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Constructing some Ears

A nice pair of ears can complement a Tail very nicely to produce a wearable "outfit" without having to go into the construction of a full fursuit.  At least, together with possibly a pair of forepaws (and/or a collar if you're into that kind of thing), ears and a tail comprise a set of "furry accessories" for use at meets or conventions, and unlike a full suit, can be worn all, if not most of the time.  Below I outline the procedure I went through in the construction of the pair of ears I made myself.

These are wolf ears, and are designed to be attached to a headband to be worn separately from any fursuit head or mask.  However, with a little playing around on paper with the patterns, it should be possible to create many other different styles of ears to suit your needs, and indeed, I would imagine that a similar construction method could be used for a pair of ears to attach to a fursuit head.

While I have absolutely no objections to people using this construction guide and the patterns therein for their own fursuiting purposes, I'd be grateful if you could Email Me and let me know you are doing this, to satisfy my own curiosity.  Bear in mind that this is how I made my ears - this method worked for me, you may find that it's too confusing, or you want to do things differently.  By all means, go ahead, and let me know how you get on and what modifications you make.  There is no right or wrong way to go about things - pick something that works for you.

So, how to make a pair of ears:

1. Finding the Material

The first step is to gather together all the material you will need.  The structure of the ears is made from a material called plastic meshing (or plastic canvas).  This is essentially a sheet of plastic which comprises a grid-like pattern, and is used for embroidery.  A haberdashery or embroidery shop is the most likely place to find this, and for the purposes of constructing ears alone (it is, in fact, possible to make an entire head structure from this stuff), a sheet about A4 sized should suffice, unless you want foot-long rabbit ears!  The meshing comes in a variety of hole sizes; 2.5mm, which is what I used when I made my set of ears, seemed to work well.

Obviously, the next most important material is the (fake!) fur itself.  Personally, I prefer long fur to use for these types of construction, since it looks somewhat more realistic and can be given a "haircut" as necessary to give any desired fur length (whereas there is no way of lengthening short fur!).   But I know there are some locations where trying to find any fur at all is a nightmare.  Only a tiny amount of fur is required - enough just to cover both sides of both ears - so if you're making a Tail as well, the left-over from that should provide enough fur for the ears.

As well as the plastic meshing and the fur, you will need the headband on which the ears will be eventually attached (assuming that you're not adapting the design for use on a fursuit head).  Ideally, this wants to be thin, plain, and the same colour as your hair (though paining is obviously possible), but not so thin that there is nowhere on which to stick the ears!  Immersion in very hot water will soften the plastic enough that it's shape can be changed to fit your head.

You will also need superglue, or a similar rapid-drying glue, to stick the plastic meshing together and glue suitable for sticking fabric.

2. Creating the Pattern

Below are the patterns I used in the creation of my wolf ears.  Whether you are making wolf ears or are going to adapt the design to your own needs, I recommend firstly making a prototype as show below using these patterns, which will give a better idea on how to go about altering them.

The first step is to copy the patterns onto paper.  The images below are actually at the proper one-to-one scale, though have been resized smaller for display on this page.

Ear Pattern - Front

Ear Pattern - Back

Ear Pattern - Base

To get a fairly accurate reproduction of the patters, rather than printing them out, I recommend saving them (by right clicking and selecting "save image as...") and then opening them in a graphics program which allows scaling of images.  Using a ruler held to the screen, scale the images maintaining their correct proportion until the scales on them match the ruler scale, and then trace the images directly from the screen using thin paper.

3. The Prototype

Unlike the tail prototype, a simple mock-up of the ears can be made just from paper and selotape.  So, make two copies (one for each ear!  The pattern for the other ear is the same, but with the pieces upside down.) of the pattern onto some scrap paper, and cut the two sets of three pieces out, being careful to mark each piece with what it is and which ear it is!

Assemble the first ear as follows: take a front and back piece, and then tape their tips together, making sure that side A on the front piece is opposite side A on the back piece and likewise for the two sides B.  Next, tape the two sides A together - you should be able to see how the 3D structure of the ear forms, and if you do likewise with the B sides, you should end up with something that looks like an ear, with a hollow inside and curvature to both the front and back pieces.  The base part isn't required for the prototype.

Now assemble the other ear in the same way, but remembering that the back piece needs to be flipped over and attached to the reverse side of the front piece.  You should be able to see this much clearer when you have the paper patterns cut out in front of you.  To determine which ear is which, when worn, the sides marked "B" on both ears will point to each other, i.e. into the middle of your head.

4. Modify the Design

OK, time to embarrass yourself.  Clear the parents/housemates/pets out of the house, and stand yourself infront of a mirror.  Take the two paper ears you've just made, and place them in a suitable position on top of your head, remembering that the sides marked "B" point inwards.

You will now want to see how the size of the ears suit you, and indeed their shape - after all, if you're not a wolf, having wolf ears in a little pointless!  While I am unable to specify how to alter the patterns to change the shape and side of the ears, you should have learnt enough from constructing the prototypes of how they are formed to be able to have a play with paper cut-outs and come up with two pieces, a front and back, that fit together to give you the shape and size of the ears.

Remember - whatever plastic meshing structure you finish up with, addition of the fur over this will bulk it out, so be sure take this into account whenever you finalise the pattern you're going to use.

If you alter the patterns from those shown above, you will want to create a new base piece too - read through and see what this does, and then you should be able to see how you will need to alter it.  You should notice that the red line on the base pattern matches the curvature closely of the bottom edge of the front piece, and indeed on the finished version, these two edges are stuck to each other.  So the new base piece that you make if you need to make one must match the eventual curvature you wish to obtain from the ears.

