Feather Wings

WingsClick here for associated Belldandy costume
I’ve never made feather wings before, this is my first try. If I can do it, so can you! :) Noteable features: it has exactly a 5′ wingspan. It’s supported with 2 wire rods that insert into tracks sewn on the inside of the corset. It weighs less than 3 lbs, and stands on its own with no shoulder straps. The whole project took 2 days to complete, about 12 hours total. They can be gently folded in half for travel purposes. Totally a fun project; I hope to make more wings in the future!

1 lb. turkey tom feathers: 1/2 lb left and 1/2 lb right wing. (I got mine from rainbowfeathers.com)
1 package matching feather flats
2″ hole chicken wire (1 small roll; about $5. I only used about 2.5 feet.)
9 gauge metal wire (found in lawn section at hardware stores)
wire cutters
2 yds. matching felt
glue gun and glue
duct tape
clear bra straps, ribbons for shoulder straps, etc. (optional if using corset or bodice)

Wings - Step 1Step 1: Sew tracks into corset, bodice, i.e tight-fitting shirt
I zigzag stitched 2 loops down the lining of my corset before I sewed the lining and outer layer of corset together. (Foresight!) The top needs to be tight-fitting, or else the wings will shift and probably fall out unless you’re using shoulder straps. I put a pen inside the left track so you can visualize how the wings will work when you put them on. :) You’ll need someone to put your wings in for you when you dress; it’s a 2 person job!
Wings - Step 2Step 2: Create wire frame
I cut a 145″ piece of 9 gauge wire to create my frame. I bent it until I got a shape I liked, and made sure it was as symmetrical as possible. I kept the edge curved and not straight so the lines would be organic and match the look of the wings I was going for. Make sure to have a U shape for your back; the added area space will keep your wings against your body and not flopping about. 

I held the wire frame over the chicken wire and cut around it. Using that shape as a template, I cut out another for the other side to make sure both sides were symmetrical. To attach, I simply twisted the ends of the chicken wire to the 9 gauge wire.

Wings - Step 3 and 4Step 3: Add middle bar
If using shoulder straps, you only need to duct tape a horizontal bar for added support. I used a pronged shape (as seen in this pic and pic below), intending to insert the prongs into tracks I’d sewn into my corset. When taping the bar, make sure to pull tape as taught as possible to prevent shifting. 

Step 4: Wrap edges in felt
Cut long strips of felt 1″-2″ wide and wrap around the edges. Use hot glue every few inches to prevent shifting. This hides any barbed edges from the chickenwire, and will make it easy to glue the felt on in the next step. Trace the wire frame onto the felt and add a 1″-2″ border to make sure it will fit the whole wing. Cut out 4 of these shapes.

Wings - Step 5Step 5: Add more felt
Glue your 4 pieces onto the front and back of each wing. Wrapping the edges first in felt makes this an easy task, as felt loves to be hot glued to more felt! Cut off any excess. You don’t have to be perfect on this step; all mistakes will be covered by feathers. Hold them up to your body to see if you like the shape. If you don’t simply go back with your wire cutters and change the shape. As you see, I thought my wings were too bulky, so I shaved off about 4″ on each side.

Wings - Step 6Step 6: Shape feathers
Round the tips of the feathers with scissors. (Or make points, whatever you like!) Cut off the base of every single one and try to remove the downy bottom part. This took me about 3 hours, so put in a DVD and cut away. At this point, don’t cut ANY feathers in half! You don’t know how many you’ll need! But you will be cutting some in half later for finishing the wings. I just showed a picture here for reference.
Wings - Step 7Step 7: Create long feathers
The long feathers on the outer part of the wings look complicated but are super easy to make. Just glue the bottom of a feather to the top of another with a line of hot glue along the spine only. For each wing I made 4 “long” feathers out of 4 feathers each, 3 “long” feathers out of 3 feathers, and 6 “long” feathers out of 2 feathers. Whether you glue the bottom under or over the top of the next feather is a matter of personal preference; either looks fine to me but maybe someone cares!

Wings - Step 8Step 8: Glue feathers to felt
Before you start gluing, google “bird wing” or something to get an idea of how feathers are situated on a real wing. Hopefully you’ve at least done that so far. o_O Make sure you are using the right feathers for each side. Google, people. Google. In general, start on the bottom outside and work inward, overlapping slightly. You only need 1″ of glue along the top spine of each feather. Globbing on glue adds weight, and considering you’re only adding 1 lb of feathers total that glue adds up. As you can see from the pic on left, I did a short row of feathers cut in half after adding the long feathers to the bottom to cover the felt line, just in case – so the felt wouldn’t be visible.

Wings - Step 9Step 9: Continue gluing
Continue your feather rows until front and back are covered.
Wings - Step 10Step 10: Glue feathers up to the top
When you get towards the top, remember you can cut your feathers in half to continue the layered effect!
Wings - Step 11Step 11: Glue flat feathers to edge
To hide the icky felt around the edge, glue your flats down. Some people use maribou feathers or feather boas for this. It depends on the look you’re going for. Using flats creates the least “fluffy” look.
Wings - Step 12Step 12: Glue remaining tom feather halves along edges
To hide the spines where the tom feathers left off in the picture on Step 10, I glued my remaining feathers along the back and front edge on the top of the wings.
Wings - Step 13Step 13: Cover the back with crap
I used more feathers, but you can cover the back with ribbons or bows or whatever to match your costume. Mine’s going to be covered by a massive ponytail anyway, so I didn’t care too much to do anything fancy. If you’re adding a strap harness, now’s the time to do it. If not, then just have a helper insert the two rods into your corset and you’re set to go!