Making a Tail
you're still new to sewing, making tails is the best practice you can get
for working with fake fur. They're fun to make and wear, and with a little
bit of careful observation, you can probably make any animal's tail! This
tutorial covers the basic techniques of making a stuffed tail, more
advanced techniques are further down this page.
- Needle and thread
- Elastic or nylon webbing
- 1 yard fake fur in the color of your choice
- Chalk (or other non-permanent marking medium.)
- Razor knife
- Sewing machine
- Reference photos of your animal
- Lighter (to melt edge of webbing)
- Nylon stocking
- Weighted pellets
- When making a tail, first decide how long you want it and buy the appropriate
amount of material. You can estimate the amount by measuring from your
belt line to the floor. 1 yard is 36 inches. Most tails will take
about a yard of fur depending on your animal and design.
- Make your tail pattern by folding the fur, with the backing out, nap
pointing down. Just fold over however wide you'd like your tail to be.
Draw with chalk the shape you want your tail to be, using the folded
edge as the "top side" of your tail. Include a small tube at
the base of your tail (this is where you'll stuff your tail and sew
your belt loops). It can be from 2-6 inches of material before the
main length and shape of your tail pattern begins. Make the tube 4-6
inches wide from the fold.
- 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 shape desired.
- Cat tails are very easy, they are a narrow tube that is
round or tapered at the end.
- Canine tails are quite varied, but you can usually
accomplish them by making the tube section at the base, followed
by a curved fuller middle section, tapering towards a rounded or
pointed tip. How thick you'd like it to be is up to you.
- Curled tails are a little different and can be made one
of two ways. This is one way (the other way is out of carved
foam). Draw on your curled shape flat. You do not have to butt it
up against a fold, but if possible it will reduce the amount of
- Cut out your pattern using a sharp razor blade (using a razor knife
to cut just the backing of the fur will reduce the amount of shedding
compared to using scissors). Flip over your cut side and use the
mirrored pattern to trace and cut the other side.
- Sew your pattern. First assemble any secondary color pattern pieces
and sew those first. Then sew the main tail, lining 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
Tip: Do not sew
the very top (referred to as the "base"). That is where you
will turn your sewn pattern pieces right sides out and stuff.
- Once sewn turn your piece right sides out. Sometimes it helps to use
a broom stick if the hole is not big enough for your hand to
- Comb all 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 8.
- If your tail needs a little more shaping, or if 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. 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 you can
cut notches out if the fabric puckers. Just be careful not to get too
close to the stitching when notching your curves.
- This is also the time you can sew in weights or other
fun additions. Extra weight at the tip or bottom of the curve will
help the tail wag as you move. Plastic pellets placed in a nylon
sticking will work well. You can also place "surprises"
like squeakers or grunters (found at pet supply stores) in the tip
of the tail. Just place in a nylon stocking and sew into place
along the seam allowance.
- Once your tail is right sides out and all your fur is brushed out of
the seams, its time to stuff it! I prefer using the cluster-type
polyester stuffing, since it doesn't get flat and can be fluffed up
easily. You don't have to use a lot of stuffing if you want a more flexible
or softer tail. Or you can use more of it 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.
your tail on a flat surface will help distribute the cluster stuffing
if it doesn't feel evenly distributed.
- There is several ways you can close off your tail and add belt
loops, You can use elastic, nylon webbing or just the fur for the belt
loops. The elastic will stretch if the tail is pulled, the nylon
webbing is stronger but has no stretch, melt the raw edge of your
nylon webbing with a lighter to keep it from fraying. You can also
attach your tail directly to your bodysuit at this time as well.
- Using just the fur for a belt loop, fold the top of the
tail about 3 inches and sew 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, though.
- For "free" belt loops. Using
elastic or nylon webbing, cut two sections 6 inches long. Fold
each over and tuck into the top of your tail (about an inch). You
can roll the edge of your fur inwards for a more professional
look. Hand sew, or if your machine can sew through very thick
material you can machine-stitch across. Either way, make sure this
is firmly stitched.
- For "hidden" belt loops. Sew two sections of
4-inch long elastic or nylon webbing into the top of your tail
(rolling in the edge of fur if desired). Then take the two loose
belt loops and pull them towards the underside of your tail. Fold
the belt loops under about 1/2 inch and sew them on as well. This
type is the more challenging way to attach belt loops, but you get
the advantage of two elastic of nylon belt loops that are
concealed by the fur. Great if you usually wear your shirts tucked
in. Make sure that the loops are firmly stitched on in case the
tail gets tugged.
- Now you have a fun and silly tail to wear around! Put it on and have
a good time wearing it places!!
This section discusses some of the more advanced techniques for making a
tail. There are many other things you can try when designing your tail,
but this section features a few techniques that I've done before and have
been successful with.
Making a foam tail is much like sculpting a head or footpaws. You can make
some very unique self-supporting shapes that are still squishy and
- Start with your design or reference art and a quantity of foam.
Using hot glue or Super 77 spray-adhesive, attach larger pieces to
make the general shape.
