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Fur Real! I am not making any of this stuff up! Part 2 of 2

IMG_0075Sewing the lining and fur together was the next step that I needed to complete my fur vest project. I had planned to follow the pattern guide and sew from the side seam, across the bottom front hem and then up one side of the vest, around the neck, down the other side of the vest and back across the bottom of the other front and back to the side seam.

It all sounded simple enough of course, but alas it was not. I quickly learned that I did not want to do this as one big continuous seam. So I broke in up into several seams instead. I first started by sewing around the neck, then I sewed down each side of the front of the vest, and then across the bottoms. Breaking up this big seam seemed to give me more control over attaching the fur and lining together and I think it worked out better in the end.

P1040036Across the bottom of the fronts and back where the hem lines were, was the most difficult part of stitching the lining especially across the back. I finally broke the back seam up into two seams, sewing from one side to the middle and then from the other side to the middle. I doubt this was the proper way to do it, but it was the only way that I could get it to work right. I tried to keep the fur out of my way as I was stitching and keep the lining even with the fur, but it all seemed to slip one way or the other on these P1040091seams. And I would end up sewing on the fur instead of on the backing, or the lining would fold over itself, or I would have no lining to sew at the end of the seam.

It was a real fight and I don’t know if I was not learning an important sewing skill that I needed to learn, or if it was just a matter of patience and practice to get it right. In the end did a lot of unpicking to get all the seams sewn to my liking. Around the neck and the arms were the easiest seams to sew which seemed odd to me. Usually a curve is more difficult to sew than a straight seam. I guess that the opposite is true for fur. I did learn that I liked to have the fur on top of the lining, instead of the lining on top of the fur when sewing. It just seemed to work better that way.

P1040073The next step was to turn the vests right side out and to sew the side seams. According to the pattern this is supposed to be done using a circular seam. So I started by sewing the lining together at the top, and then sewing the armscye together. Next was down the outside or the fur side seam, then to sew the hems together, and then back to sewing the lining together at the bottom, leaving a hole to push all of this seam back into place when done.

The final step is to stitch the hole closed. It sounded simple, but once again it was not. It was very difficult to keep the seams aligned properly while stitching two thin pieces of lining to two thick pieces of fur and it was especially difficult while stitching two big pieces of fur to two thin pieces of lining. By remembering what I had learned on the other seams, I decided to sew these seams in parts. I sewed from the top to the middle of the side seam, stopped, turned the vest around and sewed from the bottom to the middle of the side seam once again giving me more control over the seam with the shorter seams.

P1040088The final step was to hand stitch the lining side seams together. And since I very much dislike to hand stitch anything, I tried to figure out a way to machine stitch these seams but I could not, so I decided to bite the bullet and do the hand-stitching. I played around with a few different stitches and I decided on a ladder stitch to finish the seams. The hand-stitching went smoothly when I started but as I came to the bottom of the seam, I had extra fabric on one side of the seam. The seam had laid evenly when I first started to stitch but by the end I had a bubble that I had to try and ease in.

P1040063How and why was this happening I wondered? Had one side come unfolded as I stitched. Had I stretched one side? Had I pulled the stitches too much on one side and not the other? I did not know and I could not figure it out. I unpicked my hand-stitching and tried it again and I had the same problem. I then turned to my iron to try and solve the problem. I ironed the seam allowance for the hand stitching so that the lining would stay in place while I stitched, but I still had the same bubble when I was at the end of the seam. I next tried to serge the edges of the lining to try and help keep the fold in place and to give me something to feel as I hand-stitched, but I still ended up with the same problem. I tried to take smaller stitches, then I tried bigger stitches but I still had the same problem.

P1040072Flustered, I finally just did the best job that I could, by pulling and easing and folding to get the seam stitched closed. The end results are not as good as I would have liked. I was not pleased at all with the final seams and they look horrible to me, but I do think the seams are secure, so I let them be. So I guess that I will need to revisit this problem at another time. I don’t know what the answer is but with some more research and practice, I think that maybe I can finally master the art of hand-stitching and do a good job of it.

