Introduction: Make a Rabbit Fur Hat From Scratch

When it comes to staying warm, there's nothing quite like home-raised rabbit fur. If you tan it correctly, it comes out soft, pliable and extremely beautiful. We've made bags, kindle covers, cushions, blankets, and slippers. But, for the sake of this article, we'll describe not only how to tan the fur, but also how to make a fur hat, as the head is where most of the body's warmth is lost.

Raising rabbits is a valuable addition to almost any household. They are quiet, easy to breed and manage, and do not require much space or input. We raise them mainly for the lean, delicious meat, but they also provide a valuable manure and, of course, fur.

For more information on housing, breeding and feeding rabbits, click here.

To complete this project, you'll need the following:
  • Several freshly skinned rabbit furs
  • Knife
  • 1 cup battery acid
  • 2lbs salt (without iodine)
  • 2 gallons of hot water
  • Neat's Foot Oil
  • Scissors, marker, measuring tape
  • Needle and thread and/or sewing machine

Step 1: Tanning Solution

Once you have removed the fur from the carcass, rinse it well. If you're not ready to tan it yet, you can roll it up and freeze it, but make sure it is fully defrosted before you proceed.

It is best to make this solution the night before you plan to butcher rabbits. You have to heat the water to dissolve the salt, but you don't want to put the furs into hot water. Heat will cause the fur to "slip", which is when patches of fur come loose.
  1. Put 2 lbs of salt (without iodine) in a five gallon bucket.
  2. Heat two gallons of water and pour them into the bucket.
  3. Stir the liquid until the salt is fully dissolved. Use a wooden or plastic stick or spoon. Do not use metal.
  4. Once the solution has cooled, add one cup of battery acid. Be careful not to splash acid on your skin or in your eyes.
  5. Wearing rubber gloves, dunk each pelt into the solution, swilling it around.
  6. Once all the pelts are wet, stack them together and place a rock or brick on them to keep them submerged.
  7. Keep the bucket in a cool, shady place.
This solution is good for about 6 junior pelts or less. If you plan to tan more pelts in one batch, or furs from an older rabbit, increase the amount of acid and salt.

Step 2: Fleshing the Hides

  1. After the pelts have been in the acid solution for seven to ten days, remove them and wash with a gentle detergent. Rinse well.
  2. Do not discard the acid solution, as you will be needing it in a bit.
  3. Lay a pelt on a flat surface.
  4. With a sharp knife, cut off any ragged edges.
  5. Starting at the tail end, pull the fleshy membrane away from the leather. The membrane should come off in almost one whole piece, though the edges sometimes need some extra work. Junior hides are easier to flesh, though they can tear more easily, so be careful.
  6. Once the pelts are fleshed, put them back in the acid solution, under the rock or brick, for another week. At this stage, you can leave them in for longer if you're not ready to proceed.

Step 3: Breaking the Hides

  1. Once you are ready to "break" the hides (at least one week after fleshing), wash them in a gentle detergent. Rinse well.
  2. Hang them to dry in a cool, shady place. You want them to dry slowly.
  3. As they start to dry, you will see white patches start appearing on the leather. This is when you need to start to work them.
  4. Pull the leather side of each pelt back and forth over the back of a chair, in all directions. You can also pull and stretch parts that need extra work with your fingers. You will need to do this several times over the course of a day.
  5. The leather should turn increasingly white and soft as it dries out completely.
  6. If any parts become stiff, you can spray water on them and continue to work them.
  7. Don't worry if a hide turns out a little stiff or if patches slip (when the fur becomes loose and can be pulled off). Just put it aside, and use any good parts of it in a quilt, or to make prototypes for future projects.
  8. Before you are ready to use a pelt, rub some Neat's Foot Oil into the leather and allow it to dry. This will help keep the hide softer for longer.

Step 4: Sizing and Cutting Your Fur Hat

The hat made here is for our four year old, whose head has a circumference of 21". Adjust any measurements to fit your own head. Also note that we allow for a seam, or hem, of 1/3" (0.75cm) - all measurements include this seam.

This hat has fur on the interior and exterior. We made the interior using brown fur and the exterior using black.

