Rabbit Fur Hat Tutorial
We have three Silver Fox rabbits (two does and a buck) that we bred twice this past year, producing a total of 32 kits. We butchered all but one of the kits (one was a gift to our neighbor), froze the meat, and tanned to pelts.
I tanned the pelts using the instructions found in this Mother Earth News article. I tanned five pelts after the first butchering this September as a test batch, then froze the rest of the pelts. I tanned the rest of the pelts this January using a solution of kosher salt and aluminum alum (purchased from Van Dykes Taxidermy).
The key to getting the pelts really soft was to work with them about twice a day for a good week. This included stretching, brushing, and crunching them. Zsaka destroyed one pelt and I used one to try to do some rabbit fur knitting (with no success). Of the rest, I picked out the best six to make hats and outwear, the next best sixteen were chosen to make a rabbit fur quilt (my next big project), and the rest were used as testers for trying out different patterns and techniques. I blocked each set by dampening the pelts and tacking them in a stretched out shape onto some plywood.
I made the first hat out of the “test” pelts. I used three pelts, cutting two same-ish sized rectangles from two of the pelts, making them as large as possible. From the third, I cut out a circle for the top of the hat. I stitched it up and learned a few things in the process. What I was aiming for was a tight fitting hat with a double-sided fur band and a single-sided fur circular top.
Take two measurements; one of the head circumference and one of the distance from the top of the head to the bottom of the ears. For Mike these turned out to be 23″ and 9″ respectively. I cut out two templates; one rectangle to make the two sides of the hat, adding in a 1/4 ” seam allowance on all sides (the piece ended up being 10″ x 12″); and one circle with a diameter of 7.75″ which included a 1/4″ seam allowance.
I cut out the pieces from the pelts using an exacto knife and cutting on the leather side. I cut VERY carefully to avoid cutting any of the fur. It was easy to find a pelt to cut the circle from, but the rectangles required some careful placement, and even then they were not perfect.
One of the problems when working with fur is that there is no elasticity like with wool or even fleece. After I made the test hat, Mike and I decided it would be better to work in some elastic into one of the seams so that the hat had a little bit of give. I cut out eight 1.5″ pieces of elastic. I laid my two fur rectangles fur-side down, so that the fur was all going in the same direction (meaning putting them “head-to-tail”). I stitched the elastic as close to the edge of the piece on the right as possible. Then I measured where the other end of the elastic should be to make the two joined rectangles the correct length (plus seam allowance). I stitched down the other side of the elastic to the second rectangle.
The problem was that although you couldn’t see the overlap from the outside because of the fur, stitching it in this way left a flap. So, I stitched the elastic to the far edge of the left rectangle so that all of the “pull” would occur on that side of the fur, with the other side acting as an anchor. The hat had the give we were looking for and looked great from the outside.
The next step was to section the circle so that it was in four triangular pieces that were held together by just a tiny bit of leather at the bottom. The goal was to stitch the top of the hat into the seam of the band of the hat. The end result is that the fur is double-sided around the band with one layer of fur on the top. I pinned the sectioned circle along the top of what would be the outside of the hat, fur-sides together.
I then folded up the bottom side of the rectangle to meet the top, making it fur-side to leather-side with the section circle. If you were to take a cross-section of the tube, it would have been (from left to right) leather-side of the outside of the band, fur-side of the band, fur-side of the top, leather-side of the top, fur-side of the inside of the band, leather side of the inside of the band.
I hand stitched along the length of the tube using a blanket stitch, a quilting needle, and extra-strong quilting thread. I used a 1/4″ seam allowance and worked slowly to make sure that each stitch made it through all three layers. When I was finished, I turned the tub right side out. It looked like a band of double-sided fur with four fur triangles pointing out the top.
Two steps were left; closing the tube, making it a band, and then stitching together the seams of the triangle to close the top of the hat. Working carefully, I used a blanket stitch to close the outside band of the hat stitching fur sides together, therefore making the seam invisible under the fur. On the inside of the band, I used a blanket stitch as well, again trying to stitch fur sides together. I was trying to make the stitching invisible and yet make the seam strong. It is hard to describe in words, but basically I worked slowly and carefully to accomplish those two goals.
With the band closed, I turned the hat inside out. Starting at the center (or tips of each triangle) and working toward the band, I stitched the four seams together again using a blanket stitch to close the top of the hat.
That was it! Of course, now the weather has been “warm” in the 30s-40s and Mike says the hat is almost too warm when he goes out to take care of the animals. However, it will be perfect for any more cold days this winter, and can be used for years to come! I plan to make a few more hats and also maybe some fingerless mittens, with the fur on the inside and wool felt on the outside.
I hope these basic instructions help, here is a very simple summary:
- Take head measurements and make templates.
- Cut out two rectangles for the band and a circle for the top, being careful not to cut the fur.
- Stitch together two short sides of the rectangles with some elastic for give.
- Cut the top into wedges and pin it inside the band.
- Stitch the band closed using a blanket stitch.
- Turn right-side out and stitch the band closed working carefully to hide stitches while making a strong seam.
- Turn inside out and working from the center to the band, close the four seams of the triangle using a blanket stitch.
- Turn right-side out and enjoy!