P1040067Two final things I did learn about stitching fur is that number one the fur that I am working with stretches. It never even crossed my mind that because this fur has a knit backing and that makes it really stretchy. I think some stay stitching would have helped with the stitching of these vests, especially across the hems. And second, I need to shave the seam allowances more than I did. I needed to learn just how much fur I could trim out of the seam so that it is easier to sew the seam together, but still not have it ruin the look of the fur. I trimmed some of the fur, but I think more trimming would have been helpful, especially at the point where the armscye and hem attach to the lining.

After all this trial and error, I don’t want to wait another year to sew fur again like I did the last time. I have learned so much on this project and I don’t want to forget any of it so I am going to make a few more projects from fur in the near future to reinforce what I have learned here.

Until next time…

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Fur Real! I am not making any of this stuff up! Part 1 of 2

M6430-2Maybe it is because it has been colder outside recently. Or maybe it is because the ground hog has already seen his shadow and predicted that we have lot’s more winter on the way. Or, maybe it is just the amount of fur that I still have hiding in the stash. Regardless of the reasons though, my thoughts lately have been about sewing fur. So, I decided that my next project would be fur vests.

Its been just over a year since I completed the fur coat for the little neighbor girl. I hope she has not outgrown it and that she has enjoyed wearing it. I learned so much about sewing fur when I made that first coat and I did not mean to wait so long to sew fur again and forget all the things that I had learned. One thing I did remember from making that coat was that I had wished it had a nicer looking lining, and that I had done a better job in lining it. So, I decided to make that my starting point for these new vests. I was going to learn to do a better job of lining fur.

P1030986With the linings in mind, I first picked a McCalls M6430 vest pattern to make them from. Since the little neighbor girl already has a fur item from me, I decided to make the vest pattern for a coworker’s tween daughters, aged 9 and 10, but both wearing a size 12. Of course, this meant I would be making two vests instead of just one, but that’s was a good thing I thought since it was a chance to get twice the amount of practice with the fur and linings.

Cutting out the fur was the same as before, and was very time consuming. I traced the pattern onto the fur and then snipped carefully with the scissors to only cut the backing of the fur and not the fur itself. Thankfully, there are only three pieces to these vests, so I only had six pieces to cut out in total. I then cut out the linings which went much faster but still took more time than I expected. The lining fabric just wanted to slide all over the cutting table, so I was careful while cutting to keep it in place and not let it slip around too much.

P1040047I wanted to vary the vests designs slightly from the original pattern, since I figured that I might as well learn as much as I can from a project while doing it. And so instead of using hook and eye closures, I decided to give one vest a zipper as I did in the coat and then use buttons for the second vest. Sewing the zipper in went as smoothly as it had on the coat. I placed the sides of the zipper facing inward on the fur fronts of the vest and stitched them on with the zipper foot. I made sure to stitch down the fur, with the way the fur layed, and making sure to keep the fur smooth. This gave me a nice line on the back of the fur to follow when I stitched the lining to the fur.

The buttons were not quite as easy to do as zipper was. I had to do a lot of precise measuring to get them where they needed to be so everything looked even. And since a P1040043regular button hole stitched by my machine was not going to work with the fur, I figured that a bound buttonhole was the answer. But I was not yet ready for to tackle that with the fur, so I picked a loop closure for the buttons instead. I picked a nice brown woven trim to make the closures that has no stretch, so the fit had to be just right for the loops to go around the buttons properly. The loops could not be too small and not fit around the buttons and could not be too large so that they fell off the buttons. The loops could not be too short or too long so that the edges of the vest laid against each other, and not over each other or apart from each other. It would have been much easier to pick a stretchy trim to make the loops but I did not find a stretchy trim that I liked as much as the trim that I picked out. And I decided that since this was a learning experience, I needed to learn what to do to make the loops properly when my trim was not stretchy.

