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How to Repair Vintage Fur Yourself

by Sharon Maxwell - Yamamoto (01/15/09).

Vintage fur can be fragile. Air, light, heat, insects and accidents all contribute to causing damage to your precious garment. Generally, most people will take their fur to a professional to be repaired. However, in my experience, I have not always been pleased with the “professional” results, even after paying quite a lot of money for it as well.

Being the type of person who thinks “if you want something done right, do it yourself,” I searched the Internet for any information at all on repairing/sewing furs. I could find absolutely nothing on the subject and couldn’t even find a book on fur manufacturing. The best I could do was buy a package of leather needles at the sewing store, which I figured would be effective when sewing through a very thick fur. I examined many furs to try to understand the construction, as well as studying the way they were stitched, from the seams, to attaching the collars, to the way the linings were hand-sewn into the garment. I also scrutinized the actual repairs that were done on my minks, noting how they were done and taking special notice of the things I thought could have been done more neatly. I really believed that I could do it better than a professional furrier, so I took a deep breath and plunged into the world of fur repair.

What I Did

To attach sable pelts to a coat, I threaded a huge leather needle with quadruple thread and, my fingers aching, I kept sewing until the job was done.

To attach sable pelts to a coat, I threaded a huge leather needle with quadruple thread and, my fingers aching, I kept sewing until the job was done.

My first project was to re-do a repair that was done by my furrier. He was supposed to have re-attached the dangling fur pelts that were hanging from the ends of a Sable stole. He had sewn them on so loosely and unevenly that I was very displeased. I nervously cut out his stitches, leaving me with four Sable pelts on the table, completely separated from the main body of the stole. I threaded the huge leather needle with quadruple thread, since I had seen that the thread the furrier used was a thick cord type, rather than the usual sewing thread. I began sewing the first pelt to the end of the stole, blowing on the fur to get it out of the way of the thread as I pulled it tight.

I seemed to have some kind of instinct as to what to do to make the stitches invisible. It was very difficult, as the pelts were doubled and had some kind of batting inside them. The needle had to pass through four thicknesses of fur and batting in order to be attached. My fingers aching, I kept sewing until the job was done and was rewarded with a perfectly sewn stole with pelts so tight that no amount of pulling would loosen them. I was tempted to show the furrier but thought better of it, as I didn’t want to insult him or seem arrogant. However, I was extremely proud of my accomplishment, which gave me courage to attack other repairs on my furs.

What You Can Do

I was rewarded with a perfectly sewn stole with pelts so tight that no amount of pulling would loosen them.

I was rewarded with a perfectly sewn stole with pelts so tight that no amount of pulling would loosen them.

When sewing a fur, here is how to proceed: Use a special leather needle, available at any sewing store. You will need a needle-nose pliers, thimble, thread and scissors. To attach one piece of fur to another, pin it in place to hold it while you sew. Insert needle and thread, pushing the needle through the pelts with the thimble. When you have enough of the needle to grab on the other side, take the pliers and pull it though. Before you completely pull the thread tight, blow and brush the fur out of the way of the thread so it does not get caught. If it does, use the needle to pick it out of the stitch, flicking the fur back and forth with the needle. Brushing the fur with the fingers will smooth it over and hide the stitches. Continue until you are finished and tie off the thread, again pushing on the fur and blowing it out of the way. You want the stitches to be buried deep in the fur so you will never see them. Cut the thread, leaving it long so you can separate the strands and tie them several times, then carefully cut it deep within the fur, but be careful not to cut the fur. Better to leave the thread a little too long than to cut the guard hairs because they won’t grow back!

If you need to sew a seam or tear, use a thin needle, as the torn skin is delicate and a thick needle will damage it further. Using a double thread, gently put the needle into the skin, but not too close to the edge or it will likely tear out and you will not be able to repair it at all. When you pull the thread, do so gently and very slowly to see if it’s holding. If the repair is in a spot that will have a great deal of stress, you can sew it lightly, then glue a leather patch on the reverse side of the pelt (which will require you to open the lining). Then you must re-sew the lining, copying the original method you will see when you examine the lining edges. The stitches of the lining are taken from inside the lining and attached to the fabric strip which you will see is sewn to the edge of the pelt. The lining is not sewn to the skin itself, but to the fabric strip. Make the stitches as tiny as you can and you should have an invisible repair.

Easy Fixes

If you are repairing Broadtail lamb, you should open the lining and sew it in from the back to hide the seams, and then close the lining back up.

If you are repairing Broadtail lamb, you should open the lining and sew it in from the back to hide the seams, and then close the lining back up.

Another type of damage you can easily repair is the wear on the edges of a Persian lamb. Very often there is fur worn off, resulting in the ivory-colored skin showing through. Simply get a bottle of leather/shoe dye in the correct color at your local shoe repair shop or shoe polish section of the supermarket. If there is no dauber in the bottle, use a cotton swab to dab the color on the ivory skin. Use it sparingly and let it dry completely before wearing. You will be surprised and pleased at how the damage blends in and it makes the piece completely wearable.

Persian lamb very often has little splits where the curls peel back from the skin. You can correct this by using glue. This is the only time I will recommend gluing a fur, since in most cases, it will show and you will permanently damage the hair if the glue gets on the fur. To repair the loose Persian lamb curls, use tweezers to hold back the curl from the skin. Take a dot of white glue on a toothpick and put a tiny amount on the skin. With the tweezers, gently press the curl back onto the skin. Voila! You have done another invisible fix. Persian lamb is one of the easiest furs to patch as well. If you find yourself with an actual hole in the fur, you can cut a piece from an old damaged garment made of Persian Lamb. These are easy to find on online auction sites and are usually titled “craft cutters”. Cut a piece a little larger than the hole, place it in the opening and sew it to the perimeter of the hole. The curls will hide the stitches. If you are repairing the flatter type of Broadtail lamb, you should open the lining and sew it in from the back to hide the seams, and then close the lining back up. Persian lamb is the most forgiving fur when it comes to repairs!

