Apr 152011

How to fake ermine fur

First, it’s helpful if you have read this note on ermine fur in Elizabethan paintings.

Materials needed for this tutorial:

Depending if you’re choosing the ‚easy, but fake looking‘ or ‚difficult, but correct looking‘ method‘:

Easy, but fake looking Difficult, but correct looking
  • white fake fur, hair length not longer than 1/2 an inch
  • white fake fur, hair length not longer than 1/2 an inch
  • Black permanent marker
  • about 1/10 of that amount of black fur, hair length at least 1, but no longer than 2 inch (otherwise you’ll have to cut the fur)
  • permanent marker
  • X-acto knife (or a carpet cutter)
  • Some fabric, e. g. cotton
  • Fabric glue

Let’s face it – not many people can afford to decorate their historical clothing with real ermine fur. Me neither, so I had to invent a method how to fake ermine fur. I came up with two methods – a ‚quick and dirty‘ one, which I don’t like too much, and another one, which is a little more complicated but the result is better.

This here is the easy method:

Take a piece of fake white fur, hair length not longer than half an inch and a permanent, black marker and paint some strands of the white fur black in a diamond pattern all over the white fur.

This method has a very big disadvantage, though:
For a beginner, it might look like ‚ermine fur‘, but on close observation, this method fails. As described here, ermine fur consists of white ermine furs which are decorated with ermine tails, which have a black tip.
Those black tips, if worked into clothing, are a little longer than the white fur; so that the above described method absolutely doesn’t work, as the black painted areas in the fur remain as short as the fur itself and therefore look somehow ‚wrong‘.

So… here’s another method, which requires more time, but gives a better result.

Buy fake white fur, hair length not longer than half an inch. Buy as much as you would need.
Buy about 1/10 of that amount of black fur, hair length at least 1, but no longer than 2 inch (otherwise you’ll have to cut the fur).

Lay your white fur out in a way that you look at the backing.

Mark – with a permanent marker – a dotted diamond pattern on the white fur. Distance between two horizontal dots: About 3-4 inch; distance between rows: 4-5 inch.


If you’re planning on using this ermine fur on clothing – draw out your pattern shapes on the white fur *before* marking the diamond pattern, and if you diamond pattern it, take care to do this on both pattern sides (e. g. right and left sleeve) in a perfectly mirrored pattern.
This way you will make sure that left and right side of your finished ermine fur garment are mirrored as well, which adds considerably to the appearance – even if those are just sleeve cuffs you’re decorating, it just looks much better.
For such smaller pieces of clothing – as cuffs – you should consider drawing a smaller diamond pattern, in order to not get just a single row of black fur into your white fur.

Now take an X-acto knife (or a carpet cutter) and cut out *as exact as possible* squares of 1/2 x 1/2 inch from your diamond pattern. Do that from the backside (wrong side) of the fur, but if you pull the squares from the fake fur, do it from the front (right side) of the fur. It can be a little messy… don’t worry about it.

When you have finished, cut 1/2 inch wide strips from the black fur… again, from the backside and with a possibly sharp cutter.

Turn those strips into 1/2 x 1/2 inch wide squares (you may already suspect something!)

Twist the long black fur of the squares into pointed strands.

Cut about 1-2 inch squares from your cotton fabric.

And now… from the backside of the white fur, with one hand on the front side… insert the squares of black fur into the spaces of the white fur. The backings of both should be even if finished.

Apply fabric glue to one side of your fabric squares, and glue that square to the backing of the black fur you have just inserted. The fact that the fabric square is larger than the black fur insert will make sure that it won’t only stick on the black, but also on the white fur backing, and by this, it will combine the two materials and make the black square inserts non-removable.

If needed, cut the ‚black tails‘ a little so that they look a little pointed.

  3 Responses to “Faking ermine fur”

Comments (3)
  1. I agree – stitching the backings together is more reliable than glue over time.

  2. GREAT IDEA! Wonderful! Thank You.

    I think I could also whipstitch the 1/2″ black into the white. And omit the glue.
    Thank you so much!

    Linda Joyce

    • I second that – I hate to rely on glue alone, so I’d just stitch them together. Faux fir backing usually takes hand-stitching really well. I’ve less satisfactory performance from fabric glues.

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