My Mink Pillow
I can't help it...I love fur. Yes, the real stuff. But I also love it more when it's vintage. I have several vintage fur coats that I wear in the dead of winter. And yes, they are warmer than your average winter coat (for those that are wondering). But I have a particular black short hair mink swing coat from the 50's that I bought cheap years ago. I wore it for a few years but it really was too big & starting to wear pretty badly. So I decided years ago to 'up-cycle' it - even before up-cycling was cool.
I had some beautiful black flocked damask fabric that I decided would make a fabulous back. My original intent was to make the back of leather or something similar but decided to make it more 'glamorous' with this fabric. Unfortunately there wasn't enough fabric to make a gigantic pillow - just a good sized one, approximately 20"x 20". Still big enough to cuddle with and there's still plenty of 'coat' left to make several more pillows.
I started by removing the lining. You can keep the lining, if it's in good shape, to use for the back of the pillow or any number of other projects. Mine was not in such good shape, unfortunately. Be very careful as you're removing the stitching so you don't pull a hole in the coat (like I did)
After I removed the lining I cut the sleeves off. I want to make the sleeves into small 'lumbar' roll type pillows or maybe old fashioned hand warmer muffs. They are pretty short so I'm not sure either will work but I'll give it a try at a later date.
Next I laid out my coat & made decisions about how big to make a pillow, how many pillows I could get, and what about the little odds & ends, pockets etc. I took approximately half the coat and cut it according to how much fabric I had for the back. That leaves me a whole half a coat for another pillow or whatever else I decide to maybe try. Be prepared for the flying fur! With every cut there are little tufts of fur that get EVERYWHERE. Make sure you're working in an area that's easy to clean up.
After cutting your coat and back fabric to the proper dimensions, pin the right sides together (don't forget to leave a large enough opening to stuff the pillow) and sew. Make sure you use the proper settings on your sewing machine AND the proper needle - one made for upholstery or heavy fabric. Once you have the right sides sewn together cut the corners at an angle and trim any excess fabric along the seams. A serger might be nice to use to make these seams as it will finish off the raw edge too.
Once you have the seams trimmed, turn the pillow right side out. With the pillow turned the right way, check your seams. You may find that some of them have fur bent over & stuck in the seam. I used my fingernail to gently 'comb' the fur out of the seam. If that isn't enough, go ahead and use a pin or something else a bit smaller to pull those little hairs out. But be very careful, especially with the vintage furs, little bits of fur can be ripped out.
My opening was a little smaller than it should have been and when I was stuffing it I ripped about 2 inches of the fur. Little extra work to fix that and lesson learned. Usually when I make pillows I put a zipper in the full length of the pillow base. I was too anxious to make this and decided to forgo that zipper. I guess I should have been patient and put one in. I also make my own pillow forms. I like the flexibility to make the pillow the size I want and not be dictated by what size I can find at the store. For this pillow I had an older bed pillow that I just squished up and stuffed in.
When you're done stuffing it you'll have to do a hand stitch to close the opening. Again, if you put in a zipper this becomes a moot point. Once you get everything all closed up..