Ideas for Old Fur Coats

By LeeAnn Bonds

You found a great old mink in your mom's attic that she says you can have. But one sleeve is ripped, or it's just hopelessly outdated. What can you do with all that gorgeous fur? You won't wear it as is, but are reluctant to let it go to a thrift shop or throw it out.

Fur coat on mannequin
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Fur coat

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Caroline Beil in a fur coat

If it's a valuable piece, think about having it professionally refashioned. Take it to a furrier, who will assess it for you, and let you know if it's a good candidate to be re-cut into an updated style. It might also be suitable for shearing---shaving the fur to a shorter length, which gives it a completely different look. A furrier's services can be expensive, so do your research and examine your budget before going this route.

You might try some refashioning on your own. Possibilities include shortening the coat's length, or the sleeve length. Or de-sleeve the coat and make a vest.

Smaller Projects

Woman posing in coat
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Fur collar on a cardigan

If you just have a stole, or if your fur is damaged, but there are areas of it that are in decent shape, try one of these projects using the good parts. Take just the collar off the fur, and add it to a sweater. Attach it with snaps or some other fasteners, so you can remove it for washing. Add fur cuffs to your winter jacket, or to the tops of your boots. Use a tote bag pattern, and make a fur purse. Try a book cover, using a sturdy fabric for the inside-the-cover parts. Make a muff for yourself or a young girl. Think of it as a rectangle, lined with something satiny, and stitched together at the short ends. Add a long ribbon or cord to hang it around your neck if you like. Embellish with a vintage brooch with lots of sparkle. Use narrow strips of fur for trim, on shirts, hats, gloves, even lampshades. Scraps could be scrunched into a ball for a key fob decoration, or even a wild pair of earrings.

Before You Cut

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Woman in a full-length fur coat

Make sure your fur is not infested with anything. You may want to have it cleaned. Also, what condition is the leather in? Will it crumble apart if you start working with it, or is it sturdy? You don't want to get hours into a project and have it start falling to pieces.

Learn the proper method for cutting real fur, and gather some tools and supplies. You'll need a razor blade, a leather needle, needle-nose pliers and button or carpet thread. Shave the fur away where you want to cut and to make a seam allowance. Make sure you don't cut the hairs too far out---you want the seams to be as invisible as possible. Judge whether your sewing machine can handle sewing through two layers of leather, or whether you'll need to sew by hand. The supplies listed above are for hand sewing through the fur's leather.