A few years ago I snapped some shots of a woman in a beautifully cut soft fur coat. I filed the look away and searched for some fake fur to make myself a new winter art coat. I just had a little art coat count and it seems this will be my 10th art coat since my first in 1978. The most expensive ones are maybe $120 tops and most are well under $100. Except for my first coat I bought myself at 14 (chocolate brown belted wool midi from Le Chateau), I can't remember any others that I didn't make myself.

At Vancouver’s beloved Dressew, I found fun soft fake shearling with a reverse side that had a sort of slick snakeskin look. As the coat would be unlined the reverse side is very important as it will show too.

I cut it out in early 2010 and unfortunately stitched it up by machine instead of just hand basting the seams. All the seams are butted and stitched with 2 lines of straight stitch creating pliable flat seams with almost zero bulk. UNFORTUNATELY it just came out too loose fitting and I had to go back and unpick those side and back seams and start again! Damn it! I guess I was just too eager but I SHOULD have known better.

I’ve made this Christine Jonson coat up before but every fabric has a different hand and bulk and each one is a complete original anyway so should have just hand basted those seams and then I could have pulled out the offending threads in about 5 minutes (instead of hours!!) and recut it.

Anyway, family/business/life got busy and I ran out of sewing time in early 2010. The whole project was bagged and stashed until last week when I pulled it out to finish at last on my first real garment sewing time since 2010. This time I did lots of big hand basting, so fast and easy to just pull out later and way easier to manage on a large heavy project that 3000 pins.

pink poodle

The finished coat at last in my art garden with my Laughter Poles.

I always make as many securely zipped pockets as a coat can handle so that the coat itself could actually carry any and everything I might want to carry in case I travel light and don’t carry a shoulder bag at all. There’s a tiny zipped one on the left sleeve head, one wide one in the lower center back (fits passport and a few other flat things), 2 small interior ones inside near the front as well as 2 main outside hand pockets with secure invisible zip closures.

Magenta rickrack on the sleeves and the pocket edge.

Small pockets inside behind front exterior pockets.

I love these Koos Van Akker buttonholes on my art coats. They work well and add interest to the front (like it needed it…) I always make a sample first to figure out how they work and what it will look like before attacking the finished garment.

Sewing fake fur, or indeed real fur, creates LOTS of tiny debris and fluff even though I careful carried the coat outside to shake and brush with a big soft brush as often as possible to get rid of stray fibres. I made the little pink dangling tails from a small chunk of fake fur and they turned out fairly well. The whole aim is to create an object of functional beauty but definitely with an element of irreverence and humor to it.

Of course none of my art coats would be complete without my own brand of Circus Pavelka some where on it as well as a few scattered reflective dots here and there to add to the attitude of Russian circus artist which runs through the more flamboyant projects in my wardrobe. I added a Jack Velvet label from my brother’s company too as an extra element.

I signed and dated the inside with fluid acrylic paints. I’m calling this one “Fake Fendi Real Pavelka”. Pavelka is Russian for Paula and was my art name for many years. I hope the anti-fur campaign will be able to see that 1000 tiny green and pink Dynelles died for this coat and not 100 small minks or squirrels!

No coat should be without a good hanging tape in the back of the neck. Please never hang your coats on the hook itself or eventually it will cause a big poke or even a hole!

One of my first jobs was carrying bundles of furs around to fur buyers for The Hudson Bay Company in Montreal. It was just a one day job but thousands of pelts changed hands back in the 1970’s with us minions holding them up for potential buyers.

When I made hand made buttons in the early 1990’s, I visited some very interesting furriers in Montreal and saw how they seam up all those tiny slivers and pelts. The air was full with small flying hairs and fibres and the smell of formaldehyde was strong.

My parents and grandmother were designers so my interest in original garments comes from a long lineage. I live in a small town and sometimes treat myself to a mental health day of high fashion in the big city. This includes fondling the fine fabrics and seeing the incredible original trims and finishing details that the high fashion houses use. High fashion is a real art form in itself let alone the wonderful way things are displayed. I always check out the furs too as they are quite an art form too in the hands of masters.

I have no desire to buy a real fur, have a couple of vintage ones from the distant past in my closet but I would feel awkward wearing them here in BC. When I lived in Montreal and had to wait sometimes one hour in the bitter -40 degree cold I was extremely happy to be bundled up in my long vintage beaver coat that I bought for $84 in 1975 standing next to a silly woman freezing in a leather mini-coat!!

Now I’m ready for winter in my new Fake Fendi Real Pavelka! Say hello if you see me! After a little sewing binge and 4 new garments, I’ve carefully vacuumed and wiped up the studio and am ready to transform it back to a painting studio as it can’t be a sewing workshop and a painting studio at the same time.

Next week I’m getting the paint brushes out!
All the best of the holiday season to you!
xxx Paula


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