I have been wanting new Tinkerbell wings for a long time. Her wings are really tall and intricate (at least, in my mind) and so I was a little intimidated by the project. Wing structure is crucial, and finding a strong enough structure for wings that are that big and vertical seemed really tough.
Then, I discovered Wonderflex. This stuff is great. It's a low temperature sculptable plastic sheet with a woven fiber back - people seem to mostly use it for making costume armor or other "hard" costume pieces that don't lend themselves to fabric. It's paintable and sandable and .. well, it's COOL.
My first project was a Sleeping Beauty crown and since that went so well I decided to try for something a little more ambitious. I found Vickibunnyangel's fairy wing tutorial and got inspired.. Here's the end result:
- 400 series bristol vellum (2 big sheets, from Michael's)
- Gold spray paint
- Clear gloss acrylic sealer (probably didn't really need this)
- Spray glue
- Iridescent Cellophane wrapping paper
- Mod Podge Gloss
- 16 g wire
- Gold leaf paint
- Flowers for decorating
- Foam cushion (I used a little piece of yoga mat)
- Trace out the vein design on the Bristol board. I did the upper and lower wings separately.
- Cut the veins out carefully with an x-acto knife. (my hands got SO tired)
- Next I painted the wing frames with shiny gold spray paint. I did 2 coats on each one and then sprayed with an acrylic sealer - probably not necessary but I don't want the wings to fall apart if it rains!
- I sprayed the frames with spray glue, and laid them down on sheets of cellophane, carefully - this was tricky trying to get the cellophane smooth along the veins and took me a couple tries (it's good to have extra cellophane on hand!)
- Time for mod-podge! I used Mod Podge gloss and a little miniature paint roller. This worked brilliantly. I did 3 coats on the front of each wing and 2 coats on the back. This beefs up the cellophane so it doesn't feel like the slightest breeze will tear it, and seals the whole thing really nicely. It dries perfectly clear and it made the wings really feel like wings.
- While the mod podge was drying, I got out the wire and bent it around until I had the frame right. I used one piece of wire for each side - down along the top of the large upper wing, looping back up and then around the bottom of the lower round wing. I made the wires loop down below the bottom of the lower wings to make a brace that slides into the top of my costume (I prefer this method to wearing wing straps). (wish I'd taken a picture of this part! that would make it easier to explain)
- I attached the two bare wire frames together using wonderflex scraps, basically making a rectangular brace that holds the frames in place and that I can slide into the back of my costume. (There's also a strip of wonderflex underneath the flower to make the wings stay a little more vertical.)
- Then I attached the wings to the frames with a long strip of Wonderflex. I used a hair dryer to melt just a few inches of Wonderflex at a time, then smoothed the sticky Wonderflex down to the wings, covering the wire so it was trapped underneath the Wonderflex.
- I painted all the Wonderflex with gold leaf paint and then used hot glue to add the flower and leaves, covering up the top of the back brace. I tried the wings on - they looked GREAT but kept sort of sliding sideways.. probably because one wing had two wires and twice as much Wonderflex so it was a little heavier. Grr..
- To solve this problem I cut a small piece of yoga mat and hot glued it to the inside of the back brace. The wings now slide inside my dress and bra, and nestle comfortably between my shoulder blades and I can spin and dance and play and they aren't going ANYWHERE.
I made sure there were fairly thick support veins along the top edge but I left the outer edge open. I like the way this looks but I'm wishing now that I'd added a little more support along the outside edge because the finished wings are a little bit saggy along the outside.
I did a couple test-runs on scraps first and learned that one should NOT put spray-glue on the cellophane - the glue doesn't dry clear so the cellophane ended up looking all spatter-y. Not unattractive.. just not what I was going for. Spraying just the frames is the way to go.
Because my craft room is a little messy I ended up accidentally using 16g wire for one wing and 18g for the other. As I was testing out the finished wings, the 18g side was really saggy and I ended up having to add a second 16g wire to that side - not ideal, but note-to-self - when in doubt, use the heavier wire!
At this point I tested the wings to see how sturdy they were and added a second wire to the right side since it was kind of floppy. Also I added a wire to the bottom of the right wing (and just a piece of wonderflex to the left wing so it looked symmetrical). The wonderflex is amazing.. you can just keep piling it on to add strength.. but it also adds weight so don't get carried away.