Hello dear readers, and welcome to a new type of post I’m adding to the blog! Keep a lookout for more “Crafting an Escape” posts in the future.
Writing is a wonderful, exhilarating pursuit—but it’s also tiring! It’s important to take breaks, even from work you love (see my “When the Writer Needs to Stop Writing” article). Doing crafts is one of my favorite ways to unwind, so in the spirit of helping you take a much-needed break as well, these “Crafting an Escape” posts will share crafts that I’ve worked on lately and *attempt* to provide step-by-step instructions so you can try them, too!
If you’re still working on your Halloween costume, this wire mask might be just the thing! But it’s also great crafting fun for any rainy day. Or sunny day. (Do you get the feeling I love crafts? 😉 )
I was reading Nadine Brandes’s novel Fawkes recently, a story with magical masks (cool, right?!) and I was inspired to do this craft. I love masquerade masks and although I’ve made one with feathers before, this was my first attempt at a wire one. Because this was my first time, this tutorial might be more haphazard than others I’ll do, but what’s life without a little adventure?
- One or two flat-nosed pliers
- You can do the mask with one, but sometimes two come in handy for pulling the wire tight. You could even use a different kind of pliers (anything that will grip the wire well), but I prefer flat-nosed because they don’t scratch the wire.
- Wire cutters
- Thick aluminum wire
- You could do this with any wire, but I recommend aluminum because that’s what I used. Aluminum is great because it’s very lightweight and pliable even when it’s thick. Some wires are really hard to bend if they’re 18 gauge or lower (the lower the number, the thicker the wire).
- You’ll notice that the aluminum wire I used was twisted. I found this on clearance at a craft store, but it looks like Fire Mountain Gems carries some similar wires that you could try. This craft will still work with straight wire.
- Thin wire
- I used colored copper wire, which you should be able to find at any craft store. Don’t get anything thicker than 26 gauge. I think the wire I used is 28, but in all honesty, I lost the packaging ages ago…the point is, you want this wire to be thin and extremely pliable.
- The quantity will vary depending on how many beads you want to add and how big they are. I used 36 smallish beads and 8 large-ish beads for my mask.
- Ribbon, cord, string, or any kind of lacing to tie the mask on
- A mirror (really helps when shaping the mask!)
Before we get started, here’s the most important rule: BEND, BEND, BEND! Keep working and bending the wire until it suits you. That’s the beauty of wire: you can always tweak the shape as you continue the project. Nothing is set in stone.
Part 1: Making the Eye-holes and Upper Frame
I made this mask without tutorials, just by looking at some pictures and figuring out how to create the shape I wanted. I began by making the eye-holes.
1. Cut a length of thick wire. (You want it to be long enough to encircle one eye and reach to the side of your head.)
2. Bend one end of the wire in an oval shape that fits around your eye (the top of the oval should touch your eyebrow; you don’t want the holes too small).
3. When the oval is the shape you want, cut a few inches of thin wire. Wrap the thin wire around the ends of the oval to close the shape. (In the picture above, note the wrap of green wire at the ends of the eye-holes where I closed them.)
Next, you’re going to create the upper frame of the mask, so set the eye-holes aside temporarily.
4. Cut a long piece of thick wire. (It needs to be long enough to reach each side of your head and also bend in the middle over your nose.)
5. Bend this piece of wire in half.
6. Hold the doubled-over wire against your face, with the bent tip at the end of your nose. (This is where you’ll want to use that mirror.)
7. Use one hand to hold the wire in place over your nose. Then use the other hand to bend each side of the wire (one at a time) in an arch (about an inch above your eyebrow).
8. When you’re finished, the wire should have a doubled-over section that covers your nose, and the two ends should arch over your eyebrows and reach to the side of your head (see picture above). Be sure to bend the wire until it fits the shape of your nose and head (you can bend the nosepiece out a little so it doesn’t dig into your nose).
Next, you’re going to attach the eye-holes to the upper frame.
9. Cut a few inches of thin wire.
10. While looking in your mirror, hold the upper frame and one of the eye-holes up to your face. Figure out the best place to attach the corner of the eye-hole to the nosepiece of the upper frame. Mark this spot (I just held it with my fingers, but you might want to use a more reliable method.)
11. Using the piece of thin wire, connect the eye-hole to the nosepiece. Wrap the thin wire around the eye-hole corner a few times, then wrap it around the nosepiece a few times until secure. The space between the eye-hole and the nosepiece will depend on how big you made them and the shape of your face. However, don’t worry too much about making it pretty, because this is the ONE wire connection you will cut and throw away later.
NOTE: I originally added a bead to this wire connection for decoration. I later decided I didn’t like it. Because you will be removing this section of wire later anyway, don’t bother with the bead.
Now you have to connect the other end of the eye-hole (the long piece sticking out on one side) to the frame.
13.Cut a few inches of thin wire.
14. Bend the end of the eye-hole (the long piece on one side, not the round part) until it lines up with one end of the upper frame.
15. Use the thin wire to wrap these two ends together. When you’re done, the long piece of the eye-hole should be wire-wrapped to one end of the upper frame.
16. Take the two ends of the thick wire and bend them over the wire wrap to make the mask more secure (see picture above). If these ends are too long, cut them until there’s just enough to bend over the wire wrap.
17. Repeat steps 9-16 to attach the second eye-hole to the upper frame.
Congrats! You’ve completed Part 1 and your mask should now look like this (minus the little beads on the nosepiece wire connections):
Part 2: Adding the Lower Frame
Now you’re ready to finish the basic mask shape by adding the lower frame.
