Tuesday, February 25, 2014

All snug in their beds

I'm not sure what might be dancing through their heads, but our porch kitties seems very satisfied with their polar fleece beds which I finished last month. (They also have heating pads underneath to keep them even snuggier.) Mama – that's the lovely longhair gray one – brought her three little striped kittens to our side porch one rainy August evening in 2012. Well, what could we do but offer them food and an old rug to curl up on? So, of course, they stayed. The kittens were feral, while Mama, oh-so-thin under all that fur, was only extremely wary. And, of course, we intended to find them homes, since we already have an official cat who definitely desires no other feline companionship. But... As you can see, they're still here, no longer feral, at least to us, but not house cats either. They live on our front porch and amuse us endlessly (as well as cause us a lot of worry).

Last winter Mr C built them a terrific, insulated, carpeted house with two levels inside. The only use they have made of it, even in the coldest weather, is to sit on top of its padded, polar fleece-covered top. So this year I decided to make them polar fleece beds. I wanted them to be deep enough to block the wind when the occupant was curled up inside and thus decided on constructing them with vertical channels that would hopefully stand up rather than spreading out as I was afraid that horizontal rings would do. As I wrote on Pattern Review, these are labor-intensive and time-consuming to make, but not really difficult. (I highly recommend a good audio book to take you through this project; I listened to Paris: the novel, by Edward Rutherfurd: 30 CDs! That was for four beds.) If you'd like to make one, read on for my complete tutorial.

Step one is determine what size you want the bed to be. All four of mine are different widths; the first one was made to fit on the porch swing, and wide enough to accommodate two cats. I've used the second bed's dimensions for this tutorial. Cut two bottom pieces to your desired dimensions and round off the corners. For the piece of fabric that will form the sides, I found it more accurate to cut out my bottom rectangles, round the corners and then measure to obtain the circumference. The rounding of the corners knocked about 4 inches off the circumference of the rectangle, because how much you round the corners will affect the measurement. 

Now cut one piece of fabric for the sides as long as the measurement of that circumference plus ½” seam allowances for each end. Cut the piece twice as wide as you wish the bed to be tall, plus a total 1½” seam allowance. Because I wanted my bed to be 8” tall, my piece is 16” plus 1½” seams allowance = 17½”.

Let me stress, the MOST IMPORTANT THING IS MARKING. You might want to get on with it, but, believe me, marking everything while your fabric is flat will make all the difference. I know because I didn't know that when I made the first bed. I first marked with a chalk marker on the wrong side, then machine stitched with my longest stitch over the marking so that I could see it on the right side of the fabric. Mark both bottom pieces as indicated on the drawing. Next, mark the center front of the long side piece, then fold the seam allowances of what will be the center back to the center front to find the line that will match up to the bottom pieces' center sides and mark that. Now mark the vertical channels; I made mine 5 inches wide. Mark the foldline. And finally mark the 1-inch seam allowance along one long side as shown in the drawing, using regular-width sewing stitches. 

If you want to have a lower section in the front as I made here, before sewing anything else, fold the side piece RIGHT SIDES TOGETHER along the foldline, matching the center fronts, and mark with chalk or marking pen the section for the lowered front. Stitch. Trim fabric to about ½ inch from the stitching, clipping to the corners. Turn right side out and smooth seam. In my photos here, you'll see I did this step after I had sewn the side piece to one bottom pieces, but I subsequently discovered that it was easier to do this step before any other sewing.

Now, sew the short ends of the side piece together in a ½” seam. Since you won't be ironing the polar fleece, just lightly tug and smooth the seam to get it nice and flat and open out the seam allowances. 

Next, pin the unmarked ½” seamline edge of this piece to one of the bottom pieces, matching center front and center back, plus the two side centers. Stitch in a ½” seam. Clip to the rounded corners. 

Then fold the side piece WRONG sides together, matching the marked 1” seamline to the ½” seam that you just stitched. Stitch the channels from the top, stopping just at the seamline. Now stitch on that seamline across the channel stitches, leaving a small unstitched section in the middle of each channel; this is where you will push the stuffing through. You want the unstitched section to be as small as possible while still allowing you to stuff the channel, because you are going to hand stitch that opening after you have stuffed the channel. 


Stuff the channels, using a large knitting needle or something similar to get the stuffing compact and well-distributed in the channel. I used bags of polyester fiberfill which was relatively inexpensive and can be laundered. The fuller you stuff the channels, the sturdier the bed will be. I didn't stuff the first bed as fully, and the front opening tends to fall forward. On the others, the opening stays upright. 

The beginning of the hand work: Sew the channel openings closed. Just catch a stitch in the row of the 1-inch seamline marking, and another stitch in the seamline where you stitched the side to the bottom. Pull your stitches tautly together. This will take a while and is, quite honestly, a bit awkward to do. 

After you have finished that, stitch around your remaining bottom piece ½” from the edge. Turn under and top stitch to keep it in place. Now match your center front and back, side centers and corner marking on the two bottom pieces, placing them WRONG SIDES TOGETHER. Pin and stitch the two pieces together by hand, leaving an opening for stuffing. Fill the bottom with however much stuffing you desire; you won't stuff this compactly as you did the channels, just enough to make a nice, soft, comfy bottom. Hand stitch the opening closed. Although I didn't do so, you might want to tack the two bottom pieces together in several places to keep the stuffing from shifting when you wash the beds. 

You're finished! Put it where you cat will enjoy sleeping, then get ready to snap some photos because he or she will look sooo adorable all curled up in the new bed.


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