Clothes · Fur · Sewing technique · Zig-zag stitch

Taming the fox

I’ve had synthetic fur coats before – they looked great but didn’t keep me warm, so a nice thick woolen coat was always warmer. But two years ago I saw this amazing blond fluffy furriness for a tenner on sale – it was late March. So I got it, thinking to make it into a throw.

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But that March still had some cold days in store, so I wore my new coat and was astounded by its warmth! Have we finally learned to make synthetic fur that does not just imitate the look but also the insulation of real fur? I would not have dozens of little creatures skinned for the sake of one warm coat, but this acrylic “mink” was quite nice!

So it didn’t get converted into a throw, and the following winter I wore it again. Definitely a very warm coat! But short – it’s 3/4 length, leaving my knees to freeze. 

This winter looks to be a cold one, as cold as winters get down here in South England – we won’t see any snow, but humidity at just above freezing point really chills you to the bone. So I decided to make a long coat out of my “mink”.

To that end I bought the most beautiful Siberian blue fox fur – don’t worry, it came from Italy, per metre. πŸ™‚ This fur is even thicker than the mink, and is very dense – excellent quality.

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I wanted to find a picture of the animal that it imitates but discovered that there is no such thing! Red foxes apparently can have colour variations in their fur, all the way from white to black, and there is one particularly rare that seems to match the description. But I found it on a website for fox farming where they are bred for their fur, in all its beautiful variations. I am against farming animals for fur, so I’m not showing you anything. (By the way, it turned out that also my blond mink is imitating a farm-bred variety – minks are dark brown in nature, but can have occasional colour variations for which they are bred.)

Note that I am not against using leather or sheep skins. Humans are omnivorous, we eat meat, it’s natural. So it’s ok to farm animals for food, and since we’re already using the meat, it’s best to use as much of the animal as we can, so it’s fine to use the hide too. But not fox or mink fur because we don’t eat them.

But back to my coat. So I decided to add a band of fox fur under the mink (I’m not going to repeat that it’s synthetic fur – you got that). I bought 35cm at 150cm width.

First – check the edge and make sure it’s straight. But look how they cut the fur! They put it on the table hairs up and cut all through the thickness of it! Appauling!

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Really, at Β£40 a metre I expected them to cut it properly so you wouldn’t be left with an unusable edge of a bluntly trimmed fur!

Now I had to re-cut it, and the throw away piece is as wide as the height of the fur pile – of the longest hairs in it. Which, in case of a fox, is 5cm!

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And this is how you cut the fur properly: you put it on the table hairs down and cut only the backing with a craft knife. There’s no need to cut the fur itself because it will follow the backing! Sheesh, how hard can it be?!

Both the “mink” and the “fox” are quite dense, so I decided to sew them as fur rather than as fabric, that is flat seams instead of seams with seam allowances. Making a real flat seam on such a big and bulky fur coat was not going to be possible in my rather small sewing corner, so I tried dense zig-zag hoping that it would open similarly to a flatlock seam done with an overlocker (which I also tried – my Singer 14HD854 managed it just fine but I didn’t like the stitches visible on the right side).

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Fold all the hairs to the inside and stitch with a dense overedge zig-zag. It worked! The seam started flattening out all by itself!

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I used the same trick to sew on the lining.

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In order to avoid the zig-zag pulling into the material, I used an overedging foot.

I didn’t want to turn up the fox at the hem but decided to sew the lining to it in the same way, and make it without an overhang (well, with a minimal overhang that would be hidden by the long hairs). But turning up the entire bulk of fox fur that has a dense undercoat, is an absolute nightmare! It keeps turning back – this acrylic fox has the temperament of a real one! πŸ™‚ So I ended up double-basting it all with fine stitches before zig-zagging.​​

Oh, and I turned up the lining for strength in order to prevent it ripping out.

And now you see why it is important to have your fur properly cut. This would not do to have a trimmed edge.

Next up was the buttons. The mink coat had fur hooks for closing it without an overlap. That would have worked fine, had the fur been of a lesser quality, but this mink is so thick – it completely clogged up the hooks. So I decided to swap the hooks for old-fashioned buttons with cord loops – similar to thread loops but a lot stronger.

I had a piece of cord about 1.5mm thick, so I threaded it into a thick sharp needle normally used for sewing sacks, I think. From the inside to the outside and back to the inside, then insert the needle into the cord near the end.

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Pull through until you have a loop about the right size for your button. Insert the needle into the cord again and pull until you are happy with the size.

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Cut the cord and sew it together with a normal thread – this fixes your loop.

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Back to the right side of the work and pull the loop out – done.
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The buttons can be sewn either on the outside or on the inside of the panel – up to you. I put them on the inside, so the coat has a blind closure. And here it is!

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10 thoughts on “Taming the fox

      1. According to the news on Spanish TV it’s more than cold over there. You’re buried in snow!

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      2. Not us! I’m in Southampton. πŸ™‚ But it rained all day yesterday, and then it was freezing all night, so everything is one giant ice rink. :-p

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Lovely work. The two different faux furs complement each other. If you have any more of that faux fox, it might look really nice as a border on the bottom edge of the sleeves. It would visually balance the bottom of the coat with the sleeves.

    The reason your mink is so warm is that it is made out of acrylic. I find acrylic blankets and sweaters warmer than any other fiber used to make cloth. Except for wool. I crochet my own sweaters and blankets.

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    1. Thanks, Pam! Fox cuffs would have been nice but I used the whole piece to extend the coat. Nothing left!

      I too noticed that acrylic fur is much better than polyester. Much finer fibers and overall better quality. I also agree that acrylic is quite a good fibre as far as synthetics go. πŸ™‚ I prefer natural fibres, but artificial fur with fibre content of 40% angora, 20% cashmere and 40% silk, as fantastic as it must be, is far beyond my budget at Β£80 per half a metre!! :-p

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      1. That is a shame. Keep an eye out for an inexpensive faux fur coat or coat with faux fur trim similar to your fox. : )
        I just found a pretty blush sweater made from lambs wool, cashmere, and alpaca from a thrift store for a few dollars. Soft as kitten fur.
        I picked up a dark chocolate brown mink coat that is faux . It is a very warm coat.
        Another thrift store budget find. It looks like real mink fur. Everytime I wear it, people give me dirty looks or ask if it’s real mink.
        I’ve been reading your posts on vintage and antique sewing machines. Quite helpful and informative. I recently acquired an 1878 Singer 12k from the UK. I was also gifted a 1916 Singer 15 and a 1910 White Family Rotary. A 1909 Singer 27 and a Eldredge chain stitch (Willcox clone) rounds out the herd. They are all hand crank or treadle. Why buy expensive plastic sewing machines when an older all metal sewing machine is less expensive and more durable.
        An older Singer 15 or 66 can use the modern attachments for zig zag sewing, buttonhole maker, zig zag stitch patterns and many other modern sewing machine features.
        I would like to start making clothes like you do. Also attempt quilt making.

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