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
- 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
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.
- Put 2 lbs of salt (without iodine) in a five gallon bucket.
- Heat two gallons of water and pour them into the bucket.
- Stir the liquid until the salt is fully dissolved. Use a wooden or plastic stick or spoon. Do not use metal.
- Once the solution has cooled, add one cup of battery acid. Be careful not to splash acid on your skin or in your eyes.
- Wearing rubber gloves, dunk each pelt into the solution, swilling it around.
- Once all the pelts are wet, stack them together and place a rock or brick on them to keep them submerged.
- Keep the bucket in a cool, shady place.
Step 2: Fleshing the Hides
- After the pelts have been in the acid solution for seven to ten days, remove them and wash with a gentle detergent. Rinse well.
- Do not discard the acid solution, as you will be needing it in a bit.
- Lay a pelt on a flat surface.
- With a sharp knife, cut off any ragged edges.
- 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.
- 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
- Once you are ready to "break" the hides (at least one week after fleshing), wash them in a gentle detergent. Rinse well.
- Hang them to dry in a cool, shady place. You want them to dry slowly.
- 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.
- 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.
- The leather should turn increasingly white and soft as it dries out completely.
- If any parts become stiff, you can spray water on them and continue to work them.
- 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.
- 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
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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Sew the two interior earpieces together from A to B.
- 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.
- Your hat should now be closed and finished. Enjoy.