For the interior, or liner, mark and cut the following pieces.
  • A 7" diameter circle (which has a 22" circumference). This is the top.
  • Two rectangles, each 11 1/2" by 4" (the grain of the fur needs to run from top to bottom along the 4" side). These are the sides.
  • Two almost rectangles, as follows:
    • For the first, make a mark (A) in top left-hand corner (the grain of the fur needs to run from the top to the bottom). Go down 4" - this is B. Turn right 7 3/4" - this is C. Go back to A and go 5 3/4" right - this is D. Draw a curved line right from D down to C.
    • For the second, make a mark (A) in top right-hand corner (the grain of the fur needs to run from the top to the bottom). Go down 4" - this is B. Turn left 7 3/4" - this is C. Go back to A and go 5 3/4" left - this is D. Draw a curved line left from D down to C.
For the exterior, mark and cut the following pieces.
  • A 8" diameter circle (which has a 25" circumference). This is the top.
  • Three rectangles, each 9" by 4" (the grain of the fur needs to run from top to bottom along the 4" side). These are the sides.
  • Two almost rectangles, as follows:
    • For the first, make a mark (A) in top left-hand corner (the grain of the fur needs to run from the top to the bottom). Go down 4" - this is B. Turn right 9" - this is C. Go back to A and go 7" right - this is D. Draw a curved line right from D down to C.
    • For the second, make a mark (A) in top right-hand corner (the grain of the fur needs to run from the top to the bottom). Go down 4" - this is B. Turn left 9" - this is C. Go back to A and go 7" left - this is D. Draw a curved line left from D down to C.

Step 5: Sewing

You can sew by hand or with a machine, as rabbit fur is very soft. If using a machine, it's best to tack it together first, as the fur slides against itself. Use a denim or stretch needle, and make the stitch width as wide as possible (stitches too close together can cut the fur). Use a couple of scrap bits of fur as a test for what tension you need.
  1. Lay the sides against the top of the liner, fur to fur. Tack and sew around the circle, about 1/3" in from the edge.
  2. Tack and sew each side to the other side along the 4" edge. Do not go all the way to the edge, but rather leave 1/3" un-sewn.
  3. Repeat for the exterior top and sides. However, this part of the hat, you need to turn inside out, so that the fur is on the outside (the interior wants the fur to be on the inside).
  4. Place one exterior ear piece fur side up. Put the corresponding interior ear piece on top of it, fur side down. Tack and sew together from C along the curved part to D. Leave 1/3" un-sewn on either side of the line. Do the same for the other ear piece.
  5. Put the liner inside the exterior and decide which of the 9" side pieces of the exterior hat you want to be the front. Fold 1/3" of the front piece back on itself. Crease well, so that the fold holds itself. Do the same for the corresponding part of the liner. Sew these two creases together. This is probably best done by hand, as you can hide a hand sewn line well within the fur.
  6. Sew the top of the exterior earpiece (from C to B) to the exterior hat, from the side to the middle of the back. Do the same for the other earpiece. Also easier sewn by hand.
  7. Sew the top of the interior earpiece (from C to B) to the interior hat, from the side to the middle of the back. Do the same for the other earpiece. Also easier sewn by hand.
  8. Sew the two interior earpieces together from A to B.
  9. Match the exterior earpieces to the interior ones - there will some extra as the exterior ones are longer than the interior. Cut off this extra. Then sew the exterior earpieces together, joining them to the interior. 
  10. Your hat should now be closed and finished. Enjoy.

Comments

author
danwestall (author)2012-12-02

A great little article. But please people use eggs to tan hides its much quicker and you get a great hide in a day and without using battery acid!! Skin and flesh hide then make up an egg solution with warm water (use 2/3eggsor 1 brain) apply solution to the none hair side a good covering the leave for an hour or so. Apply some more solution then work by stretching the hide pulling and stretching until soft. If it starts to stiffen add a little solution. When soft you will need to smoke the hide in a smoker or over the outlet of wood burner with punky wood.
One hide done no nasty chemicals.

author
velacreations (author)danwestall2012-12-02

We will try that out, sounds like a very good option!

Do you dry the hide out first, or flesh it fresh? Is it the full egg or egg whites? How long does it take to do a hide in this way? We are usually doing about 6-8 hides a week.

author
danwestall (author)velacreations2012-12-03

I scrape the flesh off on a small fleshing beam using a dull blade once skinned ( fresh) you can do this after freezing. You can use the whole egg or just the yolk and save the whites to cook with. Once you have the technique down you could be doing 3-4 hides in a day.
You can let hides dry a small amount when egged and then stretch.
I do a lot of brain tanning here in the uk of all animals and find egg or brains to give a far better quality hide.
Also if you are having trouble with hair slip soak hide in a bucket of water with one cup of vineager this will hold the hair.
Good luck and let us know how it goes.

author
neffk (author)danwestall2015-06-18

Using egg yolk is similar to brain tanning. You're coating the protein fibers with fat so they slide past one another. When the individual parts slide smoothly, the hide feels soft. Problem with egg/brain tanning is that it's not very waterproof. Most traditional recipes include some hot smoking so you use a fire's heat to set the proteins in the skin and the smoke adds some color and antibacterial properties. Also the fats in the egg may go rancid and the protein that gets smeared on (part of the yolk is protein) may be sticky if it gets at all wet.

The recipe above uses acid and salt to cross-link and set the proteins in the hide instead of heat. And the neats-foot oil is like the fats of brain or egg yolk.

