Make a Rabbit Fur Hat From Scratch

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Introduction: Make a Rabbit Fur Hat From Scratch

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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.

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    71 Comments

    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.

    4 replies

    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.

    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.

    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).

    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.

    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

    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!

    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!

    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.

    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.

    good idea!!!

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

    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.

    1 reply

    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.

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

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

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