Fluffy Tails without needle felting

 

Ever tried making a fluffy tail and taking literally hours adding layers of either wool tops or batts? There is a very simple version and you can make them really fluffy or flat, single or multi coloured including stripes, soft and pliable or bushy and stiff. Whether you are making a tail for a fox, dog or cat, a squirrel, pine marten, skunk or lima this method of making tails should work for all of them and is just amazing! Adding wire will allow your tail to be pose-able but also stay upright or straight like with a squirrel or standing fox, cat, dog. Making a tail without wire makes the tail floppy which we love as it feels just like a relaxed tail and slides between your fingers.

You will need:

1) a soft card board sheet (at least as long and wide as the tail is meant to be) - I like the Manilla Document Wallets or a cereal packet will be fine too.

2) a really strong thread such as thin cotton crochet yarn or a thick linen thread or synthetic thread such as used for doll making. I used white extra strong thread but you could colour match the colour to the tail. You can test if the thread/yarn is strong enough by trying to tear it with your hands  if it tears it is not strong enough! 

3) a sewing needle

4) sharp little scissors

5) wire cutters (if using wire) 

6) Wool tops or batts: Batts will make a less silky and feathery tail as the individual fibres are shorter but the tail will be thicker and firmer. Tops make a bushier tail (great for squirrels and foxes) but the tail will be less dense. Saying all that, if you add more layers of the tops the tail will also become firmer and thicker.

7)+8) Optional:

7) wire or pipe cleaner if you want the tail to be pose-able (for example a squirrel's tail needs to stay upright or if you are doing a standing cat or dog)

8) a small carding brush

TAIL MADE WITH WOOLTOPS AND WIRE - measures 30cm long

You need 35cm of 1.25mm Aluminium Wire and 30g of orange Merino tops

 

 

Cut the size of the card board so it is about 30cm long and 6cm wide. Have a slightly longer length of wire. Make 6-8 holes with your sewing needle and 'thread' the wire running along the center of the card.

Then use your wool tops and wrap around the card board strip flat like a ribbon and keeping it evenly spread and tight.
Next thread your needle with the extra strong thin yarn or thread and sew along the center of the wrapped card board using a back stitch. If you cannot do a back stitch use a running stitch but go over it again a second or third time. This is the part that takes the longest and needs to be done well as the thread will hold the whole tail together in the end so keep the thread and stitches tight. You will probably have to re-thread the needle once or twice.

As you have a wire running along the center you need to make sure you 'trap' the wire now and then with the thread so go a little to the left and right when sewing along the center. The stitch does not need to look pretty as it will be totally hidden. It just needs to be tight and to catch each part of the wool and wire. 

Make sure that your stitches hold the wool at each end too so you do not have strands coming off later.

Once you have sewn the center use your sharp scissors and cut the loops of wool on either side of the card board edge. This is just as you would do with a pom pom except you only have a single card.
You now end up with a fluffy long shape with the card board still inside. 
Next tear the card board away from each side where the stitch runs. If you have used an extra strong cotton or linen yarn or thread it wool not tear. Stitching the wool and card board will have perforated the card and you should be able to tear either the whole half length away or large chunks. If a little card is left don't worry as the fluff of the wool should totally hide it. Repeat this on the other side.
Your tail is finished and you should be able to bend it into the shape you want.
You can leave the tail like this and either use the extra end of the wire to fasten into the animal you are making or cut the wire but bending the ends in first so they cannot slip out or become a sharp protruding object. To fasten the tail onto the animal use your felting needle as you normally would. As with a pom pom you can trim the tail to cut off excess wool or taper it at one end.
Optional: you can brush the tail with a small carder to make it smoother and let all the fibres run into the same direction. 

There will be wool in your carding brush but don't worry you can't really damage the tail as the wool will be firmly held by the thread in the center. 

The following examples of tail will involve the same steps as above but there are slight variations

TAIL MADE WITH TWO COLOURED WOOL BATTS TO MAKE A TAIL FOR A FOX - with wire

Measures about 30cm long

You will need 20g of Fox Orange Variegated wool batts, 5g of Gotland white wool batts, 35cm of 1.25mm aluminium wire and thin card of 30x6cm

As before wrap the wool around the card board strip with the wire running along the center. Still keep the wool as flat as possible when wrapping. It helps to tear off long strips of the batts and adding more layers if necessary. At the end wrap about 6-8cm with the white wool batts.
As before sew along the center of the wrapped card with tight small stitches making sure to catch the wire in the middle too. Then cut along the edges of the card board on both sides.
Once cut tear the card board out. Your tail will instantly fluff up. When using wool batts it will not be necessary to brush the tail as it has a much more dense look to it and the wool batts are shorter in fibre.

SMALL TAIL WITH WOOL TOPS AND WITHOUT WIRE - measures 18cm in length and 4cm in diameter.

You will need 5g of Manx Loagthan wool tops

As before wrap the wool flat around the card but this time use smaller strands as you are making a much smaller tail. 
Then again sew along the middle in tight small stitches but you do not need to pay attention to a wire running along the center. Cut the wool loops at the edge of the card board to finish the tail

MULTI COLOURED TAIL USING PIPE CLEANER - measures 16cm in length and 6cm in diameter.

You will need 5g of orange Merino wool tops, 6g of Manx Loagthan and wisps of dark brown Milk Sheep batts, 15cm of extra strong white pipe cleaner

With this tail you can mix your own variegated colour and find out that our pipe cleaners are pretty strong too!

First cut your card into a 16x6cm strip and secure the pipe cleaner as before with the wire.

Now mix your wool. First tear finger thick strands of the orange Merino top and the red brown Manx Loagthan top. Lay them on top of each other and tear lengthwise, laying them on top of each again and repeating the process a few times. Then tear wisps of the dark brown and add little strands along the two longer mixed tops.

Wrap flat around the card as before. You can use any colour combination of the three colours to have different sections of the tail in slightly different colours. 

As before sew along the middle, make sure to trap the pipe cleaner, cut the loops along the card board edge and your tail is finished. 

MAKING A STRIPED TAIL - measures 25x6cm - without wire

You will need

3g of Gotland Island grey, 10g of Gotland Lamb light grey and 7g Ryeland Lamb

For a striped tail, take turns with the different colours to wrap each section of the tail. Start with the dark grey, then a light grey section, then white, then light grey again, next white and finish off with light grey. Keep each section in the single colour.
As before, sew the middle then cut the sides and tear the card out.
You don't need to stay with just natural colours. Why not make a funky colourful tail? Here we used Space dyed tops in Berries and Flower Garden

Useful tips:

Leave a length of the thread you used to sew along the middle so you could fasten the tail onto the animal you want to attach it to. Or maybe make key rings and have the extra strong thread to fasten the ring to?

If you put different coloured layers on top of each other the tail with have different patches of colours (not stripes!)

HAVE FUN IN TRYING DIFFERENT VERSIONS, COLOURS AND SIZES - BEWARE THESE TAILS ARE QUITE ADDICTIVE!!