Cocoon Coat: Sewing the Fur!

This was the week to get my coat done. I had lots of extra time for sewing and then a little-turned-big winter cold decided to take over. People, it was 90 degrees here yesterday. Having a fever in this kind of weather in February is so disorienting. But with a little seam here, a seam there the coat is slowly but surely coming together. The lining is done and the rest of the coat getting close.

Each new material brings a different challenge and learning how to “feel” it as it sews. Last year I worked so much with silk and similarly drape-like rayon that I abandoned pins altogether. I got used to the feel of it in my hands, under the machine, how it feeds, how to control ease and sew around curves. Gaining this kind of tactile knowledge, of both machine and material, is a real pleasure. I love letting fabric intuitively do what it wants to do.

I don’t have much experience quilting but it must be like this experience of this persian lamb fabric. It’s so lofty and cushy and the layers slide around on each other. Just sewing two layers about five inches long results in the top layer creeping a half inch longer. I pulled out my machine’s walking foot but there was still a lot of creepage. In the end I basted all the fur seams before sewing and still used the walking foot for control.

Back when I was sewing clothes in college I’d use like 50 pins just to put in a sleeve and elsewhere did a lot of basting–and still get mightily frustrated when things didn’t line up. Maybe sometimes the pattern was at fault (I wouldn’t have known anything about walking patterns or even thought that patterns could have problems). But I didn’t know much about material handling either, like how to use the feed dogs to ease bottom layers. It was more like trust the pins over trusting or getting to know the fabric.

One interesting tip I picked up from Fehr Trade was to sew fur seams down the nap. Which means sewing all seams from top to bottom. So when sewing the sleeves, rather than going around the entire circle in one pass, or going from the underarm up as some often do in setting sleeves, I sewed each side from the top down.

I wasn’t quite sure how to go about the bust darts. They seemed a little bulky after sewing them shut, so I tried clipping one of them open. This made a bit of a fur mess so I slipstitched the dart together and then tacked it down to the fabric. I left the other one unclipped since it didn’t seem to make much difference from the outside.

For some reinforcement, I used a bit of fusible tape around the armholes and areas where the pockets and zippers would be. I practiced on scrap to make sure it wouldn’t crush the pile.

For larger areas like the hem and front facing I basted in some woven interfacing.

i’ve got a few more pictures of the leather sewing but I’ll save that for later. Now back to my queue of b-list netflix movies and shlepping around in the bathrobe…


  1. Sallie says:

    I heartily agree that fevers and colds in the heat make me feel like I’m in the Twilight Zone! Your coat looks like its coming along great – I’m really impressed with your material knowledge. Only occasionally can I forgo pins and just feel a fabric with my hands – this is usually with sturdier fabrics – but anytime I feel unsure of myself – its back to pins I go! Pins are super frustrating and unreliable – I hope one day I can have your tactile expertise!

    • Amy says:

      Yes, it does feel like the Twilight Zone! Add to it that my other half has been out of town and so no one to remind me of “reality”. I first tried sewing without pins on something cotton and kind of predictable. That way I could get a feeling… but it does come eventually. I was the same way–I kept breaking needles and feeling like they were in my way. I had an older machine for a long time that seemed to hate some fabrics and the presser foot really pushed the top layer and I just couldn’t get away without pins. This fabric is a whole other beast!

  2. Lizz says:

    I hope you feel better soon, Amy! I was struck down last week too – it wasn’t pretty.
    I’m really enjoying reading about your experience sewing this coat. I’d like to work with fur (faux or real) next winter so reading your process is fascinating!

    • Amy says:

      Thanks Liz! It seems to be going around and I feel like I’m in the upswing now. I’m glad the you like the process… I think this is the most I’ve ever posted about one project, but I kinda like documentation ;).

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