How The Coat Check Salvages Old Things To Make New

We primarily use beautiful, collectible vintage materials to make our soft furnishings. This can be a labour intensive process. Below is one example of the rework process - how a fur coat becomes a fur pillow. (Back to about coat check)

Dismantling vintage coats

Fur coats are painstakingly made, so it sometimes feels like a shame to deconstruct them. Many coats are so intricately sewn they're easily on a par with French or Italian couture craftsmanship - a collar alone can be made of hundreds of tiny strips joined together - so it's sad to cut them apart. In addition, many have been custom-made and custom-fitted for a particular man or woman and often they're personalized with labels and monograms. In the pockets we've found monogrammed handkerchiefs, love letters, foreign currency, valium, locks of hair. Dismantling a coat can be poignant but by the time we get it its life is already at an end, usually because of a rip under an arm or a split elbow. These problems can be much too difficult or expensive to fix. Sometimes the problem is the style: very shortened sleeves from the midcentury; giant padded shoulders in the 1980s; or an unflattering, sack-like shape, in the case of a lot of midcentury women's coats.

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A fur coat, a pair of scissors.


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Careful removal of lining.


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Fur coat inside out, without lining.


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Removal of sleeves and then assessment of how much material we've got left to work with.


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Mend all holes, mainly where hooks, eyes, buttons have been attached.



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Coats are cut using a template.


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Sew segments together, usually both front sections of a coat, including original pockets.


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Match front and back, add non-toxic hide glue for attaching muslin reinforcement.


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Reinforced front and back of pillows, ready to be sewn together.


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One of many final stages of finessing and finishing, pulling hairs through stitch lines.


Vintage fur coat buttons.


The back side of a very old wolf pelt coat. Markings are in old Chinese script and mainly indicate correct orientation of pelt sections. With fur coats, what may appear to be a single expanse of fur pelt is usually in fact an intricately, expertly joined collection of small pieces. Variations in nap, texture and coloured patterning are produced in this way.

Copyright © The Coat Check 2008