It’s craft time: Wings of Freedom

No reviews this week, as it is almost the holidays, and I am feeling wicked lazy. (I work retail, toy department specifically, so this is my excuse.) But instead of 100% slacking I thought I’d take this opportunity to share the Making Of my hand-sewn wings of freedom hooded jacket. It was hella work and I am equally (read: hella) proud of how it turned out.

I started with this image by IwanaTheLizard as my reference. Probably the hardest part of making the templates was finding an app to turn my iPad into a lightbox. Morpholio Trace was pretty functional once I turned off multitasking gestures and turned the brightness Up to Eleven. (Ugh, even in this post I can’t resist using TV Tropes. I have problems.) (Also, ingredients are underlined for your convenience.)

The templates

The templates

I traced several templates on plain tracing paper for various purposes.
1: A plain shield to remain intact, for comparison later on.
2: A plain shield to cut up and trace.
3: The wings themselves, also for cutting up.

For the fabric, all I needed was a fat quarter of each color (navy, dark grey, and parchment), two bucks a pop at JoAnn Fabrics, and thread (in navy, parchment, and hunter green)—nothing fancy there, just your regular all-purpose thread. I did hand wash the fat quarters in cold water with “delicate fine fabric wash” and let them air dry flat, though quilting forums tell me prewashing isn’t strictly necessary with modern fabrics. I just figured getting them wet would make it easier to iron out the folds.

I chose parchment as the lightest color instead of white to make it look less cartoony and more like a real human would wear it. (This is a problem I have with a lot of cosplay. Just because the source material is cel-shaded and clunky doesn’t mean you have to be.)

The shield base, 1″ seam allowance

I cut out the main part of the shield and traced it on the parchment-colored fabric with a blue water-soluble fabric pencil. I numbered each quadrant template and traced them onto the shield base as well, to help keep my lines straight when I pinned down the grey bits.

One of the grey bits

One of the grey bits, 1/4″ seam allowance

I used purple air-soluble fabric marker on this, because the dark grey wouldn’t show it if it stained a little, and I could sew them to the shield base before the ink would disappear. Also notice the snipped corners—this helps prevent fraying.


I creased the edges before pinning using (what are probably) plain satin pins. I did some origami on the corners to make them even on each side, kind of like this:


I doubt that’s typical but hey, it did the job. Then I stitched using a kind of bastardized needle-turn applique. Here’s how you do it for real:

Since I had no curved edges to fiddle with and my seams were already turned, I just hijacked the stitch—slip stitch I believe? This was literally the first time I had tried applique so the first quadrant was a little sloppy. I also made a bad thread choice, so I ended up redoing this first quadrant (using my fravrite household tool, the seam ripper). Dark thread stood out too much against the shield base, so light-colored thread looked much better.

Dark vs. light thread

Dark vs. light thread

I know, not very impressive. It doesn’t get a whole lot better.


Finished: quadrants

The inner corners were a little wonky, but I wasn’t too concerned since the feathers would obscure the wonk. I’ll also note that throughout this project I coated my thread using a beeswax wheel, to help keep the thread from tangling and getting weird. My wheel was kind of old so it was probably drier than it should have been, but it didn’t do any damage.


Closer inspection


The bottom points

Next came a little meta preparation. Before doing any tracing, I used Heat n Bond Lite on the navy and parchment fabric that would become the wings. This involved cutting the webbing to size, laying it on the backside of the fabric, laying a tea towel over top (as a pressing cloth, to keep the magic adhesive from sticking to the iron), spritzing with a little water, and ironing it all down. The purpose of this was twofold: to strengthen the fabric for its eventual quilting, and to make it a little less transparent, as it would lie across both dark and light colors.


Then began some of the most tedious work. The methods diverged a little here due to the colors of the fabrics.

For the navy feathers, I lettered each one and cut them out of the template sheet individually, tracing onto the navy fabric with a white water-soluble fabric pencil. I kept each individual feather template (letters for navy, numbers for parchment) in case I screwed one up and needed to cut out a replacement.

The parchment fabric was light enough that I could just lay it on top of the template and trace directly over it, with the aid of a sheet of computer paper underneath to brighten things. The lightbox trick would have worked too. You can see pieces 1 and 6 retraced to the left, since the purple marker was a bad plan and there was a spot in the fabric on piece 6.

Setting the feathers

Setting the feathers

The navy feathers were cut out one at a time, with no seam allowance since they would just go straight down with a running stitch. I figured a little fraying would look nice (they are feathers), and at my skill level, needle-turning every one of these bastards would have just been impossible. I used the intact parchment wing and the original reference image to get my pieces placed just right, and pinned them down with little bitty applique pins.

All pinned down

All pinned down

Then the parchment feathers. They were easy enough to place with just the reference image, starting with the pieces that cross the inner corners as guides.


A bunch of running stitches later (in navy and parchment thread, of course), the feathers were all nailed down. Notice that the top- and bottom-most feathers were not sewn down at this point. Since they hang over the edges of the shield, they would go on after the shield base was sewn to its destination.


More satin pins, creased edges, and origami corners. Slip stitch with hunter green thread (doubled this time for extra strength) gets the shield base down on the hoodie.


Shield edges all done. . . .


Slap those last four feathers on there and douse the edges in Fray Check. So much Fray Check. Some fraying is nice but too much and the feathers would just fall right off.

So that’s it! Easy, right? o_o If you do this yourself, consider a higher-quality navy fabric so you won’t have to use Heat n Bond. You can already see in the above image that as the navy bits fray, the white backing becomes highly visible.

Otherwise, I think it’s a pretty decent result for my first attempt at any kind of applique. This project took me a week and countless episodes of Stop Podcasting Yourself to complete. I wore it on Halloween with some sweet brown knee-high boots, off-white leggings, and the little brown apron thing (which I also made and was an ordeal of spatial logic in itself, since I didn’t want any seams visible on the outside . . . never mind). As a bespectacled lady I didn’t have much choice but to do my hair in a Hange-esque fashion, but s/he is possibly the coolest character in the series so I was fine with this. I wear the hoodie around town on occasion and sometimes even get compliments. (The lady behind me at the bookstore today said it looked better than the ones they sell at Hot Topic. Take that, merchandising.) Dry-clean only (?).


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s