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Making a Tail

If you are new to sewing, making tails is the best practice you can get for working with fake fur. Tails are fun to make and wear! With a little bit of careful observation, you can make any animal’s tail! This tutorial covers the basic techniques of making a simple stuffed tail.

Recommended Equipment:

  • Needle & Thread
  • Material for Belt Loops (such as elastic or nylon webbing)
  • Stuffing
  • Fake Fur in the colors of your choice
  • Chalk or something to mark your fabric with (what to avoid?)
  • Scissors or a Razor Blade 
  • Sewing Machine (optional)
  • Reference Photos of your animal
  • Comb or Slicker Brush
  • Broomstick or rod (helps to turn your pattern)

1.  Planning: When making a tail, decide what kind of animal’s tail you want yours to look like. It’s important to plan ahead with reference photos and have an idea of what you want.
 – Tails can be many shapes. Look at a profile picture of your chosen animal’s tail, most tails can be made by referencing the animal and drawing the profile view. Imagine that shape smooth, without any additional fur, this is the beginning of your tail pattern! Take the time to draw a side view of your tail idea now!

2.  Expectation: If this is your first tail, be realistic in your expectations of what you will be able to accomplish within the time period you have. Practice is extremely important in sewing, and if you have never made a pattern or sewn before, setting an easy goal for yourself will set you up for success! The goal is something fun to wear, you will have opportunities to make more complex tails later! 

3.  Supplies: I you are making a tail at home and don’t have any supplies yet, decide how long you want your tail to be and buy the appropriate amount of fake fur. If you don’t mind buying excess fabric, you can estimate the amount by measuring from your belt line to the floor. If you are more frugal make your pattern then measure each of the colors included on your pattern. 1 yard of fur is 36 inches (3 feet) long and 60 inches wide. The fur direction always lays along the length of the yardage. Some fabric suppliers include:
- FursuitSupplies.com
- Fabric.com
- FabricEmpire.com
- Mendels.com
- BigZFabric.com

4.  Pattern: You can use cardboard or paper to create your own pattern. Think about your animal’s tail’s shape with the fur smoothed down, now is a good time to check your real animal photo references! Draw your tail’s silhouette outline full-size on your cardboard from a side-view and cut that out as your pattern shape. If you have markings you want to add, keep your original silhouette preserved (it is useful for reference!), and use it to trace your shape again then draw and cut out your project with markings as a separate pattern. 

5.  Tracing: Before starting to trace, check the fur-side of the fabric and figure out which way the fur lays. Orient the pattern on your fur so the fur to point towards the tip of the tail (some artists deliberately make the fur point opposite for a fluffier look to their tail, it depends on the animal they are matching and fabric used!). Be sure to use the space on the fabric wisely! You can arrange pieces pretty close together and close to edges, just be sure each part does not overlap. Trace the pattern onto the backing with your chalk, flip it and trace the other side.

6.  Cutting: Cut out your pattern along the chalk lines. If available, using a razor blade to cut just the backing of the fur will reduce the amount of shedding compared to using scissors. Don’t press too hard or you may accidentally cut the fur fibers. If you only have scissors it may take a little longer. Only cut the backing, if you are careful and take your time you can avoid cutting the fur fibers.

7.  Sewing: Sew your pattern. First assemble any secondary color pattern pieces that make up your pattern and sew those together first (use your first silhouette pattern you made to make sure it is the same shape on both halves)!. Then sew your main tail, line up the colors. A sewing machine is recommended, but hand sewing is also possible. If using a machine, line up your pieces by the backing, and push any fur in between with your finger before running it through the machine. If hand-sewing, you can use one of these hand stitches (whichever that you are most comfortable with)

Blanket Stitch (left), Back Stitch (right)

Leave an opening in the under-side of your tail a few inches below the base, this will be the opening you will turn your sewn pattern pieces fur-sides out and stuff. The very top (referred to as the “base”) of the pattern is where your belt loops go, it is much easier to sew the belt loops in before stuffing while still being able to access the inside.

8.  Belt Loops: There are a few options for belt loop materials. 

  • Elastic that will stretch if the tail is pulled, and the loops will stretch to fit any belt size. 
  • Nylon webbing, it’s strongest but has no stretch, and the raw edge of nylon webbing needs melted with a lighter to keep it from fraying. 
  • A third option of using just the fur as a belt loop. Either strips sewn in, or as part of your pattern by folding the base of the tail about 3 inches and sewing it to itself to make a tunnel your belt can go through. (This design won’t work for pants with a center back belt loop, however).

