Tuesday, February 22, 2011

How to Make Butterfly Wings By Jeni of Stitches by Jeni

A big thanks to team member Jeni of Stitches by Jeni for Sharing this blog post from her blog!

This is the first of 5 new tutorials on fairy wings. I use 5 shapes (shape possibilities are endless) and 4 types of fabric. Embellishments include; lace, sharpies, feathers, and ribbon. I have done all 5 wings with out a sewing machine, so no excuse non sewers.

I am excited to say my Etsy shop will be selling each of the featured styles on September 1st. 2010. All the wings will be sold for a lower price with no embellishments. So if you want to decorate your own wings you can for a reduced price. The wings will also be available fully decorated by me, for those of you who just love my style. tee, he, he

14 Gauge Galvanized Wire
Knee High Nylons
Permanent Markers
Wire Cutters
Take out the wire. This is the first and hardest part of the whole process. We are going to make the wing shape. Pinch the end of the wire between the top of your thumb, and your forefinger. Go with the curve that is already in the wire, just widen the curve.Here is a great detailed explanation of how to form your wire in a butterfly shape. I do it my own way, but this is close.

The shape won't be perfect, just do the best loop you can. Make it whatever size you like. I was aiming for about the size of a dinner plate. When you have one loop, do the same for your second loop. Be sure to leave at least 3" between your loops. The 3" bridge between the loops gives the wings stability when being worn. If the wings are flapping around it is usually because you need a wider bridge, or straps are too loose.

When using the Nylons it is important to note that the wire should be wider than the nylons themselves. It looks best when the nylons are stretched tight. The nylons are SUPER stretchy so it is unlikely that your wings will be too big, but it is possible that they could be too small. So go big or go home.
When you have your two loops made, do your best to bend the wire just enough to tell where the intersection should be. You are going to have to let go of the wires in order to properly pinch and wrap the wire around. If you just don't have the hand strength you can try a lesser gauge of wire, or try making sharpie marks.

So after the intersections are marked, grab the pliers and crimp down. You want this first crimp to hold the wire in place while little ones are running about so give it a good hard squeeze.
Once you have crimped the wire down it is just an easy rap around. If the wires are not staying securely in place you can wrap it a second time. I have never tried using electrical tape to tape down my intersections, but I think I will try it. If the tape stays stuck down it could be a nice way to finish off the ends and smooth down the wrap around.
I did the same process on the bottom. I made the bottom smaller, a little over half the size of the upper circles. Bend or mark your intersections and get the wire cutter. 

Cut the wire about 4" away from your last intersection. A wire cutter works just like a sizer, snip!
I wrapped my wires on the lower section by twisting the loops. I than twisted each loop one more time to be sure it would stay in place, and wrapped the tale of the wire around one of the bridge wires until it didn't stick out.
You will need to shape each loop. This is where creativity can come into play There are countless ways you could go about shaping the wings. I am going with a simple classic shape.

I start by making a point at the top of a loop. I do this with my hands, I don't want the hard, or permanent crease made with the pliers.
I go down the wire about 2 inches, and bend it toward the center of the wing. I pinch the wire on either side of where I want the bend. I than press my forefingers together and my thumbs away from each other until I have a nice smooth bend.
Same process on the other side.
I decided to make the tip more of a point so I grabbed the pliers and gave it a bit more of a pinch.

Time to break out the weird little $0.33 ball full of knee high nylons. I don't know why this little Easter egg guy tickles my funny bone so hard but it does. LOL

Break open the egg and clam your prize... NYLONS! This project actually takes 3 pair of nylons, two pair for the wings and one pair for the straps.

Pull the nylons over your wire frame wing. Concentrate on the top 3 or 4 inches when pulling it over the frame. The top of the knee high nylons have a stronger stretch so they stay up over your calves, good for your legs, bad for your wings. You can cut them off but it could ravel or run. The lesser evil is just to pull it over and rebend a little.

Two wings are covered and looking nice and tight.
What are we going to do with all that floppy stuff in the middle?
I wrapped the ends around the bridge section. I tried to put fabric over the ends of the wire. It is a good idea to heavily pad the areas where the wires are sticking out a bit more. I than took a needle and thread and sewed through all the layers. I tried to sew around the wire underneath the fabric, attaching the nylons to the frame. I whip stitched deeply all over the bridge section. I used white thread and it is well hidden even though I was sewing all over it.
The bridge came out a lot nicer, and neater than I had expected. I expected this to be a problem with using nylons but I was wrong. Sorry Nylons I misjudged you.
ALL DONE! Oh, not yet. It feels done when the wings are done. Time to get the Little girls involved!The kids have always been a big fan of Daddy's tattoos so art time always seams to turn into living canvases running around my back yard. I love it. The kids don't like being messy as much as I do. 
Charlotte was sad, she needed a bath. I wanted more photos. 
Thank God for non toxic. 
So before paint mess, we took sharpies to the nylon wings. LaLa loved it, she was drawing away happy as can be. Charlotte was fixated on all the colors. She is proud of the way she knows all the colors and wants to name them all off, while holding them ALL! She also likes to draw with 3 or 4 at the same time. 
Charlotte was a little disappointed that the markers didn't look as dark and rich as they do on paper, but it was a very fun afternoon. This cool project gave the girls a memory to go along with there dress up cloths. That memory has made this set of wings both of the girls favorite by a land slide. I need to hurry up and make another pair of these things because they are killing each other fighting over these silly wings. I personally like the bat wings the best, but the girls they love the wings THEY made. 
Like I said earlier, we are not done, we need straps. Break out that last pair of nylons.
Tie them in a knot at the end. If you don't want a lumpy bumpy on the bridge of the wing don't bother with the knot, you can just sew them down. The knot insures that no one will be pulling at those stitches, and since I made this for my girls, I need stability.
Wip stitch the ends in place. I let the knot hang off the bridge. The lump than falls just between the wings and doesn't dig into anyone's back. I concentrate on sewing down the knot and end pieces. I don't want anything flaping around for little fingers to pull apart. 
Charlotte won't take them off, I have to give her another pair of wings to put on so Delilah gets a turn. Delilah, only wants the "white ones." I was suprised how much I liked this version of wings. They are nice and stable on her back. She runs around the house singing "Be Bob, I'm Flying, Be Bob I'm Flying." She yells that. I have no idea what Be Bob is but she keeps saying it. The wings do not wobble around, they haven't gotten a run or a hole or anything. I always got a run in every pair of nylons I ever put on my legs. I have no idea why they haven't run. I guess if they do run it would be a piece of cake to pull some new stockings on and do the whole thing over again. 

Here is a link that has a great video from Threadbanger on how to make wings similar to mine but they use wire hangers and nylons. They also glitter the wings, I think our next art day will be glitter!

I am frequently amazed at what people do for and to there animals. Check out how to make wings for your puppy here. 

Check out my blog for Bat Wings, Angle Wings, Moth Wings, and Feather Wings. Hope you enjoyed this explnation for how to make fairy wings, butterfly edtition.


  1. What an awesome tutorial Jeni! I love it!!!! I think I'm going to have to try this soon. Would be fun to use during our photo shoots as well. Thank you so much for taking the time to share. -Rebecca OliveSMiles

  2. What are angle wings? :D

  3. Very nice! I host Butterfly ParTEAS and this is GREAT!