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Fabrics Furs
The Principal Fur-Bearing Animals
numerous species, varied in size, including gazelles. From Africa, India and Asia.
up to three feet in length including tail. The European badger has a grizzled coat, each hair being yellow at base, then black and grey nearer the tip. The head is white with two black lines running longi- tudinally from the snout to behind the cars. Also found in America and Asia.
brown, black and white (polar). Found in remote, mountainous regions in Europe, America and Asia. Five to nine feet long, the Himalayan black bear has particularly lustrous fur.
found in a few places in Europe but mainly in North America and Siberia. The pelage consists of strong guard hairs amongst which is a thick, silky underfur, rusty brown in colour, much valued in the fur trade.
Bison: (buffalo)
The European buffalo, now found in Greece, Italy, Asia Minor and Egypt, is the Indian or water buffalo and is similar to an ox. A related species is to be found in many parts of Africa, while the Cape or Black buffalo inhabits Central, South and East Africa. These buffalo have all been used for leather. The North American bison, often called buffalo, is a larger animal with dark brown hair growing all over its immense forequarters.
the best fur comes from the wild or semi-wild animal which has a thicker fur than the domestic cat. The European wild cat is found in the north and cast of Europe, also in the Scottish Highlands. It is a forest- dweller and has a yellowish-grey fur with black markings.
one of the most beautiful furs in the world, soft, pearl-grey with black markings; it has more hairs per square inch than any other animal. Like a squirrel in size and form, the chinchilla lives high in the Andes; it has been hunted for centuries from the days of the incas and is now protected in Chile. it is widely bred for its fur on farms in North America and Europe. About 200 skins are needed for a full- length coat.
North American squirrel with black and yellow striped markings.
an aquatic rodent about 18 inches long, native to South America but also found in Europe. Famed for its fur known as nutria.
many different kinds, of which, in Europe, the most common are the red deer, the fallow deer and the roe deer. In the northern regions of Scandinavia, Siberia and North America the larger elk, the related American moose, the reindeer and its American counterpart, the caribou, can be found. The reindeer and caribou, in particular, have provided clothing as well as food, milk and transportation to the Laplanders and Eskimos for centuries.
the dog is not normally used for its fur though the wild dog has fur similar to that of a poor quality fox. The Siberian wild dog, which is like a heavy Alsatian and is about three feet long, was most often used.
a small animal about five to six inches long, intermediate between a squirrel and a rodent. Common to Europe, the dormouse's fur varies from grey to tawny yellow; it is used chiefly for trimming.
the white winter coat of the stoat. Found in Russia, Scandinavia and North America. About ten inches long, with a black tip to its tail. Used from medieval times as a royal fur (see Stoat).
Member of the canine family, native to Europe, North America and Northern Asia. The red fox is found in all these regions. The grey fox is an inhabitant of America as is also the wild red fox which is sometimes marked on the back and shoulders with a black cross. Most valued for its fur is the silverfox, which is a black fox with silver-tipped guard hairs. It is to be found chiefly in the far north of Canada, especially Labrador, as is also the Arctic fox which has a white winter coat and a summer one of dark brown or smoky blue. In the fur trade this is known as the blue fox and it inhabits the northern coast of North America from Alaska to Greenland. The silver blue fox of today is a mutation and is the most costly of fox furs.
Markhor, the largest of the wild goats inhabits the Himalayas. The Mongolian goat has long silky hair in white and greyish blue. The angora goat has a pure white, curly, silky coat (see also Angora goat). The skin of kid, the young goat, is widely used in dress accessories. Finely marked skins are imported from China, Africa and India.
member of the camel family which lives in herds in the Andes. The guanaeo is a wild animal of the species of which the llama is the domesticated equivalent.
a rodent-like small animal (about one foot long) inhabiting Europe and the Middle East. The fur is brown and black or a golden brown.
the same family as the rabbit, but larger, about 23-27 inches long. The brown hare is common in most of Europe while the Arctic hare is Canadian.
one of the big cats native to America, the jaguar has a short-haired coat shading from white to yellow to orange and marked with black spots arranged in rosettes round a brownish centre. A hard- wearing fur used for coats, jackets and trimming.
