Monday, 9 September 2019
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DIY Dog Coat with Popped Collar and Leash Opening

Red fleece dog coat with reflective high visibility trim

This DIY dog coat is comfy, cosy, quick dry, and custom sized to fit both Oli and Humphrey.  It's constructed with a sports fleece outer (tracksuit/hoody type material) and a polar fleece inner, and I included recycled high-visibility strips on the collar, leash hole shield, and belly closure bands. Our winter days can be rather dark and dreary, so a little extra visibility can be a good thing. It has a popped collar to keep the neck snug without getting in the way of movement or causing an annoyance around the ears.  The leash hole allows easy access and use with our double loop and large collars, and the shield helps buffer that gap.

Dalmatian dog wearing a red fleece coat with high visibility trim

The details on measuring dogs and how my customised dog coat pattern was developed are shared in detail in our previous post. There is no free pattern download because the best shape and size will vary greatly between different pets, so it's much better to help you create you own perfectly fitted individual pattern. The basic coat and belly bands are very simple to size and sew, so don't be intimidated.

✂️  If you'd prefer to simplify, you can switch from a popped collar to a basic wrapped collar, or skip the collar all together. Without the collar, you may no longer need to create access (or covering) for your leash. You can also can modify (or omit) the leash grommet and/or cover flap. 

Diagrams for measuring a dog for a DIY coat pattern

The materials and craft supplies used in making the jacket shown are:

  • Butchers Paper (or suitable alternative) for Pattern Template
  • Sports Fleece (or fabric of your preference)
  • Polar Fleece (or fabric of your preference)
  • Optional Washable Sew-On High Visibility Tape (I recycled some from an old vest)
  • Optional Interfacing for Popped Collar
  • Complimentary Coloured Thread
  • Sew-On Velcro / Hook and Loop
  • Sewing Machine and Basic Sewing Tools

Sewing materials for making a dog coat

I used sports fleece on the outside of this coat because it is a little more fur friendly that using polar fleece (total fur magnet!). It's similar to work with, so it pairs great with the fleece inner, and washes/wears well. All parts of the lining are a matching red fleece, except the inside of the collar. I used a red and black buffalo check because I had it on hand and felt like doing something a little different at the neck. My high vis strips were cut from an old vest that was kicking around, but you can also buy this buy length or by roll from sewing/speciality suppliers or online. It is warm and somewhat water-resistant, but not waterproof or windproof. You can switch materials or use an inner lining with similar materials if you'd like to add those properties.  Tip: Yes, those are clothes pins you see with the project supplies in the photo above. Clothes pins are my secret weapon when tailoring for the dogs. They're far more dog-friendly (and me friendly!) than a ouchy pins, easier to attach/release than safety pins, and work as my second (third, fourth...) set of hands when checking sizing and positioning.

Creating and Assembling the Custom Dog Coat 

  • Measure and customise the pattern, as detailed in our previous post. 
  • Source materials and, if appropriate for your chosen fabrics, prewash/preshrink prior to use. 
  • Cut pieces using your measurements and pattern template. Double check the body for fit.
  • If using the optional high-visibility tape, sew the strips into your desired positions on the outside of your top layer fabric prior to joining layers for assembly. 
  • Layer the belly band pieces right-side-in and sew to join, leaving the top edge open (will be sewn when layered into the finished jacket). Invert to right-side-out. Top stitch around the joined edges. See note at the end of this post if you wish to include an optional sleeve on the belly bands for additional flexibility and security for different belly fits. 
  • Layer the leash hole shield pieces right-side-in and sew to join, leaving the flat/inside edge open (will be sewn when layered into the finished jacket). Invert to right-side-out. Top stitch around the joined edges. 
  • Layer the collar pieces right-side-in, add optional interfacing if using, and sew to join, leaving the bottom/neck edge open (will be sewn when layered into the finished jacket). Trim excess from corners to aid in turning out.  Invert to right-side-out. Top stitch around the joined edges. The popped collar stands naturally on the finished coat. The stiffened materials help hold it firm, but it naturally wants to pop because it is a straight rectangle sewn to a curve, creating the (partial) side of a cylinder. For a fold over collar, you can do the same without stiffening. For a lay flat decorative collar/trim, you can use matched curve instead.
If you are using a different more heat tolerant material, you can press prior to top stitching; however, my materials are ill-suited to ironing so I just flatten as best I can and try to keep the edges evenly positioned for top stitching.
Step-by-step photos how to sew a dog coat collar

Because their position is so visible and the items have bulk, I'm attaching the shield and collar before layering, unlike the belly bands which are just sewn into place during assembly of the coat body. 
  • Position the prepared leash hole shield at the center of the neck on the top piece of your jacket, both materials right-side up. Pin into place. Optional: Sew using a very narrow allowance (I did) or baste into place so that the shield is secure without having extra pins in the way when you join the collar. Ensure the seam will be hidden in final assembly.
  • Sew a narrow seam inside the bottom/neck allowance of the prepared collar. Slit the fabric in the allowance, ensuring you don't cross the stitched line, to help it spread when sewing it around the curve.
  • Position the collar at the center of the neck, above the leash hole shield, on the top piece of your jacket, with the collar inside facing up. Carefully curve it around the neckline and pin into place. Sew using a narrow allowance to ensure the seam will be hidden in final assembly.

