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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Fairy wing making tutorials part 1: Nylon wings

I recently saw a post on Pinterest that features a bunch of info. on how to make different kinds of Fairy wings. I was disappointed to find that some of this advice was out-dated, some was incomplete, and some just plain vague and wrong/misleading.

So, just for those of you who happen to be tripping over my small but growing art-blog in your search for better art-blogs, and those of you who happen to be avidly and excitedly watching my art blog...*pause for dramatic and flashy grin*....*resume*...I'm putting together a possibly small, but accurate, list of tutorials and tips and ideas on wing making. :D

In the interest of complete accuracy, I'm only going to cover two different styles...because that is all that I have worked on myself, so far.  Those being:     nylon, ie: panty hose;  and cellophane/fantasy film/vinyl.
-I'm not going to give out all the tips I've currently used in making my own cellophane wings because a friend gave me these tips and I'm not quite sure where she stands on having these tips shared out. In other words: trial and error, my friends!! ;D

We're going to start off with the nylon wings...because they are easier and I have an awesome video tutorial to share with you all.     This tutorial is by Emilie Autumn and this was filmed for HGTV's "Crafters Coast to Coast".     This is a fantastic tutorial and I use exactly these techniques in making my own nylon fairy wings:

Firstly, it is ALWAYS up to you what kinds of paints and glitters and decor you use. Keep in mind that the bigger your wing frame, the larger the nylons you'll need. I realize that this is common sense and really shouldn't need stating, but you know...there it is. ;)
-Also, when creating your wing frame design, please keep strongly in mind that depending upon the size of your nylons, your wing frame may get a little squished in the stocking. So you will find yourself trying to resize your wing frame through the panty hose, but even in trying to pull them and rebend them back to the original shape, they may still be a bit squished.   BUT THAT'S OK! You can still work with this.:)
-So, either larger stockings...or a slightly new wing frame. ;D

*I personally buy the little knee-high stockings in the plastic eggs at my wing frames tend to get squished a lot.   One day I'll put up some scratch for some larger and stretchier stockings, but till then...I'm cheap and buy the walmart ones.  
-Always stretch them out as much as you can before putting them over your wire frame.

*If you are looking for a particular color of stocking and just aren't finding it, you've got some options. RIT dye is great for nylon...but be forewarned, due to the chemical composition of nylon, it may not come out the exact shade of the dye you're using.  I used a deep purple dye, shown below, to dye the stockings I used for the wings pictured above, but they came out this lovely shade of periwinkle blue rather than that deep purple I was originally aiming for.

-If RIT dye isn't your cup of tea, once you've got the nylon stretched over the wire frame, you can use spray paint, airbrush, alcohol inks, acrylic paints, dye in a spray/squirt bottle, etc.  Even fat permanent markers.

*In stretching your nylon over your frame, be careful not to stretch it too tightly, you still want the fibers of the nylon stocking close enough together to hold the paint/dye evenly and if you stretch too tightly you run a higher risk of getting a tear in your wing's membrane.

*IF you are using galvanized steel wire....14 to 12gauge is best. might want to consider first covering your wire frame in a layer of floral tape.  There are little imperfections and sharp points on the galvanized wire that will snag and tear your stockings. The floral tape does two things:   1. it makes your wire frame look nicer, perhaps more organic/ a tree branch or bone, etc.  And you can always paint the floral tape however you want before putting on the stockings. 2. it gives you a smooth surface to pull your nylon stockings over without fear of tears and effect, protecting your nylons.

**A quick little note on wire to beginners:   the smaller the number, the harder the wire.  14 is's still pliable but keeps it's shape rather well. 16 is thinner and way more pliable/ not as great at keeping it's shape under outside stress. 16 is good for interior veining on wings due to it being so thin.    12 is great in that it is still 'kind of' pliable, but while it is harder to bend and to cut it keeps it's shape a lot better. It's a stronger gauge.

*I like to use the green plastic coated 14gauge wire that you can pick up at both Home Depot and Lowe's.  It's already coated, so I don't need to wrap it in floral tape and it's 14gauge, so it's pretty decent at keeping it's shape.
-plastic coated electrical wire is good, too.
(that blue coated wire in the pic above is from's CRAP for wings. Don't buy it.)
*Before buying/using any wire, do a bend test to see how pliable/bendable it is. You want to make sure it is strong enough to keep it's shape and not bend while you're wearing it should someone grab it or you accidentally bump into something/someone with them, etc.