Karakul is the breed of sheep which produces the most famous fur from its young lambs. Known as 'Persian lamb' because it was originally introduced as a fur by Persian traders, the karakul sheep is native to Southern Russia in the Bukhara region though, in England, the fur is also referred to as astrakhan after the Russian town on the edge of the Caspian Sea. During the Russian Revolution many owners drove their herds over the border into Afghanistan to protect them and the sheep are still bred there. After 1918 several attempts were made to breed karakul sheep in Germany but, though the sheep survived, the fur lost its remarkable curly quality. The curl lasts only a few days in the karakul lamb and, because of this, there are several qualities of fur depending upon the age of the animal. The most costly, prized skin is broadtail, which derives from a still-born lamb and has a moir@ or watered silk appearance. This is a natural birth and affects about 2 per cent of lambs. The stories which are prevalent, describing the removal of the lamb prematurely from its mother or of torturing the mother in order to make her drop her lamb prematurely are ficti- tious. There would be no point in treating the mother so in order to obtain broadtail as the sheep is worth more than the lamb. The second grade of skin comes from the normal karakul lamb and is taken when it is from two to five days only and when the pelt has an even, tight curl. About 20-28 skins are needed for a full-length lady's coat and these are sewn by machine, except in the case of broadtall, when they are sewn by hand. The karakul lamb is naturally black but is also dyed black after dressing to add lustre to the pelt. There is also a beautiful mutation in soft brown. In 1905 a flock of Russian karakul sheep was shipped to South Africa to be crossbred with sheep there. The result was a beautiful black tightly-curled pelt which is a flatter, lighter-weight skin. This is now much more fashionable than the Russian heavier, curlier pelt so is more costly. The largest world production of the lamb now comes from South Africa and Namibia. There is also a natural grey pelt from here and this is becoming more fashionable than the black. Less expensive furs are produced from the Krimmer lamb from the Crimea, a greyish-mixture coat, and the South Ameri- can lamb which has white fur.
similar to the jaguar but smaller and a native of Africa and Southern Asia.
domesticated descendant of the guanaco, with a coarse, woolly fleece. Lynx - a member of the cat family, with tufted cars, found in Europe, Siberia, Mongolia and North America. The Canadian lynx is the largest species and has the most valuable fur.
member of the weasel family, indigenous to Europe, Asia and America. Larger than the weasel and with a fine, soft, valuable fur. The most highly prized is that of the sable, a marten found in Northern Asia, from Russia and Siberia to Japan. The most esteemed fur in the world, sable is a small animal, about 15 inches long, and has a superb, silky, dense fur varying from brown to black. Used primarily, because of its cost, for trimming and collars. It has traditionally been used for coats and gowns for the Russian monarchy.
a senii-aquatic member of the weasel family with a valuable dark fur. The mink is indigenous to Europe and Northern Asia from Siberia to Japan. The North American mink is larger and its fur most valued for its thickness and softness. The mink is widely farmed in both North America and Europe.
found all over Europe, in Africa and North America. A very small animal, the mole has a thick, short, velvety fur of a dark bluish-grey.
a species of aquatic vole indigenous to North America. About one foot long, the muskrat has a thick, soft, shiny, brown and grey fur; it was introduced to Europe in 1905 because of the value of its fur, which is sometimes called musquash, from the North American Indian name.
a native of America and member of the cat family. The ocelot is marked like the leopard but is smaller (nearly three feet long).
an American marsupial, about 27 inches long, with a thick fur ranging from white to black.
