Hello Sewists,

How are you doing? MrA & I are bubbling over with joy as we have recently welcomed a new member into our family… a little while ago we adopted Eloise Claudette, 20 month old french bulldog. We’ve both wanted a dog forever, and she has quickly become a significant member of our family! We made no choices with her: name, breed, sex … she found her way to us (through a reputable rehoming charity) just as she is, and she’s perfect.

So we are learning all we can about french bulldogs, and one of the most important things to watch out for (in the summer) is over-heating. I read somewhere that dogs shouldn’t be walked if the temperature is above 19°C/66°F – At a friend’s barbecue recently we had to rely on a wet tea-towel to cool her down – not the most glamorous look for our Empress, especially with her looking so pretty in her Hermes silk scarf (I know, I know…)

A hot dog in an Hermes silk scarf and cotton tea towel

First I made a ‘cooling cape’ using Butterick B4885. I got this pattern free with Love Sewing magazine years ago. It’s proven to be the only one of the free magazine patterns I’ve used during my subscription! It’s simple enough to adjust to your dog by shortening or lengthening the neck and waist. Maybe move the waist straps up a bit too… I did. Here’s a little diagram…

I used cotton for the outer and the lining is made from micro-towelling (quick, there’s a sale on at the camping shop! … hang on, there’s always a sale on at the camping shop!) – this means I can soak it in cold water and it will keep Eloise cool in the hot weather. I used snaps to fasten it, I have one of those bumper-multi-colour packs so there’s always an acceptable colour choice.

You can’t see it in the photo below, but underneath the collar there is a large buttonhole for the lead-clip to pass through.

Dog cooling cape with cotton outer and micro towel lining

Needless to say Eloise loves it. It’s a big step up from the ‘sodden-tea-towel’ she had to make do with before!

Eloise modelling her new cool-cape!

It works really well, but of course she’s still got her harness on underneath – I wondered if it might be a bit bulky (although she doesn’t seem to mind at all!) so I decided to take it a step further and attempt a ‘cooling-harness’…

To start with I traced a pattern from her existing harness. It took three toiles to get the fit right – which is funny as I rarely put that much effort into my own clothing! I extended the back for more coverage, added a dart to the chest and drafted for a zip closure on the top. The finished pattern came out like this…

… then I just had to find the fabric. After a bit of Googling it turned out what I was looking for was called 3D spacer mesh (weirdly enough, the same night I ordered it, it came up on that evenings episode of Sewing Bee! Spooky eh?). I found mine on a website called ToughFabrics. Delivery was quick and I also got sent a whole bunch of swatches of (what looks like) their entire range of fabrics!

30+ swatches from Tough Fabrics

I sewed the harness with a #80 jersey needle, stitch length 3mm. I also zigzagged over the joins to strengthen them and keep them flat. The mesh was nice to sew, but the towelling could be a bit sticky, so I kept the built in IDT (walking-foot) in play on my (on loan) Pfaff machine and that kept everything running smoothly.

After all the prep, it came together pretty quickly in the end; the binding took the longest. I made the bias binding myself using the continuous strip method. I’ve blogged about it in more detail here, but this diagram gives you the gist of the technique…

Continuous bias binding strip method

It’s important when you pin the ends together to offset the marks by one strip before sewing, otherwise you’ll end up with lots of ‘loops’ of bias rather than a strip. It was fiddly getting it around the arm holes – needless to say this was a job for sewing clips not pins!

As you can see, I have also made her a purple velvet collar (we’ve decided purple is her colour). I’ve got loads of the 3d mesh left so there are certainly going to be additions to her wardrobe. I’m on the edge of my seat though as Kaneko Toshio has a new pattern book out soon, all about, wait for it… (drum-roll) … Dog Outfits! (Thanks to Josie for tipping me off, I’ve got it pre-ordered!)

Please keep your dogs cool in the hot weather. Did you know that in the UK, if you see a dog in a car without a window open, you can call the police and they will give you permission to smash it… or at least, that’s what I heard! … let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.

Happy Sewing,


Notes to self:

  • Lengthen the stitch with the thicker 3d mesh. Use a jersey needle.
  • Consider lapping the seams in the future…?
  • Get some really strong D-rings.