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How to craft organic pet beds for shelters, stores, or individual clients


Photos and books by Anne Hart.


For the sake of green health  not only can you sew 'greener' pet beds for dogs or cats, but you also can teach or provide instructional materials for others to train others, including people with disabilities, to sew pet beds for animal shelters and pet rescue groups. The pet beds would be 'greener' in the sense that the filling for the beds would contribute in some way to the health of both the animal and the people living in the house.


What's green about an 'organic' pet bed? It's what you put inside the fabric and the type of fabric you choose for the outer covering in addition to what you choose for the inner filling. Can you sew a pet bed that's chew-proof and water resistant or make an orthopedic pet bed to donate to rescue groups or animal shelters?


How about making a pet bed suitable for traveling with pets, or a heated pet bed? You also could make outdoor pet beds. The emphasis would be on creating a pet bed that emphasizes green health. And you could make the bed for your own pets and sew another bed to donate to shelters or teach others how to sew many pet beds for all the shelters and pet rescue groups.


If you're going to sew pet beds for numerous animal shelters or rescue groups for pets, make sure the filling inside the pet bed is organic. See the website, Organic Pet Beds - Shop for Eco-Friendly Dog Beds at FetchDog.


What you want to put inside the fabric to sew the pet bed are chew-resistant fillings and outer fabrics. For example, see the site, Harry Barker Hemp Bedroll.  First you need to choose a chew-resistant fabric cover and next you have to choose a chew-resistant filling for inside. Dogs will rip out the fabric to get at the filling to chew and swallow it. So make sure you use a filling that is chew resistant and a fabric cover that dogs won't want to chew. See, West Paw Organic Bumper Bed.


Organic Dog Beds


Look into using recycled materials if they are chew-proof/chew-resistant, organic, and waterproof. The type of dog or cat bed you want to sew should be not only chew resistant and chew proof but also organic, ecofriendly, made from recycled materials, if possible.


Make your organic pet beds chew proof and water resistant, and could also be an orthopedic dog or cat bed, a heated dog bed, or a pet bed made for travel, or focus on as many of the green health requirements as you can build into one dog or cat bed you would be sewing and perhaps eventually showing others how to sew pet beds and donate them where they are needed most, such as animal shelters and rescue groups.

It's one way to promote green health for animals. For example what works well in green health for dogs is the futon bed adapted for pets. You can emphasize one or more type of dog or cat bed to make such as water resistant pet beds or travel dog beds.


See the following sites: Chew Resistant Dog Beds, Eco-Friendly Dog Beds, Chew Resistant Dog Beds, Cooling Dog Beds, Organic Dog Beds, Recycled Materials, Elevated Dog BedsHeated Dog Beds, Orthopedic Dog Beds, Outdoor Dog Beds, Travel Dog Beds, and Water Resistant Dog Beds.


Vocational Programs Teach Sewing to People with Disabilities


Various nonprofit agencies also offer various sewing instructional programs. Help those with disabilities learn to sew pet beds for animal shelters where the pets may have to endure the cold stone enclosures if not enough people donate beds and blankets. But an even healthier trend is to teach people with disabilities learn to sew for those in need, including humans and pets. People can sew for other people's clothing or furniture needs, but you also can sew for green health and also for pets in need of comfortable, safe, and greener beds.


According to a December 20, 2010 Sacramento bee article by Dixie Reid, "Book of Dreams: Sewing machines needed for vocational program," Sacramento's Book of Dreams last season had been looking for a helping hand from the Sacramento public as well as the United Ceberal Palsy of Greater Sacramento to launch its Sewing Vocational Training Program. If you want to volunteer with United Cerebral Palsy, you may wish to check out the website.


United Cerebral Palsy also sought for volunteers to help at its office or events or to assist at its Bingo sessions or work as a sidewalker for its Saddle Pals program. The organization is looking to expand its team of people dedicated to a mission of enhancing the lives of people with developmental disabilities such as autism, epilepsy, intellectual disability, Down syndrome and cerebral palsy

People with disabilities attend the agency's Adult Growth Experience day program. If someone donates a few sewing machines and/or sergers, the students can learn how to finish a project from scratch. It gives participants a healthy sense of pride to be able to start and finish a project that will be of practical use.


