  • Velcro
  • Double sided tape
  • Snaps and rivets
  • Fabric or leather glue like Magnatac
  • Hand sewing needle
  • Thin fishing line or clear thread
  • Scissors
  • Sewing machine (hand sewing or fabric glue will work in a pinch)

For the Lighting:

  • Enough fiber optics for your wing design - I used about 12 feet of 75 strand fiber optic end glow cable from Wiedamark containing individual strands with a .75mm diameter. I ended up dividing up my fiber so I was using bundles of about 35 fibers per LED. This was just about the right number, more would have created a bundle too big to be lit by one LED.
  • 6 neopixels, or other individually addressable LEDs - I used two sections of LED strip, but you could use other kinds of LEDs
  • A microcontroller to program your LEDs - I used a DF Robot Beetle, but any small Arduino designed for wearables will work fine
  • A switch
  • Wire to connect the LEDs like this 3 strand servo wire
  • A battery - I used a 1000mah lipo battery with it's own charging circuit encased in a 3D printed case, I will show you how to do this, and provide my battery case file, but you could just as easily use a small cell phone recharger like this one, or a cage of 3 double A batteries.
  • A battery connector - I use these
  • A box to house the electronics and the ends of the fiber optics - I used an acrylic box from Tap Plastic, but you could use almost any small box that will fit your components and can be drilled into.
  • A power drill
  • A soldering iron
  • A hot glue gun
  • A heat gun
  • A wire stripper
  • An xacto knife
  • Solder
  • Heat shrink tubing - clear 1/4" and 1/2" in any color
  • A computer with Arduino to program your LEDs
<p>Why use end glow instead of side glow optic cable?</p>
<p>I used end glow because side glow doesn't come in .75 mm diameter, and I wanted my fibers to have a flowing effect and a lot of movement, but you could definitely use side glow, especially if you just wanted to line the wings, not let the fibers cascade down. </p>
I used a portable power pack and it lasted the whole day
<p>Very nice! Yes, you have to use so few LEDs that the battery life is really good. Love your fiber optic skirt too!</p>
<p>Thanks for the inspiration to make these wings!</p>
<p>Nice! these look awesome! I love the design!</p>
<p>Nice! I am thinking of making one for myself. Thank you for the instructions on how to make it and very detailed too.</p>
<p>I really love it. The wings are amazing and the whole styles are great but I just don't get how to make it because it needs lots of materials and it really is very complicated for me to make. Isn't there any easier way of making it?</p>
<p>I really love it. The wings are amazing and the whole styles are great but I just don't get how to make it because it needs lots of materials and it really is very complicated for me to make. Isn't there any easier way of making it?</p>
<p>I really love it. The wings are amazing and the whole styles are great but I just don't get how to make it because it needs lots of materials and it really is very complicated for me to make. Isn't there any easier way of making it?</p>
<p>Any way to get/make some cheap fiber optic cable alternatives? I thought that fishing wire would work fine, but people have told me it won't work. </p><p>Also, do you think that a wire hanger (or two.... maybe ten) would suffice for the frames?</p><p>Thanks.</p>
<p>Fiber optics are made of a particular kind of plastic and constructed in a certain way to allow light to travel along them. I don't think you could get quite the same effect from any other material, especially over long distances. I have seen people use clear PVC tubing with leds and that seems to transmit light over short distances fairly well, but it wouldn't work for this project I don't think. </p><p>You could definitely use wire hangers for the wing frames though, you'd probably need about two per side :)</p>
<p>Allright, thank you for explaining rather than telling. I appreciate it. :)</p>
<p>I think the EL wire version of this project is better and easier to build.</p>
I want to make dragon wings now
<p>AMAZING!!!</p>
<p>Wow, great job!</p>
<p>Really nice and very detailed. Beautiful pictures... I was just looking into buying some fiber optics strands the other day for a concrete counter top for my outdoor kitchen and pizza oven I'm building and was wondering if the light strips I have (5050)was bright enough and if it would work for this and looking at your instructable I can now see it will. So thank you for answering my question. lol Great job on the wings. You have a lot of creative talent Mikaela. =) </p>
<p>This sounds like an awesome idea. If you do this you definitely need to post the instructable for it. I would love to see how its done, specifically your ideas for spacing and embedding the fibers in the concrete.</p>
<p>Are you hoping to see the light at the ends of the strands, or along the length? The ends will be bright enough probably, but with any ambient light you won't see the light from the strands much. I might suggest getting a brighter light source. They sell some specifically for lighting fiber optics for home decor use at the place I got my fiber optics, Wiedamark.</p>
