Mesh base animal ears are sturdy, poseable, and durable. They can be attached to masks, hats, headbands, etc.
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- Reference Pictures
- Chalk (if using dark-colored fur material)
- Wire Mesh
- Wire Cutters
- Hot Glue Gun
- Hot Glue Sticks
- Fur Material
- Electric Dog Groomers w/ Length Guards
Step 1: The Pattern
Look at your reference (in this tutorial's case, a fox) and draw the shape of the ear on a piece of paper. You should draw it a bit wider than it looks on the animal to account for the curve of the ear, otherwise it will be too narrow when you curve the finished ear. Don't be afraid to draw it bigger than you think it should be; it's easier to trim the pattern down than to make a new one. You only need one pattern, as you will simply flip it over to make the other ear.
Hold your ear pattern in the proper curve and place it on the head. Are the proportions to your liking? How does the size look? If you want them bigger, make a new pattern. If smaller, feel free to trim. Don't trim too far, because you can still trim at later steps.
Do you like the direction that the ears point? To make them stand up more, trim the side of the base nearest the top of the head. Vice versa to make them point more sideways. Either way, ensure that the base of the ear touches the head along its entire length, accounting for the curve.
Step 2: Cutting Materials
Hold the ear pattern against the wire mesh, near the edge, and use the cutters to clip out a vague ear shape. No need to be exact at this point, just try to be close. You'll need to cut out two.
Now comes the fine trimming. You'll want to lay the mesh on top of the pattern and cut the wire about 1/4 of an inch away from the sides and top of the ear pattern. As for the mesh near the base of the ear pattern, cut that edge even to the pattern edge. Repeat for your other mesh ear base.
Lay your fur material with the fur side down and the fur direction going away from you. Place the ear pattern on the material with the top of the ear pointed away from you. This is the direction that fur grows on an animal's ear.
Trace the ear pattern onto the fur material using a pencil or a piece of chalk. It is very important to use a marking tool that will not bleed to the other side of the material - no pens or markers! Trace two copies of one side of your pattern and two copies of the other side (flip it), for a total of four.
Now we cut the fur material, but this is unique compared to regular material in that you can accidentally cut the fur where you don't mean to. The solution to this is to only insert your scissors a few centimeters and clip carefully the whole way. Alternately, using a rubber cutting mat and utility knife, gently slice along your tracing line with a very sharp blade - do not press down to the mat or you may accidentally slice fur. Hold the material a little above the mat and slice carefully with a VERY sharp blade. Fur material dulls those blades quickly, so be sure to have an extra on hand. Working with a dull blade can accidentally rip the material.
When you are done, you should have two copies of both sides of your pattern, as seen in the image above. The wire mesh is also pictured, and you can see how neatly it fits inside the fabric's borders.
Step 3: Gluing The Ears
Begin placing glue at the top corner of the ear - only a little because you are about to match the other piece of fabric to this one and glue the tops together, sandwiching the wire mesh in-between. Ensure that you encase those sharp wire ends in hot glue! Do not glue all the way up to the fabric edges, as you will need a few centimeters for finishing work later.
Match the top of the corresponding piece to the top of the piece you just glued, matching your edges. Once you have the tops lined up, fold the rest of the material down (match edges) and then press down over where your glue is. Firmly hold for a couple of minutes or so until your glue has cooled a bit and is holding well.
Fold your top material back up so you can see where you need to glue next. Patience is key here, as it is best to only do a little at a time - about 1/2 inch - because the glue holds best when it's as hot as possible. So glue your next 1/2 inch and repeat the process of folding it back down and pressing as you did before. Keep going until you've glued the entire ear in this manner. It is okay to glue all the way to the edge of the fabric along the ear base. In fact, it is best to do that in order to coat the sharp wire ends for safety. When you are done, you should have an "ear sandwich" of sorts - two pieces of fabric hot glued together with the wire mesh base in-between.
Step 4: Shaving The Ears
You definitely need to do this step if you are using long hair. It also helps immensely if you have clippers with interchangeable guards. I use electric dog groomers.
Pick which side of the ears will be the backs. Brush the hair out a bit so it hangs down, then use your clippers to shave all of the hair on that side down to about 1/2 inch or so (longer if you desire fluff) using the proper length guard.
Shape the ears into a curve like the animal's ears you are emulating. The shorter fur side is the back.
Shave all of the hair down away from the outer edge and top of the ear. It should remain long on the inside only (not reaching outside the borders), especially on the side near the top of the head. These lengths will depend a lot on the species you are making.
Step 5: Ear Edging
Cut away any excess material on the inside of the ear edges so they are as even as possible.
Put a tiny line of hot glue on the edge line, then fold the hair from the back side of the ear over the edge and the glue. It will stay in place and mask the edge divide.
Continue for all edges except the bottom. Repeat for the other ear, and they will be finished and ready to attach to the base of your choice.