an aquatic animal of the weasel family with a short, dense, dark fur. The river otter is found in Europe, North Africa, Asia and North America. The Canadian otter has the most valued fur, especially the animals from Labrador and Alaska. The sea otter is a larger animal, about four to five feet long. it is found in the Pacific and has a dense, rich, long, most valued fur. The animal was almost exter minated because of extensive hunting but, due to protection, its numbers are now increasing.
a member of the weasel family and a close relative of the mink. Found in many parts of Europe and Asia. It is up to two feet in length but the Russian polecat, which has the finest, silkiest fur, is smaller.
a fur fashionable in the first part of the twentieth century for coats. Taken from young colts or foals which have a flat fur with moir@ marking. Imported chiefly from China, Poland and Russia.
a rodent of the hare family now found in most parts of the world. A soft grey, white, brown or black fur generally dyed to imitate costlier furs. Used widely as trimming (see also Angora rabbit).
an American mammal about the size of a badger with a grey-brown fur and black-ringed tall. The colloquial name for the animal and its fur is Coon and it was widely used by the American frontiers- man, especially for hats and trimming.
a cheap fur used as trimming.
marine aquatic mammal of many different types and sizes found in many parts of the world but especially in northern waters. Of particular interest-in costume use are the Greenland (Harp) seal, where the white and white and grey pelts of the young seals are used to make coats, the sea-lion (hair sea4, which is used chiefly for leather and the fur seal, which is the most important. Fur seals are smaller, up to six to seven feet long, and have a brown or black, thick, hard-wearing fur with coarse guard hairs which have to be plucked out. The Alaska seal has the best fur.
the moufflon is the European wild sheep, found now in Corsica and Sardinia. it has a short wool coat used for costume. The merino sheep is the most important breed for fine wool. it is sheared and dyed to imitate more expensive furs. The breed originated in Spain but is now found all over the world.
an American member of the weasel family about two feet long with a glossy, black fur. The spotted skunk or civet is smaller.
a small rodent found nearly all over the world. Many different species, notably the European red squirrel and the American grey squirrel, which has now almost supplanted the smaller red species in Britain. A soft, silky fur with long hairs in the tall. Vair was the medieval name for the grey and white Russian squirrel. In England the fur was called miniver in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries: a corruption of the French menu-vair.
a little larger than its close relative, the weasel, it has a body about ten inches long and a tail of five inches. Its fur is brown with white underbelly, but, in northern areas, its winter coat is pure white and it is highly valued as ermine (see Ermine). Vicuiia - like the guanaeo, a wild llama inhabiting the Andes but a smaller animal with a finer, silky coat.
the European weasel is so small (six to seven inches long) that it is not much valued for its fur. The larger members of its family, on the other hand, are highly valued. See marten, mink, skunk, stoat (ermine), wolverine.
member of the dog family to be found in Europe, Asia, Africa and America, especially in the northern regions where the fur is best. The European wolf is now found only in Scandinavia, Eastern Europe and in the wilder parts of Western Europe; it resembles an Alsatian. The larger North American Timber Wolf or Grey Wolf is still to be found in numbers in Northern Canada and Alaska.
the largest member of the weasel family, it is found in the northern areas of Europe and America. About four feet long, including its tail, it has dark brown fur which is thick and hard-wearing. It is particularly valued in Arctic regions for the warmth of its dense fur.