Yet another type of damage is something being stuck in the fur, like a spill or something sticky. Using a pet brush will usually correct this. Very gently brush the substance from the stuck-together fur and you will have a uniform nap once more.

Use Your Imagination

This fur had a monogram that had been horribly chopped out of the lining, leaving a huge, gaping hole. I used black satin blanket binding from the sewing store to make a patch and put my own monogram on it.

This fur had a monogram that had been horribly chopped out of the lining, leaving a huge, gaping hole. I used black satin blanket binding from the sewing store to make a patch and put my own monogram on it.

There are other types of damage I have fixed simply by using my imagination, like opening a lining, rolling the damaged edge of a mink stole inward and re-sewing the lining to the shortened fur edge. It totally hid the damage and no one would ever notice anything had been done. Another time, I had a fur from which the monogram had been horribly chopped out of the lining, leaving a huge, gaping hole. I used black satin blanket binding from the sewing store to make a patch (the edges were already finished on two sides), or you could cut a piece of pretty fabric to cover the hole. Machine hem the edges into a neat square or rectangle. You can decorate the edges by sewing on a fancy trim or brocade ribbon, as I did. You can then use iron-on initials to make your own monogram, then you can either hand or machine-sew the “patch” into the lining. Again, nobody would ever know there was a hole there before you did your magic! Make the patch as pretty as you can, embellishing with trims and pearls and it will become a really special part of the garment, one which you will actually want to show off rather than hide. If you are really into details, stencil your initials onto the patch, and then sew tiny pearls to the outline to actually make a pearl monogram! Talk about unique!

When you have a special fur that you love, find ways to make it wearable by repairing it yourself. You will have the satisfaction of saving money, acquiring a new skill, using your imagination and saving your prized fur in the process.

Sharon Maxwell-Yamamoto is a Worthologist who specializes in vintage clothing and accessories.

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110 Responses to “How to Repair Vintage Fur Yourself”

  1. Heather says:

    Hi, I just wanted to thank you for this posting. I found it very useful.

  2. You are most welcome! Thanks for letting me know.

  3. Brenda Brasher says:

    Thanks so much for sharing this info. I just bought a Black Persian Lamb jacket on Ebay and it is in excelent condition except for a small tear on the elbow area. I wanted to fix it before it got bigger but wasn’t sure how until I came across your post. What glue would you recommend? Thanks again…great info for the do-it-yourself person!

  4. Hi Brenda!
    What kind of tear is it? Is it just the hair is lifted from the hide? Or is it an actual hole in the skin? If it’s a hole, it should be sewn. If it’s just a matter of gluing a flap,if it’s tiny and doesn’t need to be flexible, any white glue like Elmer’s is fine. If it’s in an area that you think will need to flex, use rubber cement. Rubber cement is what is used to glue leather hems, as it won’t stiffen the skin.

    If you have any questions before you try this repair, just ask! I’ll do my best to help.

  5. Blu says:

    Kudos to you!
    I recently”won” a vintage sheared black mink coat from ebay.I noticed discolorations(age)across the shoulders and slightly in the folds of the back.I want to dye it myself.Very difficult to find info on the net.I read to use black permanent hair dye,or Rit dye I don’t want to get ripped off.The skins are in very good conditon.What do you think?Thanks a mill!

  6. karen says:

    I have a seam tear on the armpit of a mink about 3 inches. The lining was also torn. Would you recommend a leather piece in this area, after the sewing is done?

  7. Hello Blu,

    Please do NOT dye the fur yourself! You cannot do this without completely dismantling the coat and dying all the skins. That is what a furrier would do. I absolutely do not recommend dying fur yourself. Repairing, yes, dying…no. To soak a fur and not dry it properly will result in a stiff, ruined fur. Please either take it to a furrier (not a dry cleaner) and see if they will dye it for you, or just wear it as is and enjoy the vintage look!

  8. Hi Karen,
    Is the tear an open seam only, or is the skin actually torn with the original stitch line still visible next to it? At any rate, I would sew it and then glue a leather patch to the back of it using rubber cement.
    Now, about the lining…open seam or fabric tear? Depending on how bad it is, you can either sew a new seam, or make a patch in the shape of a dress-shield (available at a sewing store)…use a fabric similar to the lining fabric, cut it out using the dress shield as a guide. Hem it all around (machine or hand stitch neatly) and then you must hand-sew it with tiny stitches into the armpit area of BOTH armpits….this way it will look like it was originally done as a reinforcement and will not be noticed as a later repair. I just did that on a wool coat lining and it looks very good.

    • Marina says:

      Hi Sharon,
      I recently bought mink jacket that needed to have the lining replaced. I took it to a tailor and she did a great job with it but ,surprisingly, I also got the jacket back with an inch tear on the neck. It is not a visible area and I am so annoyed with what happened that I am considering to attempt the repair myself. I have no clue of sewing so I would like to get clear and detailed instructions on how to do it if possible. I understand I need to open the lining, sew, glue a leather patch (after sewing, right?) and sew again the lining.
      The skin is very thin so, shall I use a normal needle? Are there needles any thinner? What kind of thread? Also, there is a wool filling between skin an lining, if I open this, I will need to sew it back to the leather? Same needle and thread?
      This is a job too difficult, right? Does anyone know a good furrier in London?

      Thanks in advance for your help,
      Marina

  9. Mary Brenneman Mary Brenneman says:

    Below are five additional responses to Sharon’s article. We ended up with two copies of this same article and these five were posted on the other copy.

