I wanted some wings that would have a lot of movement, and would be BIG, because... well because. But big wings can be hard to move around in. These hand-operated wings can be tucked behind you when not in use, which means they can go from gigantic and impressive, to something reasonable to get through a door or when in a crowded room.
I really like the hand-operated nature of the wings, as it gives them so much flexibility, motion, and drama. These wings feel very alive!
Make your wings and fly, my lovelies!
If you have questions for me, or would like to show me YOUR bat wings, I'd love to see them! You can also check out my blog for more tutorials, or my Instagram for more behind-the-scenes pictures.
Step 1: What You Need
- Seam ripper (for mistakes)
- A sewing machine is very helpful for the amount of sewing this takes, but it could also be done by hand
- Needle & thread (even if you use a machine, there's a tiny bit of hand sewing)
- Clippers, a handsaw or wire cutters to trim the dowel
- Wire cutters (if your wire is not already at the length below)
- Pliers to bend the wire
- * Hot glue gun
- * Popsicle stick
- Approx. 2 - 6 metres of 60" wide fabric (for the wing filament - I used heavy polyester in black, and lightweight polyester organza in black) The size will depend on how big your wings are
- A full bobbin of thread as you'll use a lot - mine was black
- 2 48" x 1/2" dowels (for the main control of the wings, the highest wing strut)
- 6 48" x 1/4" dowels (for the rest of the wing struts)
- A match or lighter, and two tea lights (for texturing the wings)
- 2 8" pieces of 9-11 guage wire
- * 4 6" square pieces of 1/4" foam for a hand grip
- * A tube of 100% silicon black bathroom sealant (to cover hand grip)
- 24" of cord or elastic in black
- Music, this mix of Pentatonix is recommended: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLC33C861F21...
- If you are of drinking age, I recommend a nice glass of red wine: http://www.apothic.com/
- If not, some good chocolate will do.
Step 2: Preparing
You have to determine exactly how big you want your wings to be. I designed mine so that they'd be as big as possible without dragging on the floor, but you might want them slightly smaller. I'll be describing the way I did it, feel free to modify as necessary to suit your purposes!
Step 3: Measuring the Parts
The wings have loops near the hand grip that you can put around your wrists or at your elbow to hold the wings without using your hands. This means that the longest the wing spokes can be is the distance from your elbow to the floor. Using a tape measure, and by yourself or with a friend, measure the distance from your elbow to the floor when your elbow is loosely by your side.
- My measurement was 42" and I decided to go to 41" for safety.
- All the wing struts are the same length, so you can immediately cut them down to 41".
- The two wing panels attach at your shoulders and have straps that hold them onto your back. That means each wing is half the distance of your back plus the length of one arm.
- Measure from the centre of your neck to your wrist - that's the length of the arm portion of your wing panels.
- You also need the height of where the wing panel touches your back. I measure from the top of the shoulder to armpit and add 3". You can have a look at the diagrams if you need help.
Step 4: Patterning the Wings
Now it is all about deciding what look you want your wings to have. I wanted thin, well worn wings. I laid the wing struts out on my fabric, and drew the arm portion on to the fabric using the numbers I measured above.
- Once you get the struts into a position you like, draw gentle curves between each strut.
- ADD SEAM ALLOWANCE NOW!
- You will then repeat this pattern for the other wing.
- Use this first wing shape to trace and cut out your second wing shape.
I made two copies of this pattern, one in the heavy fabric and one in the sheer, and then messed with both until I found something I like - but for simplicity's sake I'm not including that in this tutorial.
Step 5: Cut the Remaining Pieces
You'll also need a couple other pieces! You need sleeves for each of the wing struts, and also the shoulder straps.
- You'll need to create a shoulder strap piece. Make one to test, and fit it onto your body to make sure it works. Make sure to include seam allowance on all sides! Once it has been adjusted, cut four. You'll be sewing them together and turning them inside out so you have smooth edges that won't fray, and to add strength to the piece that holds a lot of weight.
- You also need to cut two pieces of fabric 44" long by 4" wide, and six pieces of fabric 44" long by 3" wide. These will be the sleeves that will hold the dowels.
- Lastly, cut two pieces of fabric 10" long by 3" wide. These sleeves will hold hooks to get the wings out of the way when necessary.
Step 6: Pre-assembly Sewing
There's a bit to be done before we get to the fun stuff. Do all this first!
- Sew all the sleeves into tubes, sewing one end closed as you do. Turn them inside out.
- Sew two shoulder straps to each other, right sides facing inward. Trim the edges and turn them inside out. Repeat with the other two shoulder straps.
- Hem all the edges of your wings, except where one wing panel attaches to the other along your back.
- Sew the two wing panels together, making sure that the seam is on the side that will be touching your back (so that it is hidden). Trim the excess. I also added a zig-zag stitch along this edge for security.