There are two common designs for belt loops: Free and Hidden

For free belt loops, the two loops are free at the top of the tail’s base. Using elastic or nylon webbing cut two sections 6 inches long. Fold each over and tuck into the top of your tail’s base. Roll the edge of your fur inwards and sew it closed. 

For hidden belt loops, this type is the more challenging way to attach belt loops, but you get the advantage belt loops that are concealed by the fur. Sew two sections of 4-inch long elastic or nylon webbing into the top of the base of your tail like before. Then take the two loose belt loops and pull them towards the underside of the base of your tail. Fold the belt loops under about ½ inch and sew them on as well. Make sure that the loops are firmly stitched on, in case the tail gets tugged.

9.  Turning: Once sewn turn your piece right sides out through the opening on the under-side that you left below your base. Sometimes it helps to use a broom stick if the hole is not big enough for your hand to fit. Comb the trapped fur out of the seams. Examine the shape and make note of any changes you’d like to make if you have any. If you are satisfied, you can go on to step 11.

10.  Adjustments: If your tail needs a little more shaping, you want to hide the seams a little more, or if you just had a little bit of excess material on the inside you can turn it inside out again and make the changes. If you are using a sewing machine and want to further conceal your seams, make sure all the fur is picked out, then use a straight stitch and sew another line of stitches about 3-5 mm from your first seam. This really makes a difference sometimes, especially on thick or long fur! You can trim the excess seam allowance to about 1/3 inch. On the tip or tight curves, if the fabric puckers, you can cut notches in the seam allowance. Just be careful not to get too close to the stitching when clipping your curves.

11.  Stuffing: Once your tail is right sides out and all your fur is brushed out, its time to stuff it! You don’t have to use a lot of stuffing if you want a more flexible or softer tail, or you can use more if you want a firmer and solidly shaped tail. You can use a tool to help you stuff if you hand does not fit, broom handles work pretty well in most cases.
– Tip: Rolling your tail on a flat surface will help distribute stuffing if it doesn’t feel evenly distributed.

12.  Finishing: Use your needle and thread to sew up the opening where you stuffed with a Ladder Stitch (shown below), and carefully comb the fur over it to conceal the seam.

Now you have a fun, silly tail to wear around! Put it on and have fun wearing it around to events or any place!!

Be sure to visit Matrices’ website: http://www.matrices.net for tutorials, more tips, and information for your costumes!

How to make a zip on tail!

A tutorial for skilled tailors. This should be done before you make your tail, so your tail can be made to the size of the zipper. And the zipper slider pinned and oriented to match the body so your tail aligns correct. You can add any other features as you see fit (I.e. belt loops).

Also this should be done before you sew the front half of your body to the back half!

Enjoy! :D

How To Finish Edges on Your Fursuit Parts!
For those who like videos, I have a video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bx9z_Hztx_I

You can actually use any material to finish edges, not just bias tape! Bias tape is pre packaged cotton fabric cut on the bias (the diagonal grain). But you can cut your own too!

Use this technique for edging places you do not want to stretch! Necks, cuffs, footpaw cuffs, tail openings, and so on!

Tutorial: How to Build Footpaws

How to build footpaws

          Here’s a tutorial on how to make footpaws for fursuit costumes. Its simple to do and you only need a few “ingredients” and a little bit of time to make wonderful plantigrade footpaws that last! If you are a beginner, creating a set of foot paws is also good practice for carving foam and applying fake fur, techniques learned that can be later used on creating your mask!

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How to Straighten Crimped Faux Fur

Have you had your fursuit for a few years now and you’re noticing the armpits, butt, or just the fur on the suit overall getting crimped? Have you bought some fur that arrived in the mail creased? Did you leave your fursuit body in a duffel bag just a little too long? Here’s how to fix it! 

You’ll need:

  • A hairdryer
  • Your clean dry fur
  • Slicker brush. A straight comb will work too, but I find the slicker untangles even the tightest clumps.

This is the butt of one of my fursuits, too much lounging around the fursuit lounge for me! Even though I washed this recently and brush it religiously as it dries, its age is showing, the fur just tends to clump together.

1. Begin with clean dry fur. You don’t want to re-activate any stinky armpits or anything frightening like that! If its new from the fabric store fur that happens to be crimped, you don’t have to wash it.

2. Using your slicker brush brush out the affected area of the fursuit. For some types of fur fabrics, it may look fine now, but older fur tends to want to go back into little fur clumps with just a bit of movement. This process should help that.