- Draw/Mark the areas that will need trimmed, so you have some
guidelines to follow when creating your shape. Use a razor to cut away
large portions of foam, then use scissors to refine and smooth the
shape. As you progress, you can add more pieces to help build up the
shape and smooth out the foam until you are satisfied.
- Solid foam can get heavy. You can hollow out solid pieces to reduce
the weight of the foam. Periodically "test" the tail by
holding it by the base near your back while looking in the mirror to
see how it sits. You may have to add to the base to get it to sit at
the correct angle, or lighten it up as needed.
- Once you are done carving, its time to start making your pattern.
Tape patterns work great, tails with complex colors or tight curls may
need to be broken into multiple pieces to make sure the fur goes from
base to tip in the correct direction. Using hot glue you can apply the
fur directly to the foam, or you can sew your tail, then slip it over
- For the tail base, use fur or regular fabric to cover the part that
would rest against your body. Fur tends to mat in that area, but
completely covering the foam will make the tail stronger and last
longer. Belt attachments can be handled a few ways. You can also sew
the fur of the tail directly to the bodysuit at this time.
- Loops sewn into the top edge of the tail, just like a
stuffed tail, can be elastic or nylon webbing. Use two or more
spaced apart for greater support. Leave extra seam allowance on
the fur and the webbing or elastic, to attach your loops to the
- A tunnel through the foam works very well to attach a
belt, but the belt often needs to be worn lower for the tail to
look like it is coming from your spine. Sew a plain fabric tube
that your belt fits through with a little extra material at each
end. Cut a tunnel about an inch in from the top and base of your
tail and slip in your sewn tube. Use the excess material to fold
around the opening and glue down. Glue or sew the fur to the edge
to conceal where the belt enters.
- Now you have a bouncy foam tail that will keep its shape! Try it on
and wear it around!
Delrin rod is a
special order plastic used in supporting long, bouncy tails. You need a
heat gun to heat it to be able to bend it, and the technique is to heat it
slowly and evenly. The type of tail that works best is a thin tail, or a
foam tail, thicker stuffed tails just don't work as well as thinner tails
do. It works well as an armature for a tail and its reasonably bouncy, so
makes for a really fun tail to wear. It can be found at stores such as Tap
Plastics, or through online websites.
When buying or ordering Delrin rod make sure you get a complete piece, I'd
ordered 5 feet of it online once and received a 4 foot segment and a 1
foot segment, and couldn't figure out a way to attach it back together so
I had to work with what I got. Measure your existing tail or make a tail
to fit the length of Delrin rod you acquired. You'll need about 1 foot or
excess Delrin rod to make the base of your tail.
- Equip yourself with gloves (or hot pads or oven mitts) to protect
yourself from heat, and using your heat gun begin heating a segment to
make the base. Using slow, even heating raise the temperature of the
section you'd like to bend until it is pliable. Make your belt
attachment first. There's two ways I've seen it done, the first way
being the way I had made it when I made a Delrin rod tail, the second
being a way I'd seen another do it, and it didn't require a belt to be
- Start at one end of the rod, heating the rod 2-inches
from the end, bend it at a right angle "down", then heat
it two inches from that bend and bend it at a right angle
"up". Measured how wide your belt is (about another 2
inches) and bent it "horizontal" leave that about 4
inches long. Next bend "down" from there leave another
belt-width segment, and finally bend a two inch segment until the
base is a square. Using zip ties, tie it with a small zip tie at
the top and bottom of the first 2-inch segment where it butted up
against the main tail part. You can also zip tie a center
segment if you have trouble keeping it square, it also works as a
way to thread your belt through. This takes up about
12 inches of Delrin rod, and the illustration below describes the
- This is a curvier attachment, that just slips into the
back of your jeans to wear. The design can be credited to Legend
and I believe I learned about the design from a class he presented
at a convention I attended before. It consists of two loops and
two straight pieces, the straight pieces can be attached together
at the base with shrink tubing (padded with felt, so it doesn't
creak when it rubs), the bottom longer piece is the remaining
segment of your delrin to curve for the rest of your tail. The
illustration below describes the design:
- Once you have your base, from there, continue heating along the
length of your tail so your tail is as curvy as you want it. Just
remember to heat it slowly and evenly so it doesn't overwork and
stress the plastic too much when you bend it, and risk breaking when
you're romping at a convention.
- After you have your shape, slip the fabric of your tail over the
Delrin Rod, or poke it through your foam and attach it at the base by
sewing or gluing around it.
Most people don't have access to an airbrush, but want the look or
transition of blended colors. This can be accomplished with a technique
called drybrushing. A brush is used, and regular acrylic paint is loaded
onto the paintbrush with a tapping motion until it is even throughout the
bristles and "dryer" than just straight wet paint. Applied onto
the fur in layers, the drybrushing can blend the paint softly between
colors. Use a comb or a slicker brush between layers as you paint to make
sure the fur does not clump together, comb through it as it dries as