Step-by-step photos showing how to sew a dog coat

  • Double check your belly band position and length. Layer the prepared belly bands onto the top piece of your jacket so that they are both right-side-in, with the bands turned inwards to the coat body and the attaching allowance sticking out over the coat edge. Pin at the joining edges as well as in the middle so that nothing shifts to be accidentally caught when sewing.
  • Layer the inside fabric piece of the jacket body over the top piece right-side in and pin to secure. Working carefully, especially in the bulky areas around the neck and at the belly bands, sew to join the edges, leaving a gap in a discrete area that will be sufficient for inverting. Tip: With the shield an collar attached, the bulk can be deceptive about sewing the two layers of the coat. It's essential that you ensure these are cut identically so that when you layer the coat body pieces together you can trust your edges and seam allowances. Line the edges up, pin, and sew.
  • Invert the jacket through the gap. Check (once again) that everything is correctly joined and that you are happy with the fit, as it is easier to adjust now if needed than after topstitching.
  • Pin the gap into position so that it will be sewn closed during top stitching. Topstitch around the edge of the coat body. 

Step-by-step how to sew Velcro fasteners on a dog coat

  • Cut and position Velcro. Sew to secure into place. Tips: I gently rounded my Velcro, which matches the rounded ends of my closure tabs and avoids having any sharp pokey corner bits. I prefer to have my Velcro hook side up, loop side down. Loop is usually easier to sew, so having it facing in keeps the visible stitching on the top of the fabric tidier. It also won't catch on fluffy fur the way hook may, so it's better for the dogs as well.

Special Customisations on our DIY Dog Coats

The position for the collar/leash hole was checked and measured with the partially completed coat fitted, so that I could be the placement as close to perfect as possible for our type of collars and walking style. I did this before attaching the Velcro, so the coat was a little easier to work on without  worrying about catching/sticking. The leash hole itself is sized to fit Humphrey's double-loop collar (and also works great with Oli's extra wide collar). An oversized buttonhole would be a good alternative for a different style of collar/harness (and may not need any covering shield), but it wouldn't be wide enough for our double loops, which would lift and shift awkwardly under the coat. 

As a total sucker for punishment, instead of just sewing my circle, cutting the hole, and leaving it with with unfinished edges (my materials don't fray), I decided to create a fleece binding to wrap and reinforce the hole on my stretchy jacket materials. I do love the end result, but it was painful getting there! To create a tight curvy fleece binding for my small circle, I layered two pieces of the polar fleece (more forgiving than the sports fleece), sewed an inside circle, cut a ring (one side slightly wider than the other), opened the ring, inverted the pieces, and topstitched the inside curve.  I then popped it into position inside the hole with the wider side down, sewed the edges into place, hand stitched the join (positioned under the shield). With the raincoat version of this DIY dog coat design, I simplified this by not cutting the bottom of the ring until after it was sewn into place. This takes advantage of being able to trim the fleece inside to a perfect match on the stitch line without having to worry about whether I've caught all the edges during sewing.

Step-by-step how to make an access hole in a dog coat for attaching a leash

Done and looking sharp, the jacket went into winter service straight away. I love everything about it and the boys seem to find it very comfortable. Humphrey has been known to nudge the storage box where I keep them by the door when we're getting ready for walkies in cold and wet weather, as if asking to have a jacket too please, Mom. :)  The only think that wasn't quite perfect is that in the compromise to fit both dogs, Oli's belly band attaches shy of the full length of hook (not a problem) and Humphrey's attaches slightly past when snug (also not really a problem, but I had an idea....). I modified the lower band with a little belly band sleeve that forms a loop to hold the end of the upper band when fitted tight. It has Velcro loop on the inside and I sewed a piece of hook to the band below before attaching. This holds it firmly together when not in use or when Oli is wearing the jacket (e.g. third photo in the collage below) and hold's the end neatly in place when Humphrey is wearing the jacket (e.g. fourth image in the collage below). It works perfectly and was included when making the follow-on raincoat.

Step-by-step how to make a dog coat belly band more adjustable

🧩 When not in use, keep your Velcro pieces attached together. This helps to protect the stickiness of your Velcro by reducing unwanted fluff and link sticking in the hooks and also reduces the risk of accidentally damaging something else. Velcro should also be securely attached when washing and you may want to pop the whole thing into a lingerie/sweater bag for an extra layer of protection just in case something pulls open in the rough and tumble of the washing cycle. You can also use a microplastic filter bag in the wash, if you prefer.

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