How To Embroider Animal Fur

Have you ever wanted to embroider an animal with thread and wondered how to embroider animal fur so that it actually looks realistic? This post will provide you with some photos and tips to help you learn how to do just that!

Disclaimer: This post has some affiliate links in it. I receive a small commission from purchases at no additional cost to the buyer. I only recommend products I would use and love and that are of good quality. All opinions are my own!

Long and Short Stich

long and short stitch used in thread painting.

The long and short stitch is the primary stitch to use when you thread paint, and it’s the stitch that resembles animal fur the most. This stitch is a series of stitches that are staggered side by side one another that are long and short.

These stitches don’t have to have an exact pattern to them. (long, short, long, short). In fact, staggering the long and short stitches randomly will make the embroidery look more natural. Our eye can pick up on patterns easily, so you’ll want to avoid stitching long and short stitches that are the exact length of one another.

If you’ve never thread painted before, I highly suggest you check out this other tutorial I made all about Thread Painting For Beginners before you get started.

Choosing Colors

Color is another important factor when embroidering animal fur. I highly recommend 6 strand DMC embroidery thread for thread painting because it has 6 divisible strands and hundreds of different colors to choose from.

Choosing accurate colors that depict the markings of the animal your are wanting to stitch is a must. Make sure that your reference photo shows the true colors of the animal you want to stitch. You’ll also want to choose a photo that clearly shows the fur pattern and direction the fur lays.

Pay close attention to the color changes that occur in the fur.

Are they subtle or dramatic?

Make sure to choose colors that are similar to one another for more smooth and subtle blending, and contrasting colors where there is a dramatic difference in the fur color.

Colors can also accentuate shadows and highlights, which will make your embroidery appear more life-like and realistic. (The grey fur in the photo above adds more depth and detail to the area of black fur.)

If you’re interested in learning more about utilizing color while embroidering, I highly recommend Trish Burr’s book Colour Confidence In Embroidery. This book has hundreds of color combination suggestions and goes super in depth about how to choose the right colors for your embroidery.

Stitch Direction

Each animal has it’s own unique fur pattern. You’ll want to really study and plan out which direction your stitches are going to accurately stitch the way the fur is laying.

Is the fur short and smooth?

Is it long and wispy?

Your stitches may be short and straight or a bit longer depending on the fur you see in your reference photo.

In areas where you need to gradually blend colors together, you’ll want your stitch direction to be uniform and smooth.

However, there are times when the first changes direction and overlaps. You’ll want to overlap your stitches accordingly.

The photo above shows an example of areas of fur that I smoothly blended out colors from dark to light. The cat’s mane is also a great example of how to stitch fur that changes direction and overlaps.

Instant Access To Exclusive Tutorials

If you’re interested in step by step tutorials to help you learn the art of thread painting, which includes many tutorials about animals and pet portraiture, please consider joining my Patreon community!

When you join the Serious Stitcher tier, you’ll get instant access to:

  • a monthly thread painting pattern
  • behind the scenes content and progress photos
  • ability to vote on future embroidery patterns
  • instant access to video tutorials, PDFs, and helpful resources
how to embroider animal fur

Putting Everything Together

As you can see in the photo above, the stitch direction changes throughout the rabbits face.

There are contrasting colors that are used in the front of the face to make the fur appear speckled.

Long and short stitches are randomly staggered throughout the embroidery so that the fur blends together and looks natural.

Learning how to embroider animal fur can be challenging, but you will find color combinations you like to use and develop your own techniques and style the more you practice!

Practice Embroidering Animal Fur

If you’d like to see how to apply some of these principles, check out my woodland rabbit embroidery pattern! This is a digital download. When you purchase the pattern you will receive 2 PDFS full of information about supplies I recommend, several pages full of details about getting started, thread painting techniques, and much more. It walks you through step by step how to utilize thread colors and the direction of your stitches to embroider animal fur.

Chloe Giordano's Freehand Needle Painting Class
Chloe Giordano’s Freehand Needle Painting Class

Another great resource is this online class by Chloe Giordano. She walks you through her process to create a red squirrel thread painting. In this class, she goes over choosing materials, colors, sketching your design, and then walks you through how to embroider the squirrel.

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