Introduction: A Classy Cat Bed
After replacing our downstairs carpets with wooden flooring, the cat started snoozing on the furniture instead of the floor. I solved the hairy seats problem by making a comfortable, but attractive, cat bed from a high-end quilted fabric. The cat loves it, it doesn’t look out of place in the sitting room and it can be easily washed.
This circular pet bed consists of a two-layer base (a top/inside layer of the main fabric and a bottom/underside layer of lining fabric) surrounded by a vertical side (a padded strip of the main fabric that is folded in half with the fold running along the top edge). The base of the bed can either be stuffed between the two layers, or an extra layer of wadding can be inserted between them. Unless your sewing machine can cope with multiple thick layers, I recommend the stuffing option.
The raw edges of the circular seam around the bottom of the bed are not completely enclosed, because that would involve turning lots of very bulky, padded fabric inside out through a small gap, which isn’t practical. Instead, the edges are oversewn to stop them fraying, and the seam tucks under the inside of the base/side join where it won’t be seen. But if you’d rather the raw edges are enclosed, the seam can be bound.
- Quilted fabric for the inside base and side of the bed
- Lining fabric for the underside of the base, and to make binding if required
- Wadding to pad out the base (or an old towel or felted jumper) – optional
- Stuffing to fill the edge of the bed, and pad out the base if wadding isn’t used
- Thread, scissors, needles, pins or quilting clips, sewing machine, tape measure, etc
- Paper, string and a pencil to make a pattern
Choose machine washable fabric, wadding and stuffing. You'll need:
- Quilted fabric – ½ yd (0.5m) of 45” (114cm) wide is enough for an average sized cat
- Lining fabric - ½ yd (0.5m) or a fat quarter
- Polyester wadding (if used) - ½ yd (0.5m)
- Stuffing – more than you think!
For a large cat – one that needs a circle bigger than 16.5” in Step 1 – you’ll either need to find 54” (137cm) wide quilted fabric or else buy an extra ¼ yd (but 0.7m in total will be enough if you are working in metres).
Step 1: Measuring and Making a Pattern
First, measure your cat. Wait until he/she is curled up fast asleep and measure the diameter of the approximate circle. Actually, the shape will probably be more of an oval, so measure the longer axis. My cat measured 14”. Then add 3” to this dimension to allow for seams and the space taken up by the stuffed edge of the cat bed, so 17” in my case. 17” produces a bed with an internal diameter of 14” (and outside diameter 18”), which is big enough for a large cat such as a Maine Coon or Norwegian Forest, but starting with a 16” or even 15” diameter circle should be enough for most cats. For a dog bed, just size it up.
Make a paper pattern for the base by drawing a circle with the diameter of your cat + 3” using string, a pin and a pencil on a sheet of paper. Make a loop in one end of the string for the pencil, put the pencil in it and pull the string taut, measure half the diameter along the string and put a pin through it at that point, stick the pin in the sheet of paper and hold it with one hand while using the other to pull the string taut with the pencil and draw a circle.
Step 2: Cutting Out the Base
Cut out the circular pattern around the outline then draw around it onto the back of both the quilted fabric and the lining fabric. (Be sure to position the pattern up one end of the quilted fabric, you’ll need what’s left for the sides.)
Cut out the circle from lining fabric, but before cutting the quilted fabric stitch just inside the edge using a wide zig-zag to hold the layers together. Then cut around the circle, being careful not to clip the stitching.
If you are using wadding to provide extra padding in the base rather than stuffing, cut a circle of wadding too. Rather than trying to draw around the pattern onto the wadding, just weight it down with a book and cut round it.
If you're not using wadding, then zig-zag or overlock (serge) around the edge of the lining to stop it fraying.
Step 3: Making the Side
You'll need a 9" wide strip of quilted fabric for the side of the pet bed. It should be long enough to go around the circumference of the circular base, plus about 4”. For a 17” diameter circle, a 57-58” long strip is about right – either calculate it for smaller circles or measure round the edge with a tape. Ideally, a line of quilting stitching should run down the middle of the strip so that it will fold neatly along that centre line. Measure and draw the necessary rectangle on the back of the fabric and, again, zig-zag within the outline before cutting it out, starting and ending 3” from each end.
You will likely have to piece the side strip from two or more shorter rectangles, so proceed as follows. Unpick any quilting stitching within 2” of each end that is to be joined and separate the layers in that area. Sew the top layer fabric with right sides together, taking a ½” seam, and press it open. Trim the end of the wadding in one piece so that the ends butt up to each other, and roughly stitch them together by hand. Fold under one end of the lining layer of the quilted fabric by ½” and press it, then slipstitch it down onto the other piece of lining by hand. Finally, re-stitch the quilting across the seam and fill in the gap in the zig-zagging at the edges.