Step 7: Adding the Strut Sleeves
Now that this is all done, we're ready to assemble the wings. It is important that we sew the wing strut sleeves to the wings, and add the shoulder straps, BEFORE we put the dowels in. The dowels will make it very cumbersome to sew because they will be sticking out all over the place.
- Pin the first strut sleeve to the wing. It is important to pin, then sew each strut individually or you'll drastically increase the likelihood of grabbing a pin and pinning yourself. Feel free to take that risk if you'd like!
- Make sure when you pin the sleeves to the wing that they are as straight as possible (use a ruler as a guide if you need). If the sleeves are sewn crooked, your wings will not look flat.
- The two sleeves that are bigger than the others are the top ones (the ones you grab on to) because we want to put bigger dowels there for strength. Attach them first so you don't accidentally misplace them.
- In order to sew these sleeves on, we will be sewing the two edges of the sleeve (as close as possible to each side) to the wing to make a pocket. See the diagrams for details!
- Make sure to sew the sleeves on with open end facing inwards (right where your hand grabs) so that it is easier to hide later. The strong machine-sewn closed edge is also better at the end where it can keep the dowel from falling out should the hand-sewing break.
Step 8: Adding the Shoulder Straps
- Measure the width of your shoulders.
- The outer edge of each strap should be this distance from each other, using the wing seam as a center point. Pin the shoulders.
- The bottom of the strap will be perpendicular to this, so that it lies flat against your rib cage. It should be pinned about 1.5" lower than your armpit (so that there is space to get your arm in).
TRY IT ON.
- Making sure not to catch yourself on the pins, put the wings on so that you can make sure the straps are in the right place. Adjust as needed.
- Once you're happy with the placement, you can sew them on.
- To sew these on, tuck the open ends in, and sew them to the wings, so that there are no loose edges showing. See the diagram for details!
Step 9: Adding Hooks in the Back
I added two hooks to the back, so that I could hook the wings out of the way and make a cape with them. This is a really useful feature if you're taking these to a party!
Adding the hook sleeves
- Using the two 10" sleeves, position them along the back, approximately 2" inside the shoulder straps.
- Pin them on and make sure you can reach them. Make sure half of the tube is on the back panel and half of it dangles off. You may need to position them higher so you can reach them - if so make sure you only sew halfway down.
- Sew these to the back in the same way that you added the strut sleeves.
Adding the hooks
- Bend your two wires in half so that they are double thickness.
- Bend a curve into the bottom to make a hook.
- Slip these hooks into the two hook sleeves at the back.
Close the hook sleeves by pushing the fabric inward, then hand stitching them closed.
Step 10: The Fun Part You Were Waiting For
Adding the wing struts
- You can now slip all the dowels into the struts.
- Remember there were two dowels that were bigger than the others - these are for the first struts that you grab on to. Do them first.
Closing the sleeves
- Push the excess fabric from the sleeves inwards (so there are no loose edges) for the wing struts and the hooks in the back. We don't want any rough edges showing.
- After all the ends have been pushed inwards, sew all the sleeves closed using a needle and thread.
Step 11: Add the Loops
You can also add the loops for your wrists now.
- Cut your cord into two pieces - each one must be the width around your arm at the elbow plus 1" so that they are easy to get over your wrist.
- Hand sew these on the edge of the wing, at the spot where the struts join.
In order to get the wings out of the way when you need to move around, loop this wrist loop around the hooks on the back!
Step 12: *Optional Step: Make a Handle/add Some Style!
You can create a soft easy-to-grab handle to make it easier to hold your wings. This step is completely optional.
- Using the foam and a hot glue gun, glue the foam onto the area where all the struts join in a messy, lumpy pattern. You will need to glue foam onto both the front and back of the wings.
- Once all four pieces are glued and the glue has cooled, cover the foam with a layer of the silicone bathroom sealant. This will give the foam a rubbery texture, which gives you grip even with sweaty hands, and also makes it easy to tell where to grab.
- Silicone bathroom sealant can be applied with many tools depending on what texture you want, but a popsicle stick is good for a simple application. The sealant will take 24 hours to dry, and you should cover the foam in two thin coats.
- Silicone sealant will only stick to itself, so you can't paint it.
Style your wings
Rip them, shred them, paint them! Add texture over the wing struts! Maybe they're perfect, and you need to do nothing?
If you want to add the holes like I did, you'll be cutting holes and burning the edges with a tea light.
- Cut the holes first, only slightly smaller than you want the final hole to be. CAREFULLY using the tea light, melt the edges of the fabric so that the hole edges are sealed and won't fray.
- You need to cut the hole first as if you try to burn holes, the fabric will ripple and buckle and look more like fabric than wing-leather. I did a bit of both, to make very worn wings.
Step 13: You Have Amazing Wings!
Wear them with pride, friends!