Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Craft Tutorial: Garbage Bag Dragon Wings

A couple of weeks ago my daughter announced she wanted to be a white dragon for Halloween. There are a dragon costume options available in the stores but none are white, other than the How To Train Your Dragon Light Fury for younger children. (My daughter is 9 and skinny, but so tall she wears age 12 clothes.)

I boldly said I'd make her dragon wings, and rather than the soft type hanging from the arms, I decided to make proper shaped wings coming out of her back. I don't know what I was thinking! But my husband cleared his weekend D&D game off the trestle tables so I had a big workspace, and today I finished them (other than the harness). I thought I'd share how I made them.

Initially I found an online tutorial showing how to turn two kites into amazing wings, and I tried to replicate this. The only suitable kites I could find were rainbow colored. White spray paint failed to cover the color (it just doesn't stick to that fabric, and isn't thick enough), so I decided to start from scratch using white garbage bags and garden wire.

These are super cheap to make, especially if you already have supplies like spray adhesive, a glue gun, and wire cutters. Unless you use something other than garbage bags for the wings themselves, you're probably limited to white, black, or green. I used extra large (40L) garbage bags which are stronger than the smaller ones, and in any case I needed them to be large in order to cover the wire shapes.

Update: The final costume:

Here we go! (List of what you'll need is at the end.)

Cut lengths of 2.5mm-thick wire (about the same as wire hangers - you could use wire hangers if you're making tiny wings) and bend into shape. My wings have just one central spine so I needed 2 lengths per wing, but you could cut 3 lengths and have 2 spines.

My wings are about 70cm (27") down the left side (in the photo below) and 95cm (38") down the right side, which I'll call the main "arm" of the wing (the part coming out the dragon's back). The arm needs to be a good 20cm longer than necessary to allow for attaching to the back. You want as much contact down the wearer's back as possible.

These are the shapes you'll need for one wing. Note the central spine(s) is shorter than the left one (cut off in this photo). These spines are the dragon's fingers.

The arm will be a double (or triple) thickness of wire. Tape these pieces together along the entire length with clear sticky tape. At this stage you could paint the wire to match the color of this "skin" if you want, but I left mine. (These are make-it-quick wings!)

Shape the wire to ensure both wings are the same. Here's the final shape, with the arm down the right.

Prepare the plastic garbage bags by cutting off the bottoms and handles, to form a tube.

Cut the tube open to make one rectangular piece. In my case, it was just big enough. Tape to the table to hold it steady. Spray adhesive over the plastic and lay the wire on top. 

Tape the edge of another piece of plastic to the table, to hold that in place, and stretch over the first. Smooth down, paying attention to each side of the spine and the edges. You will get wrinkles and a few bubbles so do the best you can. Spray adhesive is tacky at first, so you may be able to peel it off if you go wrong, and have another go. Leave to dry for half an hour.

Cut out around the wire with a "seam allowance" of about 1.5cm. 

Here are the two cut-out wings (before shaping the bottom edges):

Mark the scalloped shape of the bottom edge. Cut one, then use that as a template to cut the other. Trim to make both wings the same.

Fold over the seam allowance and tape with clear packaging tape. Up close it looks messy and wrinkled, but from a distance (or on a dark Halloween night) that's not noticeable.

 Neatened wings:

To create the claws, I used silver cloth tape. Duct tape would do, or use adhesive foam sheets, which come in lots of colors, or thick card. At the end of each finger-spine, tape a 20cm piece of tape and double it over to make a 10cm tab. Cut the claw shape. I also put a claw on the top of the wing (see last photo).

Jam the ends of the wings into a cardboard tube and flatten it the tube. Hold up the entire thing by the tube so the wings are flapping, and adjust the ends of the wings until everything is straight and even.  

Secure using loads of hot glue. To do this, I slid the tube down, glued the wire and plastic, then slid the tube up again. Then I injected lots more glue at each end. Press down hard as it dries. 

Bend the angle of the wings at the top of the tube if necessary, to bring into position (probably best to wait until they're attached to the wearer before finalizing this). The finished wings:

I plan to cover the tube and ends with thick white card, and secure this to the back of a white t-shirt (while she's wearing it) by making a harness with white cloth tape, essentially taping it to her body. No bathroom breaks after that's done. You could also jam the ends into a small white backpack.

It's spring here, and will be 30C on Halloween night, so we've nixed the idea of a white hoodie. If you are using a hoodie, you could attach dragon eyes to the hood and wear it pulled low over your face for a blunt-faced Light Fury (or Toothless) type dragon. You can also buy shaped dragon masks. My daughter didn't want fake eyes or a realistic mask (she's going more for a "dragon inspired look), so we found a beautiful white jeweled masquerade mask for her to wear. I'm making spines down her back, a tail, and a quilted "belly" piece to pin on, all from white glitter felt.

What you'll need:
  • 2.5mm wire (about 8 meters)
  • 4 garbage bags XL
  • good quality clear packaging tape (wide sticky tape)
  • silver cloth tape or adhesive foam or thick card (for claws)
  • cardboard tube
  • spray adhesive
  • hot glue gun
  • scissors
  • wire cutters
  • marker
  • extra card and tape for making harness
In the next part I'll show you how I made the dragon spines and tail.


  1. ArtemisPhoebeParker2:44 AM, October 30, 2019

    I kinda wanted a picture of your daughter wearing those wings

    1. I'll update with one tomorrow - she hasn't worn them yet because I'm still working on the "harness" to attach them.

    2. artemisphoebeparker12:27 AM, October 31, 2019

      Well, I'll be waiting

    3. I've updated this post with photos and a video of the final costume on my daughter.