Having made wings on my site Fairywingsandthings.com for 10 years now, been featured in Maker Fair 2007 and the Maker Fair DVD, I thought I'd give back to the community that has given me so much by sharing this FABULOUS feather wings tutorial. Like a good sloppy joe, it's messy but a lot of fun. And unlike a sloppy joe, you can wear these wings out on the town for Halloween, photo shoots, weddings, or to spice up dinner parties. Enjoy!
Step 1: Get Ideas and Get Inspired
Wings, wings, and more wings (feel free to recommend some sites!)
http://www.nati-art.com Natalia Pierandrei (artist)
http://www.enchanted-art.com/catalog.php?category=5 Jessica Galbreth (artist)
http://browse.deviantart.com/?section=browse&order=9&qh=&q=angel - Deviant Art
http://www.animelab.com/anime.manga/pics/Angel_Sanctuary - Angel Sanctuary (anime)
http://www.allpaintings.org/v/Renaissance/Raffaello+Sanzio/Painting+details/Raffaello+-+The+Sistine+Madonna+_detail_.jpg.html - Raffaello Sanzio - The Sistine Madonna
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berlin_Victory_Column - SiegessÃÂÃÂ¤ule (Victory Tower) - Berlin
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Image:William_Blake_-_Christ_in_the_Sepulchre%2C_Guarded_by_Angels.jpg - William Blake - Christ in the Sepulchre
http://www.florin.ms/Jameson021.jpg - Angel by Rembrandt
http://www.allpaintings.org/v/Renaissance/Giotto+di+Bondone/Giotto+-+Angel+5.jpg.html - Angel by Giotto di Bondone
http://www.allpaintings.org/v/Renaissance/Fra+Angelico/Fra+Angelico+-+Annunciation.JPG.html - Fra Angelico - Annunciation
http://www.allpaintings.org/v/Baroque/Bartolome+Esteban+Murillo/Bartolome+Esteban+Murillo+-+The+angel_s+kitchen.jpg.html - Bartolome Esteban Murillo - The Angel's Kitchen http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:028MAD_Sphinx.jpg - Sphinx - Delphi
Winged Characters (mostly anime)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bokusatsu_Tenshi_Dokuro-chan - Club to death Angel Dokuro Chan (I recommend this one for those who haven't seen it.)
http://i16.photobucket.com/albums/b45/niwawillow123/TMM/Minto%20Aizawa/Mint9.jpg - Mint - Tokyo Mew Mew
http://www.geocities.com/johnnyfighter/Belldandy.jpg - Belldandy - Oh My Goddess!
http://i101.photobucket.com/albums/m47/cerraazizi/Card%20Captor%20Sakura/card_captor_sakura.jpg - Sakura - Card Captor Sakura
Step 2: Make a Big, Ugly Sketch
*Note: You can skip this step if you are a really good visual estimater and/or are happy returning unused feathers to your local craft store (;
To make your outline, you can use butcher paper, newspaper, or cardboard.
1. Lay the paper flat and draw a nice, life-size outline of your wing shape using your favorite Sharpie. The outline should be just as big as you want your wings to be, and about the right shape. If you mess up, no worries, just draw the correct line over the old one. You do not need to add details to the inside of the shape AND you only have to do this once as your wings are (probably) symmetrical.
2. Once you have your outline, compare it to your original drawing or inspirational photo. Notice in the photo where goose feathers (the large, long sturdy feathers) are used and where plumes (the tiny, fluffy feathers) are used. You will need to approximate how many of each feather will be used in your wings. Because you probably don't want to send a lot of time making a newspaper masterpiece, I recommend simply adding to your outline a 3" long & 1.5" wide oval for every plume and a 6" long & 2" wide oval for every goose feather. If you are using other types of feathers, you will
need to adjust your oval size to match the dimensions of your feathers. You do not need to actually draw in the ovals unless it helps you visualize it better.
3. Count how many plume ovals and how many goose feather ovals are needed to fill in your outline and multiply by two to get the total you will need (unless you are planning to be some kind of crazy half-angel, half-human hybrid thing, in which case you needn't do the math). You will probably want to get at least a few extra "just in case."
Step 3: Acquire Your Materials
-3 yards of 14 or 16 gauge galvanized wire (available at Ace and most hardware stores)
-48 goose quills* (these are the sturdy long feathers)
-1 oz of plumes* (the small, fluffy feathers)
-1 yard 1" wide ribbon to match or compliment the color of your feathers
-Combination wire cutters / needle-nose pliers (no gal should be without!)
-1/2 yard of felt (the color should match your feathers as closely as possible)
-glue gun & glue sticks
-3 yards of elastic (1/4"-1" width) *optional: you do not need these if you want your wings to be strapless.
-Optional additions: extra ribbon, bells, mirrors, rhinestone gems, glitter & adhesive spray, marabou, sequins, tulle strips
*Number of feathers will vary upon your pattern. Go to step 2 to see how to determine how many feathers you will need.
Step 4: Make a Wire Frame
Using your wire, construct a wire frame for your wings as shown below. We will do this by using two different pieces of wire, one for the large piece of "u" shaped, curved-up wire on the top, and one for the loop which connects to this larger piece and makes the âharnessâ (which will be used to support your back).
First, bend a piece of wire the length of your wingspan to make a soft âwâ shape. At the two low points of the âw,â attach a second piece of wire approx. half the length of the last. The piece of wire can be attached by wrapping, crimping and twisting the ends of the wire around the âwâ with your pliers to form a loop. Again, the dimensions of the frame may vary according to your design. To modify it, take a look at your wing sketch and decide which areas the wings will primarily be attached to. Make sure your frame will support all elements of your design.
Step 5: Design the Base
1. Cut your felt in half so you have two pieces (one for each wing).
2. Take one piece of fabric and fold it in half length-wise (or "hot dog" style as my kindergarten teacher used to say...)
3. Lay the folded piece of fabric under one side of the frame.
4. With your Sharpie draw an outline around the wire. The outline should be at least 4" thick and as long as the length of the wire to the support loop. It does not and probably should not be completely ovular, but should follow the shape of your frame. This will provide the base / support for your feathers. You can use a wider shape if you want your wings to be stronger.
5. Repeat with the other piece of felt for the other wing.
Step 6: Make the Base!
Step 7: Shape & Sort Your Feathers
Step 8: Test Your Design
Step 9: Time to Glue!
Lay out the first side of your wings on the newspaper and begin by hot gluing the goose feathers at the stem to the felt.
BE CAREFUL NOT TO GET THE GLUE ON YOUR FINGERS! You may want to use pliers or chopsticks or something if this happens more than once.
To add length to your design you can double-up the goose feathers by gluing one to the other along the stem as shown below.
The wings will not seem very secure at first, but as you add more feathers, the wings will become sturdier and look a lot better. If the stems of your feathers are too long to hold to the fabric, feel free to snip them.
Step 10: Add MORE Feathers
Step 11: When You Eventually Finish Adding the Feathers...
You can also add rhinestones, mirrors, etc. to the wings themselves by hot gluing them to your feathers or glitter with adhesive spray or Elmers glue.
Step 12: Making the Straps
Cut the elastic into two 18"" pieces. These will work as your shoulder straps for the wings. Attach them by tying them in half around the top of the mid-bar, and then by tying them again around your shoulders. The elastic straps should slip on and off like a back pack. You can use clear elastic to make the straps less visable, or ribbon if you want something more decorative.
Step 13: Show Off
Step 14: Finished Product
Thanks to the good people at Instructables and to you for reading! Feel free to submit your questions, comments, and photos!
You can see more of my wing work at Fairywingsandthings.com!