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Constructing the Tail

If you're considering building a fursuit, then the tail is perhaps one of the quickest and easiest parts to make.  If you don't have the time or money to build a full fursuit, then quite a lot can be achieved from making the tail alone and leaving the rest to a later date.  Below I outline the procedure I went through in the construction of my own tail, which you can see pictures of Here.  It can be worn as part of a fursuit, but works just as well attached to a belt on its own.

Not surprisingly, being a wolf, this is a somewhat lupine tail, though I do give patterns and details for turning it into something more suited to foxes, for example, by making it longer in proportion and using two different colours of fur.

While I have absolutely no objections to people using this construction guide and the pattern therein for their own tail-making purposes (in fact, I'd like to see a tail as becoming a basic human necessity...), I'd be grateful if you could Email Me and let me know you are doing this, to satisfy my own curiosity.

So, how to make a tail:

1. Finding the Material

The first step is to gather together all the material you will need.  Obviously, the most important aspect is the (fake!) fur itself.  Personally, I prefer long fur to use for a wolf's tail, since it looks somewhat more realistic, but I know there are some locations where trying to find any fur at all is a nightmare.  If you are making a tail and nothing else, then one metre of fur should be enough for most critter's needs.

The fur I managed to get hold of at one of my local haberdashery shops was reasonably wolfish and the best I have yet seen on my travels - long grizzled grey fur built up on top of short black fur, as in the picture below:

Fake Fur

As well as the fur, you will need some scrap material, since it's advisable to make a prototype and check for size etc. before making a cut in what can be fairly expensive fur.  I found an old sheet to be satisfactory for the purpose, but any scrap material that will not stretch, fray or tear should do the job.

2. Creating the Pattern

The pattern I used to make my tail was conceived by Graloo, and basically created a closed, tapering "tube," but one which attempts to follow the body's natural curvature as much as possible.  The pattern for a wolf's tail is redrawn and reproduced below, though for construction purposes, I have produced two larger versions of the pattern, one for a wolf tail, the other for a bi-colour fox tail, both of which have been drawn to scale:

Tail Pattern (Wolf)

Again, the measurements are those which I used when building my tail - if you are a particularly short or tall canid, you should consider adjusting them (in proportion) accordingly.  As a rough guide, for wolves, the bottom of the tail (which is the blue sewing line rather than the red cutting line) should be about six inches below knee height.  Foxes may want a slightly longer tail depending on personal preferences.  The top of the (human!) tailbone should come at the narrowest point, where seams G and H are on the design above.

3. The Prototype - Transferring the Design

Following the design above, and using a ruler, set square and ball-point pen, transfer the pattern to your scrap material.  You will find it helpful to begin by marking a "central line" running vertically down through the middle of the tail, and constructing the pattern around that.

Cut the design out following the red lines in the pattern.  Remember this is only a prototype, so the exact cutting lines do not have to be exact.  Then either staple or glue (using fabric glue) the design together - follow the lettering on the pattern, first stapling/gluing A to A, then B to B etc. along the blue lines.  Then glue the three shaded areas at the top of the pattern - it should be obvious at to which glues to which.

Finally, turn your prototype through the right way, and stuff it.  Old socks work as well as anything else, though bear in mind that the finished stuffing will be lighter.  Now you can put your prototype tail on and wear it.  Feels good eh?

4. Modify the Design

If house space (and fellow housemates and/or parents!) permits, then go for a romp round the place wearing the prototype to see how it measures up.  If you've not had the pleasure of a tail before, firstly shame on you, you don't know what you've been missing, but secondly remember that it can have a mind of its own as far as breakable objects go...

Get a feel for how the tail behaves.  If it feels too heavy, remember the stuffing you use will be lighter if you have stuffed the prototype with old socks.  If it's too long, or not long enough, too wide, or not wide enough, then you will need to alter the pattern accordingly.  If you lengthen the tail, you may want to widen it a bit too in proportion, otherwise you will end up with something very thin and unstuffable.  The opposite goes if you shorten the tail.  Make another prototype if you feel like it, and once you are happy with your design, you can transfer it to the fur itself.  Remember the natural direction of the fur, and that you will want to orientate the fabric so that this flows down to the tip of the tail. To mark the fur's backing material, you will probably need to use either tailor's chalk, or (as I prefer) something like a chinograph pencil.  The tail is meant to by symmetrical down its middle, so take care when marking out the pattern onto the fur that it is.

If you are making a tail with a different coloured tip, then follow the pattern for the fox tail as linked to above.  The first thing you should do is to attach the two sections together (with fur sides facing each other) along the horizontal line A as marked, using the guidelines for cutting and sewing below before proceeding with the rest of the sewing.

5. Cutting the Design out of the Fur

Once you have marked the design on to the backing of the fur, you will need to cut it out.  This must be done carefully, especially with longish fur, otherwise what you end up with when you sew the finished article together will look unrealistic and as if it's been cut.  Thus here is a guide on how to cut fur:

  • Turn the entire design over, so that the fur faces upwards, first making a mental note of where the cutting lines you have drawn on the reverse of the fabric will go.

  • Using (preferably) a pet grooming brush or a semi-fine toothed comb, first brush the entire area of the design in the natural, downwards direction of the fur so as to untangle any fur that may have got twisted up.

