|Made from Toscana Shearling|
There aren't many patterns around or much information on how to sew these things. In the end, I used a burda jacket pattern, 10-2010-126. I didn't have enough shearling to make the sleeves, and it hadn't been my original intention anyway.
Besides leaving the sleeves off, I chose to leave the bottom natural and uneven. It looks a little more rustic, and a little more lux at the same time. I say a little more lux, because this is a design feature that you only see on more expensive, real shearling garments. It can't really be done with fake shearling. Finally, the pattern called for three snaps in order to fit the jacket snugly around the body. I just hinged the jacket under the lapel with one furrier's hook.
I'll just make a few "technical" comments now about the construction. The cutting is more of a pain than the sewing. When cutting out any hide you should stick to the "grain" which runs up and down the skin. It's ok to turn pattern pieces upside down, but try to avoid arranging them sideways. The best quality is in the centre. If you try to be too frugal, and cut to close to the edges, the hide starts to get thinner and stretched a bit, so your garment won't hang properly and will seem pulled out of shape. The best way I found to cut the pieces out without cutting into the fur is to use scissors and take teeny tiny little snips. A rotary cutter is terrible.
Sewing wasn't really so bad. I was very concerned about the long hairs getting caught up in the bobbin, but it was not a problem at all. I tried to make lapped seams on a practice scrap but it didn't go well. I couldn't be tidy enough. So, in the end, I just cut quarter inch seams and used my quilter's quarter inch foot. This helped me to be precise in a situation with no room for error and a lot of fluffy fur blocking my view. The skins were so soft that I just used a normal needle, and polyester thread. Apparently the tannings in animal hides will cause cotton to rot, so always use poly.
At this point things were going so well, that I thought I might be able to wear this vest either way; fur side out or in. I had cut the skins carefully and was concentrating hard on keeping all that fur out of the seam allowances, so that it would look good if worn fur side. Then disaster! My ring finger got caught in the needle! I managed to get a bandaid on it tightly before going into shock (yes, I am a ninny.) I had to lie down and wait for the nausea to pass and then call another mom and ask her to pick my children up from school for me. I had pulled myself together by the time the kids arrived and my family doctor was able to see me that evening. (Apparently hands heal quickly and I should keep it clean.) Yea NHS! (Speaking as someone who grew up with private healthcare and then had private healthcare through work as a young adult, I prefer the NHS. It's not perfect, but then neither are HMOs.)
As you can imagine, my attitude about the quality of the seams shifted greatly after my little industrial accident. I cut all the fur away from the remaining seams and finished it up. It's not reversible, but I still have ten fingers, lol!