The agency has a vocational/sewing room in the one-time Aero Haven Elementary School in North Highlands, for those in the Sacramento area. You can contact a sewing room in adult education in your own city.


As one example, the sewing room is a new home for the program and needs to be outfitted with sewing machines and sergers. Can you donate to this program? Many of the participants in the program are nonverbal and some are in wheelchairs. If they have the sewing machines, they'll be able to apply what they've learned from a planned field trip to a fabric store.


When someone with a disability helps others by creating a usable item, it improves the mental, emotional, and often the physical health of that person who can finish a project. A planned field trip also brings in books and fabrics connected to the sewing projects. It also gives the participant a feeling that he or she has a sense of ownership, a voice or outlook of confidence, and resilience even if nonverbal.


Maybe the participants will make pet beds for animal shelters, according to the Sacramento Bee article. The whole idea in this holiday season about participants being able to do something for someone else gives a healthy sense of satisfaction from accomplishment. So, if you're interested, what's needed are two sewing machines, sergers, and sewing tables. All this equipment will cost around $1,500. Who is able to donate the machines or tables?


And if you're interested in making pet beds for shelter yourselves, in any city or nation, here is how to do so starting from the beginning. Maybe you can make some pet beds yourself for the cold, dank animal shelters around Sacramento and the regional areas. Or perhaps you can teach someone else how to make the pet beds and form a group of pet bed sewers that meet in any given Sacramento library conference room, house of worship social hall or classroom, senior center, community hall, or wherever people meet.


How to sew pet beds for animal shelters


The Rectangular Pet Bed


Start with choosing chew resistant/chew proof fabrics and fillings. It would be great if you could sew and donate pet beds to shelters and pet rescue groups. Or show other people how do do the same. Or if you're not interested in sewing, be aware that pet shelters need blankets. And so do homeless human beings need blankets. Let's start with how to sew pet beds. You can use this to get a group started showing others how to sew pet beds as well. Or make similar items for human shelters.


Here's how to design and sew a pet bed that's healthier for very small pets such as small dogs under 15 pounds or cats. Your first step is the choose fabric safe and healthy for small pets that they can't chew and swallow or for cats, get their nails caught in the fabric or threads and twine.


At your local basket shop, buy a large and sturdy basket without a handle, if preferred, about a yard long, square, oval, or round


A rectangular shape is easiest to work with when sewing a cat bed, but oval baskets look prettiest to the eye. At your local yard store purchase two and a half yards of 45 inch fabric that is safe for cats to chew, lick, or scratch without tearing or ingesting harmful chemicals, dyes, or starches. Upholstery material, canvas, denim, pure unbleached natural cotton,  hemp, or any heavy fabric safe and not containing chemicals that could cause allergies is fine.


Your veterinarian may also recommend particular fabrics. Since some cats chew and swallow wool, don't use wool. Some fabrics come with ancient Egyptian designs printed on them which makes a wonderful pet bed print for your little doggie or kitten, but make sure the dyes can't be ingested or licked off or would harm the dog or cat.

Also purchase the same amount of white cotton lining fabric for lining the inside of  pillows. Your yardage store will show you several linings. Choose the soft, white cotton, polyester, rayon, or linen linings that dry quickly.


Buy pillow stuffing or fabric scraps cut into four inch squares with which to stuff the bed that is safe from toxicity to cats or humans.


Make sure the pet can't chew through the fabric and eat the stuffing, and that the stuffing isn't toxic or won't clog intestines. For example, buckwheat husks make good stuffing as do normal pillow stuffing materials that dry quickly in a machine dryer or in the sun.

Cotton or other materials may be used, but select those that don't hold moisture, mold, or dry slowly or are toxic to cats. You can wash the stuffing separately if you sew a zipper in the cat bed. Or insert a ready made cat pillow into your pillow-case like cat bed slipcovers. It's better to sew your own heavy fabric covers so the cat can scratch as much as he wants to without destroying the bed.


No looped shag around cats for their claws to catch on and be pulled


You can also use two shag rugs if the shag is not looped where the cat could catch his claws and rip out his nails on the loops. Also rugs must be soft to the touch and not shed easily, or else the cat will swallow the fibers and gag on fur balls, or the strings of the rug will twist around the pet's intestines and require surgery, so don't go for fibers that can easily shed or be pulled out. Soft, short, 'scratchable' fibers on a rug that won't come out easily are great. Make sure the back of the rug isn't coated with rubber that dissolves with moisture and falls off in little pieces that the cat will swallow.