  • Next, brush the fur in a direction at right-angles to the cutting line, and into the centre of the design, as shown in the diagram below.  Make sure you brush enough so that the fur is definitely running in that direction rather than trying to revert to its natural one.  You will need to treat each cutting line separately (i.e. brush and cut one line, then repeat for subsequent lines) rather than to try and brush the entire design in one go and then do all the cutting, since the directions will get mixed up at joins.

Cutting Fake Fur

  • Turn the fabric over carefully so as not to disturb the fur that you have just brushed into place.

  • Cut along the marked line.  This can either be done with a (very sharp) cutting knife, or with (equally sharp) scissors.  Again, be careful not to disturb the brushed fur as you cut.

  • Repeat the process for each of the other cutting lines.  It is time-consuming, but will make for a much better result in the long run, which is what's important.  Once the design in cut out, brush the fur back to its natural direction, remembering that because you will have cut some fur away from the backing fabric, it will moult a fair bit at this stage.

With the remaining material, you will notice that at the edges that have been cut, some fur will have been lost.  This is a minor sacrifice that needs to be made to absolutely ensure that no fur is lost from the final, cut away design.  Hence when planning laying out several designs on one piece of fur fabric, allow for a couple of inches between adjacent areas for the cutting process, otherwise the object of this lengthy process will be defeated.

6. Sewing and Gluing the Tail Together

The tail must be sewn together by tackling each seam separately, in the order as indicated on the pattern (by letters A-H, A-I for the Fox tail).  If you have used long fur, then you will possibly find it too thick to go under a sewing machine (depending on your machine), so you may need to sew by hand.

Firstly, repeat the brushing step as detailed in the cutting instructions, so that the fur runs in a direction at right-angles to the sewing line.  Then pin both edges of the seam together so that the identically lettered sewing lines lie opposite each other.  Remember, you will be sewing the tail inside out, so when you sew a seam, the fur should be on the inside of the finished tail.

Repeat this process for each seam in order.  The finished result should be a tail that appears not to be made out of fur, since that is in fact on the inside of the tail.  Make sure you have tackled well the two seams at the top of the tail (G and H for the wolves, H and I for the foxes), as it is at these point the weakest part of the tail lies.  For these two seams, you are not sewing together the two sections of fur either side of the cut, as, say, you were doing for seams A and B in the diagram above, except for perhaps the very end of the cut at the point nearest the tail's centre - this is advisable to add that extra bit of strength.  Rather, for the rest of those two seams, you are just sewing in a line round the edge of the fabric to stop it fraying etc.

Finally, glue the two flaps and then belt loop (in that order) at the top of the tail as indicated, and in the same way you did so for the prototype.  You may want to shave/cut off the fur on the part of the flaps to which the belt loop will be glued - this should make more sense when you come do doing it in practice.

7. Turn the Tail Out and Tidy

By pushing the end of the tail into itself, you should be able to turn the tail through the right way. Make sure the tail is turned out fully, especially at its tip, and brush the fur downwards into its natural direction.

If you notice any slightly bald patches, it's probably as a result of fur getting trapped in the seams during the sewing process (this is why it's important to brush the fur correctly before sewing).  If this has happened, it can be corrected by using a small, blunt implement to gently pull the fur out from the seam.  Do not use a sharp object, as it will cut the fur.

8. Adding an Armature

The armature is optional, but it does give the tail some shape rather than just letting it hang slack.  The easiest way to fabricate an armature is to find some stiff wire, and bend a long length back on itself several times, before twisting the ends together and bending into the desired shape.  Make sure it's not too stiff or long otherwise the tail won't have any natural flexing ability of its own and it will look rigid.  If you feel inspired, a coat hanger bent to the right shape will work well, with the hanging hook straightened out and bent slightly to form the upwardly curved tip of the tail.  The important thing is that when the armature is inserted into the tail, it should look as you want it too - there are no "set rules" for the exact shape of a tail.

When I made my tail, I used garden fence wire, which could be picked up very cheaply from DIY shops or garden centres.  For your interest, the shape I chose to bend the wire into is show below, though don't feel as if you can't use your imagination and come up with something better!  As usual, feel free to Email Me with your suggestions.

Tail Armature

9. Stuffing the Tail

If you have made an armature for the tail, briefly take it out, and inset a little stuffing in its place, making sure it goes to the very tip of the tail.  As far as what stuffing to use goes, any kind of fibrous stuffing that will pack tightly together will work fine.  It has to be quite dense, otherwise the tail will be far too light and will not swing or wag properly.  Quite frankly, I find the old socks make the tail the right weight to give good movement, so I have never got round to stuffing mine properly!

Insert the armature, and fill the rest of the empty space with stuffing, trying to ensure that the armature runs up the middle of the tail rather than resting against the fur fabric on one side.  Check everything looks and feels right, then lightly sew or glue the open end of the tail together (only lightly, in case you need to restuff or adjust the armature).

10. Wear the Finished Result

Congratulations, you have now made yourself a tail!  Put a belt though the belt loop to wear, and then wear it as often and as much as you can, around the house and in public if you feel brave.  Try not to pay any attention to it or its movements, and it will swing and move much more naturally.  After a day or so of getting used to it, it will feel a quite natural part of your body, as if you've never been without it.  You will be hooked and will begin to wonder how normal humans can cope without tails...

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