There's nothing worse than looking out the window and seeing your poor pup shaking in the winter air, miserable because their coat isn't nearly warm enough to shield them from the chilly breeze.
That's exactly the problem that my friend Will had with his lovable pit bull Honey. Her short fur coat was perfect for the desert heat they endured through their many escapades across the country, but settling into the mountains of Virginia in late fall proved miserable for poor Honey and her short fur. With a spare Carhartt lying around, Will asked if I could transform it into a coat that Honey could wear during the cold winter months. And how could I turn down a face like hers?
So now I'm here to show to you the way to make a Carhartt coat for your own pup, whether they need the extra warmth or just want to look super stylish!
Step 1: Materials You'll Need
Here are the materials you'll need for this escapade:
XL Carhartt coat
black thick thread
2 x 7” zippers
1 exceptionally patient dog
2 people (1 to hold the exceptionally patient dog, 1 to pin jacket)
Step 2: STAGE 1: Dismantling Coat
The first step in the process is to dismantle your XL Carhartt coat. You can buy any size coat that you want (heck, it doesn't even have to be a Carhartt!), but remember that you want to have as much fabric to work with as possible. Honey is a medium sized dog, so an extra-large coat is perfect to give us some extra fabric.
Start by taking apart the coat with your stitch-ripper. Remove the following parts of the coat:
3. elastic sleeve cuffs
4. elastic waistband
You can set aside the hood and the sleeves, as you won't need them. The elastic sleeve cuffs will be used as sleeves for the jacket, and the elastic waistband will be used as the waistband and collar for the jacket.
Leave the zipper in place, as this will be an integral part of the coat. No need to take apart a zipper when it's already sewn in place!
Step 3: STAGE 2: Draping the Jacket
Here comes the most difficult part of this excursion: Draping the jacket on the dog. This will involve someone who can gently hold the patient dog in place while you fit it to them. The trick is going to be pinning the jacket in increments, fitting one section at a time, then taking the jacket off of the dog and evening out the pinning and cutting the jacket while the dog gets to run around.
IMPORTANT: Draping is a complicated process that I have learned from years of classes and experience. Draping on a live animal is even more complicated than draping on a static dress form, so if this seems difficult I apologize! If you don't want to go through the hassle of draping the coat and would instead like a basic pattern for a medium-sized pitbull-type-dog, jump to STEP 6.
*If you're worried about ruining the jacket you can drape using an old sheet or other fabric until you get to correct shape and make a pattern from that, which you would then transfer to the coat and cut out.
BASIC DRAPING RULE: Remember that clothing is completely symmetrical, so when you fold it in half it's a mirror image of itself. As I draped this jacket I made sure that everything was identical on both sides. I only made size markings on Honey's right side, then I would remove it, fold it in half along the length of the zipper, and even out the pin markings. Then I would cut along the pin lines REMEMBERING TO LEAVE SEAM ALLOWANCE. If you don't leave seam allowance, standardly 1/2”, when you sew up your jacket it will be too small!
I decided that I wanted the jacket to zip up in the back so that Honey can step into it with her front paws and have it easily zip closed. So for this pattern the zipper will serve as the center back of the coat.
1. DRAPE CHEST:
I started by putting the jacket on Honey with the zipper on her back and pinning the chest to the correct dimensions. Once this was done I removed the jacket and folded along the zipper, cutting 1/2” beyond the pinned markings. I then pinned the chest together like it would be sewed so that I could see how it would fit and put it back on Honey.
2. DRAPE ARM HOLES:
I then marked the correct position for the arm holes, making sure that Honey has enough room to move her shoulders backwards and forwards without any resistance.
Remove the jacket and folded in in half along the zipper, cutting out the armholes 1/2” beyond the pin lines.
Step 4: STAGE 2: Draping the Jacket, Continued
3. DRAPE NECKLINE:
From here I make sure that Honey has the correct neckline so that she can move in any direction that she wants. It's important to leave extra room in this coat so that the dog can move and run normally without restriction. I bring the extra fabric from the sides around to the center front of her chest under her neck and pin down the center front to create a seam. I then use the pins to mark out how low the neckline should dip in the front. For the back neckline cut off as much zipper as you need to.