Once you've got your patterns finalised, you can transfer them to the plastic meshing, and cut them out.  Chinograph pencils will mark the meshing easily, biros are slightly more tricky to use.  A good, sharp pair of scissors will cut through the plastic meshing.

5. Sticking the Pattern Together

You're working with rapid-drying glue here, so make sure your work area is suitably protected with newspaper or similar, and be careful to keep your fingers clear when gluing!

Take the front piece for one of the ears, and, following the instructions on the bottle of glue, apply evenly along the bottom edge.  Stick this piece to the red line printed on the base pattern, making sure side A of the front piece is at the A end of the red line, and side B of the front at the B end.  You'll probably have to hold the piece in place for a little while until the glue dries, depending on what glue you're using.  Once the glue is dry, you can strengthen the join of necessary by tying some thread through the holes of both pieces to hold the two together and using more glue - remember, the whole ear will be covered in fur, so the structure does not have to look perfect underneath.

Next, do likewise with the back piece, attaching it to the front piece.  You'll want to begin by sticking two small areas of the two pieces together, and then working round the whole shape until the two pieces are joined by just their edges all the way round.  Sticking together with masking tape or similar to hold the whole shape in place as you glue small pieces of it seems to work. and of course, using tape to strengthen the finished join will also work.

Now that you have the finished structure, the final thing in an aesthetic one (since the base will not be fur-covered) - cut out the piece of meshing on the base inside the red line, leaving just a small margin between your cut and the red line (i.e. the front piece) itself.

You now have the completed ear.  You'll want to do likewise for the other ear, remembering to flip the pieces as for the prototype (the base piece must also be turned the other way up for the second ear).

6. Cover the Ears in Fur

Here's where things start to get a little tricky, and again, I can really only describe how I made my ears using the fur I was able to get my paws on.  You may want to do things differently, you may only be able to get very short fur, etc. - so don't think you have to follow my instructions the letter.  If you have any tips, or want to let me know how you went about things, feel free to Email Me with your suggestions.

You'll want two different types of fur to cover the ears - very short fur for the insides, and either the same, or longer fur for the outside, depending on which animal's ears you're trying to make.  Rather than buy two separate lengths of fur, I decided to make short fur by trimming down with scissors the long fur - this ensures the density, colour etc. is the same.

The fur direction on the ears for both the front and back is given by joining together the two short brown lines on the front pattern (and obviously translating this to a parallel line on the back pattern), remembering that, on canine ears at least, the fur direction is upwards.

Start with a rectangle of the longer fur bigger than the ear itself, and using the fabric glue, and making sure the direction is correct, stick this to the back of the ear.  Following the directions for Cutting Fake Fur, cut the fur round the shape of the ear, leaving about a 1cm round the edges, and slightly more at the bottom.

Apply glue to this excess, and stick it round to the other side of the back piece - on all except the bottom edge of the back, this will mean sticking the excess fur to the front piece, and on the bottom edge itself, tucking the fur into the gap between the two pieces.  Where the edge of the ear curves significantly, such as the bottom and the tip, you will want to cut lines into the fur so that it sticks smoothly to the other side.  This is shown in the diagram below - cut along lines similar to those show in red, and that'll enable you to turn the fur over and stick it down as detailed above.

Cutting the Fur

To stick fur to the front of the ears, you will need to go back to the pattern.  Draw round the front pattern onto the shorter fur, being sure to get the pattern the right way up on the fur backing.  Cut this shape out of the fur, and then cut round the resulting shape a margin of about 0.5cm on all but the bottom edge, to leave you with a piece of fur slightly smaller than the pattern itself.  This should fit nicely into the centre of the front of the ear, and now glue it in place there, being careful not to trap fur from the back piece under this front piece when you stick it down.

Repeat with he other ear, and you should now have a pair of furred ears.

7. Trim the Fur and Tidy

Down side A of the ears you will need to shorten the long fur from the back piece were you've turned it over onto the front piece in the step above.  Preference dictates whether you trim this to the same length as the short fur, or make it slightly longer.

On side B of the ears, you can either trim likewise, or take a comb and carefully brush the long fur where it's been turned over onto the front across the ear to simulate the guard hairs found on animal ears.

Also trim any fur on the back piece which comes above the tip of the ears, to make the whole thing look neat and tidy.

8. Attach the Ears to the Headband

By trial and error, and using something like "BluTak," find the best place on the headband to stick the ears down, remembering which way round they go (Side B facing inwards).  This will obviously differ from person to person (wolf to wolf?) depending on the size of their head and personal preference again.

Once you've decided where to stick the ears (and having made some kind of mark on the headband to remind you where this is), remove the ears, and apply glue to the base of one the ears and the headband in the two places that the base meets the band.  Hold the ear in place until it has stuck - again, you can strengthen the join by passing thread (of a similar colour to the headband) under the headband and through the fur and the plastic mesh holes in the ears.

Repeat this with the other ear, and you'll have both nicely attached to the headband - check and make sure that this is a secure attachment, and sew or glue as necessary to ensure that it is.

9. Wear the Finished Result

Congratulations, you have now made yourself a pair of ears!  Wear them as often and as much as you can, around the house and in public if you feel brave, together with the Tail if you've attempted that project.  After a little while of getting used to having ears on the top of your head, they will feel quite a natural part of your body, and the feeling of wearing a headband should disappear in the same way as you don't realise you're wearing a watch after a while.  You will be hooked from this point onwards...

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