Monday, December 13, 2010

Easiest-Ever Pet Mat - Tutorial

There are three constants in my life: crafts, books and cats. Our four are as much members of the family as any of us humans, and at this time of year they're always looking for cozy places to curl up, which can't always be your lap! With one of these mats that I made years ago literally shredding away at the edges, I figured the holidays was the perfect time to replace it. Besides, they've been good and not attempted to climb or topple the tree once! Yet.

It's absolutely easy to run up one of these in under an hour, with only three fabric ingredients, plus notions.

The main layer of your pet mat is out of fake fur or bathrobe fleece. I chose a terrific holiday-themed fleece from SAS Fabric By The Pound in Tucson.

Cut it out to the desired size. I usually try to make it roughly the size of the bottom of a pet carrier, so they can serve double-duty and keep kitty comfortable on the next trip to the vet.

For the next layer, cut a length of your preferred quilt batting to exactly the same size as your fleece. (If you're using fake fur which is very dense, you may not need this extra layer, but in most cases I've found it's essential and lends stability.)

Your final layer serves both as the backing and the binding for the mat. I chose a holiday print from my stash in this case, but you'll also have good success with denim, flannel, or whatever caught your eye in the remnant bin! Cut this backing fabric to about 2.5" wider on all sides than your fleece and batting pieces.

You're ready to start assembling. Layer your fleece fabric right side down, with the batting on top of it. Stitch the whole perimeter in a standard 5/8" seam. It's best to stitch with the batting side up so that you can be sure it doesn't bunch or fold. Batting also has a tendency to clog up your feed dog and bobbin mechanism. Do not trim the seam allowance! It's what will define the shape of the binding.

Now place your backing fabric right side down with the fleece/batting layer centered on it, right side up. Pin, and then stitch through all layers again, right along your previous stitching line. (If you want to give kitty an extra-special mat, you can sprinkle a bit of catnip between the batting and the backing layer before completing this step.)

Next, press the binding into shape. First, with the project right side up, fold the backing fabric up and over so that a fold is created along the edge of the fleece/batting's seam allowance. Press in a crease along that fold on all four sides, one side at a time.

Again, one side at a time, open out the backing fabric and fold it in half, so that the raw edge meets the line you just pressed in. Press again. This will be the edge of your backing.

Fold the pressed binding up on all four sides, so that the edge covers your previous stitching. I like to fold up the longer sides first, and then the ends, but you can do it either way. Pin in place.

Finally, topstitch the binding into place around all edges. I like to backtack to the outer edge of the fabric in both directions at all four corners, as a finishing touch and to ensure that no raw edges are accidentally exposed. You can hand-stitch the binding in place if you're feeling fussy about the stitching lining up evenly on the back side. I deliberately choose a busy print and unobtrusive thread and don't sweat this step too much. It's not a side anybody's going to see on a regular basis, and I'm more interested in durability than fine detail here.

Voila! Your pet's cozy new home is done!

You can use these almost anywhere: a favorite nesting place on the sofa, by the hearth, or, in our case, along the lower level of the garden window, where they love to watch the world and sun. They're easy to toss in the washer and dryer: just make sure they're not with a load of your clothes, if you added catnip, since that might result in an unexpected, nefarious assault on your closet. These would work great for small dogs as well; bigger dogs probably need something more robust and overstuffed. And what a thoughtful, quick gift for your pet-loving friends!

A few ideas, in closing:
  • This project is terrific for re-purposing older fabrics - bathrobes and pajamas that have outlived their usefulness, old blue jeans, etc.

  • You could use the same technique for quick and easy placemats, replacing the batting with a layer of fusible interfacing instead and only stitching the 5/8" perimeter seam once.

  • Obviously they don't have to be holiday-themed. I for one have a huge stash of cat-print fabric that I've collected for the cat quilt(s) that are still barely a gleam in my eye: some of them will end up in more of these.

  • As long as you're making one, and they're so quick and easy, why not run up a few extra and donate them to a local cat or small-animal rescue?

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