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The best stitches for animal hair, ears, or tails


You want to stitch canvases with pets but can’t quite figure out how to make those ears floppy, and the tail swish  -- well read on.

floppy eared dog

Hair on Animals – well people too,  is a collection of different colors – all running together.  But how do we make the hair look real.   There are many different stitches which can be used to make animal hair look more realistic.  We recommend three different stitches for straight hair and a forth for your curly haired poodle.  

First, stitch around the eyes, nose & mouth in a tent stitch. The long stitches below will cover the pretty features of your pet otherwise.

yorkie puppy purse by JuliemarYorkie Puppy Purse by JulieMar KL-1007

Once done, move to the outer rim of the area being stitched and pick one of the 3 methods below.

                                                          Long and short straight stitches

random long and short stitches in needlepoint

These stitches are just that – a mixture of long & short straight stitches.  You can use any of our threads to do this stitch. The stitches don’t need to go in a straight horizontal or vertical line. So run a long stitch, and then next to it, a short stitch, and a medium stitch, and so on. The stitches should run in the direction of the ear/body.   Do not stitch in a pattern – the length of the stitches should be completely random. Mix the colors in the area as well.

Spaniel puppy purse by JulieMar                                                                      Spaniel puppy purse by JulieMar  KL-1017

Now remember, random doesn’t mean all over the place – it means different lengths & colors, or your puppy will need grooming.

                                                                             Split stitch

The Split stitch in needlepoint

The Split stitch is similar to the random short and long stitches, except you’re coming up through the first stitch instead of on top of it.
It gives a bulky look – so not for fine haired animals. It works best with a thread that’s tightly wound so that your needle will “split” the strands as you enter. Planet earth wool & silk for 13 mesh or Pepper pot silk for 18 mesh are perfect.  For this stitch, you will need a chenille needle - one that's pointy at the tip, rather than the dull tapestry needle we usually use for needlepoint. 

To do the Split stitch, place your first stitch normally.  For your second stitch, bring your needle up through the top 1/3 of the first stitch from underneath the canvas to the top. Your third stitch will come up at the top 1/3 of the second stitch and so on until your area is covered.


Outline stitch held back

Curved outline stitch in needlepoint
You’ve done the outline stitch.  Need a reminderclick here.


To stitch a curved outline stitch, begin with the first row as you normally would.   Start the second row immediately adjacent to the first stitch in the first row.  Place your fist stitch normally.  When you come up to begin your second stitch bring the needle up in the row behind the first stitch, encroaching the stitched area. Make sure you’ve moved the threads away so you don’t catch them. The next stitch should again come up under the row already stitched.  Continue in the area you want to curve. This method will pull back that row and look natural.  Your next row will be stitched the same way until your area is filled and the curve is in place. 

You can stitch the entire area using this method like the Yorkie Puppy purse above, or just add a few defining features as in the Scottie Puppy purse by JulieMar below.

Scottie Puppy purse by JulieMarScottie Puppy Purse by JulieMar  KL 1016


                                 Curly Haired Poodles - French Knots and Faux Bullion Knots

Poodle puppy purse by JulieMar                                                                          Poodle puppy purse by JulieMar KL-1005

Finally, we can’t forget our curly haired poodle. There are 2 simple stitches for the poodle, both used in this puppy purse by JulieMar.

The first, is a series of French Knots. – like those on the top of the puppy’s head. Don’t crowd the knots though, every couple spaces use a tent stitch – it looks less bunchy.

But, my favorite stitch for the poodle –was done on those floppy ears. The stich is a faux bullion knot – easy & fun. Take a piece of your Planet Earth silk or wool or Pepper Pot silk (you cannot do this with strandable thread, so not your DMC cotton). Put a knot in one end & secure. These threads are comprised of several tightly bound strands. Loosen them a bit at the top. Come up in the stitching area and remove the needle. Pull gently on one of the strands. While pulling gently, push the bunched thread to the canvas and place it in the position you want it to rest. Bring all strands of the thread below, and cut the long single strand. Now secure the bunched thread with the one that was pulled off. And now you’ve done a faux bullion. But don’t tell anyone. Pretend you’re an expert at doing those difficult Bullion knots.

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Needlepoint stitches for animal hair and ears

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