How to Embroider Fur

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How to Embroider Fur Don’t panic … it’s easy!!

My most popular designs are those which feature Rosie and her little friend Bear. Although Rosie is very simple to embroider in stem and running stitch, Bear is shown in all his furry glory, which I know can be a bit scary if you’ve never had a go at embroidering fur before. But don’t worry, it’s easy … and with Bear’s help I’m going to show you how…. You will need 6” square linen or cotton fabric suitable for embroidery – suggest without pattern so you can see what you’re doing. 6 stranded embroidery floss in plain chocolate, milk chocolate, toffee and crème caramel colours. (OK that’s very dark brown, mid to dark brown, medium brown and golden colour). But as I recall Bear was always very fond of sweets I thought I’d use our common language! If we’re going to be boring .. I use DMC shades L833, 3862 and 676. Plus some very dark brown and the tiniest bit of white to put the sparkle in Bear’s eye and DMC variations for his ribbon. Using a linen floss in with the cotton gives interest to the texture as the linen is matt against the gloss of the cotton. © Bustle & Sew 2011

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First transfer your Bear to your fabric. My Bear measures between 2 ½ and 3” tall. It’s actually easier to work fur on smaller animals as there’s less area to cover.

IMPORTANT: You will be using 2 strands of floss throughout unless specified otherwise. Hoop up and take a good look at the soon-to-be-furry fellow. If you have a pet, take a look at him or her too. Notice the direction in which the fur grows. ALWAYS away from the nose. The nose is the focus of all your fur. And look at how their fur overlaps so that fur nearest the nose lies on top of fur further down the body. This is the first key to realistic bear fur – getting the direction of your stitching correct.

© Bustle & Sew 2011

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Here’s Bear, looking a bit like a pin cushion. See how his fur is all directed away from his nose. Imagine smoothing him….. you never smooth your dog, cat or rabbit from tail to nose as that would ruffle their fur the wrong way … always nose to tail. The second important thing to think about before you even thread your needle is shading. Here’s a little bear I drew a few years ago (to look like Townie Husband after lots of wine at Christmas!)

Because I’m not a very good artist, you’ll be able to see some pencil lines around the edges of the bear. But the position of his arms, legs and face is totally shown through shading. Dark where there are shadows or the limb is further away and brighter where the body catches the light, eg on his round bottom or the back of his arms. This is the effect you are aiming to achieve with your needle and floss. You’ll work darker stitches where the fur would be in shadow and, blending as you go, work towards lighter stitches where © Bustle & Sew 2011

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there are highlights, eg on his nice fat tummy. This sounds more difficult than it is … it’s really much easier to show than to try to explain in writing. So, thread your needle with 2 strands of milk-chocolate coloured floss. You will start at the bottom of the bear. This makes sure that your later stitches will overlap your earlier ones correctly. Abandon any thought of stitching along the outine. NO NO NO. Bear is fluffy not hard or smooth. Outline is for hard or smooth edges. Work your stitches at an angle to his limbs as though the fur was falling softly…

So far so good. Keep your transfer close to you as it’s easy to lose track of the shape you’re trying to achieve.

© Bustle & Sew 2011

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That’s the shadows worked. Notice how the back leg is darker than the front, there is a line of dark fur along the back of his arm and front leg and also below his ribbon and at the back of his head. Now use your toffee coloured floss to fill in the gaps between the milk chocolate floss and also scatter a few in the areas you intend to highlight (fur is never just one colour – check out that pet again!) Don’t worry if you can’t easily see the boundaries between limbs, eg where his arm comes over his tummy. We have a secret weapon to deal with that. Just keep stitching and shading. Be sure to keep the stitches irregular – no straight lines please!

© Bustle & Sew 2011

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Before you add more stitches to his head you might find it easier to indicate where his eye and nose will be using the very dark brown floss. This means you can work right up to them with confidence. I usually work his ribbon at this stage too. He’s starting to look a bit like Bear already!

Finish the toffee coloured stitching on his head, again remembering your shading. Pay particular attention to the paw holding the flower – the actual paw will be lighter than the arm behind it as it’s further forward in space.

© Bustle & Sew 2011

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You’ve done the hardest bit!! Not so bad was it?

Now thread your crème caramel floss and fill in all the gaps between stitches. Yes, all of them. Try to work as thickly as possible to make his fur look lush, but if there are spaces, then don’t worry too much. But there’s still something missing …

No Ben, not you.. I’m fed up of picking your fur out of my embroideries!! No, we’re missing the sparkle in Bear’s eye and a little extra depth of shade along his arm and other areas of shadow.

© Bustle & Sew 2011

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Thread your needle with ONE strand of very dark brown floss.

Work small stitches along the inner edge of Bear’s forward arm, the boundary between his back legs, the deepest shadow around his ribbon and where his paw is bent forward to hold his flower.

It’s quite had to see where they are in this picture, but if you look from further back …

© Bustle & Sew 2011

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Look how those hard-to-see stitches have made all the difference. Now you can clearly see Bear’s arm, legs and other deeply shaded areas. Finally, with one strand of white, add a little sparkle to his eye – and if liked, a little pink for the inside of his ears. And you’re done. End of fur tutorial. Hope you enjoyed it. Helen xx

PS Please respect my copyright. You are welcome to share with your friends, but it must not be copied and redistributed on a commercial basis. Thank you.

© Bustle & Sew 2011

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