P1040020So after a lot of thought and measuring, I sewed the loops on top of the fur on the one side of the vest, facing the loops inward, and then I sewed the buttons on to the other side of the vest. I used the extension on my button foot to lift the buttons up from the fur so that the buttons did not sink down into the fur, and so there was room for the loops to fit under the buttons. When trying the loops out on the buttons, I quickly learned that they were too big and that they readily fell off the buttons. I did not want to make the loops any smaller though since it would pull the edges of the vest across each other. I could have moved the buttons closer to the edge of the vest so the loops could be smaller, but I was trying to keep the buttons away from the edge as much as possible so they did not interfere with the sewing of the lining. I also could have sewn the buttons on by hand after the lining was done, but that sounded like way too much work to me.

The final solution that I chose was to P1040039stitch the loops together so that the part that went around the button was smaller but the loop still kept its length. I used 6 strands of embroidery floss to stitch the loops together. And I chose a color that matched the trim so that hopefully the stitches would not be noticed. I used the floss so that the stitches would be strong enough to withstand being pulled around the button time and time again. I stitched through the trim twice with the floss then knotted the floss at the back of the loop. I used a dab of fray check on the knots to seal the ends of the floss so they would not come undone.

Please join me next time as I tell you about sewing the lining and the fur together and finishing up the vests in my next post.

A Jacket Fur You

IMG_4778Is it possible to serge fur? Or better yet, should you even attempt to serge fur? Or I guess the real question I am asking is, how would you finish the edges of your fur projects? I know that is what the lining is for, but since I had never lined a jacket before or anything as complicated as a jacket, these were just a few questions I was facing at this point in the continuing construction of the fur jacket.

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My next step probably should have been to do an internet search or by looking at one of my reference sewing books to learn how to sew a lining into a jacket, but I decided to just to wing it instead. That and to use any sewing intuition that I may have, and just see what I would end up with.

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IMG_4776So I started by sewing the shoulders of the lining together, and then sewing the lining to the top and collar of the jackets. This worked out great. It finished the edges of the collar and the top of the jackets. So far, so good. Next I sewed in the sleeves on both the fur and the lining and then the side seams. Ok, that was done, but now the finishing work started.

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IMG_4781I needed to finish the facings and then do the hems. Normally this is the easy part and I just start serging. So I grabbed some scraps and started to serge to see what I would end up with. I was pleased with the way the fur serged. I thought I was in for a big mess but the fur actually serged really well. The one thing I did learn about serging fur, was that when serging where the hair of the fur was longer than the backing of the fur, I had to make sure that I was serging the backing and not just the hair of the fur.

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Deep in the back of my mind, I knew that I did not need to serge the fur, and that the answers to my questions was to turn the fur and then hand stitch it to the lining. But I really HATE to hand sew anything if I don’t have to. The thought of spending hours hand stitching all of the hems and facings about left me to believe that the finishing of this jacket, no less the construction of a fur jacket for me, was a doomed project and that I should just give up now. But wanting to finish what I started, I went ahead and serged the facings and hems of the jacket and then decided to cheat and just turn them as I would any other project.

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P1020655This seemed to work out ok for the facings, but I did break down and hand stitch the top edge of the facing to the lining, since a very minimal amount of hand stitching was involved. I also decided to tack down the lining at various points inside the jacket before stitching the hems to help hold the lining into place while I stitched. I then folded up the hems and stitched away. Of course the hem line could be seen from the fur side where it stitched over the fur and matted it down. To fix this, I took a needle and pulled the hair of the fur out from underneath the stitches so that the hem was not as noticeable. When it was all done, I thought that the hems looked fine from the fur side of the jacket but I did not like the look of the serged edge of the fur at the hem line on top of the lining. It looked sloppy and unfinished, not the look one would want or expect a fur jacket to have. But this was how I had sewn this jacket and I was not inclined to unpick my hems and try something different. Plus the little neighbor girl wouldn’t really care what the inside of her fur jacket looked like.

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P1020658P1020664Once I had it all done it was time to try it on! The jacket fit the little neighbor girl well and I think she looks just adorable in it. She wore it to preschool the next day and her mom reports that all the teachers just loved it. I really don’t know if I am ready to make my jacket yet. I think that I will do some more research into lining a jacket and see if I can get a better, more professional finish before I start my jacket. Hopefully, I can find a lining technique that does not involve tons of hand stitching but will still solve most of my current problems and dislikes. The husband suggested that I should first make the little neighbor girl a vest with the fur next. And I think this is a great idea! I can try lining the vest differently and see what works, plus I could add some pockets and see what works there as well. So, stay tuned for more furtastic fun!

