Introduction: Custom Dog Bed
The boy and I are proud parents of a German Shepherd/Rottie mix named Roscoe. He might not get as much screen time as my cats but he's just as amazing. ;)
Roscoe is almost eight years old and starting to have some issues with his hips so I knew it was time to make him an orthopedic dog bed to go along with the other treatments he's getting! We have wooden/lino floors all through our apartment so he really doesn't have a nice place to sleep without a bed. It doesn't help that he's 120+ pounds, so he has a lot of weight that needs to be supported - more reason to use orthopedic-friendly memory foam. :)
He's previously had a bed I made from quilted clothing scraps and polyfill - it worked when he was younger but not so much now. We've also tried a couple store bought beds, but the quality of those never seems to be worth the price. The last one he had was full of recycled foam, which started to break down and flatten out very fast. (And was impossible to clean!)
I knew we needed a better long term solution, so I decided to start looking into memory foam. You can get memory foam mattress toppers for fairly cheap and sewing a cover isn't too hard. The memory foam provides loads of support for his joints, and I love that I can make tons of covers for the bed and switch them out.
Step 1: Tools + Materials
- memory foam mattress topper (this is the one I bought)
- 2-3 yards of medium-heavy fabric (depends on bed size)
- zipper that will fit the bed (a make-a-size kit might be your best bet!)
- scissors/pinking shears
- x-acto knife
- sewing machine
- iron + ironing board
The mattress topper you choose will depend on the size of your dog! I chose to get a twin XL, giving me about 80x38 inches to work with, meaning I could double over the foam and still have a little left over for cat beds.
I highly recommend buying the foam as a mattress topper - you'll save money and have more foam to work with! Pet bed inserts are very expensive.
I recommend using a mid- to heavyweight fabric for the bed. I'm using a beautiful cotton duck arrow print from Fabric.com. You can also choose to mix fabrics - maybe oilcloth on top to make it resistant to liquids if you have an older/dirty dog. :)
You'll want a zipper long enough to span one of the sides of the bed. I bought a 46 inch long plastic zipper that I shortened using this method.
Step 2: Cut Your Foam
Now for the fun part! Choose the size you want and cut your foam.
I ended up doing two pieces at 31x39 inches - this makes the bed 4 inches tall, which is nice and thick. :D
I recommend measuring out the first piece, cutting it off, and then laying the first piece on top of the remaining foam and mark the edge line. Foam is so squishy and moldable it can be hard to get super exact cuts if you're climbing all over it. :P
To cut the foam, drag an x-acto knife or box cutter along the line you're drawn out over and over, going a little deeper into the foam every time. This will keep your cuts nice and straight.
P.S. That's the look Luna gives me when I tell her not to eat foam. NOT HAVING IT
Step 3: Determine Your Fabric Sizes
We're going to be using a hefty 1/2 inch seam allowance for this cover, so we'll need to add 1 inch to every measurement. Below I've listed out the pieces you'll need and how to determine their size.
2 pieces for the top and bottom:
width (+1 inch) x length (+1 inch)
3 pieces for the sides:
width (+1 inch) x height (+1 inch)
1 side piece for zipper placement:
width (+1 inch) x height (+2 inches)
Check the photo to make sense of this and see my measurements!
If you're making a wonky bed like me, you'll end up with three different sizes for the sides, and that's okay. :)
Step 4: Cut Your Fabric Pieces
If you have access to pinking shears, I recommend using them to cut all your fabric for this project to add to the durability. I'm sure your bed cover will end up being washed quite a bit. ;)
To cut large pieces of fabric, it's always a good idea to fold the fabric lengthwise right sides together and press it - you can use the fold as a straight edge to make sure all your lines and nice and square. It also means you're not having to square up HUGE shapes since the fabric is folded in half.
Use a ruler to measure out your pieces and mark the cut lines. Double check and then cut it out!
Step 5: Prepping the Zipper + Side Panel
Take the side panel you cut for the zipper and fold it in half and press. Cut down the middle press line so you have two strips.
Place these strips together, right sides facing.
Now you'll need to shorten your zipper appropriately - since the length of my bed is 40 inches, I shortened by zipper to about 36 inches, which will leave a couple inches on the sides to sew it nice and tight.
