Wednesday, August 20, 2014

HSF 15: The Great Outdoors - the Mink Fur Muff

I certainly feel like this is one of the weirder things I've ever made.  About a year ago, my mother let me dig through her significant stash built up from decades of sewing and crafting.  One of the things that she passed on to me was mink stole that had certainly seen better days.  Mom made bears for a time, and one of her friends had passed the stole on to her and so it's just been sitting in people's stashes for ages now.  Fast forward to last December when I had a Steampunk holiday tea to dress for and as it was flipping cold out and I didn't have gloves to match the Victorian ensemble I'd planned to wear, I decided to make a muff.  This was one of those projects that sounded much simpler in my head: cut rectangles of lining, fluff and fur, sew together and Viola!   You're done.

Yeah, not so much.  First thing to do was to METICULOUSLY and very gently remove the fur from it's fabric lining.  The stole was two long strips of fur sewn side-by-side and I needed something shorter and wider than that, so the fur "strips" then had to be separated and cut in half to make the new shape.  

Next up was to sew the fur onto a backing material.  I chose to use the same silk as I was using for the lining so that when I sewed the fur layer to the lining, I could do it by the backing instead of putting more stitch holes in the fur.  This way, any backing that peaked through would be unnoticeable.  I went into this thinking that this step would have been simple... WRONG!  Despite seeming quite rectangular when in the stole, the resulting pieces were anything but.  I ended up having to pull the pieces in towards the cut ends, which ended up giving me a rectangle that was narrower at one end than the other.

Strips of fur had to be sewn together before being sewn to the backing material.
You can kind of see on the left there where even these strips were originally pieced.

Fur whip stitched to the backing fabric in a rust colored thread that would disappear in the fur.

Next I had to work on the insides.  I had seen where others had been quilting the interior of their muffs and I figured that seemed like a good idea.  More than anything, I like how the quilting it kept the lining material from shifting and bunching, which would have been unsightly.

Quilting on the sewing machine, because SURELY that would be easier than doing it by hand, right?

Aaaaand, this is about the place where the project got bagged up and put on hold until today.  I pulled it out and started trying to assemble the layers, not realizing until half-way through that my rectangle of fur was not a true rectangle.  I worked around this by assembling the lining and fur into tubes separately, then stuffing the lining inside the fur tube and hoping for the best.  The added bulk of the buckling lining means that the muff retains a bit of its rounded shape, even without a pair of hands in it.  The fur backing and lining were whip stitched together and a fabric wrist strap was inserted into one end.  The fur was old and quite delicate, and many of the mink tails broke along the way.  The stubby bits were left on one edge and the only remaining full tail was inserted into a pretty yellow bow and pined to the front of the muff.

Now it just needs to be not August and cold enough so that I can find and excuse to wear it!

What the item is: fur muff
The Challenge: The Great Outdoors
Fabric: mink recovered from a vintage stole, silk crepe, cotton batting
Pattern: none
Year: this could work for anything from the late 1700s up into the early 20th century.
Notions: poly ribbon and thread, scrap ribbon for cinching in the ends and a touch of tacky glue.
How historically accurate is it? meh, not too shabby, I suppose. Though I didn't really base it on any existing pieces or images.
Hours to complete: 10, perhaps. The fur had to be painstakingly removed from it's original backing and then pieced back together into a more rectangular shape. Lesson learned, I will NOT be working with real fur again any time soon.
First worn: it WAS intended for a holiday tea back in December, but set aside in the rush. It'll have to wait for it to not be August and sweltering before it gets to see the light of day.
Total cost: fur was gifted to me from my mom's stash and the silk was leftover from making a dress for a friend. So out of pocket? $3 worth of batting. But the valuation would have been closer to $60, given the shabby state of the fur.


  1. Oooooh! Your fur muff came out very lovely! I love the stripes that mink have. It makes for a very nice image! Well done!

    1. Thank you! It's so decadent, I feel like I have to make something new that would be fancy pants enough to justify the luxury.

  2. Gorgeous! And in the winter months, you can keep your hands nice and toasty... or stash small craft projects inside to sneak into places. ;)

    1. Craft projects, hip flask, small children...