Tips for Sewing with Faux Fur
Posted by Betsy C on
Faux fur was never at the top of my list, but then the trend of the sherpa fleece came along and I HAD to make a Pina vest out of it. I've been wearing this me made to death! It's a good thing it's off-white because I'm wearing it on all my errands and some of my outdoor activities. It's actually amazing that it made it to become one of my photo samples.
Faux fur is fun and who doesn't want to touch something silky or have a new garment that is fuzzy with wild colors and textures? There are some really nice options out that offer unique textures and alternatives that have a really soft handful that you would expect from fur. I picked up some fancy stuff from Mood Fabrics. It's not super cheap, but if you are making a vest, then you only need to buy one yard.
Working with the sherpa fleece was a good starter fabric and it was kinda fun to see it all come together. It got me thinking about trying other types of textures to make different variations of the Pina. I've had some winners and some losers along the way. In my process of experimentation I have collected a lot of takeaways that from my experimentation that I think will come in handy for anyone looking to give it a try.
Put aside perfection
Faux fur is easy, but difficult at the same time. This juxtaposition is fascinating to me because to make it work, you don't have to be an expert seamstress. Instead you just have to abandon any perfectionist tendencies and trust the process. The best part is that even if you do a crappy job, the fur hides any mistakes!
Depending on the pile (thickness) of the fabric, it's never going to align perfectly. It's going to be difficult to see your stitches, so don't plan on taking them out unless you are prepared to use a razor blade between the two layers.
Know what to look for
If you are picking out your fur at a fabric store, make sure to take a look at the cut edge. Does it keep on fraying if you pull on some fibers? There will be some loss, but it shouldn't keep going and going. I bought some from a big box store and it just didn't stop shedding. Even with serging the edges it was dissolving before my eyes and I had to trash for this and because of my next point.
Wear a mask
At this point we all have them around. The filtered kind are the best because fabric particulates fly around everywhere. These are synthetic fibers made from chemicals. You do not want these in your lungs or your sinuses. They are so lightweight that inhalation is really easy.
Wear a mask throughout the process, but especially when you are cutting (I would maybe go so far as to recommend a mask for cutting in general, even working with natural fibers).
There was a period in my career where I was in charge of cleaning out the sample closet at work on a seasonal basis for prolonged amounts of time. We made all sorts of garments from many different fabrics, but most prevalent were synthetics. It was dusty and even though the garments were less than a year old, they started breaking down enough for the particulates to really get to me. I would leave at the end of the day feeling really strange and my voice was hoarse. I now have an allergy to some fabrics that is noticeable when I start cutting. This is nothing serious or life threatening, but now when I cut certain fabrics I feel it.
Have a vacuum cleaner on hand and use it liberally while you are cutting to control the spread of the fibers. This dust gets on everything and will take over your home. Fur will end up on every surface. Depending on your fur, I would even see if you can vacuum the cut edges to make sure no further loss happens that you cannot control.
Choose your Nap
The nap of the fur is the direction that you want it to go. Usually piled fabric such as fur or velvet has a different texture/look depending on how you swipe your hand up or down. Nap down would be if you ran your hand down and it felt smooth. Nap up gives more resistance but by cutting this way you end up with a more vibrant color.
I recommend taking your fabric to natural light and positioning it up and then down to see which way you like it better as it hangs. Once you decide, make sure you cut all your pieces in the same direction. Do not place some up or some down as this will look strange once it's all sewn up. Also, to avoid mistakes, I do not cut fabric that is folded. Instead cut each piece individually on a single layer of fabric.
Use the back of the fabric for cutting
The fur can be disorienting if you are trying to find the right cut edge. Instead, place it face down and work on the smooth side of the fabric.
Use a serger after cutting
If your fabric is shedding like crazy, run all the edges through the serger/overlocker to close off any more potential fur loss before you start sewing. It's an extra step, but at least you don't have to worry about it dissolving as you sew.
You will need to be creative with some seams
Fur will look bulky at seams. Vertical seams on the body are not so bad, but in areas like the shoulder seam, it will tend to look puffy.
For my own fur vest, I took a beard trimmer to the shoulder seam area of the back (you can pick these up for around $15). I shaved off as much fur as I could from the back shoulder seam allowance and then laid the front over top and topstitched together. Don't do the usual right sides together. It will be too thick.
If you are attaching a facing to a tight area, you may need to do the same.
Have fun with it
This is a great opportunity to test out your skills and make you think outside the box. There are some really interesting machines used by furriers that I think are fascinating, but honestly your standard equipment gets the job done sufficiently. Grab the scissors and give it a haircut as needed. I mean how often are you going to be able to play with a beard trimmer and throw caution to the wind? It's just a piece of fabric, so you can't really give it a bad haircut. Be brave!
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