The story of costume begins with the wearing of hides and furs; there has never been a time anywhere in the world when animal skins have not been employed, in the colder regions as garments for warmth and pro- tection and in the torrid zones for status and display. Fierce struggles, even wars, have been undertaken from time to time in order to control an area naturally rich in fur-bearing animals; the invasion and early settlement by the white man in North America was one example of this, the six- teenth century conquest of Siberia, another. The earliest, most primitive dress of man in the colder regions of the world consisted, at first, only of animal skins, held together solely by thorns piercing the fur at the shoulder or a leather thong tied round the waist. With the making of bone needles and gut thread, man began to sew the skins together to make garments. Bear and rein- deer were the animals chiefly used at this time, followed later, in Europe, by the wild deer, boar and ox. As man learned to herd and domesticate animals, the skins of goats, sheep, donkeys and cattle were used for clothing. Sheepskin became the com- monest material in use in the lands round the Mediterranean as can be seen in the early paintings and sculpture; the 'kau- nakes'garments of Sumeria are one example (see Mesopotamia). In the warmer areas furs from specific animals, moreover a particular part of the animal such as the head, paws or tail, were used to denote rank and for display. It was also believed that by adornment with a part of such animals the wearer might inherit the physical qualities of that animal, such as fleetness of foot, ferocity or courage. In ancient Egypt, for instance, a lion's or wolf's tail was worn hanging from the belt (see E:gypt, ancient). All the early civilizations, as well as the more primitive cultures, used hides and fur for their costume. The Egyptians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Minoans, Greeks, Etruscans and Romans all treated hides to make leather for use as footwear (see Boot, Leather, Sandal, Shoe), helmets, shields and military tunics. They used costly furs as trimmings, decoration and linings. They became skilled in cutting and shaping the pelts to make fitting, warm garments. Expensive, warm and beautiful furs were always prized, both for their utility and their attractiveness (see Minoan Dress, Mesopotamia, Etruscan Dress, Greece, an- cient, and Rorne, ancient). Nomadic and more primitive peoples made whole cos- tumes from skins, the fur generally turned inside, and these garments have become traditional over the centuries. The Scythi- ans and Parthians wore tunics or caftans and trousers of pelts as did also the North American Indian and the Eskimo (see Eskimo Dress, North American Indian Dress and Scythian Dress). From the sixth to the seventeenth cen- tury in Europe furs were widely used for warmth and decoration. Garments were edged and lined with fur but the fur was not worn to the outside. Fur linings were employed chiefly on cloaks, tunics, gowns, underskirts, nightgowns, boots and mit- tens, both for outdoor and indoor wear. During the Middle Ages the wearing of specific furs indicated a distinction of class. Sumptuary laws were passed from time to time regulating which furs were per- mitted to be worn by diverse classes of society. The costly furs, reserved for use by royalty and the wealthy aristocracy, included sable, ermine and vair. Ermine had been known to the Greeks and Romans and was thought to be a species of white rat - they called it 'Armenian rat'. It was not until the eighteenth century that it was recognized as a member of the weasel family. In medieval times wearing ermine was a prerogative of royalty; it was Edward 111 of England who ordered that the black tipped ermine should be a royal fur. Sable and vair could be worn by the nobility. Vair was the Siberian grey and white squirrel. The skins were sewn together to make the garment and were known as menu-vair (small skins) and gros- vair (large skins). Descending the fur social scale, one comes to marten, otter, muskrat, fox, beaver, lamb, rabbit, cat, goat and wolf. The peasants' cloak continued to be made of sheepskin or wolfskin. Most of the softest, richest furs came from the cold, northern, near-Arctic regions of Russia, Siberia, Scandinavia, Lapland ind Canada. In the East, in the Byzantine domains, the Ottoman Empire, China and India, fur was used as a decoration and symbol of status on hats, collars and boots. By the sixteenth century the enormous quantities of furs which had been used, especially those from the small animals such as sable, vair and marten, had begun to create a scarcity, making some species rare in Europe. Exploration of the New World indicated the possibilities of rich new fields to plunder. The French began trading with the Indians in Canada and the Spanish and the English, along the Atlantic coasts of America. At the same time the Spanish were discovering the rich furs of South America, where the Ineas hunted the little chinchilla for its beautiful fur and bred the great herds of vicufla and llaina for their