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.
for Belt Loops (such as elastic or nylon webbing)
Fur in the colors of your choice
- Chalk or something to mark your fabric with (what to avoid?)
or a Razor Blade
Photos of your animal
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:
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.
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!!