Magic Butterfly




I visualized this costume almost exactly as it came out one day while laying in the hammock. A Monarch came fluttering by and landed on my foot. I thought "how cool would it be to be a butterfly ... with many-colored wings...Costume with wings....costume with wings that change color!" And the rest just came to me.

Step 1: Make the Wings


  • 8 or 10 hula-hoops from a dollar store. the cheaper quality the better for this purpose.
  • 4 single flat sheets from a super-store. usually $5 each.

(the cheaper the better because the low thread count allows more light to come through.)

  • Black paint from any craft store. Two or three bottles.
  • 20 meters of NON-Waterproof LED strip.
    Options: Semi intellegent. - Changes colors but not in patterns like mine.
    Very intelligent - Specifically "WS2812" or "WS2812b" led strip. (It is important to get this type of strip if you want the butterfly to do the patterns you saw on my video.)
  • A power supply to supply the lights with between 3 and 5 volts dc - at about 3 amps per wing = 12 amps. these are difficult to find but sometimes old laptop power adapters meet these specs. large battery-packs (power banks for cellphones) can provide a great source of 5v but can be modified to give 3.7 volts at 15 amps. If you choose this method there are important saftey precausions you need to know about... I'll expand on this topic in another post.

Heat a hula-hoop in a 250f oven, until it is bendable. Do not over heat or it will lose it's shape completely. Using a hot glue gun, glue the pliable hula-hoop to the outer edge of the wing. Holding it in place and using the glue to keep the sheet tight.

Now glue the led strip to the sheet, making them face inward on each white (lighted) area. It is important to use non-waterproof strip because the coating or tubing around light strip is nearly impossible to glue to. Also it adds a huge amount of weight over the surface of the costume.

IMPORTANT> LIGHT UP THE WINGS - if they don't light before you cover them you may be in trouble after you glue on the cover.

Using a similar method to attaching the hula-hoop, glue the sheet over the lights pulling it tight as you glue to keep the cloth taut and tight.

Now paint over the strips with paint to keep the direct light from showing through and to give the wings definition.

Step 2: Create the Harness

The harness has two functions. First to hold up the wings and support them as you walk so you don't have to hold them up with your arms (which becomes painful after only a few minutes unless you are in really good shape).
Second, the electronics and wiring must be here to connect the wings to the battery and the micro-controller.

I started with a sheet of sentra (a plastic board about a quarter inch thick) that I heated in the oven and then layed it onto my back and shoulders to make a form-fitting backpack.

Next I put in a 4 pegs that were to hold the wings.

The backpack should be form fitting on one side and perpandicular on the other...otherwise the wings will lean forward.
Install the micro controller and power wires to each wing, making them as sturdy as possible.
Make a place for the battery pack to go. I put mine on top.

Step 3: Try It On!

Now you must modify your design so that it is comfortable to wear. Straps, padding and back-pack should be tight to hold it steady, but loose enough to be comfortable.

I created a mannequin to put mine on so that I could work on it. (The red body in some of the pics). It was much easier to work on the design this way.

You can find instructions on youtube to create a mannequin with some duct tape, plastic wrap, and a couple cans of spray foam insulation.



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    7 Discussions


    Reply 2 years ago

    Thanks T, I love hearing that people like it!


    Reply 2 years ago

    Thanks. I worked very hard on it and it is great to hear that you liked it.


    Reply 2 years ago

    Months. The programming was the hardest part. Now I have some shortcuts I've learned to make it easier.