And now for something completely different

Posted on February 10, 2012 by knittingpatterns4you | 0 Comments


What you see above is a dog crate cover I sewed up today in an effort to brush up on my sewing machine skills. Why? Because I signed up to take a quilting class at City Quilter (that link is to Yelp, cuz their site is so awful I don't want to subject you to it) and I want to make sure I will be able to handle the homework.

I've been thinking about doing some quilting for a few months now, and then recently I read an article about improving yourself by learning new things/pursuing new interests and that just seemed to seal the deal. And then my first visit to City Quilter pushed me right over the edge! I went back yesterday to register for the class, and ended up spending almost an hour looking at and touching fabrics, supplies, patterns, you name it. And then I came home and spent hours reading quilting blogs. I am definitely, definitely smitten.

My plan for the class is to make a quilt similar to Minty's gray-and-pink quilt and to NOT buy materials for more than one other quilt during the month-long class. I feel like the first part of that statement is doable, but the second part . . . well, we'll see.

So now you know the background of why I started sewing this crate cover today. I took quick photos documenting the process and wanted to write it up here, in case it helps anyone else out. Enjoy!

Arnold has had this crate since he was 10 weeks old, and he sleeps in it every night (and sometimes plays in it during the day). It used to have a fancier bed in it, but Arnold ate it. So that orange liner you see? That's a towel! It's the only thing he likes sleeping on but does not seem to like to rip to shreds.

When I want Arnold to go to bed for the night, I tell him "kennel!" and he hops right in to his house. I cover him up and he falls asleep immediately. It's almost like magic, especially if you know him and know just how annoying rambunctious he can be.

Over the years, I've covered his crate with everything from blankets to towels to bed sheets. Most recently it's been covered with a random piece of fabric I bought and then never sewed up, but which I now want to (maybe) incorporate into the quilt. So, off to the laundry it went today, along with the spotted fabric you see above, which I purchased about a year ago with the intent of sewing it into a crate cover. When I got back from the laundromat, I ironed the spotted fabric and got right to work.

The biggest sewing/quilting challenge I have to deal with is a complete lack of floor/counter space. What you see above is the yardage spread out over the couch and onto the bed behind, which is the biggest flat surface in my tiny apartment (you can also see Arnold's butt in the lower left hand corner!).

I bought this fabric about a year ago from Purl, and I'm still totally in love with it. It's Japanese fabric from a line called Echino/Kokka, and I love how it has spots all over it and then turquoise leopards every so often. Very graphic yet a bit tribal at the same time, while having a modern color palette. Awesome.

The first step was to measure the sides of the crate to figure out the dimensions. I started with the largest areas, the two long sides and the top, and seamed those together along their long edges. Again as practice for quilting, I experimented with pressing seams, doing most of them flat:

You can see in this picture that my edges didn't meet up at all, and that's because I gave myself very generous seam allowances to make the project easier for me. By cutting (well, tearing) all the pieces with lots of extra fabric, I was able to be picky about matching the pattern, which you can see I did pretty well here. When I pinned the pieces together, I put the pin through the edge of the dots so that the two pieces of fabric would line up really well. I'm pretty proud of how the pattern matched up!

Oh and that extra seam allowance? After sewing I then cut off the extra fabric, leaving about 1/4" of selvage. Once pressed down, the seam looks nice and neat!

After cutting and sewing those three large pieces, I went back to the fabric and immediately saw that I didn't have a piece big enough to cover the back. So I took two smaller pieces and seamed them together, making a back panel with a center seam in it. Can you spot the seam in this photo?

Then came the harder job of sewing the corners nicely, which I'm happy to say I did very well on one side:

But not nearly as well on the other side (hence no photographic evidence). Pressing those corners was even harder than sewing them, and I am pretty sure there must be a better way to do this than what I invented as I went along . . . something else to learn in the future.

By the time those four sides of the crate were covered, I was losing steam and realizing just how little fabric I had left. At the same time, I also realized that because of my super-generous seam allowances, my cover was several inches longer than it needed to be, enough so that the extra fabric could cover the front gate, maybe . . . so I tried making an envelope corner to see if it would work, and it did!

I was pretty psyched when I figured this out! Then I went to actually sew that weird seam into the corner, and cursed a bit . . . but finally got it done. The two sides don't match (see?) but it's good enough.

The very last thing I needed to do was make a "door", so that Arnold would be completely covered up when inside the crate. And again, I didn't have much fabric left, so I again sewed two leftover pieces together to make a big-enough piece. Then I sewed one side of that to the front "frame" and voila! A door!

You can definitely see this seam, but by this point I didn't have any choices as I was pretty much out of fabric!

I thought that I would be done when I hit this step, until I realized that the "door" had no way of staying closed. I considered tacking it to the gate door but didn't see an easy way to do that while still leaving the "lock" mechanism accessible for using . . . so I improvised:

Dove into my single button stash and found a nice simple one of a good size, and sewed that sucker right onto the top panel. Then I took a bit of scrap material and sewed a little tie by folding a narrow, long piece in half and seaming it shut. Hand-sewed the loop onto the top edge of the door and called it done!

Arnold watched the whole thing go down curiously, but seems pleased with the result. Hopefully he'll sleep even better in his crate now that it has a custom-made cover!

I'm really happy I finally took on and conquered this project, and I definitely learned a few things. I'm psyched to use some of my fabric stash, and to finally have a proper cover for the crate . . . but I discovered that sitting at the sewing machine seriously bothers my neck, even more so than knitting does. Not good. Maybe the quilting teacher will be able to help me with my form during class . . .

Oh and by the way, if you follow me on Pinterest, yes, this is why I pinned like a dozen quilts last night!


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