Best Needlepoint Stitches For Fur

Best Needlepoint Stitches For Fur

What is a needlepoint stitch that looks like fur? Is there a good needlepoint stitch for dog hair?

Do you want to stitch canvases with animals and pets but you can’t figure out how to make those ears floppy, and the tail swish?  

floppy eared dog
The hair on animals––people too––is a mix of different colors.  How do we make the hair or fur look real when armed with a needle and thread?

There are several needlepoint stitches that can be used to make animal hair or fur look realistic.  We recommend three stitch options for straight hair, and a fourth for your curly-haired poodle.  

A needlepoint stitch for straight dog or other pet hair.

This is a technique for stitching fur in needlepoint, rather than a single stitch.

First, stitch around the eyes, nose and mouth in a tent stitch––all the areas where the fur isn't long and you want the facial features to be as detailed as possible. 

yorkie puppy purse by JuliemarYorkie Puppy Purse by Julie Mar Designs 

Then, move to the outer edge of the area being stitched and pick one of the three methods below:

Long and short straight stitches.

random long and short stitches in needlepoint

Long and short straight stitches are just that – a random mix of long and short straight stitches.  You can use any threads to do this stitch. The stitches don’t need to go in a straight line and they don't need to be completely parallel with each other.

Run a long stitch, and then next to it, a short stitch, and a medium stitch, and so on––you're making it up as you go along. The only "rule" is that the stitches should run in the direction of the ear/body so that the fur looks realistic.   

Avoid stitching in a pattern – the length of the stitches should be completely random. Mix the colors in the area as well––using different shades is part of the controlled "randomness" like you see on these puppy ears.

Spaniel puppy purse by JulieMar

 Spaniel Puppy in Purse by Julie Mar

Split stitch

The Split stitch in needlepoint

The Split stitch is similar to the random short and long stitches, except you come up through the first stitch instead of on top of it––you are splitting the stitch with your needle.

The split stitch gives a bulky look – so it is 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 and silk for 13 mesh or Pepperpot 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––as this will help you pierce (split) the stitch.

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.

Curved Outline Stitch

Curved outline stitch in needlepoint
For a reminder of the outline stitch
click 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 first 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 two simple stitches for the poodle, both used in this Puppy Purse by Julie Mar.

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.

The stitch on those floppy ears is a faux bullion knot – easy and fun. Take a strand of Planet Earth silk or wool or Pepperpot silk (you cannot do this with strand-able thread, so not your DMC cotton).

Place a knot in one end and secure it on the canvas where you are stitching. 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!

Happy Fur Stitching!


puppy eyes needlepoint by Purple Palm