If you use rugs, you'd sew two of them together and leave one side open for the stuffing/fill material before you'd sew it shut with a zipper so you can wash it. Let's first discuss how to sew a cat bed with softer fabric than two rugs. Wash the fabric in slightly warm or cold water and iron it. You'll get rid of chemicals and starches in the fabric and go through shrinkage before you start to cut and sew.


Turn the fabric inside out


Fold the fabric in half lengthwise so that you have two pieces of fabric attached at one side that is about a yard and a quarter inches long. Line the inside with cotton lining fabric made for pillows that you purchase at your yard store.

It should be cut to the same length and folded about a quarter of an inch at the edges when sewing. You fold the edge under slightly to get rid of the raggedy edge where the cutting line was. Sew all stitches on the fabric while it is turned inside out. When you finish sewing, the stitches won't show because they'll be on the inside, and the printed design will be on the outside.

Place the fabric lining against the inside of the fabric and turn the edges in to form a seam so that no ragged edges face outward when the material is turned right side out. Turn the fabric edges inside also and pin them to the lining so that the lining and fabric are sewn together, and the fabric now has a lining. Remove each pin as you sew where you have pinned.


Make sure you don't leave a pin hidden in the pillow or bed for the pet


A safer way is to baste over masking tape so you don't use pins at all. Use masking tape instead of pins so you don't forget to remove a pin. Sew the lining to the inside out fabric leave one side upon, but turn the edge of the lining in and sew down to the edge of the fabric so the lining won't face out with a ragged edge.


On the open side, insert all the stuffing or batting and fill the pillow-type bed 3/4ths full. Plump it down in the middle so the cat has a comfortable dent or "depression" in the bed to sink into. The bed should not look like a pillow because the cat has to have his "hole" or "depression" to sink into in the middle of the bed that is soft and pliable, but yet doesn't sink down to the bottom where his body will be pressed against a hard surface.

You can insert a zipper on the side if you want to remove the batting or stuffing to replace it, or if not, sew all sides shut. The bed will last longer if you are able to remove and wash or replace  the batting if the cat soils it. You can also stuff the bed with scraps of fabric instead of batting.


Sew a seam by machine or hand around all edges of the fabric except for one side


Fill the bed with scraps of fabric, washable batting or pillow stuffing. If you choose to put your zipper in at this point, sew the edges of the zipper around the side of the bed. It's hard to match the zipper size, so you might want to sew Velcro instead.

Velcro is better than a zipper that gets stuck after several washings. Use Velcro instead of a zipper on the side so you can easily remove the insides of the bed to wash. You may prefer to fill the bed with cut up scraps of fabric about 4 inches square instead of cotton batting or pillow stuffing because when wet, it may lump and cause pain to the cat or irritations. I use scraps of fabric that do not lump or other pillow stuffing that won't lump when moist.


Put your pet bed in a basket


After you've stuffed the bed, tamp it down so that it forms a depression in the middle and sturdy sides. You may want to sew the depression permanently into the bed by making a seam around the bottom to hold the depression down. With your hands, move the stuffing up the sides or walls of the bed while tamping other stuffing down so that the bottom is soft and has no lumps and is "quilted" enough for the cat to lay on without feeling the hard floor.


The sides should stand up and be sturdy. You may want to sew a second seam around the edges of the floor of the bed so that it looks like a cylinder with a bottom and walls. If you use a rectangle shape, make sure the bottom of the bed stays depressed (down) and the walls or sides go upwards. This is done by sewing a seam around the bottom and moving with your hands the stuffing so that there are sides or walls to the bed.


Fit the bed into the basket. It should rise up the sides of the basket somewhat. Add bows to the handle of the basket or sides if you're giving as a gift, but don't leave the bows on for the cat to swallow. Cats swallow string or ribbon and it wraps around their intestines as they try to gag it up. Don't leave string or ribbons around a cat bed and warn those you give a gift too to remove all bows you put on as packaging.


If you can't find a basket the size of  your finished cat bed, you can have one made at a basket manufacturer, or use a box painted with murals, wallpapered, or glued with fabric. Here's how to make your own attractive basket or box to match the colors of your pet bed.