Using acid to tan a hide is fairly safe. Compared to chromium salts and other types of tanning solutions, which you can't dispose of easily, a salt-acid solution can be dealt with in most urban and rural situations. Acid can be diluted an poured down the drain. I wouldn't do that on a septic system.... You can also try drying it in a pan to re-concentrate it if you're losing ionic strength.

My suggestion is to pour the acid slowly and wear safety glasses. Also, litmus paper would make it feel less like a backwoods farm project and more like chemistry (it's a matter of style).

author
psalm1914 (author)velacreations2013-12-04

I know it's been a year, but I thought I'd respond anyway. :)

About the egg tanning, I've read that you can use a mixture of whole eggs and mayonnaise, or you can use egg yolks only. Supposedly, the white keeps the yolk from properly soaking into the hide.

author
gmatta (author)2012-12-02

Haha it's so funny to see how many people are getting mad about this. Is it not the same thing when you eat your bacon? The turkey you ate at thanksgiving is not the same? And all the leather used in luxury cars come from trees, right? Sorry. I personally thought it w a great instructable. Some people may not like it, but at the same time, no one is forcing you to look at this. Great job guys

author
dselestial (author)2012-12-02

I think this is an awesome instructable! The direction our world is taking makes the homesteading skills invaluable! I am hoping to join in the ranks of homesteading very soon. I want to raise rabbits and chickens for meat production and am glad to see this type of instruction to encourage full use of the animal! Quite frankly am very nervous about the whole 'killing' aspect of it. Whether or not I am up to the task remains to be seen, however, raising the animals as you do, in a happy, healthy, sustainable environment is so, so much better than what the mass meat factories produce! Good for you! You have my vote. I am also extremely impressed with your calm, rational responses to the hate comments you received. Good job all around!

author
Mr. Smith (author)2012-12-02

Sweet! Great instructable! Can't wait to try it out. Been wondering about the tanning process, but you've solved that issue for me! Thanks!

author
tipafo (author)2012-12-02

Thank you for this instructable. I'm thinking of raising a few rabbits, and didn't really know much about the tanning process, and I certainly would want to use every part of the rabbit if I'm going to raise them. Good work, and good luck.

author
jhampton1 (author)2012-12-02

Great Instructable! I would love to do this with some hares up here in AK, but I don't think I'll make it out to get any this winter. I'll see what hides are available. There are usually some small game and even wolf and coyote. Now I'll have to head out to use my neighbor's Consew.

author
leims (author)2012-12-02

good idea!!!

author
PhantomJACK (author)2012-12-02

Thank you, and Instructables for this post!

author

thank you for your support! Don't forget to vote for us!

author
alinashea (author)2012-12-02

I think this was very well done! I once tried to tan a deerskin and it is NOT an easy job. I finally had to give up, but it might be a lot easier with something smaller. Is there something that could be used to replace the battery acid? I think I was using lime (the mineral, not the fruit, for those who might wonder) to soak the deerskin in, but I can't remember for certain.

Also, to all those who are against using leather or killing animals for meat, I do hope you're all vegans or something, otherwise your statements would be very hypocritical. Also, it might be noted that using faux fur is not so great for the environment, especially since it's a plastic product and not natural in any way.

author
velacreations (author)alinashea2012-12-02

there are many ways to tan skins, we use the acid method because it is cheap and easy. But, lime, alum, brain oils, etc can be used. Do some research on the methods and recipes.

author
gatorlator (author)2012-12-02

Excellent article...

author
rickster454 (author)2012-12-02

Great instructable!, We need more real life articles on here.

author
norbizzle12 (author)2012-11-30

Finally a REAL fur tutorial thanks!

author

you're welcome! I'm glad you find it useful.

author
doodlecraft (author)2012-11-29

Wow, you weren't kidding "from scratch"! :) My little city girl mind is blown! I'm passing this on to my sis! :)

author
dakotaline (author)2017-02-07

Does a person need to stretch the hide again before sewing once it has been stretched and tanned?

author
paula_alexandra91 (author)2016-09-25

Nice fur hat

Take a look at http://vesa-furcoats.com/ for nice fur hats.

author
kmcgrath10 (author)2014-06-14

I am vegetarian and don't wear fur

author
Big Projects (author)kmcgrath102016-01-04

n1c

author
panny1996 (author)2012-11-30

don't you think it would be very cruel to kill the rabbit you raised just for its fur?

author
velacreations (author)panny19962012-11-30

We don't raise the rabbits "just for its fur". We raise them for their meat, but the fur and manure are excellent byproducts we don't like to waste.