Continuing Fur-ther

P1020701As per the pattern guide, I started with the zipper. In my mind this was a big obstacle to get over, but in reality the sewing of the zipper went really smoothly and the results were great. I wanted to use a large toothed zipper in this jacket for various reasons. I figured the larger the teeth of the zipper, the less likely it would get tangled in the fur. But I did not have any large tooth zippers in the size I needed for the size 3 jacket on hand. After a trip to Joann’s, I learned that they don’t make a zipper with big teeth in the size I needed or at least not one I could readily buy, so I settled on a zipper with the largest teeth I could find.

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After sewing in the zipper and zipping it up, the fur did not seem to get caught in the zipper at all, so I decided that the smaller tooth zipper was going to work out ok.

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P1020663The collar was next. I cut both the top and bottom of the collar pieces out of the fur. As I sewed them together and then tried to turn the collar, there was a lot of bulk from the fur to deal with, making it difficult. I started to wonder at that point if I should have made the bottom of the collar from something other than fur to minimize the bulk. But instead of unpicking the collar or cutting a new collar, I fought with the bulk instead. With the collar completed, I sewed it to the jacket. As I sewed the collar to the jacket, I noticed that the grain or lay of the fur was running the wrong direction. I had carefully cut out the fur so that it ran from the top of the collar to the bottom, where the collar attaches to the jacket, but the collar lays the other way once attached to the jacket and folded down. I should have ran the fur the other way so that the fur of the collar laid the same way as the fur of the jacket once it was attached to the jacket and not before it was attached. This also would have made the sewing of the collar to the jacket much easier. With the way I had cut the fur I had to fight with the hair of the fur as I sewed the collar on. Because of this I had to make sure I was sewing the actual backing of the fur to the jackets, and not just the hair of the fur that was laying just beyond the backing.

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P1020699Once the collar was attached, I debated about unpicking the collar from the jacket and starting all over again. This didn’t make me very happy, so I decided that since this was my trial project to learn how to sew with fur anyway, I would just take the lessons learned so far and move forward.

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I was very happy with the how the zipper worked out in the end. I will have no problem using a zipper in my next fur jacket, but I will take the lessons learned and do the next collar differently. However, for the next collar I will only cut the top part of the collar out of the fur and I will use something else for the bottom of the collar. And I will also make sure to cut the fur in the correct way for the proper direction of the lay of the collar once it is attached to the jacket.

Fur Starters

P1020769The fur adventure began with all of the planning and learning that was involved in me working with fur for the first time. Then after that came the cutting of the fur. This was not a quick process for me ,  and so here is what I did.

First, I needed to find out which direction the nap of the fur went. Then I needed to make sure that he nap of the fur went the same direction on each piece of the pattern that I would cut out. Next, I traced the pattern pieces onto the fur before I cut it out. I used a sharpie to do this. You might say that it was crazy of me to use a permanent black marker on my fur, but I wanted to make sure that I could clearly see the lines while cutting. I also knew that since I would be cutting on the line and that any remaining black lines would be caught up in the seam so it wouldn’t be visible once it was stitched up. I also made sure and used a fine point sharpie and I tried it out on a small piece of fur first to make sure it didn’t bleed through.

Because of the way the fur has to be cut, none of the pieces can be cut on the fold. So when I traced the back, I had to trace one side and then flip it over and trace the other side. After all the pieces were traced, the cutting started.

P1020773Since I did not want to cut the hair of the fur, the fur had to be cut out with tiny snips of the scissors, very carefully, making sure to only cut through the backing of the fur. This was not difficult, but it was very time consuming.

When I had finally finished the cutting, I figured it would be clean up time, but with since I was not cutting much of the hair of the fur there was really only a small mess when I was done. Also, at this point, I was still happy with the pattern that I had picked. The jacket pattern that I chose is very simple and did not have a lot of detail to it. This was a bonus for me since I did not have to try and make any special markings on the fur. In fact, I didn’t even worry about cutting any notches. I figured I would not be able to find them in the fur later anyway.