Remove the jacket, fold along the zipper and cut 1/2” beyond the pin lines for the neckline and the center front seam.
Pin the center front seam together as it will be sewn to make sure it fits correctly. Cut the elastic waistband in half and pin it around the neckline. This is done so that when you try it on your dog you can make sure that the collar sits in the correct position and doesn't choke or restrict your dog's movement. Adjust fit and cut as necessary.
4. CONNECT NECK TO CHEST:
Now that most of your coat is built, it's time to connect the neck to the body of your coat with a chest piece. Use any of the extra fabric that you have lying around to pin horizontally to the bottom of the neck, and the connect to the chest. Make any pin markings necessary to accommodate for the front of the armhole, again allowing enough wiggle room for a dog who wants to run, jump, play, lay down and generally have an awesome time in an epic coat.
Remove the jacket, fold along the zipper and cut 1/2” beyond the pin lines around the armholes.
Pin elastic arm bands in place to check for correct fit.
Step 5: STAGE 2: Draping the Jacket, Continued
5. PIN ENTIRE JACKET TOGETHER AS IF SEWN:
We want to make sure that the jacket is going to fit perfectly, so to do this we want to pin the entire jacket together along the seam lines. Using the second half of the elastic waistband pin it into position around the bottom waistline of the jacket. Once the entire jacket is pinned together, put it on your pup one more time to make sure that it fits. Have them run a lap around the house, sit and lie down to make sure that they can move freely (but make sure all of your pins are safely tucked away so that your doggy doesn't get poked with any errant pins!)
Step 6: Interlude: Coat Pattern
If you don't want to deal with the draping nonsense here are the pattern pieces and rough dimensions for a dog Honey's size!
Step 7: STAGE 3: Sewing the Coat
WHEW! Now that you've wrangled your patient dog for [possibly] hours worth of fittings, the simple part is upon you! Sewing this thing together will be a piece of cake compared to draping on a moving target!
Let's start by making some zippered pockets. Since the kangaroo-style pockets on either side of the zipper are going to sit on you dog's back with the pocket openings facing down, I wanted to add zippers to them so that your pup can put all of their important things in them without anything falling out.
Start by using your stitch ripper (or scissors) to undo the stitching on the ends of either end of the pocket. Pin your 7” zipper in place onto the edge of the existing pocket opening. Sew into place.
Pin the other side of the zipper to the body of the coat. Sew into place. Repeat for other pocket.
Step 8: STAGE 3: Sewing the Coat--Torso
2. Sew together the torso of the coat:
Now, the Carhartt coat had a lining already sewn into it. These two fabrics stick together and were thus cut out at the same time as I was draping the coat. Every time I tell you to sew together some part of the coat, remember that you also have to sew the corresponding part of the lining together.
Begin by sewing together the chest and the center front seam under the neck. Then sew together the center chest piece to the bottom of the neck and the top of the chest piece.
Step 9: STAGE 3: Sewing the Coat--Neck and Waistbands
3. Sew in the neck and waist bands:
Pin the neck and waistbands to the outer layer of the coat, sew into place. Turn the coat inside out and sew the neck band to the neck lining. Turn coat right-side out.
TRICKY PART! The waistband needs to be connected to the lining, but to do that we have to turn the coat inside out again. Only this time the entire coat needs to be pulled out through one of the arm holes so that we don't sew the rest of the coat together inside out.
Reach in through the arm hole and pull the whole coat inside out. Pin the waistband to the lining, sew in place. Flip coat right-side out.
Re-sew the ends of the neck and waistbands to the zipper at either end.
Step 10: STAGE 3: Sewing the Coat--Arm Bands
4. Sew in the arm bands:
Pin the sleeve cuffs into BOTH the outer and lining layers of the arm holes and sew into place. Serge the seams to keep the fabric edges from fraying.
Step 11: Completed Canine Coat!
You now have the perfect coat to fit your canine companion! Whether it's a winter hike or evenings out in the snow, your pup will be warm and snuggly all winter long.