First yes, I get on this Christmas stuff early (or: “on time”, if you’re like me and make most of your gifts). And second yes, I’m posting a surprise present here on my blog. Guess why I can? Because my daughter is one person I know who DGAF about my blog. I don’t think she’s ever read it except maybe over my shoulder. She’s way too busy with her own badass stuff.
I was so pleased with the project I documented along the way, and I have a bit of advice for any who’d like to tackle faux fur. If you have any questions, please put them in the comments or email me (kelly AT hogaboom DOT org) and I’ll answer them here. And before I start – thank you so much Josh Moll and Elizabeth Gish, two readers who donated funds for my daughter’s jacket, which was not inexpensive. Without the support of readers I might not have made the jump to try something new! I have another client who dropped off faux fur for another project, which I’ll be starting soon. So – let’s get going!
Fabrics & Supplies
Do you pick the pattern or the faux fur fabric first? Experienced stitchers probably won’t find this a troublesome question. Me, I think you should go with the fur that speaks to you. But take a few minutes to think about it, because your pattern and/or your fur are going to determine a lot about how you proceed. I used a high-quality, long-napped “llama” fur from Harts Fabric for this project. Faux fur: The fur should drape nicely & feel pretty good for a coat-weight. Most faux furs are on a poly-knit backing. You want to pick the right fur. Some furs are so poorly-made I genuinely feel sorry for anyone who’d sew or wear them. That said, this llama you see here? $40 a yard. So if you see a good deal on good fur, grab it up. Make sure you get enough yardage for the nap requirements (picking a pattern that is drafted for faux fur, or for a napped fabric, will help you). Pattern: Pick a simple pattern with simple lines. The faux fur will make it fabulous, promise! And besides, any fancy details may be swallowed up by the fur (depending on the fur). In this case, I opted for in-seam pockets (more later), a generous hood, and flat-set sleeves. I also omitted facings and just lined the coat in full, prick-stitching the entire lining to the shell for structure and formal fanciness (more later). Interfacing / Underlining: This will depend on the fur and the pattern; most faux fur ends up being so warm that no underlining is needed. In the coat mentioned above, I used a fusible interfacing but then secured it to the coat. A sew-in interfacing is probably best; you can work on practicing patience as you hand-stitch it in. Lining: A mid-weight lining fabric is best. Something too light will work, but might not hold up to the wear that the faux fur lends itself to. I used a slipper satin, fairly heavy for a lining. Thread: 100% polyester is fine. While you’re at it, pick up a heavy-duty needle for the fur, a sharp needle for the lining, and – if you’re lining the hood or cuffing with knit, like I did here – a stretch or ballpoint for that.
General Sewing Tips
Pre-washing / pre-treating: You shouldn’t have to do this with most polyester fabrics (the satin and the fur). However, I do recommend for any slippery fabric this neat little trick of firming it up with gelatin Yeah, you heard. I used two packets gelatin in the smallest load in my washer, for my two yards satin. It worked great. The satin handled better and didn’t shift during sewing and cutting. Note, you will need to wash this gelatin out after construction, so skip this step if you’re going to want to dry-clean only. Faux fur, and linings etc, can all be hand-washed as long as you don’t have a tailored structure in the coat – and in this case, I don’t. Cutting and handling: Cut only, only the backing of the faux fur. This can be done with the tips of your scissors or an X-acto knife. Cut each piece out separately (no folding and then cutting as for so many fabrics) and make sure not to cut any pieces upside-down, or cut two left-side hood pieces, et cetera. Heavy petting: Sewing with faux fur is easier – and less messy – than you might think. Cut only the backing, and continue to comb the fur before stitching each seam – and you’ll only need a brief pass with the lint roller at the end of the project. Sewing machine settings: I used three fabrics for this project, and all three need vastly different treatments. Use a zig zag stitch for the fur and for the knit (if you use a knit); use a short straight stitch for the satin. All three fabrics need three different needles (heavy-duty for the fur; stretch/ballpoint for the knit; sharp for the lining). If you have three sewing machines (DON’T LAUGH, ASSHOLES!), you can set them all up accordingly and whiz through the project. When sewing on the fur, you can use a fairly wide zig zag as it will not show in the finished seam. The looser the zig zag, the easier it is to tease the fur back out of the seam after sewing, and therefore get a seamless look. However the looser the zig zag, the more likely you could lose a seam. Test on a scrap to figure out what you’d like to do. Use a tight seam for the satin and don’t trim or pink the satin as it frays quite a bit. Steam press (on the correct setting, not too hot!) after every seam for a good-looking lining. If you hate making linings – many do – make the lining first. For my lining technique, I typically leave a stretch in one of the sleeves open so that I can attach the lining and the jacket in the “bagged” style of lining attachment (I’ll link to that a little further along, here). Trimming, Notching, Grading: You might do a bit less of these than typical garment-sewing. For one, the coat style is going to be a bit loose. so reducing bulk is less of an issue. Secondly, be careful on any notching and trimming of ravelly fabrics like linings (depending on the lining). If you simply must trim closely, make sure you’ve reinforced with a stitch 1/32″ from the seam line, or some other technique to ensure you won’t have a seam come undone. I haven’t had a lining seam come undone in many years and I have the best “testing lab” there is – very active, rambunctious children as clients.
