How to make a butterfly kite

How to make a butterfly kite

There are many different butterfly kite designs. Most of these are traditional Asian flat kite designs using split bamboo or rattan to create the basic butterfly shape of the kite. These traditional kites are covered with light-weight paper or tissue, on which colorful markings are painted or glued prior to attaching to the frame.

Today, for practical purposes, frames of thermoplastic or fiberglass rod replace some of the traditional framing materials for ethnic kites, and covers now include various lightweight fabrics, and plastic film or sheeting. Most traditional Chinese butterfly kites, Taiwanese butterfly kites, and double butterfly kites are built with a minimum of five sticks each of varying lengths. These beautiful kites require a great deal of patience and care in their construction. A simplified version of the flat Butterfly Kite design is presented here.

Materials Needed:

  • Two pieces of split rattan, bamboo, or thin plastic framing, approximately 30-36” long
  • Kite string or sturdy thread
  • Colored tissue papers (study a butterfly and use the appropriate colors)
  • Poster paint, especially black
  • Wide-tip Magic markers
  • Two long pipe cleaners
  • Glue stick or rubber cement

Tie the end of a piece of string to the top end of one of the sticks. Bend the stick until it forms a partial circle, resembling the letter “C.” Holding the stick in this position, tie the other end of the string to the bottom of the stick, about one quarter of the distance from the end.

Now, tie another piece of string a few inches from the end of the top of the stick (approximately one-fifth of the distance from the end) and tie it to the bottom tip of the bow, so that the strings form an “X,” making sure that both strings are taut. Repeat the process with the other stick, making sure to duplicate the first frame as closely as possible.

Once completed, lay the frames flat, with the open part of each “C” facing outward. Fasten the two frames together, overlapping the frames at the center, while matching the strings that are tied to the bottom inner frames of each “C.” Securely lash the frames together at this point and again where the frames meet at the top, aligning the opposite strings to be parallel to one another.

The antennae or feelers of the butterfly are created using the pipe cleaners. Criss-cross the pipe cleaners and twist them together forming an “X,” then twist each lower end around the frame just above the upper frame joint. Add a few drops of glue to hold in place. The lower portion of the “X” is the head of the butterfly and the upper points are the feelers.

After studying the coloring and markings of your chosen butterfly, place the kite frame over the selected tissue paper, overlapping and gluing together as many pieces of tissue as needed to fit the frame. Draw a line around the shape of the frame leaving a ½ inch wide margin beyond the outside of the frame, being sure to include the pipe-cleaner head, and cut out the butterfly.

It is easiest to paint the markings on the wings now, prior to attaching to the frame. For a realistic butterfly, study the wing designs carefully, using black paint and/or markers for markings such as those of the Tiger Swallowtail or the Monarch butterfly. The butterfly’s body or thorax and markings of other colors can be painted or cut out of tissue paper for a stained glass effect. Make sure the markings on the wings are symmetrical, that is, one wing looks like a mirror image of the other.

After your design is complete and the paint and glue are dry, spread the covering out face down and center the frame over it. Before applying glue to the tissue edges, cut slits along the margin very few inches on all curves and one at each angle so that the covering will remain smooth and wrinkle-free. Apply glue along the margins, one section at a time, and fold over the stringed frame. For additional solidity, use adhesive tape to attach the inner overlapping frame to the tissue covering.

After the kite is assembled and dry, attach a bridle to the kite at the two points where the frame is lashed together. Loop a plastic ring or a fishing swivel to the towing point of the bridle. This allows you to easily adjust its position.

This kite should be flown in light of gentle winds. Remember that flat kites need tails for stability. Use colorful paper streamers to complement your butterfly design.

This kite should

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