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How to Upcycle Vintage Fur

How to UpCycle Vintage Fur

Confess. Do you have grandma’s fur coat hung up in a closet somewhere in your house? You can’t just wear it around – it’s fur, REAL FUR. What if someone tried to splash you with red paint or something? Plus, you don’t condone the murder of beautiful animals for the sake of fashion. On the other hand, this belonged to your grandmother, Bubbe, Me-Maw, Nana even. It was special to her and expensive, not to mention it made her look like the toast of the town back in the day.

How to UpCycle Vintage Fur

I took a few weeks off blogging for the holidays, and, oh yeah, WE MOVED! Like, we moved across the country, moved. It’s taken a little while for me to find my bearings, so I’ve been silent on the blog for a bit. Yep, East-Coasters-R-Us! Don’t worry, I have a backlog of blog posts to share with you guys, so I am not short of content for the next few months.

Before we left, I came across a post in one of the SoCal mommy groups on Facebook. The poster was looking for a seamstress to turn her grandmother’s fur stole into pillows to give as Chanukah gifts to her siblings. I jumped at the chance, so I could feature the project here! Her grandmother had recently passed, and since no one has an occasion for a stole anymore, this seemed like a great solution to remember her grandmother and get that fur out of the closet. Apparently her grandmother was quite a dater, and at one time had dated a furrier, which is probably where the stole came from.

How to UpCycle Vintage Fur

To be perfectly honest, I never even saw a real fur coat until I was 24 living in Atlanta, where some people (usually older people) actually wore them for warmth. Growing up in California, I was well aware of the sin of wearing fur, or at least the consequences. Besides, when was it ever cold enough that we would need to wear fur for warmth? Never.

How to UpCycle Vintage Fur

  1. Okay, so the first thing you need to know about real fur is that it’s leather. You will need to buy leather needles and possibly even leather scissors for your project. DO NOT USE YOUR FABRIC SCISSORS. The leather will destroy them.
  2. The second thing you need to know about fur that that you are not dealing with just one animal. Often times, fur coats are made from dozens of animals. This stole I think was made with at least 8, because there were 8 tails included in the collar. It’s put together in pieces, attached with mesh. This means it won’t be as sturdy as normal leather.
  3. Third, remember that fur is made of dead animals. I know this seems obvious, but maybe not to everybody. Fur usually stinks like a dead animal, will be a major attraction for your pets (keep away!) and can shed like a dead animal, especially after you cut into it. If you are thinking the fur needs to be cleaned before you sew with it, do not take it to a dry cleaner. The only place equipped to clean fur is a furrier, and I don’t even know if they exist anymore.

How to UpCycle Vintage Fur

Cut out your pattern. For this project I needed to make 6 pillows, and was limited on materials. The smallest pillows I could find were 12x12in, so I decided to do 2 triangles on the front. One triangle was made from the actual fur and the other was made of the lining. The largest I was able to make the triangles was 9″ on each side (which ended up being 8″ once you account for the seam), so I outlined the attached triangles with the extra brown fabric I used for the back. I very carefully separated the fur from the lining, which was rather tedious, because the satin lining was very old and somewhat fragile. Once the fur and lining were detached there was this reddish powder inside. My best guess was the powder had something to do with cleaning the fur.

How to UpCycle Vintage Fur

Pin your pattern to the leather side (back side) of the fur, and trace it with a sharpie marker. You’ll want to be aware of the pattern of the fur on the other side. when you are ready to cut the fur, take little snips along the pattern you drew, making sure to just cut the leather and as little actual fur as possible. You can also use a box cutter for this part. I cut the satin normally, except I made sure to keep some of the dart seems to show that the satin was apart of the original garment. This definitely made the satin lay a little funny, but you couldn’t tell the difference once the pillow was inserted.

How to UpCycle Vintage Fur

When attaching fur-to-fur or fur-to-fabric, you’re going to need a lot of pins. As you pin the fur, train the hair inward, so you are left with a clean seam line. Because I was sewing to a somewhat stretchy satin, I was sure to pin back the satin to the rest of the fur (as pictured), so it didn’t bunch up while I was sewing. I allowed a 1/2in seam, and used a leather needle as well as upholstery thread. I kept the stitch width as wide as possible.

How to UpCycle Vintage Fur

The stole had grandma’s initials embroidered inside. I copied the pattern, and embroidered those same initials on the back-side square of each pillow cover. With one pillow (the one pictured), I was able to include the portion of the lining with the original embroidery. The particular initials embroidered above took quite a while (about 4 hours), because I filled them. I only did this once. The rest of the pillows just featured an embroidery outline of the initials.

Once I had made squares with the two triangles, I sewed the border around it, and then sewed the back to the front like you would with a normal pillow cover, leaving a portion open to stuff the pillow inside, then hand-stitching it closed. As I had mentioned earlier, the pillows I bought were 12x12in, and I made the pillow covers 11x11in, so the stuffing would give it an extra “poof”.

How to UpCycle Vintage Fur

I thought this was such a great way to honor the memory of a loved one who has passed, without having to wear something that many would find offensive or just inappropriate for a modern wardrobe. Have you ever upcycled fur? How did your project turn out? Let me know in the comments! And you want to keep this post handy for the future, be sure to pin the pic below.

How to UpCycle Vintage Fur


  1. Tineke F says

    Here in Spain people are crazy about fur… If you don´t have a fur jacket you basically don´t count as a full woman… (Which i guess i am not then ;))

  2. Alexie Flook says

    Wow what an awesome post! I want to go buy something fur just so I can make a pillow hehehe

    • mirinadler says

      I’m sure you wouldn’t have trouble finding some in vintage stores.

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