3. Use a hairdryer and heat up the fur fibers. Yep that’s right: Heat! You are relaxing the plastic fibers in a controlled fashion. I used a medium-high heat worked on small areas at a time to accomplish the task, so I could straighten it out quickly. See below for an interesting heat test I did.

4. Some areas needed more work than others, especially the tail opening where my belt goes in and a lot of rubbing occurred. Go back over with the hairdryer and straighten it as many times as needed.

Here is the armpit area, lots of rubbing happens here as I move in my costume. Brushing seems to do OK, but since it goes back into little clumps this process helps straighten the fur back out again!

Hmm… But how much is TOO MUCH? 

Well, I was curious, too! So I tested it on my hairdryer’s highest heat setting. I felt 4 minutes was a lot in one area (I couldn’t go 5 since my hairdryer itself was getting really hot!) this test was performed on a fur scrap, I encourage you to test these results at home, too!! Maybe you will have more results to share, I’d love to hear!

So how exactly does fur get crimped? What does it take? I used a high heat setting on my hairdryer and put a lid over the center of a piece of fur to see how it did. I considered the center of the fur (what was covered by the lid) as my control, since no hot air could blow through to reach it.

After 4 minutes straight of using the hairdryer on the fur I met my limit (it felt quite hot in my hand), I brushed it, and where the lid sat the pressure from the lid combined with the heat made an indent! 

The end result was actually surprising, the texture of the fur outside and protected under was the same

The fur on some areas of my 4-year old bodysuit was actually quite crimped, especially where I sat down on it a lot. So after several passes with the hairdryer and slicker brush to straighten back out, I think these results are very satisfying!

I hope this guide helps you recover your fur on your bodies, damaged fur fabric orders, and so on! Don’t hesitate to test on scraps before you dive in! Testing helps give us the confidence to learn new things!

All About Fursuit Heads

Making a fursuit head can be very fun and rewarding whether you have a specific animal or favorite character in mind or you just want your own personal mascot. When broken down into smaller parts it can easier to accomplish! Stretch your creative muscles and learn about building a fursuit head.

It helps to know that there are infinite ways to accomplish this task, I am going to cover a few topics that are best for people new to the craft. The fursuit building community is rich with helpfulness and there are always new techniques being developed and explored, the community appreciates new ideas. One thing to keep in mind while creating your own costume is to be as resourceful as possible! While I may have used one particular item, product, or technique in creating a costume – if you find something similar for less cost, or found a different way – share that information with others! You may find something better, or a different technique and it will only develop innovation. You are highly encouraged to share your ideas and innovations with others.

Basic Materials

There are many things you need when creating a fursuit head, some materials can be found in any craft space, others are possibly unique to fursuit-making. Here are some tools and materials I use on just about every furry costume I make:

  • Scissors
  • Hot glue gun and glue sticks
  • Needle and Thread (both straight and curved needles are helpful)
  • Extendable Snap-off Razor Blade
  • Chalk (or something to mark your fabric with) & Permanent Marker
  • 2-inch wide tape (to create your pattern)
  • Pins
  • Comb or pet slicker brush
  • Flexible measuring tape
  • e6000 adhesive
  • Upholstery Foam
  • Fleece (anti-pill preferred)
  • Faux fur in the colors of your choice
  • Styrene Plastic (available from Tap Plastics or from plastic bowls)
  • Polymer clay (such as Sculpy or Fimo)
  • Sewing machine (optional)
  • Fabric for a balaclava or a liner (lycra or quilted broadcloth for example)
  • Fabric for trim (tongue, eyelids, etc)
  • Dummy head (optional)

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Making a Fursuit Body

Making a fursuit body isn’t as hard as it might seem! With these tips you will be able to make a perfectly fitted fursuit body! When it comes to bodysuits it really helps to have a sewing machine as part of this process, while it is possible to entirely hand-sew a body – using a sewing machine will save you an immense amount of time! Faux fur is very forgiving, and some traditional sewing techniques you may have in your background just don’t work on things like fursuit zippers. Let’s get started and learn about the wonderful craft of making a fursuit body!

