DIY or Buy – my thoughts on Fairy Wings

Earlier this week I got an email from Eli that said:

“I googled fairy wings and came across your picture. I love what you did and was wondering if you could share how you made them? I’m asking because some friends of mine are shooting a music video and we wanted to have a fairy in the video. 🙂



Unfortunately, the email address Eli gave me bounced back. After feeling sad that I couldn’t help an aspiring fairy make her wings I realized I have a blog. Now it’s a writing blog, and normally I keep pretty close to the topic, but it’s almost Halloween, so…

fairy wingsFairy Wings!


Eli probably found a picture of my amazing wings from Enchanted Hearth Designs. More than a decade ago, I bought wings from Deanna at Enchanted Heart on eBay. Now she has a great Etsy shop that produces custom and regular wings. She does amazing work, my wings sparkled brilliantly even after a decade of use. They never tore or ripped despite being worn to the Maryland Fairy Festival and on rides at Disney World. I even wore them to run various Halloween 5ks. (Where I won for best costume, because my wingmaker is just plain amazing).

wings-aloneThe wings are sheer organza surged on the edges with a sleeve that goes over a metal piece which slides between my back and my corset. The metal is a single piece, bent into a square-bottomed u shape. They’re comfortable and travel well in a FedEx triangle box as checked baggage or shipped via ground (they weigh less than 5lbs). A word about cost: wings are not cheap. Enchanted Hearth has wings from $95 to $40. The bigger the wings the higher the price. Mine were around $75.

I also made my DIY Fairy wings using old dry-cleaning hangers and cellophane.


Simple DIY fairy wings steps:

  1. Pull the flat portion of a drycleaning hanger (cheap wire hanger) until it resembles a hoop, with the hook on one side.
  2. Straighten the hook.
  3. Repeat with 3 other hangers.
  4. Twist the hooks together.
  5. Cover the hooks with duct tape or another soft on the skin tape.
  6. Sandwich the wings between cellophane on a safe working surface (so cellophane, the empty wing frame, then another piece of cellophane).
  7. Use a hair dryer set on very high (or a heat gun if you have one) to melt the cellophane. Be careful not to melt the cellophane, or be ready to artfully melt the cellophane so no one thinks it was an accident.

These wings are worn  by tucking the braid hanger hooks between a sports bra and your skin or by tying a ribbon around the braids to make a harness.

Here are some tutorials with roughly the same steps and pictures:

Simple wing tutorial

Complex wing tutorial

The DIY wings cost less than $15 in materials. They took me about three hours to make three pairs. The first two were epic failures. The photo above is my third set of DIY wings.  If you Google “cellophane fairy wings” you can find some really amazing wings out there. Please remember, you’re not seeing anyone’s first attempt.

Also, bear in mind that cellophane wings aren’t as durable as the cloth wings. I wore these for a day at Disney World. By the end of the day they were destroyed. To contrast, my cloth wings made it through multiple Disney days without a scratch.

A word on wing size: I bought my purple wings in size “oh my yes”. I justified it by saying my wings would have to be twice my height to lift me off the ground. This meant that in large gatherings I had to have a ‘wingman’ walking behind me keeping the tips of my wings from gouging someone’s eyes out. As a smaller than average person (61.75 inches/1.6meters tall) I often forgot to adjust for wing height when it came to doors or openings in the crowd.

I’d recommend starting with wings in a more medium height, one less prone to hurting others or restricting movement. While I love my purple fairy wings with a passion I’ve wished many many times that I got a more neutral color – sparkly white gossamer wings or black veined dragon wings may have been a bit more versatile.

Then again, wings aren’t really about making the sensible choice, are they?

So Eli, and anyone else who decides to become a fairy, I hope that helps. My wings gave me great joy. They became a way to introduce myself and my culture – “I’m the girl who wears 6 ft purple fairy wings on the weekends”). I hope your wings do the same. Good luck!




Avoiding Scams at DragonCon (or any other Convention)

Writing scams are many and varied. No one does a better job of covering them than the amazing Writer Beware blog.  If you’re writing you need to read their blog on a regular basis. It will protect you and your work.

