The nice thing about this is that it is (almost) free, and you can make it a custom fit to ensure that your dog will be snug as a bug in his/her coat. The only thing I ended up buying from the store for this project was a few strips of sew-on velcro (about $7.49 per yard for 2" wide strips and I only used about 1 foot).
IMPORTANT NOTE: I HAVE BARE MINIMUM SKILLS USING A SEWING MACHINE, THIS IS NOT A DIFFICULT PROJECT!
Old fleece coat or vest
Sew-on velcro (2" wide strips)
X-acto knife (or seam ripper)
Step 1: Prepping the Vest
The length of the coat should be measured from just below their head and down their back to the tail (for me, this was about 30" and was a pretty perfect match for the XL vest).
The first step was to remove the main zipper. I cut the seams on either side with an X-acto knife (you could use a seam-ripper but I found the North Face seams to be incredibly tight so the knife was easier). I did this carefully so that I could use the zipper in the future if I wanted to.
My goal with this project was to use as many of the existing seams as possible to cut down on having to sew hems (due to the thickness of the material).
The vest was assembled in four primary pieces (large back panel, and two front panels that came about two-thirds of the way up to meet a shoulder panel). I then cut the two front panels off at their seams (down the sides under the arm pits) leaving the large back panel and shoulder panel.
I wanted to use the large back panel as the primary part of the coat down Klaus's back and use the shoulder panel with the collar to go over his head and cover the front of his chest.
Step 2: Measuring for a Custom Fit
Bring some binder clips to secure the placement (I wouldn't use straight pins here... if one stuck Klaus he would have jumped all over the place!), and lay the vest over your dog.
I pinched the collar around his neck until it was a good fit (snug, but still enough room for a few fingers to slip down) and clipped the collar. Then, I bunched up the front of the shoulder panel across his chest and clipped it a few more times (see picture 1 in this step).
It worked out such that the seam I needed to sew came up to the corners of the collar and then made an arc down towards the bottom of the shoulder panel. I don't really have any measurements here because I just modeled it on him.
I took the clipped vest over to the trusty sewing machine and flipped the material inside out. Then, I traced an arc with a fabric marker that I could sew to secure the front of the coat. With the material completely inside out and folded in half to lay flat, I sewed a seam following the arc, securing both ends with a simple back and forth stitch. (see picture 2)
Once I sewed this seam, I turned the material back out, checked the fit, and then trimmed the excess from inside the seam. This creates a nice, finished looking seam from the front. (see pictures 3 & 4)
You are nearly done with body of the coat now!
Step 3: Tailor Fitting the Body of the Coat
The next thing I wanted to do was make the coat more of a tailor fit and less of a table-cloth draped over him. I did this by laying the material as flat as possible on the table (like it was draped over his back), and tracing a basic hourglass shape down the sides of the back panel of the coat. I did a basic estimation to begin, then put the vest on Klaus and checked my marks. Remember, you will want to leave about 1/2" extra to make a hem.
This cutaway should leave some extra material to cover his/her front and back legs and taper up as it goes down his/her body when you are looking at them from the side.
Once I was happy with the cutaway, I cut the material with some fabric scissors and then flipped it over and stitched a basic hem so it didn't fray.
Step 4: Adding the Belly Strap(s)
I used the material from the two front panels that I removed in the first step to make the straps. I chose to do two straps for Klaus because of his body shape. One goes directly under his chest (behind his front legs) and the other is just behind his chest. The second strap keeps the material close to him and also keeps it out of the way when he uses the bathroom!
The main strap was about 15" long and 7" wide. The second strap was about 10" long and 4" wide.
For both straps, I simply cut the length of material and hemmed all the way around.
Then, I positioned them inside the coat on one side, overlapping the coat about 3", pinned and sewed them on.
Next, I sewed one side of velcro on the other end of the strap. Now it was time for another fitting. I put the coat on Klaus and brought the straps under him and marked the top of where the velcro needed to be sewn onto the outside of the opposite side of the coat.
Finally, I sewed the other half of the velcro onto the outside of the other side of the coat and I was done!
Step 5: A Warm Greyhound!
That's it, the coat is done, the dog is toasty, and you have saved $75!
As it gets colder up here in New England, you can get out and exercise with your dog (especially those with no body fat!).