Start by gathering some supplies to help you create your future bodysuit:

  • Sewing machine
  • Regular Polyester Thread
  • Muslin fabric or flat sheets up-cycled from a thrift store.
  • Long Pins and/or clips
  • Safety-pins
  • Soft measuring tape
  • Straight edge
  • Seam ripper
  • Chalk (or something to mark your fur fabric with) and a Permanent Marker
  • Scissors
  • Snap-off extendable razor blade
  • Faux fur in the colors and lengths of your choice.
  • Large-toothed Plastic Parka Zipper
  • Comb or pet slicker brush
  • (optional) Double fold bias tape

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Tutorial: Fursuit Washing and Care

Washing your fursuit and costume accessories is one of the best things you can do to keep them nice so you can have many years of fun with your costume! The following are instructions on washing a costume, as well as some tips on how to care for it. Be sure to contact your maker if you need further advice on keeping your costume looking its best!

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Body Padding for a Fursuit

Changing your shape from human to an animal takes some creative shaping, this is a guide about how to create shapes for your fursuit that make you not so human. Do you want to make it look like you’re walking on your toes? How about having a more animalistic chest? Create the illusion that you are a larger-than-life character! Departing from the human form is an advanced technique in fursuit-making, so it helps to have sewing and patterning experience in your background and that you know how to use a sewing machine. This guide assumes this background knowledge.

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Tutorial: Creating a Digitigrade Illusion for your Fursuit

Creating a Digitigrade illusion for your character’s legs

          So you want your character to have the illusion of digitigrade locomotion, so it appears to be walking on its toes? This tutorial is an advanced tutorial and it assumes that you know a little bit on how to sew, and that you know how to carve and attach foam, and apply fur. It is also full of useful tips for creating a costume with padding, but primarily shows creating an animal shape that looks like it is walking on its toes. Please be aware costumes with padding can be HOT to wear and a little more difficult to move around in.

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How to make use of a Duct Tape Dummy!

Welcome, I’m here to give you tips on making use of a duct tape dummy in a way that will help you make a perfectly fitted fursuit costume for yourself or someone from afar. If you are making a costume for yourself, a duct tape dummy is a luxury that is not required, since you are physically there for fittings! But it can absolutely be nice to see how things fit and physically manipulate them in front of you without having to rely on a reflection.

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Tutorial: Adding yarn to faux fur to change its appearance.

Adding yarn to change the appearance of fur or add markings

This is something fun I played around with and it turned out to be a very useful technique for interesting markings! I used this technique on a Binturong character I built and used yarn for the white hairs all over its face and blending in long ear tufts. The yarn helps add unique color and texture to faux fur that would not normally be available. Sometimes faux fur is too fine for paint or airbrushing to get the look you may want. Yarn behaves just like fur, it is soft and can be shaved, brushed and washed.

Materials:
  • Yarn
  • Scissors
  • Tiny scissors
  • Flat iron (for hair, a regular clothes iron works too) 
  • Slicker brush
  • Large needle
  • Thread or washable adhesive (optional if tying on to a bodysuit)

1. Start out with yarn and wrap it around your hand about 10 times.    Tip: Do your own testing to find a quality yarn that brushes out with a nice texture. Keep in mind wool may need special washing instructions and may not be able to be washed normally. “Cheap” or bargain-quality yarn isn’t recommended for this project.

2. Cut it, then knot it with an overhand knot loosely.

3. Use the slicker brush and firmly brush out the fibers. It will tear approximately half of the fibers out, the rest will be left as a woolly frizz. The knot ends up getting tighter as you brush, so just keep an eye on that, since you’ll want to untie it eventually.

4. Use a flat iron (for people hair, shown) or a clothes iron to flatten the yarn out and make it smooth. This step will make it more fur textured than yarn textured. If you like the frizzy texture, then you can skip this step, but I recommend flattening it like this! 

5. Gently untie the knot holding the bundle together. If the knot tightened on you while you brushed, just be persistent and use a needle to work the knot until it is undone.

6. Use a needle with a very large eye, and thread the yarn through it. If your yarn is big, try starting it through the eye of the needle using a loop of thread to pull the yarn piece through the eye. Tip: It helps to have a second needle and a willing friend to load yarn into the needles for you as you tie on the yarn, it will speed up the process.

7. Poke your needle through the furry-side of the fur fabric through to the backing, Use your needle for leverage and make a knot. Push the needle up through it to tighten then use a tiny pair of scissors to snip it free from the eye. On the front of the fur, brush it out with a slicker, and it looks like it belongs there!! 