    5 Responses to “How to Repair Vintage Fur – Yes, You Can DIY”

    1.
    Thula Edwards says:
    February 7, 2009 at 3:51 pm (Edit)

    Dear Sharon, Thank you so much for generously sharing this information! I am just beginning to use fur and would appreciate any other information or ongoing email exchange with you. I have purchased two ebay furs that need some work and the furrier has gone out of business so I am on my own. I have many years of experience sewing…but not o fur. Can you recommend any books, pre”fur”ably with detailed pictures? Again, thank you. Thula
    2.
    Sharon Maxwell-Yamamoto says:
    February 8, 2009 at 4:51 pm (Edit)

    Hi Thula,

    Unfortunately, as I mentioned in my article, I never could find any books or articles on repairing fur, which is why I was nervous about trying it myself…but I just went ahead and did it. I am hoping that my experience will give you the courage to just go in there and use your ingenuity to do it yourself. If you have many years experience sewing, then you will have the instinct, I believe, to do it right. Just use the leather needle as I mentioned, test it to see if it holds in the skin…and don’t be lazy! Open linings and do it the right way…being lazy (like I was once) will only give you messy results! I know you can do it!
    3.
    Frieda says:
    February 15, 2009 at 9:27 pm (Edit)

    thank you very much. it did seem to me that I should be able to find out how to do this by myself. You’ve been the best help so far. I trust I can make the repairs that I need and will enjoy this vintage fur for a long time. Are there any products I can use to keep the pelts from becoming too dry and fragile?
    4.
    Sharon Maxwell-Yamamoto says:
    February 17, 2009 at 2:14 am (Edit)

    Hi Frieda,

    I’m glad you found my article helpful. I must tell you, though, that you should not try to do anything to the fur or skin to condition them yourself. That is really something that requires special oils and some very expensive furrier’s equipment, which is best left to a professional. However, you can save money just by doing repairs yourself, but not the cleaning and conditioning.
    5.
    gina says:
    February 25, 2009 at 6:51 pm (Edit)

    Thank you for the information- I cannot tell you how discouraged I had become trying to find some info on the web. I am going to take a long fur coat and cut it short to a jacket. your information has given me the courage to proceed.Thanks for sharing.

  10. DivaSharon says:

    Hi Gina!
    I’m so glad I was able to make you feel more comfortable with doing your own fur alteration. Shortening a coat to a jacket length should be easy. You probably already have your plan mapped out, but just in case, here is what I would do: First thing, study the way the lining is sewn into the coat by hand…take digital pictures of it to help you copy it later, if you are not familiar with the invisible type of stitching (inside the edge of the lining, not showing on the outside). Next, try the coat on and pin it up to figure out just how short you want it. Make sure, if there are buttons, not to cut the length too close to a button or pockets or it will look odd to have it fasten so close to the bottom hem. Next, measure CAREFULLY exactly how much you want to shorten it and cut one to two inches LESS than the finished length for the inside hem. Next, open up the lining all the way across the bottom and pin it up out of the way. Mark the desired length with large straight pins and measure, measure, measure to make sure you will be cutting off an even amount all the way across. Take a ruler under the pins and using tailor’s chalk, draw the cutting line. Measure again from the line to the bottom of the fur. Next, using a large, very sharp scissors, cut along the line. Sit down and breathe and have a drink! The worst part is over!

    There are a few ways to do the actual hem, but what I would do is put a leather needle in my sewing machine and sew cotton hem tape to the bottom of the fur. You can do this by hand, but much easier and faster by machine. Then you can just fold up the hem on the inside and using a thin needle and thread, sew the edge of the hem tape (by hand) to the inside of the pelt all the way across. Do not go all the way through the skin, just pick up enough to hold the hem tape. You have now shortened the fur and just have to do the lining to match. With the coat hanging, figure out how much you need to cut off of the lining, then cut 1-2 inches less than that for the allowance. Make sure when you roll up the lining hem, you do not make it too short or when you wear the coat, when you move, the lining will pull the bottom of the coat up. There should be a little extra “pouf” in the lining to give you room to move without pulling on the fur. Next, ideally, the cotton hem tape will be close enough to the bottom of the coat so that you can sew the lining to the hem tape, not the fur itself. Sew with small even stitches, evenly spaced, so that the lining looks uniformly poufed when it’s all done.

    I hope that helps. If you are cutting off a great deal of the length, consider making a fur muff, purse or hat as an adorable matching piece to your new jacket! Use the lining you cut off as a lining to the pieces too…waste not, want not! I bet it’ll come out great. Please let me know!

  11. DivaSharon says:

    This is an addition to my instructions above: If the coat originally had a “French hem” and you want to copy it, again, take pictures to make sure you understand how it should look at the end. For those who are not familiar with a French hem, it is an open-bottomed lining (so you can see the actual back of the pelts to see their quality and make sure they are natural, not dyed). In this case, it is more involved and you need to use several inches of lining fabric sewn to the bottom of the fur with the right side of the fabric facing the same way as the outside of the fur (not the skin side). Then you fold that piece of lining up and sew it to the inside of the hide (instead of the cotton hem tape. Then you hem the rest of the lining to hang just to the bottom of the coat. You can tack it in several places but you leave it mostly open and you will be able to see the fancy lining fabric going up under the actual coat lining (in order to see the skins, you have to lift the lining and look up higher than the lining edge is sewn). Hope that makes sense! If not, please ask and I’ll try to do better!

  12. Priscilla says:

    Hi,
    I have several fur coats and jackets that have been given to me. The majority of them have small to large rips.
    When you instruct to back the repair with leather where are you getting the leather?