18. Cut a long piece of thick wire. It needs to be long enough to reach both tips of the mask, with enough space to curve around your face (use your mirror to estimate this).
19. Cut several inches of thin wire.
20. Find the middle of your long piece of thick wire. Then, using the thin wire, wire-wrap it to the tip of the mask’s nosepiece.
21. One side at a time, connect each end of the lower frame to the rest of the mask’s frame. You’ll do this by bending the end of the wire around the existing frame tip and wire-wrapping it in place. Look at the picture below to see how I connected the ends of the lower frame (compare to the picture above step 13).
22. Once you’ve connected both sides of the lower frame, cut the wire connections that hold the corners of the eye-holes to the nosepiece. Now that you have the whole frame constructed, the mask is sturdy enough without that extra connection.
23. This is a good time to pause and, while looking in your mirror, shape the mask around your face a bit. Make sure the eyeholes are actually positioned over your eyes. Bend the tips of the mask so they are flat against your head. Shape the nosepiece so it’s comfortable. And so on.
Now your mask should look like this:
You’re ready to add the beading decoration!
Part 3: Adding the Beads
24. Before you begin the actual beading process, lay out the beads you want to use. Hold them up to the mask frame and figure out how you want to arrange them and which ones will fit best in which spots. I only added beads to the upper arch of the mask (over each eye), but you could add them to the lower part too, if you want.
NOTE: If you want the bead pattern to be symmetrical on each side (like I did), then make sure you have a double of any bead you add to the first side. That way, you know you have enough for the second side.
The beading process is very repetitive. Once you know how to add the first bead, you know how to add all of them. Basically, you’ll be attaching a long piece of thin wire to one tip of the mask frame. Then, you’ll be wrapping it up-and-down in the space between the upper frame and the eye-hole, adding beads to the spaces as you go. Finally, you’ll tie off the end of the wire by wrapping it around the corner of the eye-hole.
See the slideshow (with captions) and written steps below to do the beading.
25. Cut a long piece of thin wire (I suggest making this a little over 2 feet long. You’ll be using up a lot of wire because of all the wrapping.)
26. Attach the thin wire to the tip of the mask (you’ll be starting at the mask’s tip and working inward toward the nosepiece). Wrap it around several times for security.
27. Wrap the thin wire around the upper frame just a couple of times. (The upper frame is the “top” for the moment, because you’re only beading between the upper frame and the eye-hole piece.) Now the wire is in place to begin adding beads.
28. Add the bead to the wire, then wrap the wire a couple of times around the eye-hole part of the frame (this is the “bottom” for the moment). Now it’s in position to add the next bead(s).
29. Add the next bead(s) to the wire, then wrap it a couple of times around the upper frame.
30. Continue this process (wrap, add bead, wrap around the opposite side, add bead, repeat) until you’ve beaded the entire area between the mask’s upper frame and the eye-hole.
31. Once you’ve beaded all the way to the corner of the eye-hole, wrap the thin wire several times around the corner of the eye-hole to secure it. Cut off any excess wire.
Ta-da! One side of your mask is beaded! Repeat this process for the other side, and then your mask should look like this:
Part 4: Adding the Wire Weave
If you want, you could add beads to the lower part of the mask (the space between the eye-holes and lower frame) as well. However, I decided to do some wire-weaving on the bottom, so follow these steps if you’d like to do so as well.
32. Begin the same way you began the beading: cut a long piece of thin wire and attach it to the tip of the mask.
33. You’re simply going to weave the wire up and down, bending it around the lower frame of the mask and the bottom of the eye-hole by turn. You don’t even have to wrap the wire as you go.
NOTE: As you weave the thin wire around the thick, try to alternate sides of the thick wire. For example, if the thin wire went around the back of the thick wire when it encircled the eye-hole, you want the thin wire to start in front of the thick wire when it encircles the lower frame. This isn’t essential, but it will make the weaving more secure. Check out the picture below to see what I mean.
34. When you’ve weaved the wire all the way to the corner of the eye-hole, secure the wire by wrapping it several times around the tip of the nosepiece (there is already some wire-wrapping there, so it should blend in just fine).
35. Repeat this process to add wire weave to the other side of the mask.
Congratulations, all the hard parts are over! Your mask should look like this:
Part 5: Adding the Lacing (to tie it on!)
Now all you have to do is create a way to tie the mask onto your face.
36. Take your ribbon/lacing/etc. and cut a piece long enough to wrap around your head (from one side of your forehead to the other).
37. Fold this piece of ribbon in half and cut it again. Now you have a piece for each side of the mask, so that you can tie it on.
38. Cut a few inches of thin wire.
39. Take one piece of ribbon. Wrap one end around one tip of the mask.
40. Using the thin wire, wrap the ribbon closed (see pictures below). You could also just tie a knot in the ribbon, but this looks a bit bulky. Moreover, knots can be unreliable if the ribbon is made of silky, slippery material.
41. Repeat steps 38-40 to attach the other piece of ribbon to the other side of the mask.
42. Try tying the mask on and make sure the ribbon length is the way you like it. If it’s too long, cut off the excess (but don’t make it too short, or you’ll have trouble tying the mask on). Also make sure to bend the mask and tweak it until you’re happy with the fit.
*insert triumphant drums and trumpets* YOU’RE DONE!! Your completed mask should look like this:
I hope you all enjoyed the tutorial! If you have any questions, leave me a comment below and I’ll do my best to help. And if you make this mask, I’d love to see your finished masterpieces!