8. Admire your hard work! Now do it 100 more times! :3 Tip: If yarn markings are planned for a face, sew up the fur for facial markings first then tie in the little hairs before attaching the fur to the foam. Tip: If you are adding yarn for markings on a bodysuit, after you tie in your yarn it is highly recommended that you anchor the knots with a regular needle and thread, or a washable adhesive like Fabri-tac or Liquid Stitch, otherwise they can get pulled out from the inside as you undress. Please be sure to test on a scrap before using adhesive on your final project to be sure you are satisfied with the result!! Once inserted, yarn behaves just like fur. The small knots keeping the yarn in do not affect it once it is glued down. The yarn also shaves down wonderfully – just like faux fur. 
Hope this inspires others’ projects!! For more tutorials visit my website Matrices.net
Patching fur

Oops, the inevitable happened. Its been some time and your fursuit piece just isn’t as new as it used to be, you walked on the pavement too long and your cute indoor footpaws now have a big hole worn in the heel. Yikes, what to do?? I have a small guide on patching faux fur over a hole to breathe a little extra life into your fursuit parts so they look nice again! 

Materials needed: 

* Your washed & dry fursuit piece that needs patched
* A scrap of faux fur
* Matching threads
* Scissors and/or a razor knife
* Needle & pins
* Paper and pencil
* Slicker brush or comb
* Stuffing (optional!)

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You are looking at a Panda costume designed and created by Matrices

This panda is a cartoon representation of the A. fulgens species of animal, also known as a Lesser Panda or a Red Panda – but this one isn’t red! A handsome combination of teal, plum, midnight blue, grey and white make this panda a special sight to be seen!

As an artist-designed creation, this is a piece of wearable art! So many details have been lovingly included to create this unique and adorable character. 

Meet Bitey!!

Bitey is a kitty character I made to try to step out of my comfort zone of drawing/making doggies all the time (ref http://www.furaffinity.net/view/7751250/

I finished the head up Aug 17, the rest of the costume: body, feet, tail and hands are already finished – You will see this cute kitty all together at Rainfurrest 2013!!

This is made from an all-foam base with comfortable a non-balaclava liner. Vents are in each ear and out the mouth. The head was primarily machine sewn, except for the two above-eye spots and where I attached the neck to the inner liner. 

The vinyl eyelids are adjustable for subtle expression changes! There is a small wire in them to make the adjustment possible. 

I added LOTS of cute nylon whiskers (whiskers like the ones I use are available in my etsy shop! https://www.etsy.com/listing/158785148/whiskers-eyebrow-and-face-whiskers-for )

Also a little bit of light airbrushing on the muzzle, neckfur and cheeks. Still nice and soft to the touch. :D

I hope you like Bitey! See you guys at Rainfurrest!!! If YOU want to own Bitey and want this cute kitty for Rainfurrest, send me an email to sara@matrices.net or send me an FA note. Serious inquiries only!

Using Heat to Repair Faux Fur

I get the most questions about this! Try it on scraps for yourself and see! This is the technique that I get the most questions about and the most reactions to. I am not joking around and am quite sincere that it really works!

I have a special tag with all my tests on using heat and faux fur to repair, straighten or restore it using controlled heat. See that here: http://matrices.tumblr.com/tagged/damaged-fur

The advantage to this technique is that it can restore faux fur damaged or wrinkled in transit, stored improperly, aged or worn fur, some dryer-damaged fur.

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I absolutely can’t stress this enough: Try this for yourself at home with scraps! See it for yourself! See what happens when you use a hairdryer on fur for yourself! There is a huge difference in this technique and throwing a fursuit in a dryer on high. That difference is Controlled Heat versus Uncontrolled Heat. A clothes dryer is uncontrolled heat and compression. It heats up and compresses fur with the tumbling action. This technique is controlled heat. You are touching and brushing the fur as you do it, you see the results as they happen!

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Tips for getting started!

  • Start with clean, dry fur! Your faux fur should be dry when you begin.
  • Use a regular hairdryer, feel free to test other heat application methods, but a standard hairdryer from the hair care section of the store is perfectly suited for this task.
  • You will need to do more than one pass. One shot is not enough. You have to go over it several times and be thorough for good results.

Here is my clean dry fursuit butt that is getting restored:

Next it is brushed, a slicker brush or a straight comb works:

Controlled heat is applied all over the affected area:

It is brushed again in the direction I would like the fur to lay:

After several passes of controlled heat and brushing, the fur is completely restored! For the full tutorial and more information, check out my guide here:

http://matrices.tumblr.com/post/126712928788/how-to-straighten-crimped-faux-fur

Share this with your friends! Encourage them to try it on scraps or an inconspicuous location. With this new knowledge restore all the fursuits to their fluffy glory!