We've all seen them: white, fluffy angels at Christmas time, their gold-painted, aluminum halos on their heads and store-bought, feather angel wings slung gaily down their backs as they sing carols, hymns, and jolly Christmas tunes. Well, being the non-conformist that I am, I thought I would teach you all how to construct another king of angel- the fallen angel. These slightly tattered-looking wings arch up and have a wide wing span resembling the wings of turkey vultures. Of course, I decided to add a twist to this as well by making them BRIGHT PINK and adding some rhinestones, but you could always go for the more conventional dreary, black look if that is more "you." These gargantuan wings are also strapless so the wings look like they are coming right out of your back! It will seriously freak your friends out, not to mention delight, amuse, and fascinate kittens. You can also tweak this tutorial to construct the more conventional down-turned angel wings, or anime-style, short, perky wings. You can extend the design (and use thicker wire) in order to make absolutely HUGE wings. The possibilities are numerous. Have fun with the design and make it your own!
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
As with any costume, the first step is to decide what your wings will look like. This may seem simple enough, but I think once you start to look at lots of sets of different wings (real or not) you'll see that you have lots of options and narrowing it down can be difficult. There are LOTS of different styles of angel wings out there! A quick search on Google Images for "angel" should give you some good ideas and I've included some links below to sites that might help shape your vision. Also, donÃÂ¢Ã¢ÂÂ¬Ã¢ÂÂ¢t be afraid to sketch your own design too! I made some sketches to modify these wings so they wouldnÃÂ¢Ã¢ÂÂ¬Ã¢ÂÂ¢t be quite as huge. A sketch can also help you decide how many feathers you will need, of what kind, and where they will be positioned. It's important to have a clear idea of how you want your wings to look in order to choose a pattern that will accommodate it. You should determine the color, size (including wing span), and shape.
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
Now that you know the general shape of your wings and how large you'd like them to be, it's time to come up with a rough life-size outline of your wings. This will help you to plan the amount of feathers and types needed. It will also help you shape your wings once it comes time to glue the feathers to the frame.
*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
Next, you will need to acquire (buy, steal, or pillage) your materials. You will need the following:
-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
This third step might be difficult for those who have not worked with wire before. If you find yourself stumped, I recommend getting a friend to help with this part.
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
Because it would be really frustrating to try and secure all those feathers to the wire itself, we're going to add some felt to cover the wire frame (excluding the support loop which we will cover later in ribbon or marabou).
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!
Cut the shapes out with the fabric doubled over so you are left with two pieces of fabric. With the wire sandwiched between two pieces of fabric, hot glue the fabric pieces together as shown below so that the wire is covered in felt excluding the support hoop. Do this for the other side as well. You should have a weird felt antler-looking thing as shown below.
Step 7: Shape & Sort Your Feathers
Before you can apply your feathers to this frame, you will need to shape them. A lot of store-bought feathers can vary in their quality, so you will also want to take the opportunity to toss or cut down feathers which are poor looking. Some ideas for shaping feathers are shown below on the packaging my feathers came in. You will also want to make two piles- one for feathers which turn to the right, and one for feathers which turn to the left. The feathers below, for example, all turn to the right. You should be able to tell by holding the feather curve side up by the tip. You need to do this for both the plumes and the goose feathers. It seems tedious, but it will save you a lot of time in the end.
Step 8: Test Your Design
You should (but do not have to) do a âpractice arrangementâ by laying the feathers out over your wire frame and newspaper sketch. This will help you decide if you a) need additional materials b) need to cut some feathers down or re-shape them c) if all your feathers are pointing the right way. It will also help save time when it comes to glue them!
Step 9: Time to Glue!
Now is the fun and often painful part where you get to cover yourself and your wings in two types of glue! Before you attempt this next step, please make sure you are wearing clothes you wonât mind getting tons of feather dander, glue, and whatever else you're planning to use on the wings on you. Also make sure you know how to handle a glue gun, particularly that you are 100% sure you understand that the nozzle is hot! (I wasn't paying attention a few times when I made mine and have the red fingers to prove it!) You may want to wear gloves of some kind.
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
When you are done adding the goose feathers, you can add the tiny plume feathers using elmers glue to the top of the quill stems and the spaces between the goose feathers to cover up any âgapsâ where the felt shows through. This will also add to the âtatteredâ look of the design. This step can be omitted if it does not suit your design, or you can substitute marabou or other kinds of feathers for the plumes.
Step 11: When You Eventually Finish Adding the Feathers...
When you are done adding your feathers, several hours, days, or weeks later, you can cover that ugly wire loop with the ribbon by bending it in half over the wire and hot gluing it. While youâre at it, you can add some rhinestones, glitter (I recommend buying a spray adhesive and then âdustingâ them by throwing glitter at them), or trails of ribbons hanging from the mid-loop. You can also add feathers to the mid-loop, flowers, marabou, mirrors, etc. Keep in mind, however, that if you are not going to be adding straps, the support loop will not be visible as it will go inside your shirt (in which case you may want to just leave it covered in ribbon).
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
This part is optional. If you want "strapless" wings, simply insert the support loop into a low-back t-shirt like a halter top or a tube top (see below). Otherwise, you will have to make 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
Lastly, celebrate the fruits of your efforts! Dress up! Take some photos! Scare the neighbors!
Step 14: Finished Product
When you are all done wearing your wings, you can store them by hanging them on your wall using a picture frame hook or a couple nails. They make a marvelous conversation piece (;
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!
Finalist in the
DIY Halloween Contest