This week’s post took me out of my comfort zone of making clothes for people, and instead gave me the challenge of fitting a creature that I have way too much love for.
Leela’s a very special dog – in many ways, including the window-licker sense. She lives in London now, but was born in Borneo, Malaysia – we lived there for a couple of years and during that time found her as a stray, tiny, starving puppy. We guessed she was about four weeks old – she had no teeth yet, that’s for sure. Riddled with lice, fleas and worms, we cleaned her up, fed her back to health and brought her back to the UK with us when she was two years old.
Being a mongrel, she’s a bit of a weird shape. And by a bit, I mean she’s a complete, 100%, freak of dog-nature. She looks like an oversized Jack Russell terrier that’s been fed steroids, with a massive barrel chest that’s disproportionate to her length, and has a deep booming bark typical of a dog twice her size. She’s a dog version of one of those babies that you have to put a pink headband (collar) on so that people know she’s a girl.
Despite her beginnings (or because of? Or maybe because my husband spoils her), Leela is a lady that likes luxury. Furry blankets, cuddles, and most importantly being warm. Borneo has a tropical climate, and it never gets colder than about 25 degrees – so you can imagine how impressed she was when she landed at Heathrow to be greeted with minus temperatures and snow on the ground. If she could speak she would have said “put me back into the metal crate I’ve just spent 18 hours in and take me back to the hot place”. For sure.
Wrapping her up in a blanket in her bed while she sleeps overnight is the norm in our house, and when it gets REALLY cold we have to put a hot water bottle in the base of her bed for extra heat. She’s figured out that underneath the human duvet it’s always warm overnight, so if she deems that we’ve failed in keeping her warm to a satisfactory standard (or if she gets up in the night and loses her blanket) then we wake up with a dog curled up against us, under the duvet with her head on the pillow. I’m not even joking, this genuinely happens. Regularly. Sometimes I look at her, being snuggled by her human-slaves, all warm and comfy and safe and fat and snoring, and think: you don’t know how lucky you are. What would your mum say if she could see you now, from her bed on the streets? ‘Two meals every day given to you, and a loving home – you’ve hit the jackpot, my little one’ would be her words. Then looking at Leela makes my heart ache for all the ones that aren’t so fortunate and I cuddle her a little tighter.
If she’s this cold indoors, you can imagine the dramas of getting her outside for winter walks. The vets here advised us that she should have a coat with a panel that comes down from the neck and covers her chest, to keep her heart and other chest organs warm – finding a coat that fits her full stop is hard enough, let alone one of a certain style. Most dog coats fasten at the neck, superman-cape-style, and leave the chest exposed. She’s had a few coats over her seven years, but none that really fitted her like they should – so as her carer/servant I thought I should make her some doggy couture as it’s technically my fault that she’s no longer in the hot country, basking in the sunshine.
With winter rapidly approaching (I read on the news recently that it’s meant to be the coldest in five years?!) I decided not only should I make her something that fits her properly, but actually looks nice too. I searched and searched through all the dog patterns available (dog tutu, anyone?) trying to find one of the right style that was actually graded to a size big enough for her… for some reason, it looks like the pattern companies think that medium and large-sized dogs don’t need a winter coat.
I eventually found Burda 7752 which fit the requirements, and I chose my materials from the selection available at Minerva Crafts. I don’t usually (ok, ever) do practice runs of clothes for me (who has time for that?! Life’s too short), but I knew that because Leela is such a weird shape I’d have to do it for her coat. I made a couple of test coats, and then for the final fitting – the armhole placement and size was the last thing to nail – she was so over being made to get up out of her blanket, put a coat on and then sit back down that we resorted to putting the pattern pieces on her while she lay on the floor. She didn’t even move, she just let the servants get on with their work.
But it was all worth it, because Her Majesty now has a coat that is warm (SUPER warm), fits her how it should, and actually looks quite nice on her. She almost passes for a pretty girl, as opposed to the grumpy, spoilt, opinionated personality she actually is. To read the full story and hear about the construction dramas I had with this pattern (why oh WHY do Burda insist on writing such rubbish instructions for their patterns?!) head on over to the Minerva Crafts blog through the link below. It remains to be seen whether she deems the coat worthy of getting her outside when it’s freezing cold though – I’ll let you know the verdict in a couple of months…
(in the photo below she looks a bit stare-y because she’s just spotted a squirrel lol)
Coming up next week on the Wanderstitch blog… a whole lot of Autumn colours going on with my Victory Patterns Madeline Skirt! ? Subscribe below to make sure you don’t miss out!