When chilly winds start to blow, your best friend can battle the elements in cozy style with a dog coat made from a recycled jacket. For the raw materials, you can tap into the never-ending supply of jackets in thrift shops and yard sales, where I often find the racks chock full of color and fabric choices. Or consider Plan B: make the dog coat from a favorite in your closet that’s outgrown or showing its wear. You’ll keep it all in the family with one more hand-me-down recipient, the dog.
This project is a how-to for transforming an old jacket into a new dog coat. Once you’ve assembled the materials, you’ll find it goes quickly. A dog coat is basically a flat piece of fabric that needs edge finishing and a means to stay put on the dog. Here are the main steps:
1. Select a dog coat pattern.
2. Lay it out on the recycled jacket.
3. Cut it.
4. Finish the edges.
5. Sew on the velcro fastening.
Dog coat pattern
Recycled jacket in a size proportionate to your dog Look for a warm-up jacket, fleece-lined windbreaker, or a quilted jacket.
No-sew iron-on adhesive, such as HeatnBond (optional)
Note: The easiest recycled jacket to work with is a nylon jacket with a fleece lining. Since these fabrics usually don’t fray when cut, you can sew a simple hem on the sewing machine to finish the edges of the coat.
Step 1: Select the pattern.
If you have an existing dog coat that fits the dog nicely, you can use it to make a pattern by tracing it on newspaper. Remember to add a ½” seam allowance all around the coat before cutting. For a free pattern, I have posted an adjustable guide for all dog sizes that can be downloaded and printed [Ed. note: the pattern is no longer available on the author’s website]. Once you’ve cut the pattern, be sure to check the size by draping it on your dog.
Step 2: Lay it out.
Lay the pattern on top of the recycled jacket and play with its placement. Here’s where you can decide to incorporate a decal, the zipper, or maybe a pocket in the design of the dog coat. Disassemble the jacket as needed so that it lays flat. You may need to cut open the side seams and cut off the sleeves. Pin the dog coat pattern onto the recycled jacket, smoothing both as you go.
Step 3: Cut out the coat.
Depending on the size of your recycled coat and the pattern, you may be able to cut the coat in one piece. If the pattern is too big or the jacket too small, you may need to cut the underbelly straps separately. If this is the case, you’ll want to sew them onto the main body at this point. With right sides of the fabric together, remember to sew the straps to the outer shell in one step, then the lining tabs in a second step.
Step 4: Finish the outer edges.
There are 2 options for finishing the coat’s edges.
Option 1: Sew a hem. This is especially easy if you’ve chosen to make the coat from a ripstop nylon jacket with a fleece lining, because these fabrics make clean-cut edges. Turn under the coat edge to one side, pinning as you go, and sew it by machine.
Option 2: Finish the edges with a bias binding. In this more advanced method, a long strip of fabric is sewn on the coat’s edge to encase it, much like the bound edges of an area rug. Cut strips from the leftover jacket fabric or purchase a package of bias binding or ribbon trim from the craft store. With a ¼” seam, sew one edge of the strip to the raw edge of the coat using a sewing machine. Then, fold the strip up and over to encase the raw edge, pin, and sew.
Step 5: Sew on the velcro.
Using the machine, sew the looped pieces of velcro to the neck and underbelly straps of the coat. Then, try the coat on the dog to determine the best placement for the hooked pieces of velcro. When you’ve got a snug fit, mark each spot with a pencil, pin, and then sew the hooked velcro pieces by machine. After this, put the coat on once more, admire the dog and your handiwork, or vice versa, and take them both out for a prance around the block.
Step 6: Letter appliqué (optional).
For dogs that are into social media, like my friend Reese, a coat can be a great means for a message. Reese is sometimes perceived as a vicious breed, so a little friendly street communication works wonders. To personalize your dog coat, choose a no-sew iron-on adhesive to cut out the letters or image, then follow the package directions to bond it to the coat.
About the Author:
Diana Durkes is a creative recycler and a confessed curb and alley shopper. She gives a makeover to one found item each week, and publishes the before and after on her blog, Fine Diving in Chicago. She finds the most interesting stuff when out walking her dog, Reese.