We've got a new puppy named Dizzy calling our apartment home, and were in need of a snuggly, pet-specific place for her to hang out and snooze. We're also on a budget (and obedience school wasn't cheap), so we didn't want to spend a lot of money. So we hit the thrift stores for some wool sweaters, dug an old pillow out of the linen closet, and stitched together a colorful patchwork bed for her. If you've got basic sewings skills and an afternoon to spare, you too can make your four-legged friend the happiest dog or cat on the block.
YOU WILL NEED:
• an assortment of old sweaters (at least 50% animal fiber such as wool, alpaca, cashmere, etc.)
• an old pillow
• scrap paper and tape
• scissors and/or rotary cutter
• access to a washer, dryer, and sewing machine
Note: Seam allowance is 1/4".
1. Start off by "felting" (or "fulling") the wool sweaters. Everyone has done this at least once, often by accident! Simply place a few sweaters in a hot washing machine with a bit of soap. Agitation plus water plus animal fibers equals felt! Throw the sweaters in the dryer afterwards to help shrink the fibers even more, and you will be left with a sturdy, fray-free material to craft with. Try to group like colors with like so there are no color-bleeding issues. It's also helpful to cut the sweater up before washing and drying (separate the arms from the body, and cut apart the front and back).
2. Create a pattern template by taping together scrap paper to approximate the size of your pillow. It doesn't have to be exact, just as close as you can manage.
3. Use a ruler and rotary cutter (or scissors) to cut strips and squares of sweater fabric. You're basically trying to create an assortment of pieces to choose from that all have straight edges. You can cut a bunch of pieces out and then skip to Step 4, or you can work steps 3 and 4 in tandem and cut out pieces to fit the size of your as you go.
4. Lay the paper pattern template down and start covering it in sweater pieces until you get them arranged just the way you like them. We wanted a patchwork effect, so we varied the size of the sweater pieces used—but you can make this in any style you like. Use larger, monochromatic sweater pieces or go for the hyper-patterned look, it's up to you. The pieces we used at each end were long, single strips, while the center area was created by joining together smaller squares. Any arrangement you come up with will work as long as the "puzzle pieces" fit within the paper template and you've got straight edges to sew together.
5. Once you've found an arrangement you like, it's time to start sewing. You'll want to pin the sweater pieces with right sides together, then sew along the pinned edge. Sew the pieces together section by section until it's done. If your sweaters are wrinkly or could benefit from loosening up a bit fiber-wise, feel free to iron your seams as you go with an iron set on the wool setting.
6. When you've finished sewing together the top of the bed, you will probably notice a bit of wonkiness—things likely won't be perfectly straight anymore. Using a ruler and rotary cutter to square up any uneven edges can be really helpful. Felted sweaters are very forgiving though, so don't worry about it looking perfect.
7. Set aside the top of the bed and get to work on the bottom piece. You'll use the same paper pattern template, but since the bottom edge won't really show you can be less fanciful here. We used just four pieces of sweater fabric to create two panels for the bottom of the bed: two skinny strips at each edge, sewn to two larger pieces (one pink and one blue). Overlapping these panels in the middle will give the pet bed an "envelope" style opening once it's all sewn together, allowing you to slip the cover on and off for easy cleaning. We made our bottom panels large enough to overlap by 5". We used the fronts of two sweaters for back panels and recommend you do the same. Since the edges of these sweater segments already have ribbing on them, there's no need to finish those edges.
8. Place the top of the bed right-side up on your work table, then place the two bottom panels right-side down, with center edges overlapping. Pin through all the fabric layers, about 1" in from the edge all the way around.
9. Sew around the entire rectangle, backstitching in areas like the corners for extra strength. Once you've all the edges of the bed closed, turn it inside-out from the envelope-style bottom opening and insert the pillow. Now present it to your dog or cat and hope they love it like ours did!
Thanks Jenny, for sharing another inspiring DIY project this week (and the cute photos of Dizzy, who seems to approve of your effort). View the whole process as a slideshow here.
Jenny Ryan is the recent author of Sew Darn Cute: 30 Sweet & Simple Projects to Sew & Embellish and also and is also co-owner of the Home Ec. Department at Reform School.