Unless you managed to cut your fabric so that there's a line of quilting stitching running down the middle of the strip, stitch that extra line now so that the strip will fold neatly along it.
Fold the assembled side strip in half with the long sides together and the right side out. Hold the long sides together with pins, quilting clips or tacking, then stitch them together ½” from the edge leaving 2” free at each end.
Step 4: Assembly
Layer up the base with the circle of quilted fabric on the bottom, right side down; next the circle of extra wadding if you are using it; then the lining on the top, right side up. The raw edges should all be together. This will be a thick bundle if there’s wadding in the sandwich, so zig-zag or overlock around the edge to keep everything in place and stop the lining from fraying. (Don’t do this if you plan to stuff the base, you need to leave a gap to insert stuffing between the base layers – that’s why you have already neatened the edge of the lining.)
Now you need to place the folded side strip on top of the lining, with the raw edges lined up with all the other raw edges and the fold towards the middle of the circle. The half of the strip that you want to be on the inside of the bed needs to be uppermost, so think about which way is best if your quilting has a one-way design. Pin or clip the side strip in place around the outside of the base, leaving about 2” free at each end.
At this point, assuming you have used clips and not pins, you can if you wish try the pet bed for size. Turn it over and pull the side strip upright, tucking the seam under its inside edge. Persuade your cat to sit/lie in it – it shouldn’t be difficult – bearing in mind that it should seem a little large at this stage because the side hasn’t yet been stuffed.
Sew around the edge of the bed through all the layers, taking a 5/8” seam and leaving a 4” gap – ie leave 4” of the circumference free where the side strip’s ends are. Then pin/clip the gap closed, overlapping the ends of the side strip. Mark where this overlap occurs on each end of the strip and trim away the excess fabric to leave a ½” seam allowance. Sew the vertical seam to join the ends of the side strip into a ring, following the instructions in Step 3 for piecing the strip, ie stitch the top layer of fabric (opened out flat, not folded), trim and hand stitch the wadding and then the lining layer. (NB In the photo the side of the bed has been stuffed before sewing this seam, but it’s easier to do it first.)
Step 5: Stuffing
Now is the time to stuff the base of the pet bed if you haven’t already used an extra layer of wadding. Push stuffing in through the gap in the stitching, between the inside (quilted) base and the underside (lining). Don’t stuff it too much, it needs to be soft rather than firm.
Then stuff the tube that forms the side of the bed, pushing stuffing along from the opening in both directions. The side needs to be stuffed more than the base to make it stand upright and provide support if your cat wants to lay its head on it or stretch out a limb. Using a “pig” to push in the stuffing makes the task easier, especially filling the zone furthest from the opening. A pig can be any smooth-sided, cylindrical object with a flat base that is a little smaller than the tube, so that it pushes the stuffing ahead of it when you force it along by squeezing the sides of the tube together behind it - I used a spice jar. Push small amounts of stuffing in from alternate ends to the middle of the tube, bit by bit, removing the pig after each addition and then putting it back in behind the next portion of stuffing. As you gradually work back to the opening you’ll reach a point where you can dispense with the pig.
Once you are happy with the degree of stuffing and have got it evenly distributed, sew up the gap in the circular seam that joins the side to the base to keep both lots of stuffing in place. You will probably need to do this by hand because it will be too bulky to fit under the sewing machine.
Step 6: Finishing
When you turn the pet bed the right way out, the stuffed edge should hide the seam well. But if you want to be very sure that the pet bed will stand up to regular washing, then you can bind the raw edges with bias binding. Wide binding is needed, at least 1”, which can be made by cutting 2” strips on the bias from lining fabric then folding the edges in to meet in the middle. Stitch one edge of the binding (with the folded raw edge downwards) onto the seam allowance close to the seam, stretching it as much as possible as you do so. Then tack and sew the other edge of the binding down onto the base, through all the base layers. If necessary, stitch along that edge of the binding first with a long stitch then pull up the thread to ease in the fullness.
It's a good idea to use the circular paper pattern to make a couple of liners from an old towel or whatever other suitable fabric you have lying around. Just oversew or overlock around the edge to neaten it. Place a liner in the cat bed with its edge well tucked under the padded side, covering the seam and preventing dirt and hair from getting under the seam allowances where it's hard to remove. Then you can swap liners frequently instead of having to wash the whole bed so often.
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