18th Century

Making an 18th century fur muff – the actual sewing

Once I’d figure out a design for an 18th century fur muff that seemed historically plausible (clearly it wasn’t going to be perfectly accurate, as I was using a repurposed 1940s fox fur sleeve as my base) it was time to sew.

Fur sleeve thedreamstress.com

To start out, I had to deconstruct the sleeve I was making the muff from.  I had assumed, based on the striped effect of the sleeve, that it was formed of fairly wide strips of fur, and the join of the strips formed each stripe.  Pulling apart the sleeve at one stripe would be very easy.

Then I investigated the inside of the sleeve.

Pieced fur sleeve thedreamstress.com

Wowzers.  It’s not large strips at all – it’s a patchwork of little-bitty pieces of fur!  Can you imagine sewing that!?!  The work put into constructing this sleeve, and piecing all those minute pieces of fur, just floors me!

This is the upper half, after I detatched the portion that I needed.  Look at all those little pieces!

Pieced fur sleeve thedreamstress.com

The sleeve head is shaped and supported by a fabric stiffener.  I’ll use a similar sewn-in interfacing on the lower part of the sleeve to help my muff retain its nice round shape.

Pieced fur sleeve thedreamstress.com

Since I had to work with a crazy patchwork of fur, with seams running all over the place, rather than the straight seams I had anticipated, things got a lot trickier.  First I unpicked the bottom half of the sleeve along a series of pieces that roughly followed the line I wanted.

This turned out to be a little short in places, so I carefully cut a bit extra in a straight line (teeny, tiny super-sharp scissors are fabulous for cutting fur btw, allowing you to get in and cut only the skin, without cutting any fur).  Then I re-sewed the extra piece back on to the seams I had unpicked with linen thread.  My sewing is so messy compared to the original seams!

Pieced fur sleeve thedreamstress.com

Once I finally had a tube of fur from the bottom of the sleeve that was 13″ long, with a nice even top, I needed to figure out the lining.

I’d originally planned on lining the muff in white silk satin, with layers of batting between the fur outer and the silk inner.  However, when I played with this option, the layers of batting and the lining were too unstable.  How was I to keep them in place?

Then, researching mid-18th century clothing, I had a brainstorm.  There are a number of examples of garments made from re-fashioned quilted petticoats.  What would you do with any extra pieces of quilted fabric?  Line a muff?  It’s stretching the bounds of plausible, but not entirely beyond the bounds of possibility.

Quilting my lining would have two advantages: one, it would keep the batting and lining firmly where I wanted it to be, and two, it would give me a chance to trial the type of quilting I would do on a full quilted petticoat.

So tempting…

And then, I had the final brainstorm.  I could quilt my lining in a scale pattern.  It would be a ‘Fur & Scales’ muff!

The quilting, done in blue silk thread on white silk satin over two layers of wool batting, actually went very quickly.  A full quilted petticoat is definitely a possibility.

Scale pattern 18th-century inspired quilting thedreamstress.com

The only thing that gave me any problem was that I started my scale pattern in the middle of the 13″ x 24″ piece of fabric.  Drawing and sewing scales up – super easy.  Drawing them down?  Not nearly as easy!  My pattern gets a lot less tidy as it goes downwards.  At least now I know to start my petticoat pattern at the hem and draw upwards.

Scale pattern 18th-century inspired quilting thedreamstress.com

Once I had finished my quilting, I rolled the quilted fabric into a tube, folded under one raw edge, matched the quilted scales as best as possible (not very well I’m afraid), and whip-stitched the join down.

Scale pattern 18th-century inspired quilting thedreamstress.com

My whip-stitched join:

Scale pattern 18th-century inspired quilting thedreamstress.com

With my lining constructed, I had one last thing I needed to do before I sewed the lining to the fur.  I loved the look of the later 18th century muffs with bows sewn into the fur:

Costume Sketches,  Anonymous, French, 18th century, Possibly connected to Antoine Caire-Morand (French, Briançon 1747 - 1825 Turin),1785-1790, MFA Boston

Costume Sketches, Anonymous, French, 18th century, Possibly connected to Antoine Caire-Morand (French, Briançon 1747 – 1825 Turin), 1785-1790, MFA Boston

However, I didn’t want to make the muff un-usable for a different decade, nor was I willing to commit my muff to one distinctive colour scheme.  Also, a ribbon bow would soon get soiled and crushed.  Sure, I could baste one on and take it off and replace it, but I had a better idea.

Working a bow-loop into a fur muff thedreasmtress.com

Using heavy linen thread, I worked a loop into the fur on the muff.  It disturbed the fall of the fur slightly, but it’s quite subtle, and now I can slip any colour of ribbon I want through it, tie it in a bow, and replace it for a different outfit or if it gets crushed and dirty.

Working a bow-loop into a fur muff thedreasmtress.com

With the loop sorted, I was ready to put the whole muff together.  I turned the quilted satin tube inside out, slid it into the fur tube, folded one edge of silk satin under, and whipstitched the fold to the cut edge of the fur.

Sewing the quilted lining to the fur

Once the fur and lining were firmly sewn together I tugged the lining past the other end of the tube, making the fur at the sewn end double back on itself slightly, forming a lovely fur brim to the muff.

Since I had the turned and finished fur hem of the sleeve end to work with on the other side, I didn’t need to worry about how to form a fur hem on that side.  I just turned my lining under, tucked the raw edges in, and whipstitched the lining to the turned end of the fur.

Sewing the quilted lining to the fur thedreamstress.com

Ta da!  Done muff!

Reproduction 18th century fur muff thedreamstress.com

Isn’t it pretty?  I’m so pleased with it and proud of myself!  And look how beautiful the lining looks:

Reproduction 18th century fur muff thedreamstress.com

I’m hoping to do a photoshoot this weekend with my muff, and the other thing I am making for Flora & Fauna (Oooh…), but that will depend on the weather, and if I can get someone to be the photographer, and I also promised Mr D I would do something fun with him (and in his books historical photoshoots don’t count, as they are ‘me’ time, not ‘us’ time!).

Also, since we are on the topic of quilted petticoats, boy do I have an exciting post to write…