But what about your pocket money? What about the money you’re hoping to blow at DragonCon or ComicCon or the money you’re saving up for next year’s Romance Writers of America conference? That’s what I want to talk about, because even though we’re a year away from some Cons (SDCC, RWA), we’re only 30 days away from others (DragonCon). My tips to keep your money safe at any Con:

Be cautious when buying commissioned work. Walking through an artist alley your fingers itch to take things off the walls. In the dealers’ hall your eyes are nearly blinded by the sparkly objects. What you see is amazing, but it could be truly awesome with just a few small changes. An easily approachable salesman strikes up a conversation, and moments later you hand over more money than you expected to spend with the promise of a custom piece in the near future. But will it ever come?

Maybe. Most artists are honest people. They know they live by their reputation in the community and they won’t risk that for your commission. Mistakes do happen though, so before you plunk down money do a little homework.  Check out the artist or creator on the web. Do they have a web page? Is it filled with grammar and spelling errors? Are there people complaining in their Facebook feed? Check Twitter and MySpace for complaints too. Google the name of the artist and words like ‘scam’ or ‘commission’. Ask if they’re delivering any work at the Con. See if you can speak to some of their customers.

Remember there are no returns. The one-of-a-kind light saber, the prop from your favorite movie, and the amazing software package to use on your author website all have the same restriction: once you’ve bought them you can’t return them. Protect yourself by doing research, is this item truly one-of-a-kind or are there fifty of them on eBay? Take a close look at what you’re about to buy, does it seem sturdy? I’d walk away from any sale where I couldn’t touch the item before I purchase. For software and collectibles, check to see that the box is truly sealed, and not just resealed with glue after having been opened. The web is your friend again, google to see that you’re getting all the parts you should be getting. If it’s software, check the web for reviews. In general, don’t spend so much that you’ll be crushed if something falls apart before you get it home.

Don’t be pressured. It’s easy to believe that a special show sale is the only thing that will ever make a book editing service affordable to you, or that if you walk away from a set of stormtrooper armor someone else will snatch it up. However, it’s just as possible that you don’t need that editing service and the armor will sit until Monday morning when you’re sure about it. Most of us don’t make our best decisions under pressure. Watch out for used car salesman techniques like failing to give a firm price, being unwilling to put a price in writing, blaming someone else for a price or policy, or pushing you off from one salesman to another. If you know you’re bad at this, enlist a friend or a stranger for help. It’s easy to say to someone “what do you think?” and break the salesman’s strangle hold on the conversation. Remember, you can always walk away.

Know your limits. If you’re arriving at a convention with twenty dollars in food money, don’t seat yourself in the most expensive restaurant in the hotel. If you can’t resist shiny new corsets (that’d be me) don’t stop at the corset booths without someone to bail you out. If you have a set budget for purchases, don’t take more than that amount of money on to the trade floor. If your credit cards are maxed out don’t carry them in your pocket, stash them in your  hotel room safe.

Don’t trust people just because they share your passion. Writers, Trekkies, and Steampunks can all be scam artists. The MMO player you’ve exchanged a few messages with here and there can hurt you just as much as a total stranger you meet in a bar. We want to believe that our fandom is filled with kind and giving people but that isn’t always true. Trust but verify. Be cautious, real fan clubs have letterhead, t-shirts, and a logo. If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Above all, please remember that if you can’t trust someone with your wallet, don’t trust them with your body.

Have I missed any tips? Am I too gloom & doom? Am I just plain wrong? I can’t wait to hear about it in the comments. 😉


Random things – the 5 July edition


A few random things:

Best. Meeting. Ever.

Last Tuesday, my blog stayed uncharacteristically silent, largely because I was at the most fantastic meeting of my life. As someone with day jobs both federal and private, I’ve attended more than my fair share of meetings. When I say this meeting was the best, I have several to compare it against, and I mean it: no meeting has ever been better than meeting my editor at Tor books.

