Those of you who have been reading Red House West since early days may remember that we have been “fostering” a dog for the past few months. “Fostering” only because really it’s been a long trial adoption, and late last week we finally made it official! I decided to mark the occasion by making a hand-printed dog bed for my Winnie girl.
These first few months haven’t been without challenges (don’t even get me started about what she did this weekend–I’ll just say it ended with a chicken getting stitches) but despite some lapses she is adjusting well and I’m totally in love with her.
We ask a lot of our animals in this house: Winnie has to get along with: (1) Our angelic but anxious dog Cora; (2) Wolsey the 18 lb. Manx who seems to have a death wish when it comes to dogs and can’t keep himself from rolling his fat body on top of their sleeping faces, and; (3) our sweet cat Cromwell, who can bring out the prey drive in mashed potatoes by running at the slightest provocation. Not to mention we have a toddler, and I won’t tolerate any canine misbehavior toward her. Winnie has handled it all, and it’s been a joy watching her settle in and adjust. She’s a tough cookie and I think she’s had to stand up for herself a lot in the past. She is also really smart and desperate for connection, and I count myself lucky to be her human.
To celebrate her official status, I decided to make her a new dog bed. Have you noticed how ridiculously expensive dog beds are? They’re just glorified floor pillows, but for reasons unknown they always cost a pretty penny. And I’ve also never found one that I thought was particularly nice to look at.
The first thing I did was to carve a block to use for printing. Although it might be a tired motif, I chose an arrow for Winnie as both a symbol of love and also because of her toughness and self-sufficiency (all she needs is a thick plait down her back and she’d be Katniss Everdeen). It’s a simple arrow, but I wanted to make sure it was straight and the angles were even, so I used my trusty parallel ruler to draw it on tracing paper (in pencil), and then transferred it onto the block.
Carving it was easy and only took about fifteen minutes. The block I used is Moo Carve, and my carving tools of choice are made by Speedball. After doing some test prints and cleaning up areas that needed to be carved away, I glued it to a clear plastic backing like this. The backing makes it a lot easier to control when printing, and the fact that it’s clear means you can see your pattern placement.
I set myself up at the dining room table where I could spread the fabric out. I used basic cotton muslin that I had on hand. Muslin takes ink nicely, washes well, and is easy to sew, so it’s a favorite of mine. For the print I did a close pattern and I just eyeballed the placement of each arrow.
Of course Winnie was standing by to help.
I think the pattern turned out great–better than I expected. After the ink dried I heat-set it by ironing it (with another piece of fabric on top to protect the iron in case of wet ink) and set about sewing the bed. It’s a simple pillow with an envelope style closure. I didn’t follow a tutorial, but this one looks good if you’re new to sewing.
And here’s the finished product! I’m really pleased with how it turned out.
The bed is much more befitting of Winnie’s beauty now, and I like to think that she can feel the love I put into it as she sleeps peacefully next to our bed. Or not.
And now for my plea to you: if you are thinking of getting a dog, consider adoption. Winnie is my third rescue and each of them has been truly wonderful. If you’re in Alaska, definitely check out Bethel Friends of Canines. It’s a great organization filling an important need, and they partner with the local airlines to fly dogs into Anchorage for adoption.
Thanks for reading along! We’ll be back on Friday with another edition of Good Score–readers have sent in some seriously great stuff that we’re excited to share with you!