Vintage Fur Remakes

I was recently given a wonderful box of old fur collars and such from my grandmother. There’s mink, Persian lamb, and right on top a piece of actual factual leopard. Now of course, this is awful. This poor thing once proudly leaped about the jungle killing and eating things and now here it is in a box under my grandmother’s bed, lying with a lamb. But, it really is beautiful, and it’s not really my fault, it’s been abandoned in this box since long before I was even born, where’s the harm in wearing it? And of course, wearing it around no one would really know what it was, leopard print is so popular now. I’m not sure if everyone knew, not everyone would agree with me. Maybe I can wear it in hell?

Almost all the furs in the box are in need of some repair and the leopard was in the worst shape. It wasn’t even a collar really, it looked like a hastily cut out irregular rectangle with some flimsy black backing ripping off and one or two hook and eye closures left on. I am not sure which relative is responsible for this, not my grandmother.

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First I had to decide what fabric to place on the back. The most obvious and safe choice is of course black. If I wanted to be a little sassy, I would probably go with red. But this beautiful thing deserves a little better. I decided I wanted it to have an 1910’s sort of look. I found this gorgeous absinthe green brocade at Mood that was just what I was looking for.

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The piece of fur was an irregular shape but I felt weird cutting it or permanently altering it in anyway. To sew on the backing, I just folded it under and hand stitched it to the existing black fabric, or the skin itself if absolutely necessary. I worked with one finger holding back the fur to make sure that it didn’t catch in my stitch.

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I wanted the piece to wrap around like a scarf, but with some means of securing it, lest it should fall off accidentally into a dirty subway puddle. I did not want to cut into the fur, which would be necessary to create a button closure. I decided on the wonderful idea of a magnet. It could hold the fur in place, yet would not be seen at all. First I simply went to the garment district and purchased some magnets made for this type of purpose. They come in a thin plastic casing that can be simply sewn onto fabric. These magnets fell piteously to the floor when just one layer of fur was between them, even after replacing the plastic with a thin layer of muslin.

I was determined to use magnets. I found an excellent site, K&J Magnetics.  They have an overwhelming assortment of magnets and my engineer father tried to help me calculate the correct magnet strength for my needs. After my experience with the sewing magnets, I was doubtful that this place could supply me magnets that would hold the fur together at all, and just bought the strongest magnets available in the size I needed. Boy was I wrong, these magnets were terrifyingly strong, wrenching my hands together, with fur, backing, all, in between them from an alarming distance, and rebuffing nearly all subsequent attempts to separate them. So I made a second, more informed purchase and these magnets were just right. It’s interesting when high school science actually does have some use. It seems it makes no difference how much matter is between two magnets, all that effects the strength of their pull is their distance from each other.

I didn’t want to sew the magnets directly onto the backing and fur. Not only because I did not want any stitches showing, but also because I felt that it would not look as well if the joining point was always so rigidly fixed. The solution I came up with was a strip of fabric loosely encased between the backing and the fur, tacked on either end. The magnets could be sewn onto it, and then could move freely within a certain range, allowing the scarf to move better with the body. The magnets are encased between two layers of muslin, which is then sewn onto the strip.

Leopard920141026_1751Final product to follow in next post.