As the local 18th-Century Market Fair approached, the weather forecast took a turn for the chilly. I needed something to help stay warm and didn’t want to cover my outfit in a cloak! Enter the muff.
A muff is a tubular cushion with a decorative covering, which is easy enough to make! Some muffs don’t have removable covers, but where’s the fun in that? Once you’ve made your base cushion, you can make lots of different covers to suit your outfit and taste.
This is an easy and quick project. Using materials you likely already have on hand, you can make a muff in under 2 hours!
I like the rectangular muffs of the 1780’s, and decided to use this one as my reference:
Image Source: Nasjonalmuseet, designsamlingene
- A few layers of batting to fill the cushion. Any filling can work; poly-fil, wool, etc.
- Flannel for the cushion lining. Linen would be period appropriate, but I had flannel on hand and it’s warm, so that’s what I used
- Silk taffeta or cover material of choice. Fur is more appropriate for 1790’s on
- Ribbon or cord to gather the ends of the cover
- Ribbon, beads, fur, etc. to trim
- Making the inner cushion: Decide how big and in what shape you want your muff to be. Drape your batting (or cushion lining material if not using batting) over your arms to determine the width and decide if you want your muff to be a cylinder (uses less material, works best for pre-1780’s look) or a rectangle.
- Lay out the batting and measure the unrolled length of your muff. Note the width and length (mine measured 15”x27” | 38x68cm). Cut the batting to size.
- With your cushion lining material folded with right sides together, lay your cut batting on top of it, with one narrow edge on the fold. Cut the lining material, leaving some excess on the three sides not on the fold for a seam allowance
- Set the batting aside. Sew the long sides of the cushion lining. Place the batting back on top of the cushion lining and flip it right side out, as if the batting were a pillow and the cushion lining a pillowcase. If using stuffing, simple flip the cushion lining right side out and fill.
- Fold the raw edges of the cushion lining in and press or pin into place. Match the open, narrow end to the folded narrow end (assuming your fold was on the narrow end). Sew.
- Flip the cushion inside out to put the “raw” edges of the seam on the inside. This is the cushion base for which you can make covers.
- Making the cover: The cover will go completely over the cushion, and will be kept in place by pulling drawstrings at either end tight.
- Using your measurements of the cushion as a starting point, add to each dimension to account for seam allowances and tubes for your ribbon or cord drawstring. Add ¼ to ½ inch | 1/2 to 1 cm to the narrow ends (so ½ to 1 inch | 1 to 2 cm total length).* Add enough on the long ends to accommodate your drawstring width.
*In the photos, I made my drawstring sleeve along the selvage, so didn’t bother with the extra seam allowance on that edge
- Fold your seam allowance and press or pin in place. Tuck in and press the ends to keep the ends that the drawstring come out from fraying.
Flip the long edge again to make the fold for your ribbon or cord drawstring.
- Slip your ribbon or cord into this fold and pin to the folded edge. Sew. Repeat on other side
- Trimming the cover. Now is the time to decorate (trim) the cover! There are endless options for this, and a quick Google search will give you lots of inspiration. For mine, I kept it very simple with parallel pleated ribbons. See the photos below for a visual guide.
- Finishing the cover. Place the right sides together of the cover. Sew.
- Assembling the muff. Now for the best part! Flip the finished cover right side out. Slip your muff cushion into it, tie the ribbons/strings at either end, et voila! You will now have the warmest hands of anyone at your next cold weather event!