Sewing a Fur Collar

First of all, thank you so much for the many wonderful comments on my coat.  You made my week.

Now it’s time for me to give back to you and share some of the techniques.  Let’s start with how to sew a fur collar, and next I’ll do a post on pad-stitching.  It had been a few years (like 30) since I made a fur collar which required me to do a little research and to think through the process.

Starting with the end:

The fur – a piece of dyed lambswool approximately 24 x 24″.

Dyed Lambswool

Fur Alert!

The following steps resulted in small green fibers of fur in every corner of our house.  You’d have thought I had a fluffy shedding pet who followed me around the house.  Ugh!


1.  Select the piece of the fur from which you wish to cut the collar.  All fur is not created equal – some parts of the pelt were clearly not usable as the fur was sparse or just didn’t look good, and I hoped to have enough left for cuffs.

2.  When planning for the collar, if the pattern doesn’t have an upper collar piece which is larger than the under collar, increase the length and the width of the upper collar by approximately 1/2″.  You will need this additional fabric so the collar turns well and to keep the fur visible and the under collar not visible.

3. Using a pointed scissors, cut the collar from the back side of the fur, only cutting through the pelt or fur backing.  The fur fibers will separate without the help of a scissors.

4.  As you plan to sew the upper and the under collar,  for the width of the seam allowance, cut away the fur from the pelt or backing.  Note: Do not cut away the actual seam allowance.  This step reduces bulk when sewing the upper to the under collar.

Fur is cut away but NOT the pelt

5.  Pin the upper and under collar together.  Baste if you are so inclined.  For leather you will need to pin in the seam allowance.

6.  Sew the upper and under collar per the pattern instructions.

7.  Before you trim the seam, turn the collar right side out.  Use a pin or needle and pick out the fur fibers that got caught in the seam.  If you don’t take this step, your collar will look like this:

Use a pin to pull out any fur fibers which are caught in the seam

8.  Trim the seam in the same way as if you are working with fabric only

9.  Now turn the collar and press.  This was quite challenging for me as I didn’t want to burn the delicate lambswool.  Good thing is that it didn’t need much pressing.

Back side of the turned collar.

Now continue with your coat or garment construction.

My New Coat: Marfy 1974

With great pride, I wish to share with you my beautiful new coat from Marfy pattern #1974:


  • Taupe wool jacquard from Pendleton
  • Underlined with polished wool – i.e. men’s plaid suit fabric
  • Faced with brown wool
  • Trimmed with lambswool
  • Lined with Asian print, underlined with cotton gauze

Consistent with Marfy’s approach to provide pattern pieces without instructions, the following is a photo diary of the process.  Besides, this post is for my kindrid spirit whose wish to see the details more than to hear the story.  Enjoy!


Underlined with polished wool and linen for shoulder stabilization
Welt pockets
Bound buttonholes
Velvet pockets
Fur collar with stand

Resulted in:

Back yoke detail
Collar stand
Bound buttonhole
Facing, window for inside of buttonhole, velvet piping
Bone buttons and lining
Fur cuff
One more time

Thank you for visiting.

A Saturday “Sew In”

Oh, So Many Sewing Machines

When we planned the day, I thought it would be a cold winter day and we’d all have nothing better to do than to spend a day sewing with friends.  Instead yesterday was 60+ degrees and would have been a great day for outdoor activities.  Oh, well.

I’ve heard of but never participated in a “Sew In”, so I made it up. Should have googled it but didn’t.  The first step was to invite 9 or 10 Philadelphia sewing colleagues for a day of sewing at my kitchen table.   Seven were able to participate, which was just right.  With the leaves in it, the dining room table seemed large until we put six sewing machines on it.

While most cut, sewed, clipped, pressed and chatted about sewing, two of us worked on making a paper tape double.  All were so busy that we barely stopped to eat lunch or snacks.

Just look at this group of serious sewists

Val made a fabric vase.  I must say, her satin stitching skills are amazing.  Noile dutifully and beautifully sewed a corduroy jacket for her husband.  Pat joined for fellowship and to get advice on a project.  Karen tackled three t-shirts – maybe four.   Andrea made great progress on a houndstooth jacket which is going to look terrific on her.  Lee constructed a dozen squares for a quilt that will be gifted to one of her sisters.  Mimi sewed and brought projects to obtain advice.  She and I wrapped each other in paper tape for what will eventually be a fitting double.  At the end of the day I was able to squeeze in some time to put together a fur vest for my DD and a matching one for my GD.

Really, that's my shape?

Fabric, Notion and Magazine Exchange

Each person came with machine and bags of supplies in hand but that didn’t stop each of us from bringing stacks of extra fabric, sewing notions, patterns and magazines we no longer needed.  The pile was embarrassingly large but one sewist’s trash was another’s treasure.  The items were nearly all taken at the end of the day.

The Requisite Sewing Space Tour

The day wouldn’t be complete without a tour of the host’s sewing space and stash. A view of the stash was missing since our home is for sale so most of the yardage is offsite in a storage bin.  Wouldn’t want to scare off a prospective buyer with all of those bins of fabric.  Here’s mine – a corner of our living space but with windows that any sewist would die for.

