I nearly got rid of this ropey old coat about 300 hundred times, but something kept stopping me. Turns out that 'something' was the need to make it into a child's fancy dress costume....
The owner of Sewabaloo contacted me last autumn to see if I was interested in trying out a pattern for free. Yes, I was interested. They currently have this animal costume pattern and a dress/top pattern available. I went for the animal one as I don't have anything like this in my stash at present and thought it'd be fun to be pushed outside of my sewing comfort zone a bit.
This PDF pattern comes in three sizes (S, M and L) which is meant to span from 2 years old to 10. The cover illustration (pictured above) is adorbs and the instructions and step-by-step diagrams are clear. Thankfully, there's some useful tips included about how to cut and sew with faux fur if, like me, you haven't tackled it before. There were, however, a couple of things missing IMO. On the front pattern piece there is no CF indication so it was unclear how much the front pieces should overlap. It was also difficult to tell where the front edge of the hood should meet with the neck edge of the front pieces. Not massive issues by any means, especially for a fancy dress garment, but I personally would have preferred that they be included.
In the list of notions needed, 'sew-on hook and loop fastener tape' (or optional velcro) is mentioned. However, there was no mention in the instructions of how any fastenings should be applied, nor any indication on the pattern pieces as to where. I brought this point up and the instructions have since been edited to include information about applying velcro. I used large sew-on press studs in the end because I had some in my stash.
I choose to make the cat version because of the leopard fabric (coat) I had to work with, and I made the tops of the ears a little less pointy. I ended up omitting the contrast tummy panels, inner ear panels and tail tip because the only solid coloured faux fur I could find in my town looked terrible with the leopard print's shades.
In general, the construction of this pattern was simple, especially if you choose to make it in fleece or felt I'd imagine. Man, it's hard to sew several layers of faux fur! The ears and tail are applied by sandwiching them in-between a seam, but two broken machine needles later, I realised I had no choice but to hand stitch everything together at these points. Having done that, I then took a look at the hood. The ears were RIDICULOUSLY big. In this pattern, the ears and tail pattern pieces are not graded for the different sizes, so you make the same ones for a two year old or a ten year old. I was cutting it fine making this close to Christmas, so I was super reluctant to get out my seam ripper. But honestly the ears made it look more like a hyena rather than any type of cat, so I was forced to rip out the ears. I trimmed them down considerably, and re-stitched the ears and hood seams together whilst swearing a bit.
I bought this vintage faux fur leopard print coat (pictured below) for £25 via eBay three winter's ago. It had looked pretty good in the photos, but when it arrived I found that is was in wayyyy worse condition than the listing would have you (me) believe. But I had just given birth and was trying to cope with life with a tiny new baby and didn't have the headspace for making any kind of complaint. I wore it that winter because I didn't have anything else nor the spare funds to get another coat. Then at the beginning of last winter, I scored the faux fur jacket from a charity shop at the bottom of this post, and the ropey leopard one went to live in the cupboard under the stairs.
When I got this pattern, I was excited to finally extract and repurpose this coat. It took a couple of episodes of Narcos to unpick all the seams to get to all the usable fabric. It was fun to discover that a lot of the coat had been stitched by hand, and with no labels at all, I can only assume that it had been home made back in the 70s or something. The costume's pattern pieces just fitted on to the harvested faux fur.
Aside from learning that sewing through several layers of the stuff is extremely tricky, I also learnt that cutting and working with it covers you in fluff that sticks to your clothes and gets up your nose. I was relieved to finally stitch up the inside side seams which meant the raw edges were finally enclosed. I will not be sewing with faux fur again any time soon.
I can't lie, the outcome is cute. But the journey to cute wasn't as fun as I had hoped: partly because of my pre-Christmas time pressures, partly because of the difficulties of working with faux fur, and partly because of the pattern flaws. It's come out super big, so I think Dolores will be using this for several years to come if she wishes.
Pattern: £0 in exchange for a review (it can be bought here for £8)
Outer fabric: £0 (I'm counting this as zero because I already got a season's worth of use from the coat)
Lining: £3.75-ish for a metre of brown poly-cotton
Notions: thread and press studs from my stash