Friday, February 25, 2011

Wire Bird Legs Tutorial

I've gotten a few requests on how I make my wire legs for my needle felted birds so I thought it was time to give you a peek. They require just a few simple tools and the variations are endless. I have seen a lot of different ways that other artists make their own bird feet--there is no correct way so make sure you play with it a bit. It may take you a few tries until you come up with a style you like. Some people make the toes lay flat for better stability but I like them to look more sculptural.

Tools needed (from left to right) : Round Needle Nose Pliers, Flat Nose Pliers, Wire Cutter

note: my needle nose pliers are special "rosary" pliers and have a cutting tool on them but I never use it for wire this thick; I use the heavy duty cutters instead.

Wire needed: I use 18 gauge galvanized steel that I buy at the hardware store for about $4. One pack will make you an awful lot of bird legs! And make sure you get steel. One time I was in a hurry and bought aluminum by mistake and that wire is so soft, it breaks by just looking at it!

To start, cut 2 pieces about 14" long and bend at the half way point into an "L". The vertical part will become the leg and the horizontal will become the foot.

We are going to start by making the big, center toe (talon?) first. Then the back toe and then the side toes and then finish it up with a twist around the leg.

Make your big toe by wrapping wire around needle nose pliers. You only want it to be about an inch long maximum; a hair or two shorter is even better.

Next, make the back toe the same way but wrapping it UP around the the pliers. I like to make it a little shorter than the front one, but you can play around with it.

The key to good looking feet is bending the wire with the pliers to make crisp, sharp bends. So angle out that wire to make the first side toe.

Then bend it around the needle nose pliers to complete the toe. Getting the hang of this yet?

But here comes the tricky part. See below how when you bend the wire back and it ends up on the bottom of the foot? This doesn't work well because it is harder for the foot to lay flat. So you need to adjust the wire so that it goes through the foot.

Does that make sense? I'm sorry but I couldn't really get a comprehensible shot of bending the wire to fit it through the foot.

This is what is should look like. Go ahead and try it again if you mangle it the first time. It's okay. I will wait. (And you really don't have to adjust the wire, but I like the look better!)

Phew, okay, done with that part. Now it is time to angle the wire out to make the last toe.

This time you fold the wire UP and around the needle nose pliers so the wire ends up on top of the foot.

Finally, twist left over wire around leg to secure.

See? That wasn't so bad. But now you need 2 of them.

Once you have cursed me for not explaining things as easily as you would have liked, please move on to connecting the legs. Make a bend a little farther up than you want the top of the legs to be as you will be needle felting or sewing fabric or using clay (Whatever media you prefer) to wrap around the top wires to make your bird's body.

Loosely wrap the legs together to start so that you can ponder them and see if they are the shape and height you want them to be. You don't want any uneven legs here!

Finish wrapping the wire all the way down on both sides. I adjusted mine to be less spaced apart. Ta-da! Bird legs! I'll be showing how I make my needle felted birds tomorrow.

Don't forget to comment on my bird giveaway post for a chance to win this bird! Contest closes March 1, 2011.

5 comments:

  1. Awesome! Can't wait to try it! Thanks so much for sharing, Jennevieve!

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  2. Thank you for your tutorial, Jennevieve. I got it on the second try. Yay!

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  3. Thanks a lot for this additional tutorial!!

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  4. Thanks so much. Was looking all over the net for a step by step tutorial on making wire bird feet and found yours. The great photo's really help. Now my hand- made birds finally have feet.

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