Somehow in the midst of the fantastic meal, the brilliant conversation, and the moments made of sheer win when my editor and I shared our enthusiasm for some obscure piece of SciFi-Fantasy culture, I decided to neglect my blog. Sorry about that. I can tell you that my editor is an amazing woman, the kind of person I wish I had for a best friend. The Tor offices are close to my idea of heaven: the walls are lined with books I want to read, the people are friendly, and everyone loved books as much as I did. I’m very excited to work with the Tor team.

T-minus 60 days….

As of today, there are less than 60 days left before DragonCon. I gushed about DragonCon earlier, so I’ll try not to repeat myself, but I will prattle on about my preparations.

I’ve ordered a new costume, an official pirate costume. I debated the purchase for three years. As someone who loves playing dress up but lacks sewing ability I rely on costumers and tailors to create their vision. When it comes to pirate costumes, that vision didn’t match mine, perhaps because I prefer cocoa brown over black. (It seems most pirates wear black, who knew?) I’ve found a new costumer and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that come in as planned. With a little luck you’ll see me in the halls of the Marriott with a bodice that matches the pirate hat I made myself a few months ago.

I’ve also started packing, the fairy wings, matching skirt and corset are set and ready to go. If that seems incredibly early to you, I’d like to pass along some DragonCon wisdom:

Ship your clothes.

My clothes go FedEx Ground. The shipping costs roughly $30 each way, that’s five dollars more than the check baggage fee. While I do have to ship five business days before the Con to ensure everything arrives, I have the reassurance of tracking my luggage every step of the way. I get a confirmation email when the luggage arrives at the hotel. I don’t have to hassle with luggage at the airport, or worry about getting into a cab. I don’t even have to lug it up to the room, I just call the front desk and a very nice young man brings my luggage to the door. So while the accelerated packing timeline can be a bear, I feel it’s completely worth it.

In a way this year’s DragonCon brings a little sadness. I’m hopeful that next year I’ll have obligations to the Writing Track. In my fantasies, I spend DragonCon 2012 on panels, doing book signings, and networking with other writing professionals. None of those are things I’m comfortable doing in four ft. tall fairy wings. This may be my last chance to costume outrageously, and I assure you’re I’m going to enjoy it.

And, the last, very random thing, I’m looking for recommendations for classic American authors, people like Faulkner and Hemingway. Actually, what I’d love is an online book club that reads classics. Any suggestions?

Accepted by SWFA

Like all high school cafeterias, my cafeteria was divided by social structure. Jocks and cheerleaders by the glass doors so everyone could see them, country kids in the back, cowboy hats and smuggled tobacco marking their turf, the rank and file in between, and outside, some five hundred feet across the quad, my own motley crew. I’d made the mistake of trying to sit at an empty table on my first day, the scathing glares and nasty words are best left unremembered. After that the group of outcasts broiling in the Florida sun, far away from the air conditioned comfort of socially cataloged seats, felt welcoming.

My group understood the things that mattered to me: stories, philosophy, science, life. They knew the difference between telekinesis and telepathy. They watched the ‘new’ Star Trek religiously. They quoted Asimov and Tolkien. They got my jokes. Outside of high school people like that were rare, in the writing world they felt even rarer.

Writing groups vary, and, of course, no group is perfect for everyone. I will forever be indebted to RWA (Romance Writers of America) for teaching me the ropes. But RWA conferences focus on the hero and heroine, their romantic journey. They don’t know the difference between a parsec and a light year. I remember attending my first RWA conference and feeling horribly alone. I didn’t know any of the authors everyone mentioned, I wasn’t part of that group.

Then just a few days ago I received my acceptance letter from the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. Suddenly there’s another group for me to sit with, another place where people understand the things I wonder about whether it’s an orc or a wormhole.

I’m also basking in a certain level of prestige. SWFA doesn’t take everyone, and I’ve know some pretty good authors who didn’t make the cut. Even if that weren’t true, I think I’d still be walking on air. As I kid I devoured SciFi and loved fantasy. When I look around at the members of SFWA, I’m seeing the people who wrote my hopes and dreams. Now, I’m one of them, and it blows me away.