Planning a “Sew In”

To make it easier for you, here’s how to plan a day such as this:

  • Select a day by putting out feelers with several others who sew.  When you have a date, run with it.
  • Invite slightly more sewists than you will be able to accommodate, assuming that some will not be able to participate.  For example, my table could handle 6 sewing machines and there was room for more hand-sewers or to make a double.  
  • In the invitation, confirm the date, time, location, directions, parking and what you’ll supply. While I love to cook, it made more sense to not worry about food when we were all trying to enjoy a day of sewing.  The refrigerator and coffee pot were stocked with drinks, my friends brought snacks and we walked around the corner for lunch.
  • Send a reminder several days ahead of time.  

Checklist for the Host:

  • Table for sewing.  If scratching is an issue, use placemats, towels or a table cloth for under the machines.
  • Power strip
  • Place for cutting.  Two cutting mats on the coffee table worked well, since our condo’s living room and dining area are adjoined.
  • Ironing board and iron

What to Bring and What to Work on:

I’m hoping one of my friends will post about this and I’ll add their links to this post.

In Summary:

This was a terrific day (except for the parking tickets – darn).  All commented that it was a day of fellowship and fun, and there was more sewing than on most Saturdays.

Give it a try.  You’ll be glad you did.

Hemming Jeans So No One Will Ever Know

Want to avoid the “homemade” look when hemming a pair of jeans?  Here’s 9 easy steps for making them look like this, with contrast stitching on the inside and out just like when you purchased them.

There are scads of online tutorials on how to hem jeans however the result of many of these processes is a pair of jeans that look like they were hemmed at home. Since I grew up wearing home-made clothes I do everything possible to avoid the impression that my garments are hand-sewn (even though I am now proud that they are sewn by me).



  • Contrast thread to match the jeans topstitching.  (Big box fabric stores have thread for jeans, or you can use upholstery thread, which comes in more colors).  Thread your machine with this contrasting color.
  • Navy thread (or color similar to jeans).  Use this thread in the bobbin.
  • Size 100/16, a 90/14 or a jeans sewing machine needle.
  • Seam gauge or measure
  • 30 minutes of uninterrupted time
  • Iron.

1.  On each jeans leg draw a line 1-1/4″ longer than the desired leg length.  Note: The result will be better if  the hem is cut evenly, which is why I recommend drawing a line before cutting.

2.  Run a test stitch on the discard fabric, preferably going through 3 layers of fabric to get the feel of working with the bulk.  Adjust stitch length so it looks like the original hem.

3.  Close to the lower edge, trim away excess fabric on the seam allowance, like this:

4.  Turn hem over 1-1/4″.  Finger-press and pin in place.  Press.  Note:  At this point you will have a fold of 1-1/4″ of fabric turned toward the inside of the leg.

5.  Fold the bottom edge of the leg to meet up with the fold line.  This will give you a double-folded 5/8″ seam which is common in RTW jeans (see next photo).

Click on photo for close-up of hem

6.  Finger press, pin in place and press hem in place.  

7. Working from the inside  (contrast thread will be on the inside) and using a long stitch, sew the hem in place.  Note:  Remove pins before they get close to the machine needle.  Trust me, sewing over pins in denim can really mess up your machine.  

Wrong side

8. Turn leg right side out.

Right side

9. Sew directly over the bobbin thread.  In the sample below, you can also see that the orange threads peaked through with the bobbin thread, which makes it easy to see the stitching line.  Note:  The bobbin thread will show one the right side but won’t obscure the effect of the top-stitching.

Top-stitching on the right side

Now put those jeans on and wear them with pride!

Mira’s Nightgown and Cate’s Quilt

Nightgown (formerly a PJ top)

Several weeks ago I blogged about my adorable granddaughter Mira’s desire to make a pajama top.  At the time we made it, she said she wanted to add a skirt, so I shouldn’t have been surprised that during our sewing date last week, she wanted to fulfill her fashion dream.  After she drew a picture of what she was envisioning, we set forth on adding a skirt to the pj top.  She could see what I couldn’t – a nightgown (that would likely double as a princess dress).

As Mira is still new to machine sewing, I was unsure about the complexity or time it would take to gather the skirt, so I pleated the skirt fabric and she sewed it to the top.  After hemming the skirt and adding a casing at the waist, Mira fed a piece of ribbon through the casing.  That night she slept well in her new nightgown.

Patiently waiting for her turn…..

In the same post, I wrote that Catie, age 6, was quite satisfied to sit on my lap while sewing.  That may have been true in November, but in the ensuing month, Catie grew up.  She waited for her turn to use the sewing machine and this time she was ready to sew on her own.  Our conversation went something like this:

Cate:  “Ramma (her pet name for Grandma), can I sit on the chair by myself and you can sit next to me?”

Me: “OK, that will work but I’ll need to be very close to you”.

Cate:  “Can I put my foot on the pedal all by myself?”

Me:  “OK” (while I checked to make sure the machine speed was on low).

We then sewed a few squares onto her quilt.

Cate: “I think I’m ready to use the thread cutter like Mira does”.

Using the thread cutter

Cate:   “Ramma, you don’t need to put your hands on the fabric, I can do it myself”.   Then, “Ramma, I can do it myself”! (forcefully)

While I wanted Cate to be able to go solo, I was keenly aware that she’d be safest with some assistance.

She quickly sewed a dozen or more squares and then said, “Now what can we sew?”  We found enough quilting cotton to make a pillowcase.  Her sister soon followed with the same project and then Catie started her second quilt.

Second quilt (Mira in background with pillowcase)

What a busy yet fun afternoon we had.  I am still shocked that at age 6, Cate can use a sewing machine with minimal supervision.  I’ve read that six-year-old’s sew with a machine but honestly I didn’t believe it.  Now I do.

What suggestions do you have for their next projects?