P1020703Next I cut out the lining. This was quick work since I was able to use my rotary cutter on it to cut it out.

At this point, I tried to pin a couple of the pieces of fur together, only to see my pins bend and twist. I was very frustrated at this since I am a big fan of pinning things together and I hate to sew with out pinning first. So to solve this problem I ending up using some large paper clips/clamps to hold the fur together. Not as elegant as using pins, but the paper clips did the job and held the fabric together.

Now that all the pieces are finally all cut out, it is time to sew!

Please be sure and join me in the next post in the continuing Saga of the Fur Wars…

Fur The First Time

P1020697 Curse you Fabric Mart for having such wonderful fur on sale!

Because of my fascination with stuffed animals, I have always wanted to purchase some fur to have on hand in the stash just in case. And I have always wanted to sew stuffed animals which is why I enjoy making amigurumi’s so much. But instead of sewing stuffed animals I crochet them, so I don’t really have a need to purchase expensive fur to make stuffed animals or to learn how to sew with.

But awhile back when Fabric Mart was having such great sale on some fur, I decided it was finally time for me to purchase some and to begin to learn to sew with fur. Well, in reality, I went a little crazy and bought a lot of fur so now I feel that I must learn to sew fur to deal with the larger quantity that I just added to the stash.

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Plus since I have a big bag of amigurumi animals already sitting in the closet that need a home, I decided not to use my newly purchased fur to make stuffed animals with. But, then what should I make from the fur? Well, a fur jacket of course!

Now that I knew what I wanted to make from my fur, I started with some quick internet searches to learn how to properly cut and sew the fur. After reading several how-to sites and a couple of blogs on making fur jackets, I started to look for patterns. I knew that I wanted a zipper in my jacket, but could I use a zipper with the fur, or would the fur get stuck in the teeth when you zipped it up? How about buttons instead? But, how do you make button holes in fur? Then what kind of closure should I use? How about pockets? Patch pocket seemed to be out but what about side pockets? Welt pockets? How about lining the jacket? There were just so many questions that I had and so few answers that I finally decided that I just had to go for it and see what I got and try to solve the problems as they came up. I don’t normally sew this way, but it seemed like the best option for this project.

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2012_11_11_10_38_52.pdf000But in not wanting to waste all my fur while learning to make a jacket for me, I, of course, turned to my children’s patterns and decided to make a fur jacket for the little neighbor girl. I could learn all the things that I needed to know about sewing fur without wasting all of the fur I had purchased. And I would still have a enough fur for my jacket in the end. Actually, I will still have plenty of fur left over after making both the neighbor girl’s and a jacket for me. Man, I bought a lot!

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I dug through my patterns next and decided to use Simplicity 8902, an out of print pattern that I got at Walmart over 10 years ago for $0.25. I decided I would put a zipper in the jacket and hopefully it would zip ok with the fur. Even though I have an unwritten rule that all kid’s clothes I make will have pockets, I decided not to add pockets to this jacket. I have enough to deal with in learning to sew fur for the first time, and so I decided to not add the question and problems of pockets. Plus not having pockets would not affect the wearing of the jacket. I picked the B view of the pattern because I am more experienced sewing collars than I am hoods. So, with all of these things decided, I traced size 3 of the pattern, in view B.

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P1020705I had also decided that the jacket must be lined, not only to help the little neighbor girl to get the jacket on and off more easily, but also to hide the fur’s seams. I made a quick run through the stash, but I did not find any fabric that I wanted to use for the lining of the jacket. This did not surprise me. I have not sewed a lot of lined items during my sewing career. So, the next time we were by M&L Fabric, I stopped in and dug through their $2/yd bins and found some great pieces of suiting lining that I think would work ok for the little jacket. When I make my jacket, I will need to buy more yardage of lining fabric.

 

With all these decisions of making and planning done, I am now ready to start the cutting of the fur and the sewing the jacket. So, let the fur adventure begin!