Sunday, July 25, 2010

Making Pet Beds from Repurposed Items

By Ruthie Bently

I love going to auctions and yard sales; they are a great place to find inexpensive items you can repurpose or reclaim and use with your pets. Repurposing, which is different from recycling, means to give a new purpose or use to something. Reclaiming is the act of making something available for use or to rescue it from an undesirable state. If cash is limited, you don’t even need to go out to find these reusable items. You can make pet beds (including stuffing) out of your old blankets, pillow cases, mattress pads, sheets, towels, quilts and clothing.

If you have the time, you can sew your pet bed by hand. For large beds, you may want to use a sewing machine. You don’t have to be an expert with a sewing machine – knowing the basics and being able to sew a straight stitch is all you need. You shouldn’t need a heavy duty sewing machine, but it’s good to have several sturdy needles suitable for sewing heavier fabrics or multiple layers. Thread, a stitch ripper and sturdy pair of scissors round out the supplies list.

If you are totally helpless around a sewing machine, Velcro® is a handy thing to have. The fabric you choose will depend on how roughly your pet treats things. If it’s for a dog, their digging ability needs to be considered, as dogs will dig to adjust their bed to their liking, especially if it is used in their crate. Cats scratch things and while dogs don’t scratch in the same manner, you want to stay away from fabrics that have an open weave. Your pet’s toenails may get caught in it.

Some of the items you choose can be cut with scissors to fit your purpose. You may choose to sew items instead, depending on what you intend to use them for. If you’re making a simple mat for a small dog or your cat’s favorite sleeping spot, a mattress pad or quilt cut into four to eight pieces works well. Trim the elastic edge off the mattress pad, fold it in half and cut the halves apart. Take the remaining two pieces and cut again. If it is still too large, fold and cut the remaining pieces until you have the desired size. A simple whip stitch or straight stitch will keep the edges from raveling. If you want a thicker pad or more substantial bed, you can use a pillow case as a cover for the layers you have just cut. You can stitch thin pieces of Velcro to the inside edge of the pillow case’s opening to use as an easy closure.

If you’re using a quilt or a mattress pad to make a pet bed for a larger dog, folding in half and folding again creates a good size. Tacking the corners will hold it flat, but may make it harder to wash. If you just want a flat mat, folding in quarters and cutting as above works well. You can find dog bed patterns you can make online. Though some suggest using old couch cushions, I wouldn’t, since you don’t know what may be lurking in the foam of the cushion. Over time the composition of the foam tends to break down. You don’t want your dog to chew it up and ingest it either.

I have found making a bed from blue jeans to be an easy project. I rip the inseam leg stitches out up to the crotch, and stitch the fronts of the legs together at the center creating a new seam. I then sew a new seam by stitching the backs of the legs together. To make a bottom seam, I stitch the bottom of the pants closed where the feet would have exited. You can then stuff it with cotton towels or the items you created above if you want more layers. A blue jean skirt works well for a bed too, you only have to sew one seam. I would not suggest using Velcro on more than one seam if you have a dog that likes to shake things; you may come home to find stuffing all over the room.

Whatever item or items you choose to repurpose or refurbish to suit the needs of your pet’s bed, you are only limited by your imagination. You may never look at an old pair of blue jeans the same again. Not only are you keeping something from ending up in a landfill, you are giving new life to an item that still has life to give.

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

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