By Editor Liz Johnson – Today’s faux fur gives you the luxurious look and feel of real fur at a fraction of the price and without harming any animals. And, because of recent improvements in fabric manufacturing, it comes in an amazing array of rich colors and lush textures. It truly starts out beautiful on the bolt. But if you treat faux fur like regular fabric, your project can end up looking like a bad haircut. You can’t cut it out like regular fabric. You can’t just sew it together like regular fabric. And if you pronounce it “fowks” fur instead of the correct “foe” fur, somebody will make fun of you. (They didn’t offer French at my high school.) But don’t worry. Once you learn the proper pronunciation and the few tips below, you’ll enjoy a whole new world of sumptuous sewing.
Choosing the best project, basic is better
Faux fur makes simple projects look terrific. And even if you could wrestle the material into intricate twists and turns, that type of detail wouldn’t show up very well anyway; it gets lost in the plush. Projects specifically designed for faux fur usually make an allowance for fullness. But you can use it to sew projects not designed for fur. Just choose a simple design with limited seams, a minimum of pleats, gathers, and darts. We have two projects coming up that fit the bill: a simple square pillow and suede-backed blanket. You may also want to substitute all zippers and buttonholes with fur hooks. However, the pillow project I just mentioned does use an invisible zipper, which went in slick as a whistle.
Fur has a ‘pile’ and a ‘nap’. Pile is the term for the hairs, they can be long or short, smooth or fuzzy. Nap refers to the direction in which the hairs lie, most faux furs (like real fur) have a specific direction to the nap. If you have trouble seeing the way the fur is laying on your fabric, hang it over a chair and step back a little. It should become obvious.
Once you’ve figured out the direction on the nap, mark it on the back of the fabric. You’ll want the nap going in the same direction on all your pieces when your project is finished. Or it will look like a bad taxidermy job.
In fact, you should do all your fabric tracing and marking on the wrong side of the material.
Also, because you only cut out one pattern piece at a time, you won’t be able to fold your fabric over and cut mirror image pieces at once. For instance, if you have a pattern for a sleeve, you’ll need to flip the pattern paper over to get the mirror image for the second sleeve. (Hmmm… fur sleeves; there’s an idea.) Think twice before you cut and you’ll be fine.
Here’s where a little patience will pay off with better results. The trick is to cut your pieces out without giving your faux fur a haircut. Because it won’t grow back. Here’s what it can look like if you just start hacking away. You’ll have a bald spot when you try to sew the seams together.
When cutting, the idea is to cut only the backing and not the fur nap. Use just the tips of your scissors. With the wrong side facing up, slide the bottom blade of your scissors up next to the backing.
Cut with short, deliberate snips, being careful to cut just the backing. If you feel a drag, you’re starting to cut the nap. Back off and start again. Practice cutting on a scrap and you’ll quickly get a feel for it.
Pressure foot and needles
A standard presser foot and universal needle are fine for faux fur. Just remember, as always, to start each new project with a new needle.
Lay your faux fur pieces to be sewn, right sides together. Using ball head pins, pin along the seam at a right angle, this will allow you to sew right up to the pin before pulling it out. Tuck the fur to the inside as you pin; an aluminum knitting needle works well as a tool to tuck in all those hairs.
As with the presser foot and needle above, standard sewing thread, such as Dual Duty XP from Coats, will work fine with faux fur. Choose thread in a color that contrasts with your fur. It won’t show on the front because of the deep pile of the fur, but if you need to take stitches out for any reason, the contrasting color will make it a lot easier to find the seam. Choose a long stitch length. Sew your seam with the direction of the nap.
If you followed our ‘tuck and pin’ suggestion above, you should have a pretty clean seam. However, working from the right side, you can also use a dull pencil or pointed chopstick to pull stray fur hairs out of the seam. If you feel you need to reduce the bulk in your seam, use snips to clip-away the fur inside the seam allowance. When right side out and with the fur fluffed and/or combed into place, your seams should be virtually invisible.
Another option that creates a hinged seam is to use a zig zag stitch. Follow the same ‘tuck and pin’ method described above. Then, set up your zig zag so the right hand swing (I guess that would be the ‘zig’) falls off the edge of the fur.
Make sure you practice these sewing steps on some scraps before trying on your final project. Fabric dot com has some huge selections of faux fur. Warnings, once you become proficient with faux fur and show your friends what you’ve made or give items as gifts, everybody is going to want you to make them fur cuffed gloves or a luxurious throw. Of course, you could always share this article with them and then they can easily sew their own items.