An alternative is to use a wooden crate or box instead of a basket


Instead of using a basket to put your cat bed in, you may use a wooden crate or cardboard box the same size as your cat bed pillow or slightly larger. Cut matching fabric--slightly larger than the size as your cat bed. Fit each side of the box with pieces of fabric cut to 1/2 larger than the box.


Turn the edges in and sew the seams down so no ragged edges show or glue edges down. Paint all sides with nontoxic permanent glue. Fit the fabric to all sides of the box except the bottom. Paste the fabric on the box. When the glue is dry, turn the box over and do the same, pasting the last piece of fabric to the bottom of the box.


You may want to paste a piece of washable plastic on the bottom of the box where it touches the floor to keep it clean. Use a hardy fabric or shag rug on the box. I recommend a wooden crate such as an orange crate rather than a cardboard box that will eventually easily cave in with age or pressure or biodegrade with time.


A plastic or metal box also works fine


Just glue fabric around the edges. Insert your cat bed which inside the box will be like a pillow with a dent in the middle on which the dog or cat can sleep. Metal usually lasts longer than plastic, particularly when left in the sun, as plastic deteriorates rapidly in sunshine.


Use vivid, colorful, or ethnic prints, such as scenes of ancient lands to make your pet appear strikingly like royalty. If your dog is a tiny teacup or your cat is a certain breed such as Siamese, you might use Thai prints, or Abyssinian cats might like African prints. Persian cats might like fabrics printed with scenes of ancient Persian winged griffins or the like.


You might even choose fabric design prints that match the geographic origin of your pet


You can showcase your pet in your living room with such a bed. The outcome would be a box with a pillow-type pet bed in it decorated or covered with lush, rich, sturdy, and safe fabrics that match your fancy or your carpet.


Be careful when working with rugs instead of fabrics because your pet might unravel the threads and twine of rugs and get nails or teeth caught or chew and swallow chunks of rug fabric. Some throw rugs are hard to unravel.


The fabric shouldn't unravel with chewing or scratching


If you choose to work with rugs not likely to unravel with chewing or scratching, as an alternative to fabrics, you might like to use two throw rugs, about 24 inches square sewed together and stuffed with pillow batting. Sew all around except for one side and put Velcro around the one side you want to remain open to replace the batting.


The rug pet bed is harder and less comfortable for the animal. Use sturdy fabrics for the dog or cat bed pillow and lining the box on all sides with small rugs or carpet cuttings. Ask your carpet store to cut you off 4 pieces of rug slightly larger than the size of the box and paste the rug over the 4 sides of the box with permanent fabric and wood glue.


Turn the edges in or trim them off if the rug is too large for the box after folding


Then put the pet bed inside the rug or carpet- covered box. Have the carpeted box the same color as the cat bed pillow inside, or in colors that contrast well. If you use a print, choose carpet in a solid color that matches the dominant color in the print.

You can sell these customized pet beds online. Some of the ones online people have found look like the pillows you find on sofas, and others look like round soft pillows that fit into baskets.


Decorate your pet bed with the cat's name embroidered or written with fabric paint, but be careful. The animal will probably eat off the letters that are painted on. It's better to sew on any lettering or decoration. The pet is less likely to scratch off letters sewed onto the outer carpeting on the outside of the box. He's more likely to eat off any lettering on the pillow bed inside.


If you study the pet beds in the supermarkets and pet shops, you will see how closely they resemble either sofa pillows, sofa seats, or oval shaped pillows and bean bags that fit into baskets. Don't stuff your cat or dog bed with anything harmful that the cat or dog will eat if he chews a hole in the bed.


Large scraps of fabric are safer, but don't use wool for stuffing pet beds or pillows


That's why large scraps of fabric (not wool) are safer. Always check with a Vet before you buy the stuffing. If you're looking to start a small online part-time business, you might sell original or personalized designs for pet cat beds catered to the type of pet. You can even have online catalogs. Leave flyers at pet stores and animal clinics.

Or you can open a "pet boutique online and sell through mail order. Some people might order personalized pet beds for their dog made to a certain size or with an imprint of the dog's photo on the fabric. Check out the possibilities. The most important selling point is the health of the pet in relation to the design and fabric or coloring on the pet bed.