Who would ever think to embellish embroidery with bugs’ wings? When I mentioned beetle wings and goldwork previously, I had not seen the wings up close in person. What a surprise! Photographs don’t do them justice!
Wings from the Asian “green jewel” beetle (Sternocera aequistignata) have been used to embellish textiles in Asia for centuries. In the Victorian era, it became fashionable in the western world to add these glorious little wings to elaborate clothing and accessories. The wings are still used today to embellish textiles and to make jewelry and other decorative items. But really, who woulda thunk it? When I think “beetle,” it doesn’t really generate the most pleasant thoughts.
All that has changed – I look at beetles in a different light now!
A camera cannot catch the scintillating depth of colors in these wings. Predominantly, the wings are green, but some carry as well a copper, gold, or yellow tone, and others a deep blue-ish tone. The light plays on the wings to reflect almost “layers” of colors. They remind me of two-dimensional emeralds – you don’t get the depth in a glassy way like you do with a jewel, but, because of the reflection when you move the wings around, the colors are deep and changing.
I’ve tried to photograph the wings from different angles, in different light, to see if I could give a good enough impression of their varying color.
The copper-colored area on the foremost wing in the photo above isn’t always that dominant! It’s the angle! These are the same group of wings as in the photos above.
The wings are about the same consistency of a very strong fingernail. They don’t seem to break easily, but I’m sure, with a good pressure on the top, they would.
If you happen to drop your camera on top of them – the break! The camera slipped out of my hand and landed on the whole pile – one took a direct hit, and it cracked. I broke it apart to see what it looks like. They don’t chip or crack easily, though. They’re sturdy.
When you hold them in your hands and shake them, they make a pleasant little chinking sound. They’re very light.
When I took them outside into the sun to photograph them, the wings took on a blue tint – at least, more so than when inside. Again, they’re pretty light – even the slightest breeze moved them around while I was outside.
To use them for embellishment, I’m told by Michael Cook, the Wormspit guy, that the wings should be steamed for five minutes to soften them, and then, using a sharp needle, holes are pierced at the tips and also on the sides, if you want (you pierce them, I assume, wherever you want to secure them to the fabric).
Now, where to get these things? You can find them on e-Bay, actually, at “herbkerb’s” eBay store, Best deal Thai Goods. He sells them in different quantity packages: 200 of the regular green run about $15, with $5 shipping…. or you can go for bulk with 1,000 for $65.00! The smaller packages are grouped by color, so you can actually get predominantly blue-ish tones, green tones, copper tones, or whathaveyou. All of the wings are, of course, green, but they have these different elements of color in them. I have recently placed an order through this eBay store, but have not received it yet, so I can’t vouch for the service personally yet, but they seem to have a good track record. The batch of wings above are from Michael Cook – I swapped with him for some silk samples! And speaking of which, he also sent a cocoon and some of his own silk – so more on that later!
The beauty and variety in God’s creation is just amazing, isn’t it? I’m really in awe of these little wings, and I’m looking forward to playing with them when the opportunity arises! I’ll post results eventually.