wool. With the seventeenth century the ex- ploitation of the fur-bearing animals of the North American continent began in earnest. The Indians made all their clothing from animal skins but were also eager to trade their furs for the beads, knives, guns, cloth and liquor which the white man brought. Trading posts were set up to which the Indians brought their pelts, which included great quantities of fox, mink, marten, badger, raccoon, wolf, lynx, beaver, bison or buffalo, opossum, bear, seal and otter. North America was ex- plored by the white fur trappers from Hudson Bay to New Orleans. Most of the nations of Western Europe took part in this profitable trade. Despite the vast quantity of animals available, the unsparing hunting of certain animals whose fur became fashionable, such as the beaver and mink, soon began to threaten the existence of the species. The pelts were sent back to Europe to make immense fur hats, hoods and muffs and to line garments. Even the supply of the New World began to dry up before the greed of Europe and the traders. Fashions for certain furs waxed and waned during the eighteenth and nine- teenth centuries, threatening yet more species, in particular the chinchilla, the sable, the white fox and the wolf. Despite the quantities of furs used to line garments and the different fashions which came and went, it was nearly the middle of the nineteenth century before it became customary to wear the fur surface on the outside of a coat; it was always a lining. From 1840 Europe led the mode for fur coats with the fur to the outside, first with seal then other furs. It was in the twentieth century that fur was worn in the greatest quantity. This was the time for the fashion for fur coats, capes and jackets. More adequate heating in the interior of buildings did away with the need to line garments with fur but a coat to wear to go out in the street became more desirable. Now the fur was on the exterior of the garment and the lining was of satin or silk. Fur coats were no longer the prerogative of the rich, the middle classes were able to afford this status symbol. This extension of the wearing of fur coats to a larger percentage of the population, as well as the mode for fur collars, cuffs and tippets, began to threaten the survival of a greater number of species. The chin- chilla was in danger, the silver fox, also the Alaskan seal. Since the mid-twentieth century there has developed a strong body of opinion against the killing of animals for their fur. At the same time the research into synthetic furs has been accelerated. With natural furs there has been an extensive augmenta- tion of supplies by means of ranch-raised animals and, at the same time, an increase in the custom of dyeing of furs so that a lower quality pelt is coloured to imitate a costlier one. Apart from the inroads made on a species of animal due to killing to obtain its fur, the modem world of the fourth quarter of the twentieth century is also affecting the habitat of animals, so that the existence of inanyfur-bearingonesisfurtherthreatened. For instance, because of the spread of rabies on the Continent of Europe, the red fox has almost disappeared there so that, from being an ordinary fur, the survivors in Britain are now regarded as animals more costly than the silver or black fox. Because of the mechanization of agriculture in Europe, moles have been severely reduced in numbers. Because of motorway con- struction, the hedgehog has almost dis- appeared. Because of oil drilling in watery districts, the musquash has now become rare. Finally, because of the disturbance of marshy ground due to airfield and dam construction, manymarsh-dwellinganimals are threatened. The fur trade classifies animal skins, which it terms peltries, into four types. These are hides from cattle and horses, pelts from sheep and lambs, furs from fur- bearing animals and skins from goats and kid. Fur-bearing animals are covered by a soft underfur or wool which acts as insula- tion from extremes of temperature and an outer fur or hair, called guard hairs, which protect the animal and stop the underfur from becoming a wet and solid mass. In some animals, such as the beaver, coypu and seal, the guard hairs are coarse and are removed before the fur is used. The softest, silkiest and densest furs belong to animals which inhabit the Arctic areas. The most valuable furs, partly because of their beauty and partly because of their scarcity (factors which are interactive) include that of the chinchilla, the sable, the ermine and the black fox. Fine furs which are rather less rare are those of the mink, the seal, the beaver, the marten, the muskrat and the skunk. Of the hardest-wearing furs should be mentioned the karakul lamb, the raccoon, the coypu (nutria) and the mink. Today the principal countries which produce natural furs are Canada, the USA and Siberia. The Soviet Union has collec- tivized its fur industry, which is one of the most valuable in the country. The auction sales at the Fur Palace in Leningrad are large-scale and world-wide. The preparation of furs for clothing is complex and has