Sewing with fur is relatively easy (and fun!), but every beginner should know these tips before starting a project. Bear in mind we will be talking about faux fur and not the real thing.. Working with this special material does require patience, however.
You can make many fun and interesting things with faux fur. While it's very inexpensive, it can add beautiful accents to garments or bags you may make. We'll be using it in a few projects in the future so it is worth having a look through these tips now.
Faux fur is also known as fake fur, synthetic fur, or fun fur. Whatever the name given, today sometimes is very difficult to know the difference between fake and real. Looking at the back of the fur is the only way to distinguish between the two. Real fur is backed by animal skin. The picture below shows the back of a sheepskin.
The picture below shows the back of fake fur. The backing is a special knit jersey where long and short fibers are passed through the stitches while the fabric is knitted. Fake Fur is also sometimes known as a pile knit and because of that, shares many characteristics with other pile fabrics like corduroy, velvet, velveteen, and terry cloth to name a few.
Tip: what is pile nap and why mark it
Fake fur falls under the classification of pile fabrics. The nap of the fur is the direction in which the pile falls giving a distinctive look to its texture. The nap pile brushed in the direction of the hair catches more light and renders the fabric soft to the touch. The left side of the picture illustrates the nap pile direction. The hairs can catch more light giving the fur a softer texture. The right side of the picture shows the direction against the nap. The right side of the picture shows the down hair making the nap pile change to a more intense color. It is worth noting that fabrics used against the nap direction will have a shorter life span and less water permeability and less ability to control the temperature.
Tip: scissors and how to use them
A sharp pair of scissors are the most important tool when working with fake fur. You will be using the tip of the scissor to cut the fur. The picture below demonstrates the wrong and right way of cutting fake fur. Insert the tip of the scissors under the knit jersey fabric and cut a small amount at a time.
Tip: best pins and the right way to pin
Long pins are the best ones to use with fur. The extra length of the pins makes it ideal for handling fur due to the thickness of the material. Pin the fur at an angle and use as many as you can, perhaps one every inch. Brush the hairs down between the layers of jersey
Tip: labeling pieces
The right way to cut fur is to do it one piece at a time so label the back of the pieces of fur once cut. Label whether the pieces are back, front, sleeves or collar and the direction of the nap.
Tip: marking stitching lines
Mark the stitching after cutting the pieces. You might think this is overkill but believe me, this tip is not. In order to sew two thick layers of fur, pinning is not enough. Your machine will struggle to accommodate the layers of the material under the presser foot, so the stitching line will make this job a lot easier.
Tip: stitching and needle size
Use a large stitching size. The machine will cope better with the thickness of the fur if you use a larger stitch. My sewing machine goes from 1-5 and I use 4 if I am attaching a lining to the fur and 5 if I am sewing two layers of fake fur together. The correct needle size is 14.
Tip: adjusting your feed dog or use a walking foot
The ability to cope with thick fur changes from machine to machine, so test on a piece before starting the project. You may need to adjust the feed dog which is located under the needle plate and must always be up for normal sewing. Check the manual of your sewing machine for the location of your drop feed lever. If you are using a very basic machine the use of a walking foot like the one below will be required.
Tip: sewing fake fur.
Patience is key, but the best seam allowance for fake fur is 1/4″. If the pattern is drafted to 5/8″ reduce it to 1/4″. There will be no need to neaten the seam allowance since the fur does not ravel. Use polyester thread because it will last longer. Do not use cotton thread.
Tip: lining fake fur
Fake fur is not as warm as real fur, so good quality and soft lining material are important. If your budget allows it, the use of silk is advisable to make the garment warmer. When attaching the lining to the fur using a zigzag stitch, this will prevent the lining from becoming undone with time.
Tip: closures and buttonholes
There are a few ways to make a closure for a fur coat or vest. By far the easiest one is a belt made out of the same material. Depending on the pattern, the other closures to consider are a hook and eye. The hook and eye are sold either covered or uncovered. You could also use a large button or my preferred method –a leather belt. It really depends on the look you are going for.
Tip: best patterns for sewing with fur
The best patterns for beginners are the ones with non-complicated details and relatively few pieces to assemble. People with a bigger budget and intermediate to advance skills can try more stylish and time-consuming styles.
Tip: cleaning and storing fur
Fake fur needs to be brushed after every use with a soft bristle brush to avoid the buildup of debris and matting of the fibers. Dry clean the fur after the winter season has ended and is time to store. When storing, do not just cram your coat into a corner of your wardrobe. Give it plenty of room so that the hair does not become unnaturally flattened. Store it in a garment bag, especially in humid conditions. If the hairs have flattened or distorted use a slightly wet brush to brush the hair in the direction of the nap and allow it to dry thoroughly before storing.
Tip: Use scraps of fur
Like leather and any expensive materials, there are a plethora of small things you can make with the scraps of fake fur. Here are a few ideas, in the weeks to come, join me for a few projects in which we'll be making some great gifts for your loved ones this Christmas using faux fur. Until next time!