DIY Fur Mittens
Sometimes I find myself out hunting in the frigid cold; so cold that my extremities will lose all dexterity. If I’m not able to get up and move around to get the blood flowing again, I’ll find myself cutting the hunt short and going back to the truck. This happens quite often to hunters, especially those in search of whitetail on public land with a stand that they packed in on their back.
Having no feeling in your fingers sucks, but it’s also pretty unsafe. Trying to inch your way down on a climbing stand or manipulate your bow or rifle becomes terribly difficult and the chances of you doing something you shouldn’t increase drastically. There are a handful of companies that have gloves/mittens to keep your digits from succumbing to frostbite, but they’re expensive. Most seem to be in the realm of $200, which is just too ridiculous for me to stomach.
One of my priorities in life is to be self sufficient in most practical and useful skills -so of course I own a sewing machine. It was an investment that has probably saved me the most money, especially when it comes to higher end gear that I can make. They won’t always come out as pretty or clean as that high end company, but I’ll always have the satisfaction of doing it myself.
My research for keeping warm led me to the Inuit people of the western arctic, who, as their name suggests, spend much of their time in the arctic. They of course use a lot of natural furs in their pursuit to keep warm, and I observed many of them with fur mittens. I decided that they would definitely keep me warm, but my problem was with what fur to actually use. Beaver, muskrat, and raccoon were at the top of the list until I started researching fur from the brushtail possum.
The common brushtail possum (not to be confused with the Virginia Opossum) is a nocturnal, semi-arboreal marsupial indigenous to Australia. It was introduced to New Zealand in 1837, and now can be found in 99% of the country. It does not have any natural predators and is classified as an invasive species with no closed season. What’s so appealing to the possum is that its fur happens to be some of the warmest fur in the world; just short of polar bears and arctic foxes. This is because of their thick, very fine hollow fibers that which provides excellent warmth retention against the cold.
So where the hell do you get possum fur? The prices that some furriers were charging for a single pelt were upwards of $50, so I almost ruled it out. Luckily, I made a phone call to a guy in PA that dealt with all sorts of trapline equipment and furs. He just so happened to have a ton of them, at a very reasonable price of $12. I immediately purchased five for my project.
Possum skin is very similar to rabbit in that it’s fairly thin, which makes it a bit more difficult to work with, so you’ll want to use a light hand.
I wanted to make these mittens with the intent to slide over my Kryptek Cadog Glomitts whenever I needed the added warmth, so they needed to be extra large in size.
Equipment/ Materials needed
4 large possum furs
3-4oz soft leather (buckskin works perfect)
Sewing Machine with leather needle or hand stitching awl
Heavy duty Nylon thread
Multi surface Contact Cement
8” of Paracord (for lanyards)
Start by making a pattern that you can print off in .pdf form here. I started to make my own pattern, but found this one on the internet, and it required absolutely no guesswork on my end. All credits go to FleeceFun for this.
If the leather side of the pelt is wrinkled, spritz some water on it and stretch it out.
Use your felt tipped marker to draw the patterns out, ensuring you reverse both pieces with thumbs for your left and right hands.
When cutting fur, use a razor blade to score on the line, carefully cutting through the leather. Do not use too much pressure, or you’ll cut the fur, which won’t make it look as clean.
Once you have all the pieces laid out, it’s time to start sewing them together. If you have a sewing machine, you’ll want to make sure it can handle the thickness of the leather. Many machines carried at big box stores are only suitable for sewing thin material. I use a middle of the road Juki that’s industrial enough to handle 8oz leather. They do have specialized machines for sewing furs, but these run a few thousand bucks for even the old ones.
When setting up your machine, you’ll want to use a zigzag with a moderately tight pattern. Practice on a few scrap pieces you have so you can knock out the kinks before you start on the mittens. I do two passes to make sure everything will stay together using 3/8” seam allowances.
Start with the thumb and bottom fur pieces and reverse them so the fur is on the inside. I use the office clips for holding everything together, but paperclips will work too. Make sure you tuck all the fur to the inside as you start to sew. I’ll sew a few inches at a time, stopping to tuck the fur in with a butter knife. You’ll sew from the base of the thumb, around it, and along the lines of the hand. Don’t forget your lock stitches on the ends!
Now it’s time to bring in the big piece. Clamp it together in reverse just like you did the first one. Start your lock stitch about 1.5” from the end (you’ll roll this in later), go around the perimeter and stop with your lock stitch 1.5” from the end.
The only sewing you have left is to add the paracord lanyard loops. I just stitched them to where my lock stitches were with the same zigzag pattern.
To make the mittens look cleaner, I rolled the ends of the 1.5” you left unstitched and mated them with contact cement. I use Weldwood or Barge contact cement for projects like this. Apply the cement and wait 15 minutes for it to become tacky, then press down for an instant bond.
That’s it! If you have any questions, or are having trouble, feel free to contact me and I’ll help you out as much as I can!
Good luck and happy hunting.