I know that there are certain things that people are supposed to do before guests come to stay, but those types of social graces generally escape me. I’m the sort of person who forgets to ask about food preferences and figures the guest should be both willing and able to just forage for themselves, particularly while I oversleep and they creep quietly around the apartment trying to locate a fresh roll of toilet paper or a bottle of Valium. So when my sister came to town to stay with us this weekend, I made the effort to actually think for a second about what would make her stay more comfortable and enjoyable, so naturally I spent the day before her arrival making a proper bed. For my dogs.
Hear me out: Linus insists on sleeping in the bed, usually between us or on top of me, but Mekko likes her space. She’ll cuddle up with us until the actual moment when we’re definitely going to sleep, and then she’ll proudly stand up, shake off, and go sleep on the couch until morning. After her beauty sleep and only when she’s good and ready, she comes back to the bed for a morning cuddle session before our walk. It’s all very polite and ladylike. She’s a creature of habit, which is really adorable until a person needs to sleep on the sofa and she gets all sulky, hoping somebody will notice the injustice being dealt against her.
I knew she needed a proper bed of her own, the problem being that dog beds exist on two extremes: stupid expensive or ugly as shit. I don’t like either and I don’t stand for ugly things when it comes to my children. So I made my own, because I convince myself these things will be easy and fun, two delusions that pretty much fuel the entire existence of this blog.
This magical land that I like to call “Target” sells dog bed inserts for $9.99 a pop. They make a few different corresponding covers for them, but that would have been too easy, too common, and too unattractive for my perfect angels. Luckily, I am secretly a hoarder and have a whole overflowing enormous bin filled with fabrics that I either LOVE but haven’t used (yet), or fabrics that I have no use for but can’t get rid of because they’re perfectly good and might come in handy someday. I can feel your judgment through your computer monitor, by the way, and it totally stings so just cut it out.
(Yes, that’s some rad wool Pendleton you see at the bottom there that I bought 8 months ago in Portland for no other reason than because it was marked down and I loved it. HOARDER.)
The only problem with these dog bed inserts is that they’re pitifully under-stuffed and lack the necessary luxury that my faithful companions deserve. Luckily, the fancy polyester cases have a zipper, so I bought two so that I could just gut all the stuffing out of one and put it inside the other one, making one super-stuffed amazing bed that would convince my dogs that I am actually god.
Now THAT’S what I’m talking about, am I right? If you were a dog, you’d totally want to relax all day on that. You know you would.
Especially if it were covered with this. When Max and I were in Finland, we visited the Marimekko headquarters, which has its very own outlet store attached to it, inside of which is a magical remnant bin I sifted through like I was in the middle of a Survivor challenge. There were a lot of little scraps and bits and pieces of stuff, but then the heavens opened and my greedy paws landed on this big piece of hot pink and red Unikko, one of Marimekko’s most iconic textiles. Designed in 1964 by Maija Isola, the print was the first floral that Marimekko ever produced, after consciously avoiding floral patterns because they were too traditionally feminine, a precedent that the company sought to avoid with its bold, forward-thinking clothing and textiles.
Fun fact: originally, imperfections in Marimekko fabrics were considered a sign of quality, since they were evidence of the screen-printing process that produced them, but now most imperfections are weeded out by a worker who scans the entirety of each bolt for mistakes (I think they allow up to three imperfections per bolt, but I might be wrong about that). This piece didn’t make the cut for retail because it’s a mess (you can see where they dye is all runny and weird, particularly down the middle), but since the remnant bin charged some ridiculously low price by weight, I didn’t hesitate when throwing it into my basket. Along with some other little scraps I’m still hoarding for a rainy day.
Since there wasn’t enough Unikko to cover the whole thing, I wanted something a bit more heavy-duty for the back. Like most healthy, balanced people, turns out I kept my old shower curtain that shrunk too much in the wash but was still a nice thick cotton-bamboo blend.
I cut the Unikko fabric about the same size as the insert itself, when laid flat (I used the extra sans-stuffing cover as a guide). I do this when making pillowcases of any size, since the seam allowance actually makes the finished product smaller than the insert—meaning it will stay looking fluffy and sexy and awesome instead of loose and droopy.
Since I wanted the cover to be removable but am still avoiding learning how to properly sew a zipper, not that I have any zippers on hand anyway, I opted to make a simple envelope back. To do this, I added about 8-10 inches of width to the back and then cut it in half, giving me the necessary 3-4″ of overlap in the middle when the pillow is inserted.
Like so. Making sense? Ugh, sewing tutorials are difficult, particularly as I have no real idea how to sew and no real business giving advice.
Since I used a shower curtain, I used an existing seam for the outside of the pocket and sewed a new seam for the inside of the pocket, since that’s the one you’ll never really see anyway and I’m crappy at sewing even straight lines.
Then I just laid all the “right” sides of the fabric facing each other, and pinned the whole thing up on each side. When using a sewing machine, put the pins in perpendicular to the edge so that the needle can sew over them without breaking or causing catastrophe, mental breakdowns, or death. This is crafting, after all, and the risks are real.
The dogs, by the way—SUPER NOT HELPFUL. Here’s Linus being a little entitled jerk and demanding to literally sleep on top of my project.
Mekko, of course, sort of watched me judgmentally and with a palpable sense of pity before just falling asleep. “Look at this fucking putz,” she thought. “You can quit it with this bullshit right now, you’re embarrassing yourself.”
But I PERSEVERED. Little furry bullies will not drag down my crafting fervor. Nothing can extinguish the fire in my soul to make crap I should have just bought months ago. Except, like, death or something better to do.
Then it was just a matter of sewing all the outer edges together. I know there are fancier ways of doing this, but I don’t know what they are and I don’t really care because a single line of stitching is all I’m really capable of without feeling like I need to go somewhere and senselessly smash stuff for a while.
This is the part where you get to cut corners! Har-fucking-har.
Snip those corners off so when you turn the thing right-side-out, the extra fabric in the corners won’t make things wonky. Yes, in fact those are the best terms I can come up with to describe this.
Turn it right-side-out, and then from the inside, use a knitting needle or some other pointy object, like a chopstick or a fingernail if you’re a witch, to push the corner out. Basically it should look like a corner instead of a mess. I’m fading here.
I put a single big button in the middle of the back to keep the envelope closed. This helps keep the pillow shapely and nice, otherwise the insert will try to escape out the back and the cover will start to look weird.
I have no idea how to sew a button hole, so I just cut a slit a little smaller than the button and sewed a million stitches around the perimeter of it to keep the fabric from fraying around the hole. This is the part where I don’t really care what it looks like at all and just sit in front of the TV pretending to be talented, stitching and stitching for a while until it seems like the hole is never going to fall apart. You’ll know when you get to that point, then do some more stitches for good measure.
Then force your ungrateful diva of a dog to lie on it while you take pictures and try to entice her to do something—anything—to look even remotely excited or happy about the thing you just spent 3-4 hours making for her to enjoy and cherish.
Remind her that the whole internet will see these pictures and all of a sudden girl knows how to work her angles and model like a fucking pro. Jesus, I’m fucked.
Despite her initial hesitations, Mekko has warmed up to the idea and used it willingly several times over the course of the last few days, which I think means its a success?
Linus loves it, but that guy will sleep anywhere.