Fur and Feathers with Jon Ciemiewicz

Jon’s presentation in Feb. 2014 was to walk us thru the process of creating great shading and dimension in our fur or feather rugs. As a side bar members were encouraged to bring in any rugs they had hooked with fur or feathers. (Some of those rugs are pictured within this posting.)

IMG_0724Jon started rug hooking because he was looking for a hobby. His wife suggested a visit to an area shop. When Jon visited and was told one could learn to hook in five minutes, he bought a kit and started. Jon is what many of us would call “self-taught”. After about 4 years he took his first class. At the class it was suggested that he begin teaching. His first weekend class had 19 students. They were spread throughout the facility which provided its own adventure. Jon has continued to present workshop since then.

Jon started dyeing wool when kits he was purchasing didn’t have the colors he wanted to complete the design. 

  • Mottled wool is great for hooking fur/feathers as it gives more life than a solid/plain natural wool. 
  • Let the wool work for you when hooking fur – dip dye, heavily spotted.

Jon has no formal art background, but he saw a huge amount of the world through flying with the Air Force. He started to draw his own patterns, so he could have the design to hook that he wanted. Since he started hooking Jon finds he is noticing more details of the surrounding natural environment and animals.  He notices the variety of colors present, which shows in his pieces. Knowing the habits of animals for eating etc. helps when you are hooking as you are more awareness of special features.

Following are details that are important to become aware of and bring into your hooking to make it more realistic.

  • IMG_0723Start by being aware of the light source direction as that provides your shadows. Shadows go from darker color to lighter to provide depth.


  • When hIMG_0730ooking fur think about direction fur going on the animal you are hooking.  Hook in that direction. Our eyes pick up ditches in the hooking. Hook in the direction that you would pet that animal body part.
  • Colors provide depth seen in the image. Example: A black panther needs purples/blues/grays for shadows. Whites need grays also pinks, purples.
  • The natural length of fur affects the length of your hooking line.
  • Fur/hair does not grow in straight lines. Hook fur with curves and not exactly side by side, vary the direction for a realistic appearance.


  • Watch out when hooking feathers, so they do not end up having a too symmetrical appearance. Feathers do not grow that way. To hook for a natural appearance you need asymmetry in width and length. Vary the shape of the tips. Feather tips are different shapes depending on where they are located on the body. Hook the feather tips first and then fill in. Check for quill lines, if you can see them, then you need to hook the quill lines in.
  • When feathers are dark use light for tips to help create the natural appearance/illusion of feathers covering the body in the finished piece.
  • Many common backyard birds have areas of solid color that need to be hooked with a solid color.


  • With faces as a main image in the design there will be a focus on eyes.
  • IMG_0733In cats eyes when the light shines on them the pupil constricts to a vertical streak/line.
  • With sheep it is a horizontal streak. With dogs and humans the pupil is circular.
  • The wrinkles around an eye actually support the eye.
  • When there is fur, the eyes will have a dark streak coming from the inside corner of the eye.
  • IMG_0725Not all eyes will be whole. It will depend on the head position and direction the creature is looking. It will also matter on where the eyes are naturally set on the head – front or side – prey will be on the side (squirrel).
  • Eyes are flatter top and rounder on the bottom on mammals.
  • Reptile and bird eyes are very round, as there is no eyelid that drops on top.
  • When hooking an animal getting the eyes, then nose/mouth right really makes the image. Since this is true its best to hook these features first. Hook around them some before make a final decision on reverse hooking or leaving as is.IMG_0727

General Hooking Tips:

  • Moths do not eat clean wool. They eat for the food and oils that are impregnated into wool. Freeze recycling wool for 2 days to freeze moth eggs, then bring in and wash.
  • Pattern lines are the outside edge of a feature, so hook inside not on the line.
  • How long a cut worm of wool is needed to hook a run?
    • #4 needs 4x length of the run 
    • #5/6 needs 6x
    • #8 needs 8x
    • Loops for 6 and 8 have higher finished loop so more fabric needed.

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2 Replies to “Fur and Feathers with Jon Ciemiewicz”

  1. This is a very nice run down of techniques to hooking realistic animal faces as well as fur and feathers. Thank you so much for posting this.

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