  13. Hi Priscilla,

    Leather patches are sometimes available at sewing stores. If you can’t find them there, the best thing to do is visit a thrift store and buy a very cheap leather item, most likely a jacket, and cut it up to use for repairs. You can surely find one on “online auction sites” labeled “craft cutter”, which means it’s damaged and is only good to use as material. An old leather glove would work too, especially if you’ve lost the other one!

  14. ANNIE LUCAS says:

    I HAVE A BEAUTIFUL JACKET THAT I HAVE BARELY WORN THAT I CAN PEEL THE FUR WITH MY FINGERS IS THERE ANY HELP FOR RESTORING THE FUR. IT’S AN OLD JACKET. THANKS ANNIE

  15. Hi Annie,

    I’m sorry to tell you that if you can peel it so easily with your fingers, it’s too far gone to do anything with. That is best used for crafts, like making Santas and such, using glue, since the skin would never hold a needle and thread at this point. Sorry!

  16. Chris says:

    Have lovely mink ranch coat this is glossy and shiny. I tore a zig zag in a pelt on the back of it, not on the seam and and also a tiny area under an armpit off the seam. Storage company would like me to trade it in. Lining is new. Coat is about 20 years old and has always been put in cold storage. Looks pretty new. Was told not to clean and glaze it as process is rough on coat. Can a regular taylor repair it. Afraid to try it myself. Finding it hard to believe its on its way out and not sure if its a tactic to get me to sell it to them for a resale. Whats your advice. How do I tell if the skin under the fur is on its way out.

  17. shanon says:

    thanks for your posting! i love it, i have a vintage carriage blanket that i got at an estate about 10 years ago, it is in 90% great condition, i had some repairs done about 5 years ago, with several small areas noted having fabric relief reinforcement. i also have a few older stoles that i traded for, half of them are in good condition. here are my questions:
    1, can i use iron on type interface as a stabalizer on the weakened areas?
    2, to recycle for pillows, the stoles, one gentleman recommended using a spray adhesive and linen type material.
    3, have you used the fabric aileens glue on any of your items as it is supposed to remain more flexible?
    thanks!
    shanon

    • kate says:

      Hi Shanon – your information if fascinating, I wonder if you could give me some advice about a white rabbit fur coat that is shedding its fur, is there a product that can be used to stop the hairs falling out? kate

      • Sadie Mae says:

        Hi Kate. You posted in 2009 and this is 2011. I truly hope that you have an answer by now, but in case you don’t or maybe this may help someone else try this. Get a bag of plan old kitty litter or one with fragrance is ok to or a bag of plan old charcoal. Go to Home Depot and buy the paper bags used to put the leaves in after they fall to the ground. Then buy some of the small paper sandwich bags from you local grocery store. Put the Charcoal or Litter into the sandwich bags. Be careful not to fill the bag up to full because you have got to put holes in the sandwich bags and lay the bag flat. Now put as many bags as you can in each sleeve, one inside each pocket and as many as needed on the inside of the coat or what ever your fur item is, then close your fur item and ease your item into your paper leaf bag and close leaf bag tightly. I use about 10 clothes pins. Now put your fur item in a cool dry place away from the sun. Give your Item about 2 weeks to a month and you fur will no longer have that vintage odor. I promise. I use the leaf bags for my full length coats. For my smaller fur items you can use a regular size grocery paper bag. I hope this helps someone.

  18. Megan says:

    I recently bought a mink stole at a garage sale. It’s in great shape, but has that “vintage” smell to the satin. Any tips on freshening it up?

  19. Lauren says:

    Hello,
    This is fantastic to know, thanks so much. i have a lot of old inherited fur that I’d love to get back to it’s former glory. Is it easy enough to re-sew lining? I am prepared to machine all the lining pieces together and then hand sew it to the fur if necessary..is this generally what should be done?

  20. Mary Yordy says:

    It was great to find this information. I have a strange-looking fur hat I want to use in an art project. I think it is some sort of sheep, the fur is fairly long and curly, ivory and grey(if you can help identify it that would also help)It was a Macy’s hat, probably from the 1960′s as it is a kind of ‘beehive’ shape. There are two palm-sized areas that are really fragile and splitting apart–I don’t think that they can be repaired by sewing. I could leather patch them, maybe, but you don’t say what type of adhesive to use. I was thinking rubber cement would be better than anything water-based.

    • Hi Samantha,

      Thank you for your comments and your knowledge. I must comment on your statement that I should never tell people to cut through fur with a scissors. Please read the article again and see that I never advised that. The scissor was to cut the thread, not the pelt. I cannot imagine needing to cut the pelt, as you would be losing part of the fur that you need to re-join, if torn.

      I’m sorry I can’t help you on the request on how to repair “stranded” mink…as I am not familiar with that term.

      Thank you for reading my article!

    • Hello Mary!

      Yes, that does sound like a 1960′s Persian Lamb hat! And you are correct, patching from behind, using rubber cement, is the best course of action. Let me know how it goes!

