Simulating bird feathers can be a daunting task. As I am working on my miniature of Harry Potter’s Buckbeak, I did not want to use real feathers. I have finished projects with real bird feathers before to only have them eaten away years later by weevils. Because of this, I wanted to see if I could come up with a method that would fit my project and still look somewhat authentic. I also wanted to use materials that I was already working with in the construction of my paper mâché hippogriff. Since I was already using muslin fabric with white glue for the main body for strength, I decided that fraying the fabric might make a reasonable feather. I cut strips of fabric for the wings and small squares for the feathers on the body. I found that each piece of wire needed to be painted before it was attached to the cloth. I tried to shortcut this once and the wire just fell off when I was painting the piece. I marked the fabric for as many feathers as I wanted to have and then brushed with a paintbrush the white glue over the fabric leaving about 1/4 to 1/2 inch at the top of the fabric, free of glue. The wires were then laid on top of the glued portion. Sometimes I needed to add an extra layer of glue over the wires to make sure they were securely fixed. Make sure you do this on wax paper so you can peel the strips off when they are dry. Cut on marked pencil lines and fray the tops of the pieces. At first I cut my feather to shape, but realized later that after I painted them they needed to be trimmed up anyway. It turned out to be easier to just paint them the way I wanted them and when the were dry, cut them to shape. The frayed ends after painting were glopped together so I took a straight pin and separated each individual strand. I also had a small comb that I used to comb through the fibers after they were separated. This was extremely time consuming so when I finished these type of feathers, I decided to try a different approach. As you can see, some of these feathers were quite tiny and were mainly used for the head of the hippogriff. This is what the wings looked like with the first method of making the feathers. As I adapted the feathers, they became less time consuming and were more like you could do with just paper cut outs. The first part of the method was basically the same as the other one: cut strips, paint wires, brush on glue to fabric, etc.The difference here is that I didn’t just lay a wire with glue on it on top of a clean strip. This time I brushed glue over most of the fabric like I did with the smaller feathers. Frayed the ends after drying, painted them and then cut the shapes. Next step was to take a small scissor (I like to use cuticle scissors) and cut diagonally down each side. I also used a natural sea sponge to paint. This is how they looked after shaping: It helps to brush the sides of the feathers with your fingers to get the cuts to separate somewhat. Also the wire makes it easy to curve the feathers so they are not so straight. The wings are not finished, but this gives you an idea how they will look. This is the back of the wing. Here is what the inside of the wing looks like, the two-toned grey striped feathers are the second method (all others are from the first method):
Next post: The making of Buckbeak.