Fluffy fatale or lady in leather? Why not be both?
As you might remember, my most recent DIY post was all about getting two outfits out of one (if you haven’t seen it, take a look here). It seems to have become the theme of this month: here’s my latest project – a reversible fake fur coat.
(Coat by me! Boots: $8 at YES op shop in Forest Hill, kangaroo fur bag $10 at The Mustard Tree op shop in Lilydale about a zillion years ago, Katies sweater dress from Salvos Mulgrave – can’t remember how much, earrings from a vintage-loving friend).
(The same coat by me, but turned inside out, obviously! Earrings $2 from St Lukes op shop in Yea, T-bar shoes $2 from a random op shop on the way to Frankston… maybe this one? I was kind of going for a 1960s Catherine Deneuve look but it wasn’t working…)
I’ve had this fake fur lying around for years after my sister offloaded it on me (obviously she’s more successful at cleaning out her fabric stash than I am). The pinky beige colour of the fur wasn’t really “me” but there was enough to make something substantial so I held on to it and looked at it every few months, pondering its fate until it dawned on me that the reverse side of the fabric looked kind of leathery and maybe it should feature in – or even be the star of – whatever I came up with. See? It is actually some kind of vinyl-like synthetic substance that is bonded on to the back of the fur.
It often takes me quite a while to visualise my creations, but when the material in question is fake fur, the decision is made even harder. If you have ever sewn fake fur, you will know it is not a task anyone takes on lightly, as one single snip into the fabric sends thousands of fibres flurrying to create a mess that is both instantaneous and eternal (last time I used fake fur I remember finding bits in my tea for months afterwards. It’s just like cat hair, which as any feline fan knows is the stickiest substance known to humankind). It is also quite thick, so my design needed to have as few seams as possible so as not to become bulky.
This was my solution…
It’s an extremely simple jacket pattern (admittedly with darts at the bust) that I cut a bit longer to make into a coat.
Rather than try to disguise the seams on what is technically the reverse or “wrong” side of the coat, I decided to make them a design element by snipping a zig-zag pattern into them. This proved to be the most time consuming part of the project because rather than using pinking shears (I didn’t have any and when I went to buy them the notes on the package said they weren’t suitable for thick fabric) I drafted and cut each triangle by hand. Agggh! What a way to spend a Sunday night (fortunately there was plenty on TV to keep me entertained while I did this).
I roughly marked the points of where to cut on the edge of each seam allowance and then got snipping…
This is what it looks like with the seam opened out, one side of the seam allowance snipped with the other waiting its turn.
I snipped the side seams, shoulder seams, underside of the sleeves and around the armholes, but left the bust darts as they were and didn’t do anything to the front edges, hem or sleeve openings. This was partially because it might have been too much zig-zaggy detail and partially because I was already going crazy from all the snipping. Although I’m pretty pleased with how it turned out!
(I’m not sure if I should stick the seams down so that they lie flat – I kind of like the way they add interest to the silhouette and remind me of mini-stegosaurus plates but I can still see all the pen marks I made, which would be hidden by sticking the seams down … what do you think? I have my fabric glue at the ready, so just say the word…)
Another reason I didn’t snip around the hem, front edge or sleeve openings is that those areas can be seen when the coat is reversed.
I didn’t want the furry side to be too fussy – better just to keep things fairly simple when fabric has a bit of volume to it like this.
As it is, the coat is a little bit bigger than it should be because I cut it two sizes larger than I normally would – I thought I needed to make allowances for the bulk of the fabric but I was wrong, plus this pattern takes shoulder pads into account and I haven’t put any in. The question is now whether I can be bothered to unpick the offending seams and sew the coat a bit smaller… and I think you know the answer to that…
Anyway, if you are thinking of attempting something like this, I can only recommend that you be a bit smarter than me (hardly difficult!) and read up on how to cut and sew fake fur before you begin as it’s a bit different from using regular material (it’s too thick to cut through two layers at once, for instance). I also recommend that you have a vacuum cleaner on standby to obsessively vacuum the floor and all around the raw edges of the material as you cut each pattern piece to minimise the risk of choking on fluffy Earl Grey later!