Here in New England, cold days are hard to avoid. Lately it seems like my dog has gone into hibernation. She’s a pretty furry girl, so I don’t usually do the dog coat thing, but desperate times call for desperate measures.
Last winter, I practically lived in my favorite wool fair isle turtleneck. But I found out the hard way that the hand wash setting on the washing machine wasn’t exactly the same thing as actual hand washing. While the sweater still looked good, it was way too small to ever wear again.
Upon closer examination, it was still nice and soft, but now it was a little bit felted too. The benefit of felting is that now I didn’t have to be concerned about raveling if I wanted to cut into it.
I thought about what I could do with it. I considered mittens, a hat, or possibly a vest. Then I saw my dog curled so tightly that she looked like a furry throw pillow. She was going to get a sweater!
Here’s how I did it.
First, measure the dog. You’ll need to know circumference around the middle, circumference of the neck, and length from neck to tail.
I made my own pattern based on her measurements. The easiest way to make it would be to just plan on the pattern being the exact shape of the finished coat. Instead of hemming, I would just sew bias tape on the raw edges. Once the pattern was done, I thought about how to best place the design on the sweater. I brought out some wide double-fold bias tape I thought might work. I also went through my box of bag parts for webbing and closures.
When I get rid of worn out backpacks or other bags, I cut off any good d-rings, fasteners, swivel clasps, and anything else I think I might use. They all go in a box for occasions such as this. For the dog coat, I found a side-release buckle and slider. I added a scrap length of 1 in. black cotton webbing that was the right size to fit them.
I tried a few colors of bias tape and settled on the hot pink.
Once I had all of the supplies together, I cut into the sweater. I removed the sleeves and cut the front from the back. I took off the turtleneck, but left a little of the main sweater attached in case I wanted to use it. As I expected, it didn’t ravel.
While it wouldn’t work out every time, in this case, the turtleneck was just the right size to fit the dog comfortably. So I made that the neck piece.
Once I cut the coat shape, I did a rough fitting.
I pinned the neck and the body together to fit the dog’s proportions. The I sewed them together using a 3-thread overlock stitch on my serger.
Next I bound the raw edges with the pink bias tape.
Around this time, I realized that I didn’t have a plan for the raw neck edge at the base of the turtleneck. I didn’t want to use the bias tape because I wanted to maintain its stretchiness. I found some black fold-over elastic (FOE) and used that, even though it wasn’t a perfect match. I didn’t think the dog would mind. Also, it’s practically invisible when she has the coat on.
I thought the FOE would also be a pretty good solution for making a buttonhole (for a leash attachment point). I zigzagged it into place, then carefully opened a slot in the piece’s middle. If I were to do this over again, I would put some stretchy stabilizer under the buttonhole area before stitching. It’s fine, but it could tear given enough pressure.
The last step was the strap that goes around the dog’s middle. First I put together a test belt using the hardware, webbing and a few pins. After some convincing, I was able to test it on the dog. I snugged it up a bit and brought the pieces to the machine. I chose to sew the entire belt to the underside of the sweater instead of making two smaller pieces attached to the sides. While that would be fine for stable fabrics, I’m sure that the knit would stretch.
The finished product is slightly imperfect, but sooo cute – just like my dog!