  21. Samatha says:

    Hi,
    I found this page very helpfull, it’s a wonderfull idea, as I am looking for help on repairing a stranded mink jacket which looks like it has been pulled apart.
    But I must stop you on one point, you should never cut through the pelt/fur with sissors EVER as you will cut through actual hair which you will live to regret…..&
    A. will leave a rounded seam or bump when sewn, no matter if hidden in a hem or if joining two seams of fur together,
    B. Help to create a much fatter edge which will be far harder to hold together to sew, as will keep on slipping apart & will tire your fingers out.
    C. The seam will be visible from the fur side as the shorter hairs will be defined & not disapear into itself as is should &
    D. AND MOST importantly will be horrible to work as will shower you (whilst sewing)& your home with miniscule hair particles which will bother you, & everybody else & stick to everything for months or years to come, NO MATTER how clean you are will drive you potty & may turn you off repairing fur for life.
    Always slice through the pelt (if having to shorten a coat for eg) with a fine craft knife, holding the knife like a pen, & it’s best if you pin the area to a chopping board or something firm, as the craft knife will run away with itself. Be confident, hold down the area to the LEFT (if right handed) of the area to be cut with your left hand,& slowly slice away from yourself & through the mark, only using the very tip or edge of the knife,(the curved edge craft knife is best for this) you will have to keep a firm tension on the fur with your left hand as it will try to buckle, so may well have to repeatedly move your free hand down the freshly cut edges. This will give a soft clean cut with minimum cut hairs- remember use the least possible depth of the blade. Now, which when sewn together with the tiniest stitches possible will be as good as invisible.
    NOW can someone please tell me how to mend the damaged strands—Pretty please :)
    Sam

  22. Lisa says:

    Sharon,

    Thanks a million for this article — this is VERY helpful and I really appreciate! I just bought a fur jacket on eBay and it’s a bit “80′s” for me in the sleeve (VERY puffy shoulders). I want to take the sleeves off to make a vest … the fit is great throughout, just need to lose the sleeves. I contacted a local furrier in the Philadelphia area and they quoted me a price of $300-$500! That seemed a bit excessive (especially considering I spent less than $50 on the jacket on eBay). Removing the sleeves seems pretty self-explanatory and relatively easy, and I’m a pretty experienced sewer and thought I could do it myself … I think it’s just a matter of removing the shoulder seams from the lining and the fur itself and then hemming the raw edges? Any advice for me?

    Thanks in advance for your help and THANK YOU for being such an amazing resource!

    Lisa

  23. Hi Lisa!

    I think what you are describing sounds pretty easy and I think your idea is correct, open the seams in the shoulders to reveal the fur and then see how you can carefully open the shoulder seams in the skins. If you feel you can’t open the seams in the fur without tearing the skins, or if you think it would go in too much from the edge of your shoulder, then you could consider cutting the sleeves off with a sharp exacto knife, OUTSIDE the sleeve seam, leaving enough to turn under and sew. The best way to do this would be to sew cotton hem tape to the edge of the fur and then turn it under and sew that to the hide inside. Then turn the lining fabric under and hand sew it to the cotton hem tape at the very edge of it, the way the bottom hem of the coat is sewn, taking the stitches inside and very tiny so they will be invisible.

    I would love to hear how it came out…I think it should be just fine! Enjoy your new vest!

    Sharon

    • Lisa says:

      Sharon,

      Thanks so much for your quick response and for your advice. That’s what I figured I would do … take apart the seams and then use hem tape to finish the edges. I appreciate your help! I will certainly keep you posted on the results.

      Take care and thanks again,
      Lisa

  24. debbie says:

    I have been made up reading your advise on fur alterations and repair. I also bought a vintage fur and the shoulders are too broad. I would still like to keep it as a jacket. Do you think it is possible for me to unpick the lining and then the fur . Pin it with straight pins to the shape I want it and reset them back in. Is it possible the fur is coney quite long and coarse. I value your opinion. It would be too exspensive to do taking it to a furier.

    I appreciate sharing your knowledge

    • Hi Debbie,

      Boy, this is a tough one. Removing the sleeves is one thing, but you want to actually reshape the shoulders. The difficulty would probably be in making them exactly the same from one shoulder to the other. I have never done this, quite honestly. I imagine that this is a 1940′s muskrat/coney fur with large shoulder pads. Are you thinking to remove the shoulder pads completely? I am just not sure how you could accomplish this safely. I think if you are brave and willing to gamble, you could open it up and see how it’s made…remove the large shoulder pad and replace it with a more subtle one (available at any sewing store). Then you could try to reshape the shoulder. If I were to do this, I would open the lining and take several pictures of the construction inside to make sure I didn’t forget how it was originally done.

      The thing about changing shoulders is that I think it would affect the armhole as well. If you want the shoulder to be less broad, I think the armhole would become smaller and perhaps it wouldn’t fit as comfortably.

      I wish I could give you more advice, but this is a very complicated change to make to the coat and I would hate for it to be ruined. Do remember that part of the charm of a vintage fur is leaving it in the style in which it was designed…that is how people will identify it as a treasure from the past! Get a hat from the same era and go with it!

      Best of luck, whatever you decide to do!

  25. Ruth says:

    I am wondering if I can use iron on pellon to reinforce small pieces of mink sewn together for a full length coat. Many of the smaller pieces of serparated and need to be sewn together. I have hand sewn many small tears but am afraid of them tearing again. The only thing I can think of to secure these pieces would be iron on interfacing/pellon. Can I use this and still have the coat cleaned and glazed? Thank you.

    • Hello Ruth,

      Hm….I have to say that I don’t recommend using anything that would require you to apply heat to the skins. If anything, patching from behind using a flexible rubber cement is what would work the best. However, I think it would be wise to ask a furrier if a fur that has been glued would be able to be cleaned and glazed in their usual manner.

      My real concern is that you are using mink that seems to be in very poor condition, if it has so many small tears. This is an indication that the skins are very dried out and I feel that no matter what you do, you are going to end up with a coat that is possibly too fragile to wear. Generally speaking, I avoid furs with many tears. You might find one with one or two tears, with the rest seeming to be strong and relatively supple, which would probably be safe to use. I am just afraid that you are going to put so much effort into this but if you’re using materials that are really past their usefulness, you will end up being very disappointed. If fur is in that sort of condition, I recommend making pillows , muffs, hats and purses out of them, things that will not have the strain of being worn in a way that could further stress them. Collars are also a possibility, as they would not be pulled by movement.