I'm just looking to see the light from the ends since the fiber optics strands will be hidden in the concrete itself just exposing the ends only on the counter top giving it that sparkle affect at night. I do have different types of led lights like cob leds even brighter than the 5050 size led that I thought of using in case the other wasn't bright enough but thanks for the info. ;)
Wow, it looks great.
<p>this is a really awesome tutorial,thank you for the detailed write up! Originally came to figure out your lightbox setup, and ended up reading the whole thing. Super professional, bravo!</p>
<p>Weird question: could you paint the pantyhose with glow in the dark paints, or even regular paints for daytime use?</p>
<p>That is not ay all a weird question, and it's a great idea. In fact, another version of this I would like to make would be painted with uv reactive paint and then the LEDs I used would be UV, which would hopefully light up the paint really nicely. I really want to try that. You should do it! :)</p>
Thanks! I love the wings - I'll have to add them to my 'to do' list. I love glowy things too.
<p>My aunts use to make flowers with wire and pantyhose years ago and I remember they painted them and even used glue with glitter on them to give them some sparkle affect so to answer your question I say yes you can. Hope that helps! =)</p>
<p>This would be perfect for a production of A Midsummer Night's Dream!</p>
Absolutely fantastic! Incredibly beautiful wings! Very well written and documented as well<br><br>I was in the early planning stages of making some wings for my wife and I, this definitely helped out with new ideas and inspiration! Thank you<br><br>Out of curiosity, how long does the battery last on a full charge? I want to make sure mine can last all night, just in case I'm able to stay up all night, lol. I'll just get a higher mAh battery if I need.
<p>The pics are amazing. They look so unreal that if you just show the pic without the instructions, I'd believe it to be completely photoshopped.</p>
<p>I promise they are real! Only your standard minimal retouching in the old Photoshop, no faking :)</p>
<p>Of course! With such detailed instructions, there's no doubt about the authenticity at all.</p>
<p>You are officially invited to all our raves from now on.</p>
<p>I would be honored to attend :)</p>
<p>Awesome fairy wings!</p>
<p>Wow, what a great costume, very well done....</p>
<p>wow... Awesome work! I'm working on some &quot;Evil Tinkerbell&quot; wings for my wife right now. debating on using EL wire or fiberoptics. This will help a lot!</p>
<p>I am also thinking about EL wire ! By the way, if you are going to use EL wires, try to use an inverter, frequency of which is changeable ! Higher Frequency drive will give strong GLOW !</p><p>Here is the link of an EL wire Inverter I made with Arduino : </p><p>https://www.dropbox.com/s/ce2nqhjo2zscclt/EL%20WIRE%20Final.zip?dl=0</p>
<p>well after seeing these last few fiber optic wings post, I don't think that EL wire would be the right choice for the wings i'm building. But I do use EL wire frequently, so thank you for the info!</p>
<p>I'm very curious about this inverter!</p>
<p>Wow- the finished wings are really spectacular. Really, really nice project and write up.</p>
<p>These are soooo beautiful, the pix are out of this world! Great job! </p>
<p>Man, this is really awesome ! How about EL Wires instead of Fiber Glass ? </p><p>Probably it won't be that much brighter.</p>
<p>I've worked with el wire a lot (my profile picture is an el wire costume for instance) and it has it's benefits, but it isn't really much brighter, and it is SO much more fragile. Also you can't change the colors or program any lighting effects, nor can you easily create branching effects like I did with the veins on these wings, and you definitely can't let the fibers dangle freely which is half the fun of this design. Fiber optic light is a mot more varied and I think that makes it look more magical. And you can use thicker, side light fiber optics if you want a more el wire like look. They are both good lighting options, but I've been leaning more towards fiber optics lately. </p>
<p>Great idea. I can't remember where I seen what I am about to tell you but this man did his whole entire bedroom ceiling with fiber optic and LED so that it was an exact replica of the stars in a night sky during the summer { the stars are always changing}. Let me tell you. He worked on that for a very long time. He rigged up the component board, which was huge, and made it so it wasn't noticable once it was all said and done but he did show pics of it and I still wonder how he didn't go crazy with all those optics, wires, component pieces, etc. But, I've never seen anything handmade as beautiful as that . It did, indeed, look as if you were outside underneath the stars at night as if nature and not him made it. It was just that realistic.</p>
amazing! those photos are gorgeous
<p>love how did you make that</p>
<p>This is awesome! Your pictures and instructions are super detailed! I'm thinking of doing this for a halloween costume.</p>
Wow! You have a great range of talents! Creativity, vision, design, handcraft, troubleshooting, sewing, electronics, and writing as well! Thanks for sharing your creation!

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Bio: Costume and experimental fashion designer and artist. Maker of clothing and accessories for time traveling cyborg superheroes, and lucid dreamers. Interested in fusing couture design ... More »
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