Introduction: Cellophane Fairy Wings in Under 2 Hrs!

This instructable will show you how to make some very easy cellophane fairy / dragonfly / insect wings in less than two hours, on average.  If you have a lot of crafty stuff, you might not need to make any purchases.  If you need to buy supplies, I expect it will run between $10-$20. 

For this Instructable, you will need:

  • cellophane (I used a clear irridescent, which is why it changes colors in the photos)
  • scissors
  • wire cutters
  • plyers (preferably some with a tapered edge for shaping wire)
  • floral wire (I prefer the straight stems, but you could uncoil a spool, too)
  • wire hangers (one per wing segment, so a minimum of 2)
  • floral tape or complementary electrical tape (I got a multi-pack from the dollar store years ago
  • Iron & ironing board
  • old towel
  • spray adhesive
  • craft knife & self-healing mat (optional, but helpful)
  • cigarette lighter
  • wood skewer (or incense stick)

Have you supplies ready?  Great!  Let's begin.

Step 1: Make Your Frame

This Halloween, I want to be a steampunk dragonfly. This actually plays into a larger idea that involves kinetic sculpture, but one which I don't have the time to create just yet. My kind of lame compromise was to make some quick cellophane wings to get the idea across. I indended to make dragonfly wings, but ended up copping out and making just two fairy-like wings with long enough prongs that I can shove them into the back lacing of my corset. For this reason, I haven't made a strap aparatus yet. If I do, I will post it. Regardless, I'll offer some suggestions for wearing that don't involve shoving into corset lacing.

Straighten your coat hanger.  If you have the patience, you can straighten the hook end.  I do not, so I cut it off with my wire cutters.  Once you have it straight, shape the top of the wing however you like.

Add veins.  Using your floral wire, add some interior veining.  Use electrical tape to join edges or overlaps.  I wanted a steampunk-ish feel, so I tried to make my veins emulate whimsical circuitry.  For non-steampunk ventures, try printing an image of insect wings for reference when building the veins. 

Wrap with tape.  This can be floral tape, or it can be the electrical tape.  Because I was using floral wire which was already green, my impetus for wrapping  the coat hanger portion was merely to match.  It turned out to be a good idea, though, as it kept the sharp edges from tearing the cellophane. 

Repeat for wing two.

Step 2: Adding Cellophane

Cut a piece of cellophane large enough to cover one wing frame plus a bit of extra around the edges.  Using that as your template, cut enough additional pieces for the front and back of each additional wing.  If, like me, you have only two wings, you need four pieces of cellophane, ya?

Prep the first cellophane piece.  Set aside your frames and supplies for a moment.  Lay on piece of cellophane on your ironing surface.  Apply a thin layer of spray adhesive to one piece of cellophane. 

Sandwich wing frame in between cellophane pieces. Carefully position your first wing frame on top of the tacky cellophane.  Cover the whole thing with another piece of cellophane.  Be careful with this!  The tacky cellophane isn't very forgiving, so be sure you have your piece postitioned correctly before you drop it onto your wing.

Cover the whole bit with old towel and iron.  If your wings are really big, you might have to do this on the floor with multiple towels; mine fit adequately onto the ironing board.  So, once you have your towel over, apply a low heat, moving steadily (because we used a tacky adhesive, we don't need to worry so much about the top layer of cellophane shifting).  My iron is on '1' for synthetic.  This is not so fast as other methods which will tell you to iron the cellophane directly--this is a terrible idea.  No matter how low you iron is set, it will almost inevitably mean ruin.  Just use a towel--trust me. 

Also, you can use a very low steam to get through the towel.  It will condense on the cellophane, but it wipes right off.  Again, low heat through a towel.  Use your fingers to feel the wires underneath so that you can gauge your progress.  If you lift your towel to find no cellophane has fused, simply repeat until you have fusion.  Take your time.  It only takes one super hot moment to really screw it up. 

Flip and repeat.  Just to make sure you have ample coverage, fusion and vein adhesion, flip your wing over and iron the other side. 

Step 3: Finishing

Almost there! 

Cutting the shape.  Now, trim away excess cellophane with scissors.  Leave at least a quarter inch overlap on the top and bottom fo the frame.  Using a craft knife or scissors, cut scallops along the unframed edge.

*I used a craft knife here because it was easier to control than scissors.  This stuff cuts very easily so go slowly to avoid irreversible mistakes. 

Repeat on wing two.  To make sure you get your scalloped edges even, just lay the first wing on top of the second as a template.  This will ensure your wings are symmetrical, matching, even. 

Burn edges.  BE CAREFUL!   Just like it cuts easily, so does it burn easily.  And, it's plastic so open a window and/or wear a respirator.  You won't be burning a lot, but fumes still happen and I don't want anyone hurt. 

This step happens waaaaay quickly so be prepared to move fast.  Just a tiny bit of heat is needed to seal the edges.  Run the lighter along the scalloped edges.  Then, you can go along the top.  I held mine a little longer at the top of the frame to really melt that quarter inch down to the frame.  If you don't feel comfortable with that, just fold over that top quarter inch and glue it down to one side.  Again, BE CAREFUL!

Burn holes.  This is purely optional, but if you're like me and you want those distress holes, you can burn them with a skewer.  Do NOT attempt this with your lighter--you'll just ruin your wings and smell up the house with toxic fumes.  Instead, get a skewer or incense stick.  Light it and let the flame go out, then just poke it down through the cellophane.  For larger holes, roll your burning skewer around until the plastic melts away to the size you want.  Repeat for both wings.  This technique is especially effective if you are layering colors, by the way.

Wearing your wings.  As i mentioned earlier, I'm planning on shoving the long prong ends into my corset lacing.  You might want a more practical solution, I realize.  In that case, I will recommend checking out Threadbanger's fairy wing tutorial for how to tie both sides together.  Basically, get some matching yarn/thread/cord, bend your prong extensions so that you can twist them together, and wrap, wrap, wrap to secure.  Once you finish wrapping them together, use a pretty satin ribbon in a complementary shade to make a shoulder harness. 

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