Lay the zipper down on the side panel and center it as best as possible. Make a mark a couple inches in at each end of the zipper - this will let you know where to sew with small stitches and where to sew basting stitches for zipper insertion. :)
Step 6: Sew the Side Panel Halves Together
The marks you made will serve as waypoints for how you're stitching.
Sew the two halves together using a 1/2 inch seam allowance.
Backstitch at the beginning, and then sew down to the first mark using a normal stitch length. Backstitch again at the mark.
Now set your stitch length to the longest your machine offers.
Continue sewing until you come to the mark at the bottom of the panel. Set the stitch back to a normal length and then backstitch again. Sew to the end of the strip and backstitch once more.
Once it's all sewn up, press the seam open on the back as shown.
P.S. Need help getting a perfect 1/2 inch seam allowance? Place a piece of masking tape on your machine. Just measure right from your needle to get the placing right. :D
Step 7: Pin in the Zipper
Lay the zipper down on the middle seam so the teeth are over the seam. Pin it into place every six inches or so. :)
I like to sew the business end of the zipper together to keep it from running wild, but that's optional.
Step 8: Sewing in the Zipper
You can use a zipper foot or regular foot for this, whatever is easiest for you!
You need to sew across one end of the zipper (yes, right over the teeth and all!) and then down one side, across the zipper again, and back up the other side. You're basically sewing a rectangular border around the
I find that it's easiest to do this if you sew until you get close to the zipper pull, and then raise the presser foot (with the needle in the fabric) and then unzip it past where you'll be sewing. That way you can sew it a little easier and not have to fight with the pull.
Step 9: Seam Rip the Zipper Opening
Start a few inches from one side and push the seam ripper down into the middle and glide it across, cutting the threads inside. Don't push it hard - it should cut through the longer stitches really easily.
Once you feel resistance, you've reached the backstitching so you can stop there.
Then go back and use the seam ripper to finish the other end.
You'll have lots of little thread ends sticking out, so clean those up. Sometimes a lint roller helps with that. :D
Step 10: Sew the Side Panels Together
Sew the side panels together one at a time, right sides facing. Use a 1/2 inch seam allowance. Make sure the backstitch at the beginning and end of every sewing line for extra durability.
Once you sew the last two panels together, you'll have the sides of your box cushion done!
Step 11: Pin the Main Piece to the Sides
Now that you've got the sides sewn together, you can begin to pin one of the main pieces to the sides.
Lay the sides down on a large flat surface with the right sides facing in. Line up one side of the top with one of your sides - I pinned the short sides of my box cushion first because they're easier to manhandle. :)
I like to pin from the corners in, but do whatever makes the most sense to you.
Pin right sides facing, pay special attention to the corners - they should line up nicely like I've shown above.
Once you're done you should be able to see the cover coming together!
Step 12: Sewing the Main Piece On
Use a 1/2 inch seam allowance for this, too!
Sew all around the edges, paying special attention to the corners.
Check out the second photo to see what the corners will look like as you sew.
Make sure the side panel you're currently sewing on is nice and flat and the side panel that you'll be sewing on next is at a nice diagonal as you come up to it. Sew until you can feel that you've hit the next panel (the extra fabric will cause a little speedbump) and then raise the presser foot (with the needle down in the fabric!) and swivel the cover so you can start sewing down the next side panel.
Make sure you're only sewing on the current side panel when you turn - you might need to tuck the side panel you've already sewn back under the presser foot, as shown in the third frame of the second photo.
P.S. You may need to remove the pins as you sew, especially around the corners. You don't want to break your needle on a pin.
Step 13: Repeat the Pinning and Sewing to Finish the Cover
Make sure to open your zipper up about halfway before you pin on the last main piece - having the zipper open will allow you to turn the cover right side out. :)
Pin and sew as before and then turn the cover right side out. Poke the corners out and make sure you don't have any gaps - sometimes if you don't catch both side panels right at the corner you'll be left with a little hole. Sew back over any areas like that!
Step 14: Shove the Foam in and You're Done!
It works best to fold it in half and then insert it into the cover - you don't want to be too rough with it, especially if you weren't good about backstitching. ;)
Zip it up and admire your hard work! And then give it to your dog. If they're anything like Roscoe, they'll be so excited about a new bed that they won't leave it for a couple days. I had to bribe Roscoe with some sunflower seed butter to convince him to go out last night. :D