evolved from the ancient craft practised over the centuries in many parts of the world. Animals are killed in mid-winter when their fur is at its best and are carefully trapped so that the fur is not damaged. After the pelt is taken from the animal, the skin is fleshed, that is, the thin flesh membrane is skilfully removed by a very sharp fleshing knife. The pelt is then soaked in a tanning fluid, washed, dried and finished. It is then stretched out and softened by the application of grease to put back the natural oils in order to produce a lastingly soft skin. Today the skin is put into a machine which gently beats the oil into the pelt. Earlier societies used simpler methods; the North American Indians, for example, trampled the skins with their bare feet, while Eskimo women chewed the skins, the saliva providing the necessary chemicals for preparation (see also North American Indian Dress and Eskimo and Siberian Dress). Different processes are followed for skins intended for use as leather, called tanning, or for their employment as fur, termed dressing. In the latter case, the processes can be numerous and vary from furrier to furrier. Costly furs are treated by hand but machines are used for the majority of skins. Every care is taken to maintain the softness of the pelt so that it will hang well when it is made up into a garment and to retain its natural oils while complete cleansing is carried out. Some pelts, such as beaver and seal, need more work on them than others. Present-day processes also include dyeing, which is no longer regarded as a deception, and it is thought that all furs are improved by judicious dyeing with chemicals to give greater lustre to the natural colour. Such dyeing processes can involve complete immersion or the dye can be applied to only the upper hairs by a brush. Bleaching is similarly handled. The excessive demand for furs, especially in the later nineteenth and the twentieth centuries, has forced country after country to impose protective legislation on certain species of animals, the chinchilla and beaver, for instance. At the same time there has been a rapid extension of fur- farming, the breeding of species of animals in captivity particularly for their fur. Experiments began before 1870 and con- tinued spasmodically in North America until the twentieth century. Early experi- mentation, begun by the North American Indians, was with the fox, white, black and silver, which had become rare and costly. During the twentieth century farm- or ranch-raising of animals for their fur has become an industry and concerns many species, in particular, the chinchilla, mink, sable, beaver, skunk, muskrat and karakul lamb. Farmed animals have as good and, often, better skins than wild ones. The animals are generally larger and they are protected so the skins do not suffer damage from fighting and accident. Better and specially blended colours can be achieved. Mutations and hybrids have been obtained by cross-breeding two animals of a different colour. In the case of mink, for example, some beautiful blue and silver tones have been produced. Of the 15-20 million skins of mink produced per year in the world, about 15 per cent are farmed. (This does not include any figures for Russia which are not published.)

SYNTHETIC FURS In the first half of the twentieth century several developments took place to make a less costly fur coat available to a larger percentage of the population as well as introducing a greater variety in furs: fur-farming provided a larger quantity of desirable animals and new colours were produced by mutations and dyeing techniques. Since the Second World War the accent has been on producing the imitation fur. At first, plastic filaments were attached to a base of shorn sheepskin. Such 'furs' were hard-wearing, resistant to moths, were cheaper and could be made in a wide range of colours and surfaces.

The modern approach took the imitation fur a stage further to a totally synthetic fur which was made entirely from natural and synthetic fibres and could imitate a genuine fur or give a totally different result. The more bizarre shades and textures were a characteristic of the 1960s. Now the accent is more on a successful imitation of a prized fur. Among such successes are synthetic broadtail, chinchilla, pony, squirrel, beaver, leopard, mole and ermine.

There are several types of pile from which fur fabrics are made. They can be woven, tufted, flocked and sliver-knit. In the last-named, rapidly expanding industry, the fabric is made from three component parts: the fibre, which produces the surface 'fur', the yarn which makes its backing and the chemical emulsion which is applied to coat the backing in order to ensure fibre adhesion and fabric' stability. The fibre is made from a knitted process and is then slit and sheared to give the desired pile. Variations in texture pattern such as waves, curls and movement of the pile can be created by heat tumbling processes. Different materials can be used for the fibre, of which acrylics and polyesters are the most usual.

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