      Please consider finding another piece of mink in better condition. I’m sorry I couldn’t give you any better news, but this is what I would do, if I were in your situation. Good luck with whatever project you decide on! And thanks for reading my article!

      Sharon

  26. Lita B says:

    1. I have a ranch mink coat that has an odor. I had it cleaned and glazed by the furrier while it was stored and had a new lining put it. I’ve tried febreeze and airing it out with mild success.

    2. In the process of saturating the coat with febreeze, I have lost the shine from the “glaze”. Any suggestions on how to glaze at home or should I take it back to the furrier?

  27. Hi Lita,

    Oh my goodness, you must never use Febreze on fur. It’s only for fabrics. You will have to take it back to the furrier and see if he can clean that off. I actually cannot guarantee that this will work, but he will be able to tell you before you have it done.

    Good luck,
    Sharon

  28. Kim O. says:

    Hello,
    Thanks for the great info! I have a mink coat that was passed down to me over 15 years ago when I was young adult. Unfortunately over the years I haven’t cared for it properly nor have I worn it. I have only covered it with cloth and I now would like to wear it. How can I refresh it and bring out the shine?

    Thank you in advance for your reply.

  29. Hello Kim,

    Unfortunately, the only thing you can do is take it to a furrier and have it cleaned and conditioned/glazed. There is nothing a lay person can do without the equipment and oils. Please do not try it yourself! Sewing repairs, yes, but not clean and glaze.

    Best,
    Sharon

    • Traci says:

      In a little OOP book titled Everything about Sewing Fur and Fur-like Fabrics by Vogue Patterns, it suggests using a mix of vinegar and water. It says to lightly, sponge the fur with this mixture, and let the fur air dry.

      Here’s the text verbatim:

      “Refresh: Old fur that has been in storage in a closet frequently collects dust and a slightly musty odor. Wiping the hair of the pelt with a household sponge dampened with a small amount of vinegar in water, will help to deodorize, clean, and brighten it. Test first on a waste piece for color fastness and hang in the open air until all odor has disapeered. Then brush with a natural-bristle hair brush.

      I have a gorgeous sheared beaver that I just got, that has this slight odor. I plan on trying this – if simply airing out won’t work. Even though its freezing cold outside, I did hang it for a couple of hours and that did help. I did try this on an old stole that is scrap and it did make a difference! I was shocked at the amount of dirt I removed.

      I will say – if you do this DON’T soak the fur!! The sponge should be damp not dripping. You just want to wipe the fur – NOT soak through to the hide.

      Hope this helps!!

  30. Lockett Somerville says:

    Hello Kim

    WOuld you have any suggestions for removing a musty smell that is prevalent in vintage furs, and would you also have suggestions for “feeding” the hides of the furs?

    Any help would be great.

    Yours Aye

    Lockett

  31. Hello,

    Removing a musty smell can be difficult. The best thing is to take it to a furrier to clean and condition. That is also what is necessary for “feeding” the hides. You can’t do this yourself.

    However, you can hang it in an airy place and put “Moth Away” herbal sachets in the pockets and hang the large ones with the attached hanger hooks (they come in the box) on the hanger neck. The herbs not only keep away moths, which is great to use in sweater drawers, but the natural mint, rosemary and lavender smell nice and can freshen up a musty odor. You can buy these in small sizes and large sizes at Bed, Bath & Beyond. I have been using them for years. I keep them in all the pockets of my furs and in the necks of all my sweaters.

    Thanks for reading my article!

    Sharon

  32. susan says:

    How can I clean my old furs that would certainly shrink or fall apart at the hands of a proff. cleaner…any suggestions? I was thinking baby powder and brushing out?

  33. Hi Susan,

    Cleaning of furs should not be done at home. They use special oils and a finely ground pumice to tumble out the dirt in a big drum that rotates. When you say you are concerned that the fur would fall apart at the hands of a professional cleaner, do you mean a furrier or a dry cleaner? Certainly furs should not be dry cleaned, but a furrier is the best person to handle the cleaning of a fur. If you feel that your fur is so delicate that it may fall apart, perhaps you shouldn’t clean it at all, but I would really consult a furrier.

    I don’t recommend baby powder, as it would just leave a dusty white residue and not come out of the fur completely. In the old days, they used sawdust or crushed nutshells, which would pull out the dirt and not cling to the fur.

    Sorry I couldn’t help you more. Good luck!

  34. Traci says:

    Hi – Thanks so much for this great article!! I have several Mouton coats (lambskin) – two of which are in almost new condition. I had those both cleaned and glazed (although I didnt’ notice any difference) and it cost a small fortune.
    I’m writing about a Mouton swing coat that I recently bought, just to walk my child to the bus and to walk the dogs. I LOVE Mouton because its like wearing a big blanket and by its nature can withstand Pittsburgh’s damp Winter’s. This coat has surface splits up on the shoulders – although the rest of the coat is in excellent condition. Eventually, I will scrap the coat and make pillows or a lap blanket out if it – but can those splits be repaired just long enough to last this winter? Should I try the white glue you recommend for the Persian lamb? This coat isn’t valuable enough to take to the furrier to repair; especially considering I only paid $40 for it. I just want to wear it for general use, rather than the other two (which I wear to school, work, etc).

    Also, I have two other moutons that I want to make a cape or poncho out of. I’ve had great success with reversing cuffs to make sleeves longer, etc. so feel I can work with a dense fur like Mouton. Has anybody tried anything like this? Like the coat I want to repair the surface splits on, these two have actual splits at the shoulders that would require patching,etc. I really would like to try to salvage them into a cape or ponco, before I make a lap blanket or pillows.
    Thanks so much! This article gave me the courage to experiment!!

