Benny the Butterfly Gets His Wings

Wow, I haven’t posted anything here for almost a year! Life has been so busy time has just flown by!

Today I have something to post that isn’t of a technical nature but is something I wanted to document and share. I wanted to dress and pretend to be a butterfly (“Benny the Blessed Butterfly) as an interactive object lesson for part of my K-2 Sunday school lesson today (July 17, 2016). An Internet search provided some ideas to set me on my way to my own solution. To accomplish this I ultimately needed the following materials:

  • 2x Black foam board, will get cut down to 20 in x 28 in.
  • 4x Orange, neon yellow or whatever color tickles your fancy for your butterfly wings, needs to be at least 20 in x 28 in.
  • Length of parachute rope or some other 1/4 inch, strong, soft rope to use to attach wings to body.
  • 2x Chenille stems, aka pipe cleaners, again pick a color of your choice, this is for the antennae.
  • 2x Felt pom-poms, again pick a color of your choice, also for the antennae.
  • 1x Plastic headband, also for the antennae.
  • Black “Duck” tape.
  • Glue sticks or glue.
  • Computer and printer.
  • Scotch tape and other common household items.

You’ll also need a clear, sizable work space (at least 4 ft by 4 ft), a craft cutting board (I suppose a large piece of card board would do in a pinch), and a sharp utility knife. A drill with a 1/4 in bit will also prove helpful toward the completion of the project.

I’m an engineer and technologist, definitely not a artist, so drawing a butterfly wing just wasn’t going work for me. So, as normal, I leaned on my tech skills to help augment my artistic deficit. I did an Internet search for a butterfly outline and downloaded one I liked. Next I imported the image into Photoshop and with a little digital magic split the butterfly into its left and right halves.

With left and right butterfly wings in hand I next opened Microsoft Publisher. I created a custom sheet size of 20 in x 28 in and opened a blank document using it. I created two blank pages in the document then inserted the left wing into one and the right wing into the other. I adjusted the size to nearly fill the page without distorting the wing (I locked aspect ratio). After doing this it dawned on me that the left and right wings are symmetrical so I could just print one for my pattern and flip it for the other side.

Next I used Publisher to print the large butterfly wing tiled on multiple, standard 8.5 x 11 inch pages. The PDF of the giant left and right butterfly wings is included below. FoxIt Reader supports tiled printing so you should be able to use it to print the large butterfly wings.

BIG-Butterfly

BIG Butterfly Wing Template PDF

Once printed I used scotch tape to connect the large wing tiles. It doesn’t have to look pretty since it’s just being used as a template. It just needs to provide the pattern for the wing and later on, the pattern for the pretty color pattern. Below is a photo of my work space with the large butterfly wing all taped together.

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Next I cut out the large wing half and taped it to my first piece of black foam board to trace the pattern. The photo below shows the wings taped to my foam board ready to be traced.

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One the pattern was traced I then used a sharp utility knife to cut the form out of the foam board. The resulting wing half is shown below.

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Next I repeated the process for the other wing side.

After I had my two wing sides I took the large wing template and cut out the inner design pieces.

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Once I had the pieces I printed the smaller left and right wings document so I had them for reference. Next I used black “Duck” tape on one one side of the wings to link them together. I then placed my template pieces on one of the wings just to make sure everything looked right.

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Next I laid out the inside design pieces on my neon yellow poster board and traced them out. Four sets of these were needed one for both the left and right wing, front and back.

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Next the inner pattern pieces were glued to one side of the wing set. I first laid them out to get them correct place then glued them down. I started using regular Elmer’s glue but then after the first wing half switched to an Elmer’s glue stick because it was much quicker (and it was getting late and I was getting tired). In the photo below you’ll see a blue hand towel. I kept it wet so I could wipe the glue off of my hands while I worked. I helps with getting the gluing done without smudging the pieces.

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With the help of my wife I finished gluing the pattern pieces to all the wing area, left and right, front and back. At this point I remembered I wanted some circles to add to the upper wing so I traced a glue stick top for those and then glued them to the wings.

I also built the antennae gear near this point in time. I used regular Elmer’s glue to attach the pom-pom to each piece of chenille stems. Then I simply wrapped the other end of the chenille stems symmetrically placed around the head band.

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Finally I cut a portion of parachute rope and drilled holes near the top of my wings so I could wear the wings. I wasn’t happy with this design but it worked fine in this case. However, if I use these again I’ll probably drill a couple more holes and work out a way to use my arms instead of my neck. The foam board isn’t heavy at all, but it really does present a choking hazard. So, that’s your warning, use this design at your own risk! Again, it wouldn’t be hard to modify to use arms. It was just late and I needed to get this done and it worked for me in this case (although I was a little nervous the next day when the children started gathering around pulling at the wings, LOL).

Below is a photo fo the full setup.

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Oh, I also made sure to wear a black shirt when I wore my butterfly wings and antennae. Below are front and back photos of “Benny the Blessed Butterfly”.

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Well, I hope this helps someone else out in the future who’d like to don some butterfly wings.