Repurposed Men’s Sweater Vest

by - 10:48 AM

Turning a give-away into a Belly-Protecting Doggy Coat

It was just a few short months ago where it was still snowing here in New England, the sloppy kind too, wet, slushy and cold.  If I had to drag my belly through that just to go to the john I would be miserable.  For that very reason I grabbed an old wool men’s vest to throw onto my low-to-the-ground basset hound terrier to protect her “under carriage” from a particularly wet and slushy afternoon walk.

Now, when I tell you that there was special magic that went into the biology to make this dog I am not exaggerating.  Many times on walks I see people blur their eyes to take in all of her gloriousness, a children’s book illustrator has even stopped me so she could take pictures for future drawings.  It’s not that Ginger isn’t cute, it’s just that people aren’t sure what they are looking at when they see her.

The Lovely Ginger
So, it’s almost impossible to buy anything for her that will take into consideration her unusual small, but big dog body and barrel chest.   I grabbed something out of a “give away” bag just to see if I could keep her dry and it wasn’t until the walk did I realize the jewel that had been in my hands.  A men’s wool sweater vest, long abandoned by my husband from his newspaper days, had been tossed into the bag for some one else to realize it’s awesomeness, luckily I realized it before it was gone for good.

The first time I slapped it on her to protect her from the slush that awaited us, I used some clips to tighten here and there, I admit she looked even more raggedy than she usually looked.  When we got home though, the sweater was full of slush and ice had kept her belly warm and dry.   Since the sweater is wool I shook it out and hung it to dry.  Simple!

I decided that if she were to keep wearing the sweater that I should customize it but since this was my first repurposing project it took me a few days to get the courage to cut it apart because I wasn’t sure that the wool wouldn’t unravel.   Honestly, I think the vest had been washed enough times to become a little felted so the felting helped the project. 

I started by measuring from the back of her shoulders to her rear end and then again under her belly to where I thought that she wouldn’t pee on it, there isn’t any use making a nice coat for your doggy if their going to pee on it! 

I cut right along the seams...
then I cut a curve to meet the bottom shortened length
Once I had these measurements I applied them to the sweater and cut away.  Since the bottom is shorter than the top I curved the top to keep the length but to meet the bottom shorter length.  Once I did that I plopped it onto her and fit it to her by pinning being careful not to prick her or that would have been then of the modeling session, she was such a good girl.!

I included some darts at the shoulders so that the whole thing would drape nicely on her and then added edging with some bias tape to support the edges of the sweater from wear and tear and give it a finished look.  To quote where I found a great tutorial on darts: "Darts are really essential for a great fitting garment" and I think this also applies to doggy garments.  Once the fitting and edging was done the fun begins, I began to play with how to keep the whole thing on with a cool buckle and some strapping and had the closure connect by bringing the bottom up over the top. 

See how nicely the fabric is beginning to shape with the
addition of darts? 
This looks great but it's not practical for a rough and tough
dog like Ginger, the way I have the bottom folding up
over the top will snag on stuff I think.
I experimented with this method with pins to see how it would function but found it impractical to do this way.  Ultimately I decided to have the bottom affixed by the strapping around the narrowest part of her waist connecting under the top of the coat and then the top held down by a piece of Velcro to the strapping at the middle of the back and down on the sides so that it wouldn’t blow up with a good wind.  To hide the sewn on strapping I made a faux belt for the top.

I love this part, deciding on what buttons to add was hard!

I finally decided on the fish!
So, what to do with the extra material?  I made pockets to attach to either side of her hindquarters.  For decoration, I played around a little too long with different colored buttons and some felted flowers but finally decided that a good old New England fisherman sweater  would suit her and I completed the look using wooden and bone fish buttons.   

Funny thing is, once I finished the sweater coat the weather turned gorgeous and she is now sitting in her favorite chair, panting as the heat of the day dissipates, she will likely drift into doggy sleep and cool herself down with a dream of running through the woods on a cold day where all the animals are looking at her in awe as she whips by them with her new sweater on.

There's no need for a sweater today and Ginger's favorite patch of grass has sprouted!

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  1. Fan-damn-tastic piece of blogging here....


  2. Neat idea. I tend to throw old sweaters etc. in the garage dog house. Baron makes a nest of them...:)

    1. I love when they make their nests, another great idea for the use of old sweaters!