Our rabbits are raised sustainably and butchered humanely. We strive to provide them an excellent life, as healthy and happy animals produce higher quality products.

author

What breed would be a best all around rabbit for meat and fur?

author
panny1996 (author)velacreations2012-12-01

hmmm i get that.

author
panny1996 (author)panny19962012-11-30

can't it be faux fur?

author
velacreations (author)panny19962012-11-30

sure, it could be, if that's what you have. We have rabbit furs, so that's what we use.

author

I do not have time to read all the comments. But I do have an opinion to share. I am a vegan and have been for 20 years. Yet, I see nothing wrong with real fur, leather, etc. as opposed to petro chemical products like vinyl, poly-fibers, acrylic, and so forth that actually contribute more to the death of all creatures than hunting and utilizing what one hunts does. I think it is much more respectful to the earth to kill what you need and use all of what you kill. With that said, I find it .... immature?... to farm animals for any reason. Rabbits abound in the wild - go hunt em. The meat would be healthier at any rate.
Also, I oppose your use of battery acid as a tanning product. The brain of the rabbit you just killed would work better, is safer, and you don't have to worry about residual fumes being breathed in by that cute kid wearing the hat.
Sorry, had to throw some logic into this discussion. And for those that say this is completely wrong to wear fur - please read "Relearn, Rewild" and get a new perspective.
Have a great day everyone!

author
husna fazeen (author)panny19962012-11-30

why waste when the real think is freely available?? you use it else throw it...i will always use it... :-)

author
rickster454 (author)panny19962012-12-02

oh boy, here we go,.......

author
enarans (author)2015-01-10

I brain tan. Works like eggs but uses rabbit brains.

author
craftclarity (author)2014-06-16

As someone who spent a childhood in Alaska in -20F temperatures in midwinter, I can say I'd have appreciated this. Kudos for keeping the 'old ways' alive and for doing so fearlessly!
Good on you for being so positive, too. Thanks for sharing this!

author
kmcgrath10 (author)2014-06-14

Are y'all trying to look like johnny Appleseed ? Yeehah!

author
velacreations (author)2012-12-02

we raise our animals sustainably and humanely for meat production. They have excellent lives here, far surpassing their wild counterparts. We encourage everyone to take an active role in their food production.

author

I have been raising rabbits for some time but are just fixing to get into meat-fur rabbits, can you explain what the salt in the solution is for? thanks

author
parisusa (author)2013-09-01

I have a pet bunny but I AM a meat eater...I respect your business you have described and am glad that you are responsible breeders! Faux products can be environmentally unfriendly in many ways. Civilizations survived a long time by using natural products!

author
saosport (author)2013-02-14

This is great thanks

author
jschafer6 (author)2012-12-16

Great tutorial!
If "city people" without access to raw furs would like to pick up the instructions at the hat making part, I recommend etsy.com. You will find a choice of quality furs from responsible small time farmers who put the rest of the animal to good use.

author
velacreations (author)jschafer62012-12-29

We can sell some of our furs too, if anyone is interested in making fur items.

author
grannyjones (author)2012-12-28

The racoons around here know when it's trash pick-up day; and go down the street tearing up everyone's trash. Nice to have a "real" Davey Crockett hat!

author
786Ayesha (author)2012-12-14

Congratulation on your win

author
doodlecraft (author)2012-12-12

Okay, me again...and I don't want this to come off the wrong way...but this should be entered into the Redneck contest too! :)

author

that's a good idea!

author
ManifoldSky (author)2012-12-11

Just FYI, the idea that we lose most of our body heat through our heads is a myth. Since our skin is effectively a liquid cooled radiator, and that liquid (blood) is in constant motion, it is not subject to the assumed thermodynamic forces that cause heat to rise. As such, we lose about as much heat from out heads as you would expect based upon:
1) surface area, and
2) insulation.
As the head is generally small and well insulated, it actually tends to lose very little heat, relatively.
This is bourn out by empirically thermographic imaging.

author
antioch (author)2012-12-03

Interesting approach with the battery acid. Couldn't there be any risks to your skin though if you wear stuff a lot?

On a sidenote: just because rabbits can be bred with little space and even less input doesn't mean it's the right thing to do it. Not to them, not to you.
I assume parts of the outrage that can be found in the comments stems from the impression that you promote rabbits as brainless objects detached from nature which are to be mindlessly exploited. This approach to pets and animals in general is a rather perverted one. It requires desensitization which will eventually harm you. The rest is morals and philosophy that I don't want to bore you with.

The fight between animal rights activists and their counterparts is a messy and silly which unfortunately contorts some very important topics.

author
velacreations (author)antioch2012-12-03

we wash the acid out, so there isn't really a risk to your skin.

Our rabbits are raised in a colony setup, which means the does share a large space, not in individual pens. They have about 400 square feet or so.

I am not sure where we promote rabbits as brainless objects, but that is not our feelings about it at all. We firmly believe that keeping animals happy is the best method for keeping them.

author
HollyMann (author)2012-12-03

I'm amazed by it all!

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