How to Make a Sheepskin Coat

You can sew a luxuriously warm, artful sheepskin coat of your very own. All you need is a little patience, a little skill, a modest amount of money, and a few tools.

| November/December 1973

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    Diagram of a furrier's machine stitching a skin together.
    ILLUSTRATION: MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
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    The author at work sewing segments together with his furrirer machine.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
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    The author on a winter day posing in a finished sheepskin coat with his child.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
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    Other assorted hand tools that are useful when working with sheepskin.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
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    The furrier machine a Maryland sewing dealer gave the author.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF

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Sheepskins, interestingly enough, still come from sheep. Most of them, once they take leave of their original inhabitant, get dyed ugly colors—after first being bleached white—and then end up as doormats, teddy bear skins, or bed rugs. A few go to head shops or exotic import places as novelties, where they can be purchased for the average price of $25.00. And a select handful actually become sheepskin coats which can be admired from a distance, but which are really just too expensive for the average person to buy.

Expensive or not, however, a sheepskin coat will probably sound like a pretty good idea to you when the snow begins to fly and the temperature drops and drops and drops. Well, before winter completely takes hold, you can—with a little patience, a few tools, not a great deal of money, and even less skill—make a sheepskin coat that will be both luxuriously warm and your very own work of art.

First The Sheepskin . . .

You can find sheepskins for sale in most large cities, usually as part of a leather jobber's stock. If you live in the West, Southwest, or parts of Canada, you may be close to a tannery . . . which is the ultimate source, outside of the sheep themselves. The skins can be mailed or shipped by UPS, so you don't necessarily have to make your purchases in person.

The hides come either bleached white, dyed—any variety of colors—or natural. The naturals, which are neither bleached nor dyed, are most exciting to me because of their varied shades and patterns. You can't expect a perfect match in naturals, but you do get beautiful skins that will allow you to produce highly individualistic creations.



You also have a choice of wool length. Fleece that's 1/4 to 1/2 inch long is called shearling and is the shortest length available. This is what you want if you're going to make coats with the wool on the inside. Next is a length of 5/8 inch, followed by 1 inch and sometimes 1 1/2 to 2 inches. These longer fleeces make impressive coats when you put the wool on the outside.

Sheepskins are sold by the foot or by the skin. The individual hides, on an average, are 7 to 8 feet long... with 6 feet being considered a small skin and 10 feet a large one. I presently pay $6.00 for shearlings and $10.00 to $12.00 for skins with longer fleece. (The cost of sheepskins, like everything else, has probably skyrocketed since this article was written. - MOTHER EARTH NEWS.) I also buy - from Chicago Tanning - shearlings that have their leather sides dyed a light brown. These cost $1.00 per foot. The advantage here is that you can make a coat from these without worrying about dying the hides yourself.

Johan Louw
7/5/2012 5:39:23 AM

This is a GREAT article. Where can i get a pattern for a sheepskin coat







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