Tips for Sewing with Faux Fur

While the other boys are dressing up for Halloween as scary monsters and superheroes, what does my 8 year old want to be?

A squirrel.

A big ‘ol fuzzy squirrel because, in his words, they’re cute.

I love that he wanted to be something unique but that meant figuring out how to sew with faux fur – because a squirrel costume has to be fuzzy!

There are a couple of terms that you’re going to need to know before we get started.

Pile is the length of the fur. The larger the number, the longer the fur.

Nap is the direction the fur runs. To figure out which direction your fur’s nap is, run your hand along it in one direction. If the hair lays down flat and smooth, you’ve found it!

I was pretty intimidated about working with faux fur, especially since I rarely use patterns, so I was trying to figure out how to read a pattern at the same time as working with a material that is slightly more complicated than my normal quilting cotton. But fear not because I have compiled a comprehensive list of tips to make faux fur a little less frightening!

It’s going to be messy.

It’s easier if you mentally prepare yourself for this fact, but there are a few things you can do to minimize the mess.

  • Wear clothes that you don’t care about getting covered in hair because you will look like you’ve been cuddling a long-haired cat during shedding season.
  • Keep a trash can close by so that you can toss most of your scraps immediately.
  • Your vacuum cleaner and lint roller are going to become your best friends. I vacuumed both myself and my room frequently so I wasn’t spreading fur to the rest of the house.
  • To remove loose fur, either shake pieces off outside or throw them into a dryer on the no heat setting for a few minutes.
  • Clean your sewing machine after you finish. Faux fur creates a lot of lint that builds up inside.

Trace and cut carefully.

  • Make sure the nap is running in the correct direction for all your pieces. It may help to draw arrows on the back of your fabric so you don’t mix things up. It’s worth it to spend some time double checking you’ve got it right so you don’t end up having to re-cut any pieces.
  • Trace the pattern on the back of the fabric with a marker. The key is to make sure the pattern doesn’t become distorted. Some people suggested weighing the pattern down, but mine was so thick that I found pinning straight up and down worked better. Trace carefully.
Pattern pinned into faux fur.

Pin and trace the faux fur.

  • Don’t cut out notches on patterns. Trace them on the inside instead to reduce bulk in your seams.
  • The best way to reduce the mess is to cut correctly. I can not stress this enough. With the fabric laying face down, use scissors or a sharp blade (like a razor blade) to carefully cut only the knit backing. Take small snips with just the tip of the scissors. The lady at the fabric store just cut through the whole thing and I internally cringed a little watching her fold it up and clumps of fur just flew around, chunks getting folded in between the fabric for me to take home. There were handfuls of this loose fur! I was shocked at how little fur you lose when you cut it the right way.

Wrong

Right

  • Only ever cut one layer at a time. If you have a pattern that requires you to “cut 2” of anything, make sure you flip the pattern so you have mirrored pieces.
  • After cutting, run your hand down the cut to pull off loose fur or vacuum the edge. A pet hair attachment is perfect if you have one. You just want to make sure you don’t have too much suction or the vacuum is going to suck up your piece. Keep a firm grip!

Keep fur out of seams.

  • Brush fur away from the seam before sewing to prevent hair from getting caught in the seam as much as possible.

Combing faux fur away from the seam.

  • Pin sideways using lots of long pins, starting from the ends and working toward the middle because the fur tends to shift easily.

Pinning faux fur costume seam.

  • You can use clips or baste instead of pins.
  • Use a longer stitch length (around 3.0) and sew in the direction of the nap.
  • Thread color is unimportant because you won’t see the seam.
  • Use a walking foot especially for thicker fur, but you can use a universal foot if you don’t have one.
  • If you’re sewing fur to a different, lighter fabric, sew with the fur on the top for the least amount of shifting.
  • Use a needle or a comb to pull out any hair caught in the seam.
  • If you feel the seam is too bulky you can cut or shave down the hair inside the seam allowance.

Follow these tips and you will have amazingly hidden seams!

Hidden seam on faux fur costume.

Can you see the seam down the center of the hood?

Shave for shorter hair.

I needed short hair for the body and longer hair for the tail, but I couldn’t find two different lengths of faux fur with similar enough color, so I gave the little fur suit a haircut!

  • Use a sharp electric hair trimmer – the kind that come with guide combs – and make sure you give it a good cleaning afterwards. Faux fur is going to dull your blades faster than regular hair.
  • Always test on a scrap piece first.
  • Decide whether you should shave before or after sewing. I’d recommend that if you’re going for an all-over short hair like I did on the body, shave it before sewing. I didn’t, and it actually made the seams a little bit more noticeable because the undercoat of my fur was slightly darker than the overcoat. Plus it would have been much easier shaving a flat piece. If you’re going for more of a sculpted look on something like the muzzle of a bear, it’s probably better to do it after it is sewn.

Plan for extra time.

Give yourself more time than you think you’re going to need to finish. I thought I had given myself more than enough time but as Halloween got closer I started worrying that I wouldn’t finish in time. The extra care and attention you have to take in pretty much every step really starts to add up. I’d estimate it took me probably three times longer than I thought it would.

It may be more work to sew with faux fur, but the end result was totally worth it! Everybody loved his costume. Just be prepared that everyone is going to want to pet you!

My son running in his squirrel costume around a tree.

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Melanie Baron

Hi there. I just came across this blog on faux fur. My 8 year old also wants to be a squirrel this year. Do you mind sharing which pattern you used for this costume? Thanks!