Monday, January 4, 2016

Monday Morning Inspiration/Working With Fur, 3 Tips to Get You Started

Good Morning All and Happy first Monday of 2016!
When I was in fashion school, I had the wonderful opportunity to study with a very gifted fur designer. We took old resale shop furs and turned them into works of art. I loved every minute of the process. After I was out of school, the designer passed along my portfolio to a fur manufacturer who loved my work. They did everything they could to recruit me, and as much as I wanted to work for them, the commute would have been killer and I just couldn't see myself sitting in traffic for over 3 hours a day. So I passed up the opportunity. 
I still enjoy working with fur, and I still visit resale shops and hunt for old furs that can be salvaged into something beautiful. I never buy new fur, but I do buy faux fur.  
Over the weekend, Shams of Communing With Fabric and I had a nice little conversation about sewing with fur/faux fur. Whether working with faux fur, or the real thing, the process is the same.
Here are  few pointers;
1. Never cut fur with scissors. Use a razor blade. You want to cut the skin or fabric, but not the hair. 
2. Fur should not have a seam allowance. Once you have done a fitting and are sure that the fit of the garment is good, cut the seam allowance off of the pattern. Lay the pattern out on the back side of the fur and trace off the pattern. Then cut it out with a razor blade.
3. To sew the fur together, if using the real thing, you will need to sew the fur together by hand. If using a faux fur, use a zigzag stitch. The fabric should be laid together with right sides together and the fur pushed away from the seam edge while you stitch. The zigzag stitch should be just along the edge of the fabric. If you feel that you need to secure the fur, you can use paper clips. But with faux fur, as long as the pile is not too thick, you can use pins. 
Of course, there's a lot more to putting a garment together, but the 3 steps I've listed above will give you a good starting point. 

Shams sent me a link to the video below. Beautifully done. In the video you will see a rather strange sewing machine. It's one that is specifically for sewing fur. Notice that there are no seam allowances and that the fur is being cut with a razor blade, NO SCISSORS!!!!!   

Now it wouldn't be Monday without a little inspiration. I know that many have issues with real fur, but thanks to modern technology, we can all enjoy a luxurious pile and spare the animals. Faux furs can be a lot more fun than the real thing too!
Love this little faux fur top.
Leather, fabric or ribbon can be used to give the bubble look of real fur. Notice the hem. Here it was turned up, but also take note that the hem of the lining is hanging free. There are a number of ways to hem a fur, but if you turn up a hem, do not attach the lining to the fur like you would with a woven fabric. 
Like I said, the fake stuff can be so much fun!!!

A simple neck warmer is a nice way to add a little fur to your wardrobe. Love the bow tie on this one.
If you think you might like to take a stab at sewing a little faux fur, a great place to start is with a simple garment like this stole from Vera Venus. You can find the pattern HERE.
Another simple pattern is this collar from Haberman's Fabrics in Michigan. We did this piece for Thrifty Thursday a while back. Easy to make and very versatile. Works over a coat or jacket, and can be worn as an accessory over a top. You can find the free pattern HERE
Start the new year off with a little fur, and while you're at it, you might want to show off your piece over at Pretty Grievances and her beyond fun Jungle January challenge.  
Go a little wild in 2016!!!

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  1. Wow, this post is timely as I have just purchased some fur!! I wasn't clued in about the razor blade...so glad I read your tips. Thank-you. I love the lining in the pink fur coat..do you know who the designer of that coat is?

    1. I'm so happy that I was able to help, at least a little.
      I have no idea of who the designer is. You might find out by putting the photo in Google image search. Good luck with your creation!

  2. I simply loved this post! My grandmother (who taught me to sew as a child) was a furrier in the 50s and 60s. She mainly remodeled and repaired furs and had customers all over the US. As a young girl I watched her cut and sew the skins just as you mentioned but she had a special machine to actually sew seams. My sister and I loved to pet the furs and model them - such fun! She made me a lynx stole for my senior prom which I made into a couple fur trimmed purses a couple years ago. Thanks for sharing this post as it brought back such happy memories! Karen

    1. What lovely memories. Thank you for sharing them with me :) I would have loved to meet her. So happy that you have held on to the fur and continued to repurpose it.

  3. I have a thrift store jacket part way through conversion into a vest/waistcoat in fur. This project stalled quite a while ago but you have inspired me to pull it out of the cupboard.

  4. Thanks, Rhonda! I have a unsheared beaver coat at home that I've decided to cut up. I'll never again wear it as it is, so why not? The first time I sewed faux fur, I used a double edge razor blade to cut it. NOT a good idea!! I shredded my fingers and got blood all over it. But I continued! LOL...please specify single edge, or maybe everyone else is smart enough to know that. I'm also going to try shearing some of the beaver, to see how that works.

    1. Sometimes I just assume and I shouldn't. Thanks for reminding me. Sounds like you have a fun project ahead of you :)

  5. Thank you so much for your info. How is the best way to tell if a fur is in good enough shape to redesign? I have a jacket that I would like to make into a vest. What do you recommend and how to do it?

    1. Hi Mary Helen. I don't know what type of fur you have, but basically, the fur needs to still be supple. Typically, the shoulder area is not usable as this area gets the worst of gravity. If you grab the lower portion of the fur and squeeze it gently, it should not have a crisp feel to it. If it does, you may be able to use it for some very small projects, but not something you will wear as it will tear and fall apart.