  35. Hi Traci,

    Okay, so do I understand correctly, just the surface fur has come up from the hide, the splits are not all the way through to the actual skin? If this is the case, yes, I recommend a dot of glue on the underside of the split, then patting it gently back into place. Err on the side of less glue, rather than more, so you don’t risk any of it oozing out and touching the actual fur. It should still hold. Just hold the flap to one side, take a dot or two of glue on a toothpick and put it onto the skin on either side, wait a few seconds and tap into place. Be extra careful not to drip on the coat! This should work for your purposes. Always remember, less is best, when it comes to repairs. Sometimes the more you do, the more it will show. Try it on one little split and look at it the next day and see if you can still find it.

    Good luck and I’m glad I could help give you the courage to try to fix it yourself! You can do it!

    Sharon

  36. Traci says:

    I will try and let you know how it goes. Unlike your picture of the Persian lamb – my mouton’s splits are on the surface but there aren’t flaps of fur/hide peeling up. This coat obviously wasn’t stored properly (I think) It’s not quite dryrot it’s just wear. You can’t even see the splits unless you have the coat in your lap and it naturally parts to where the splits are. I wish I could post a picture. This is only on the top shoulder area. The rest of the coat is supple.

    What do you recommend for removing clumps or matted fur? My ‘good’ moutons don’t have it – but this coat has clumped fur along the front lapels. Not the collar or the cuffs – just the front lapel edges. I used a pet brush on it and that helped – but it seems as though i should be able to do a better job?

    Thank you! I am so grateful for this article.

  37. Traci says:

    Oh, and to clarify – yes, you read correctly. The hide is split in certain areas on the shoulders but NOT the whole way through. It’s almost like cracks – but isn’t noticeable unless you have the coat sitting in a pool on your lap. The fur naturally parts to those cracks – showing the splits. This doesn’t happen with my other Moutons. It reminds me of stress lines, or fault lines, at earthquake areas. Like somehow the hide got pulled at areas of high stress – like the coat was too small for someone but they wore it anyways?

    Thanks.

  38. Hmmmm, okay, thinking now….I understand what kind of splits they are now. This is a little trickier and I can’t guarantee it will hold, but this is what I would do: position it into a “pool” like you said, where you can see the openings. Take a tiny bit of clear rubber cement on a toothpick and gently dot it a little bit underneath the split (if you can reach it) and also on the split edges of each side. Wait a few seconds for it to start to get tacky and then gently press the edges together in the original position and hold it for at least three minutes (longer is better, don’t lose patience!) Gently let go and see if it holds together. If not, just keep holding it until it’s dry and will not separate again. As long as the coat is not tight on you in the shoulders, you should be okay.

    If this doesn’t hold, I would do something more drastic, like opening up the lining and take little stitches through the back of the skin to the split, joining one side to the other, but very close to the edge so the thread doesn’t show on the outside of the fur. Pull very gently so you don’t tear the skin. I think a combination of glue and stitching will hold best. As a final reinforcement, you can use rubber cement to glue a leather patch on the back of the hide at the split area. This would protect it from further damage when you wear it.

    Please let me know how it all turns out for you. Wish I could see it and help you fix it! Good luck and don’t give up!

    Sharon

  39. Oh, for clumps of matted fur, it seems that you already used the pet brush and that is all I can recommend in this case. If you have a very fine tooth metal comb that has finer teeth than the brush, you might try that too, but don’t rip out any of the fur…better a little matted than bald spots!

  40. Traci says:

    Ok. I’ll get rubber cement this weekend. And then glue and sew. This coat is older – probably from the late 40′s and has beautiful lines. A true swing coat with humongous sleeves. I think it needs sewn, as you recommend, and glued just to help support the already weakened pelt from the stress of it’s own weight?
    I’d start work on it now – but I need to get the glue.

    Thanks Again and I’ll let you know how it goes!

  41. susan says:

    ALSO…. for tears get a light fabric anything will do and put it on the other side you are repairing so it inforces the area you have glued….

  42. Dee Blake says:

    Hi Sharon:

    I brought several furs back from Alaska. My problem right now is the Ranch Stroller has some spilts in the pelts. I will try to repair it using your techniqe of opening the lining and making small stitches. I am grateful to have found your site.

    Oh! If you have some spare time check out my quilts on my website.

    Thanks in Advance

    Dee

  43. Linda Titus says:

    Dear Sharon,

    Guess I’ve lived in New Hampshire too long, because I used duct tape to repair my torn fur coat. The tear was in the skin, not along a seam. I first removed the liner, then carefully brought the torn edges together, sealed the split with duct tape, then replaced the lining.

    Not as elegant as sewing a leather patch, but it seems to be holding pretty well!

    Linda

  44. Mary Epperson says:

    I have a few seams that have come loose in my vintage fur. They appear to be stress related as they are a few inches below the shoulder seams in the front of the coat (between the clavicle and breast area. Also, a few on the right sleeve. The pelts are supple and pliable but I am concerned,due to the coats age (40ies) about putting too much pressure on these old seams. I feel I should do more than resew the seams. I have removed most of the lining so I can get a good look but like you have not been able to find any info on repairs.

    I have spoken with a furrier and plan to visit him. Hope he will share some knowledge with me. What do you think about:

    l. resew the seam.
    2. lay 1/2 inch cotton seam binding over the seam.
    3. Baste the top and bottom of the binding to the individual pelts which you have sewn together. I think this should take a lot of the pressure off of the seam and move when the coat moves. If this would work I am willing to reinforce all of the seams by hand to help save the life of this old beauty.

    Also, I am curious about the rubber cement for repairs. Doesn’r that effect the pelt over a long period of time… harden it or cause it to begin to break down.

    Thanks
    .

