Lessons Learned While Not Paying Attention

I got a call today from my friend Elisheva. She had an odd sewing job for me to do. She wasn’t sure if it was quite in my wheelhouse, but thought it was worth asking.

Elisheva had inherited a mink collar/stole and hat and they both needed to be re lined, would I be willing to do the job?


I wasn’t sure if this was something I could do until I took a look.  Elisheva came by with the hat and the stole. I decided to tackle the stole first.  It was really nice mink. My grandfather was a furrier and my mother is a big fur critic. That is, when we would walk down the street together, she would critique  the fur coats.

“ Ugh, she’s wearing a mink, but it’s so cheap. Look how stiff it is!”

“ Rabbit fur!That’s junk!”

“Oooh! That’s a nice fur.”

“Her tush is too fat for that fur, she needs to either get a new one or just wear a different coat.”

I didn’t think that I was actually paying attention to all of my mother’s critiques, but her lessons on the finer points of fur  have actually sunk in.


The lining of the fur collar had disappeared . What was left was a layer of cotton batting that had gotten fairly grotty. Elisheva and I realized that the batting added a feeling of luxury to the collar. SAM_1378

I decided that I would replace the cotton with an old wool sweater.

Again lessons that I hadn’t really paid attention to paid off.  Every  old sewing book I own has a chapter on how to make tailored clothing. I have skipped reading that chapter in every one of those books. I do look at the pictures though. 

Men’s suits  are designed with the same intent as those molded foam chests on super hero Halloween costumes. suits are designed to create the illusion of a perfectly formed male body. Like the super hero suits, that illusion is created with layers of padding. Good men’s suits  are not made with layers of foam inside like superhero suits.


Rather they are made with thin layers of wool batting that creates that idealized shape. Each of my swing books shows how you pad stitch the layers together so the sunken chested man can look manly.  I did the same with my old lambs wool short sleeved jeweled neck sweater. I built up layers  of sweater to create the feeling of luxury inside the collar.SAM_1380

Next I had to sew in a lining. At first I had thought I would use some wonderful  heavy striped tie silks that I have in my stash.  The shape of the collar made it hard to work with the bold stripes. The lining would have looked distorted.


I ended up using this fun chartreuse and  pink ribbed dotted silk. The pattern was a bit more forgiving. Yes, I did all of the stitching by hand. I also added a fur hook and eye to the front.

Here is the finished  stole lining side out.


And now here it is fur side out.



I never would have thought that such a fur collar might be something that might be a wardrobe staple. But I could see this making a plain coat or dress into something special. This collar could make a plain black dress in to an evening dress. SAM_1382

I think I may have read too much fashion advice from my 1940’s sewing books. soon I will be describing garments as being “cunning”.


I still have the hat to tackle. The hat offers a whole new set of problems to solve. I like using the problem solving side of my head.


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