I’ve nearly finished sewing the dog coat for Ruby (who is the prettiest little russet coloured King Charles Spaniel) that lives just round the corner from me….. I’m using a beautiful Harris tweed fabric from Butt of Lewis Textiles which is both a little bit Sherlock Holmes and a little bit Miss Marple.
The coat has an upright collar which I’ve hand stitched using a tiny backstitch as I wanted to make sure both corner curves would be nicely rounded, I didn’t want to unpick the tweed if it wasn’t exactly right and I wasn’t sure if I’d get the curve quite right on my machine. Then I pinned and tacked a piece of sew-in interfacing so the collar would keep it’s shape, even after lots of wear.
After basting I’ve hand-sewn it into place. While I was sewing the collar I tried to keep the fabric held slightly bowed so that the finished collar would have a nice curve, and sit more comfortable around Ruby’s neck.
I’ve clipped out tiny notches around the collar edge so the pieces fold over better, and have also trimmed the inner fabric a little shorter which helps create a nicer line as the collar is rolled over. (It also cuts down on bulk)
I still find the best thread for hand sewing is the old fashioned Dewhurst Sylko threads…I had some nice Autumn shades which blended into the Harris tweed a proper treat. I also tend to use vintage needles for hand sewing, especially on a fabric as thick as the tweed (even though it’s incredibly soft, it’s also incredibly thick and on a test piece of fabric I noticed newer needles were tending to bend within minutes…the quality of vintage haberdashey items is so much better than most of what is available today, and if you’re lucky then it can often be picked up pretty cheaply.)
Once the collar has been turned over I’ve pinned it into place. On a test piece I tried out some top stitching but it didn’t look quite right, so instead I made 2 rows of tiny stab stitches near the edge, these are worked back and forth and are a bit fiddly but I think give a neater finish to the seam edge.
I worked one row about an eight of an inch away from the edge, and then the second row three/sixteenths away, they are pretty close but as the stitches are so small it means teach row strengthens the other. The stitches themselves are worked about a quarter of an inch apart, the second row being sewn in the gaps between.
I’ve tried to incorporate some nice little details into Ruby’s coat so it looks a bit more swishy and swanky than the average type of doggy coat that is found those huge pet supply stores. As well as looking pretty nifty these also help the coat sit better and take into consideration that Ruby wears a harness rather than a collar for walks.
Along the bottom edge I’ve made a couple of small darts, it’s not that Ruby has a particularly large bottom or anything like that (really she’s gorgeous and I hope to take some pictures of her wearing this when it’s all finished) but more because it helps the coat sit better. The coat is quite long and was flaring out a little at the end. I originally made a calico toille to check the pattern was fitting properly, and once Ruby was wearing it, it was easy to pinch up the fabric required for darts and pin and mark when the darts needed to be.
I’ve tacked them in blue thread in the picture, and then hand sewed them so they’d be nice and soft and blend in better. These were then lightly pressed with a little steam, and then carefully stab stitched down so the fabric of the dart won’t rise or bunch up (the tweed being very springy)
These are the finished darts, I’ve tried to match the horizontal lines across the darts, the vertical lines were a little harder do to the pattern of the fabric, where the darts needed to be, and also their width.
Just above the darts is a little back band, it’s an extra detail and helps to add a bit more weight at the back to help the coat drape nicely. I’ve used some lovely vintage “grand-pa cardigan” buttons (I checked first to see that I had enough buttons so I could package up a couple of spares in case a button should ever go a stray)
The last detail in the coat is the button hole between Ruby’s shoulders. Ruby doesn’t wear a collar, but she does wear a harness when she goes out for walks and her lead clips on to that. I’ve measured where the lead fits to the harness and then made a bound buttonhole with welts. This means there isn’t a hole in the back that’s constantly open, when the lead isn’t being used the welts close over.
I learnt the basics of making patterns and toilles when I was studying fashion at college (I didn’t know then I’d be using those same techniques to make coats for dogs…….I wish so much Bernard would let me dress him up but I suspect there’d be grumps to last a month of Sundays if I tried it)……. however I’ve also found the following books really helpful in refreshing sewing techniques, and explaining different ways of sewing seams, collars, buttonholes etc
Couture Sewing Techniques by Claire B. Shaeffer
the Arpette bought me this as a surprise some years ago, if you dress-make and fancy incorporating some rather lovely details into your wardrobe then this book is worth every penny, there are some amazing pictures of Haute Couture items un-picked so you can see exactly what is going on under-neath as well as how the garment has been constructed. The book is full of some invaluable information about how couture items are made and which techniques can be learnt with practise at home and then incorporated into your own dress-making.
Practical Home Needlecraft in Pictures by Dorathy M. Cox
The Big Book of Needlecraft by Annie S. Patterson
These are both vintage sewing books from the forties, full of often no longer used techniques and details but very thorough!
Needlework for Schools by Melita M. Neal
I originally bought my copy because a) I liked the lovely typeface and pink, green and black colours on the cover, and b) because this was the book we were still being taught from when I was at school in the eighties! Details and methods are really easily explained, and as it was originally a school book, there are pieces you can set yourself as homework so you know you have really learnt what you are reading.