  45. Traci says:

    Update on my Mouton and surface splits -

    I tried the rubber cement and although it worked cosmetically, it did nothing to give the coat the support it needed to prevent more splits.
    The splits were occurring at areas of stress – such as the upper shoulders and across the back.

    I was fortunate, in that my Mother was able to procur for me a little book titled Everything about Fur and Fur-like Fabrics from Vogue Patterns.

    This book is a wonder of wealth about working with genuine fur; how to repair splits, sew by hand (which stiches work for which task, how to patch holes, etc.)

    I ended up reinforcing the surface splits by treating them as though they were complete rips – in that I sewed them shut from the opposite side. (I removed the lining to do this). Then, I reinforced the shoulder area by interlining it with pieces of wool.

    I also added buttons (which they showed how to do).

    The coat looks like new. Adding the interlining for added support has made all the difference. The coat swings with more ‘assurance’ for lack of a better word.

    I will say the best advice I can give is to get leather needles!! What a difference!! They were cheap too!!

    My mother also bought me another book: How to Sew Leather, Suede, Fur by Schwebke & Krohn. This book is also full of how-to’s on working with fur.

    Based on my success: I am going to make a poncho out of two old moutons that have destroyed shoulders. The Fur and Fur-LIke Fabric book really inspired me to do this.

    Both books are OOP – but if you can locate the one by Vogue, it will make working with fur much less intimidating!!

    To be frank, the aspect that is most intimdating for me, in making the poncho, is making a lining for it!! Sewing the fur feels simple in comparison. According to the books, though, an interling of felt or wool combined with a lining for looks – provides the seams with the support needed for longevity. Apparently it also makes the actual final result more luxurious (which I believe!!)

    Hope this helps!!

  46. Hello!

    Glad to hear you’re doing your own repairs successfully! And yes, I always recommend, as in the article, not just sewing, but reinforcing from the back of the pelt, usually with leather, but I agree that wool would work too. And I also advised to use leather needles, which do make a big difference in the ease of sewing. However, I only advise using them to sew skins that are not thin and fragile, as they are too thick and can damage them further. To make tiny stitches that won’t tear the thin skin, I use a thin needle. In my article, I used a leather needle to get through several thicknesses of skin and sable fur, which was very difficult and needed a leather needle and pliers to pull it through.

    As to using the rubber cement, it is what is used routinely to hem leather garments in the industry, not sewing, so I know that it does not break down a hide over time.

    Good luck and keep having fun with fur!

  47. Alba says:

    I have just done my own home version of cleaning and glazing of an old cream mink with fox collar/trim.

    For what it is worth, my “new” full length white mink is always properly cleaned and stored, but this old thing was another story.

    It was pre-owned and given to my mum maybe 8 years ago, but she had it in a closet for a while. Then the poor thing was stuck in a plastic tub in a dirty garage for the remaining years. (We just didn’t know anything about fur, sorry!) At least it was cool :/

    Last week I asked her where it was, and she took it out to hang and air for me.
    I read all over the internet without too much luck for information on cleaning and sewing furs (out of interest too.)

    The saw dust thing reminded me of when my mother bought an alpaca rug, and she was instructed to clean it several times a year with baby powder.

    So, with this coat I completely doused it in scented baby powder. I left it for a few hours, and then I rubbed it around as best I could. Later I shook as much out as possible, and when I took the coat home I used my Miele on “auto” with the dusting brush (natural bristles) to gently remove the rest. I can tell the powder is gone because it doesn’t smell as pretty now :p

    The skins were surprisingly not too stiff, but certainly were somewhat.
    I have been told by a leather supplier here in NYC to use Pledge on leather, because it is just as good as special products.
    Instead I decided to rub Leather CPR into the skins.
    The shoulders were the only very dry place, and they softened decently. The rest of what I could reach is now quite supple (not like new, but still) and flows beautifully after the treatment.
    I have to do it again in a few days because this time was rather half-@ssed :P

    Lastly, I had read online that glazing is done by steam ironing. The steam part worried me because I have understood it to be bad for leather.
    So, I carefully used my iron on verticle steam over the entire fur.

    The vacuuming made the coat shine a lot after all that powdering, and I thought it looked best then. After the iron it was even more glossy but with less fluffiness. I mustn’t have had the static electricity thing happening.

    Overall this is not something I would do to a fine coat, but for a free or cheap item which needs help I’d certainly do it again.
    The coat was not a very expensive one to begin with, I can tell, but not too inexpensive either. The fur must have been great though, because it has held up gorgeously through the abuse.

    Since no one out there has home cleaning and glazing info, I thought to share this experience.

    Now my only dilemma is whether to wear it for errands or eBay it. I love the colour and style, and it looks perfect on me, but then when will I wear my good mink? (Then again not for groceries anyway. ) I don’t know…. :p

  48. Traci says:

    I also had forgotten to mention – I have two old moutons I am preparing to turn into a poncho. Both are filthy – I did a search on the internet on how to clean them and I found a similar response to what you actually did!!

    It seems that you can dust the pelts with cornstarch – let it sit a few hours, then shake it lose, wipe with a damp cloth, air dry, and then vacuum.

    I haven’t had time to do this yet – but I’ll post when I do.
    Granted, mouton is dense and not shiny the way mink, beaver or muskrat is – but if it lifts the dirt that would be amazing!!

  49. Just be sure if you vacuum to be careful because if it’s too strong, you will suck up the skins into the hose and possibly tear it. I think mouton is stronger, but I would never do this to something like fox or sable.

  50. I should also mention that I also do not recommend using baby powder on fur…furriers use sawdust soaked in dry cleaning solvent, work it into the fur, then gently vacuum it out. They then use special oils on the skin side to restore suppleness and iron it. This is not something I would try myself. Sewing, yes, cleaning, no.

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