*It's a good idea to keep around 2 pairs of pliers on hand when wing making: a set of needle-nosed pliers and a good strong wire-cutting set.    The needle-nosed pliers are good if you want to do some small spiral or curling details in your wing frame.

*Once you have your nylons over your wing frame and secured at the base with the electrical tape: If you have any sharp or deep curves in your wing frame and your nylons just aren't following that curve well enough, you can pull out a needle and thread and hand-stitch the nylon to the frame.
-If you are going to cover it up later in paint and glitter, don't worry about matching your thread color to your nylon...but if you aren't, be choosy in your thread color choice.
You can't see it now, but here I've had to go in and hand-stitch my nylon to the wing frame to get a good curve like this.

*As you saw in Emilie Autumn's vid. can use an incense stick to burn small holes in your wings.   I've heard some people say you can use a candle and/or a lighter, too. I would STRONGLY advise avoiding those two options if I were you. Reason being: with that large of a flame, it's harder to get a controlled burn. You may end up either catching your wings on fire, or burning too large of a hole in them.    So stick with either the incense stick or, do as I did, and use the tip of a solder iron.    
-Also, to help control the size of the hole and make sure it doesn't run, you might want to first draw your holes on the wing (front and back to match) using either clear glue or glitter glue as part of your design. Let that dry and then stick your burning tip into the center of the outlined hole and just make little widening circles till you have the entire center burned out.
-You may want to open a window or do this outside as burned nylon can stink and probably not a great idea to inhale too much of.:)

And when you use loose glitter glued to your wings, I suggest taking your wings outside (or in a well-ventilated area) and spraying them (lightly) with some polyurethane sealant to keep the glitter in place.

BACK Support:
There are a variety of options out there on how to actually adhere your wings to you and/or your outfit. I'm only going to touch on two of those options as I've only got experience with two of them.
1. Ties:  One of the techniques involves tying the wings to you.  If you're wings connect in a straight horizontal bar against your back, then you can glue or tie a length of ribbon at each end and tie the ends around your shoulders.     And be sure to decorate that bar 'cause people are going to be able to see it unless your hair is long enough to cover it or you can create a flap in your costume to hide it under.  In the pic below, I used a straight bar and glued ribbons to it and tied it to myself to be worn and I covered that bar with fake leaves.   Later I went back and added a thick U-shaped bar to that straight bar and wore it as described below, anyway.

 -I personally don't care for this option as I don't like any kind of ties to show...but this is a good option for small children or anyone not wearing the type of clothing needed for the 2nd option.

2. U-bar:  This option involves turning the ends of your wings (that extra bit of wire sticking out at the end) into a U shape, once you've got a U shape at the end of each of your wing-petals, combine them together so that they overlap into one big U shape.

 Use electrical tape and bind those together.  It might be easier to bind two at a time and then those all together into one big U.      Once you've got that done, you can either cover it in fabric or ribbon, etc., or leave it bare. No one is going to see this part so it's entirely up to you.   This option works best if you are wearing a bodice/corset or a good strong bra or other strong garment. 
-You're going to tuck that U-shaped bar down the back of your shirt top and wear them as-is. This way there are no straps and nothing visible holding the wings to you. Just the wings sticking out of your back.
Here's a pic. of the U-shaped support bar I'm describing:
 It's up to you how big to make the U-bar. If this is for a smaller person or a child, it doesn't need to be that large, obviously. If these are really large wings, I would make the U-bar deep so that it's got enough leverage that the wings won't just fall out of your shirt.  I, personally, like to make the U-bar wide enough that it sits just between my shoulder blades, for two purposes.  1. the wings will look more like they are emerging from your shoulders and be more realistic, and 2. when I move my shoulder blades against the sides of the U-bar, I can make the top wings on that side move, too. Like they are actually real. It's a fun little effect.:)

And here's an idea of how it's looks being worn:

And there you have it. Nylon Fairy wings. I think I've included everything I can think to include that I've learned from my own wing-making experiences.:)