Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Easy, floral branch wings

For my three dryad costumes (spring, fall, and winter) I used branches from the floral department at Hobby Lobby to make decorative wings. My inspiration came from a woman selling branch-like wings . Her work is amazing. Since I couldn't afford her gorgeous wings, I needed to make a cheap replica. Based on some experimenting with other materials in the house, I decided the branches need to be flexible for shaping (so no natural branches) and firm enough to hold their shape (so nothing flimsy). I also considered how to get the mossy look with model "flocking" and spray adhesive or natural moss and hot glue.

I found some lovely fake branches at Hobby Lobby and bought them when they were 50% off. I think I paid around $12 for 4 branches. The branches already has a nice mossy look to them, and the "leafy" parts looked very natural even from a close distance. The picture shows the spring branches in preliminary stages of twisting.

When making wings, you should consider the purpose, weight, and the place/event where you will wear them. These decorative wings would not be great for flitting about or for dancing in, as they are tall and wide. They aren't very heavy, which is good since I planned to wear them a lot. Also - a lesson learned by anyone navigating a crowd with folks in costuming - no one appreciates being poked in the eye by someone's wings. In contrast, people are not very considerate of costumers wearing wings. So try as you might to be careful how you turn and where you walk - someone who is not paying attention will run into you or get snagged on your wings. So be prepared for choice words - hearing them or saying them. Also be prepared for damage to your wings from walking in crowds.  I have found large, pointy, or bulky wings are great for contests and parades. Small, fabric or pantyhose wings with no sharp edges are great for crowds.

Before you assemble wings, consider how you will wear them and how to brace them if they are top heavy. There are many ways to wear wings. Elastic straps are the most common, but won't hold up very heavy wings. Under-bra back braces are great for light-weight and fabric wings - if you have a high backed shirt or stiff bodice to support the wires. Exterior, over-shoulder frames are good for heavy duty wings. Constructed bracers can also be added at the back for more support and decorated to match. Also consider how the attachments will look with your costume, if you will have or need help getting them on or off, and the ever practical question of how to go to the bathroom. You don't want to find out too late that you have to take your shirt off to remove the wings that won't fit in the bathroom stall.

For these wings, we decided that a simple bracer made from bending the ends of the branch inward into a loop would work nicely and would compliment the design and theme of the wings. First, we connected the branches in the center, at the desired width. I kept the middle width where the branches connect smaller than the width of my back. Zip ties are great for connecting the branches - just be sure the tips don't poke you in the back. I also used brown floral tape in places to cover zip ties. For the autumn branches, I twisted the left branches together first, then the right, before attaching all four together with zip ties. We used pliers to shape the ends of the branches around a can of soup to get them round. Then we used the pliers to shape the branches and clipped off any extra length.

In consideration of the color of my spring dryad top, I made simple casings for the elastic out of green fabric, with brown fabric at the ends for attaching to the branches. I made white casings for the winter wings and brown for the autumn. This really helps the elastic blend in with the costume if you don't want it to show. Just remember to make the casings long enough to fit around your arms when the elastic is stretched. In other words, the casing is longer than the elastic. Yes the fabric casing will be bunched up a little while you are wearing the wings, but it is a trade-off for an obvious band of elastic contrasting with your costume. I used clear elastic with no casing for my nyad wings.

The next step was embellishing and covering the connection area. I found a great natural branch garland that was small enough to fit. I used the model flocking and spray adhesive for the mossy look. Zip ties were used to attach the garland to the branches. For the autumn wings, I hot glued silk leaves and small branches to cover the middle.

These have proven to be pretty good wings. I do need help getting my long hair unstuck from the edges when I put them on. And the branches need to be reshaped after wearing. These are not recommended for crowds, by the way. Hair pulling, eye poking, and fabric snagging have resulted from passing folks in tight quarters and I've offered many an apology. They are also a bit wider than the standard door frame, so I have to remember to turn sideways. Hanging/storing them and transporting them have been the biggest challenge. I've worn them for 2 years and they still look good and are comfortable to wear. The green bits on the branches are showing some thinning in spots, as they rub against things and get transported, but I can still get more use out of them.  I've made four pairs of wings like this and will likely make more using this design. I've helped my sister-in-law make some awesome wings from gold metallic branches. My sister took the concept and made some with sprays of feathers and pearls. The possibilities are endless.

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