ENOUGH, Now On To The Coat!
Here are a few photos as I worked up the coat. First: the lining. Applying interfacing; in this case, to the front placket. I fused and then sewed, attaching with a prick-stitch. Prick-stitch is a form of back-stitch, very strong and dare I say, pretty. Technique: Backside: Front – which remember, will be against the body: Sewing the lining together. Sharp needle and small stitch. About 1/2″ seam allowance – and no trimming. Press after each seam: Sleeves. These are sewn in flat (both the lining and the jacket), so – easy. I only pin at the shoulder seam juncture. I always put the sleeve down, against the machine, as its sewing line has a bit more ease. I put my fingers in between the sleeve and the body and ease the sleeve in. No pins, super-fast. For me, anyway. The fur, same process, but more fiddling to comb that fur into the body of the coat. If you look, it may be hard to see where the fabric is and where my needleplate tape is. Well TOO BAD, I can’t go back and take a better photo: Here I’m sewing toward the hem of one sleeve, leaving a gap in a sleeve – basically, a bagged method of attaching a lining (which deserves its own tutorial). Note, I stitched from the sleeve hem to the gap’s edge, then turned around and stitched back. Sturdy, and no thread-tails at the gap. Underarm of the jacket. Knowing how active my kids are, I did a few reinforcing stitches here. Running from upper left to lower right diagonally, the side seam. My fingers are on the sleeve seam which has been pressed open before stitching: OK. Now time to talk about sewing with the fur. As I’ve said, if you cut the fur properly, and sew with it properly, there is hardly any mess at all. If you just start hacking away, SO MUCH FUR-DRAMA. Here is a seam before and after I’ve pinned and combed it to illustrate how manageable it really is. Before: After: You note that after pinning right-sides together, I gently push in the fur towards the right side of the garment. Sew according to the nap, towards the direction the fur falls. It is worth it to make sure to do this for every seam, sometimes stopping – say at the armpit – and switching things up. Here you see what I’m talking about: Experienced stitchers will know what they’re looking at, and beginners might be confused. Here you are seeing the side seam of the coat, with the sleeves attached and the satin pocket on the left (I’ll talk about the pocket in a minute). I’ve pinned on the side I’ll be sewing on, given things go a lot better when the bulk of the garment is to the left of your needle. Since I’ve got to sew DOWN the coat while sewing the body (to stay with that nap), and DOWN the sleeve when sewing the sleeve, my pins switch sides. Anyway, taking this care will make a nicer garment – trust me. So how did that pocket get up in there? Here’s a bit about where things get tricky – sewing satin to the fur. In this case, in-seam pockets. I drafted this pattern myself, so I just made up a couple pockets. You can buy a book or look it up online but inseam pockets are fairly intuitive. First, I attached one satin pocket piece to one side seam, right-sides together, combing the fur as I’ve mentioned. I will be sewing with that smaller stitch – not the zig zag – for the sake of the satin, which needs a firm stitch so it won’t ravel. I sew just shy of the seam allowance, so about 3/8″ for this project: Now I flip it (I always picture Jim Carrey in the Lemony Snicket movie when I say “flip it”, he says it twice in different settings and both incidents are hilarious) and look, an awesomely luxurious half-pocket, waiting for its life-partner: Sewing the side seam and the pockets all-in-one. If you’ve measured carefully and pinned carefully, everything comes together wonderfully: Pockets done. & admit it. The result is like a beautiful bit of ladybusiness: My son, who modelled the coat for photos, LOVES that you can’t see the pockets, or any seams, from the outside of the garment! Attaching the lining and the jacket. Here I am sewing along the jacket hem which means I have some awkward fur business (Awkward Fur Business is the name of my emo music project). You can push up the fur toward the coat but you’re still going to catch some fur in the stitching line. Even though my coat looks good, I have since thought of a better treatment for this, and I’ll be putting up an auxiliary link on that option for my next faux fur garment. Which is coming right up, by the way! Here’s the coat as I’m “bagging” that lining. I love lining garments this way because at this stage the whole thing looks like fuckery, but you are only seconds away from turning it right-side out and having a beautiful garment! You notice I’m sewing a straight stitch here – again, it’s something I’m doing for the sake of that ravelly-ass satin. Like just look how pretty it all is together. Can you believe, I ordered everything online, but I just KNOW what kind of shit will look good together! Fur hooks (no zipper, duh!), attached with dark orange cotton thread. You can also see that prick stitch I put in the lining edge. So. Cozy. & radsauce. OOPS, Nels is too cute again!