OK, here goes. This is my first attempt at writing a sewing tutorial. I really hope I am able to clearly describe how to make your very own cooling vest.
First step, go to the Frogg Toggs site and order yourself Chilly Pad (or two).
The design of the vest is based on a slightly modified version of a very popular brand of harness. Here is a picture of Sabrina modeling hers.The primary modification I made was to widen the chest piece to cover as much of her chest as possible.
Materials I used:
1 meter (3′) of 9mm nylon strap
1.5 meter of 10mm knit pre-folded binding
1 Frogg Togg Chilly Pad towel
hardware – my fabric store did not carry the hardware I needed and suggested I purchase an adjustable collar at the local dollar store.
Here is the pattern piece – print it out on legal size paper for true to size. This piece will be placed on the fold. Here is what it looks like all spread out. (Don’t forget you can biggify all pictures for more detail)
The main measurements you need to worry about are the neck measurement (the top U of the pattern), across the chest and the measurement from the neck, down the chest and just behind the armpits. It’s always advisable to make a quick mock-up in muslin or another cheap fabric and make alterations from there.
One you are happy with the measurements, trace the pattern onto your Chilly Pad and cut out. I had enough room to make two pattern pieces …. but Sabrina is quite petite (14 pounds).
The only seam on the pattern is the top edges of the U – they will be sewn together to form the neck hole.
Sew binding to all edges except for the seam. This will add to the harness’ structure.
When you get to the tight curves around the bottom points, pin binding in place before sewing.
Sew the first strap on a bottom point. The straps are attached on the right side of the fabric. I used 4″ for this. The trick is to bury the raw edges. I placed the strap flat against the fabric, 1″ from the edge, sewed across the edge to tack it, threaded the clasp, brought the strap down and folded the end under to meet up with the tacked edge. I then sewed (through all layers) down one side, across the bottom, up the other side and across the top – about 1/4″ to 1/3″ from the clasp, creating a box. Make sure the top of the box secures one edge of the strap and the bottom of the box secures the other. Sew a cross in the middle of the box for strength. Do this two or three times for added security.
The next strap is adjustable. Measure your dog around the belly, just behind the armpits. Add a good 5″ to 8″ on that for your second strap measurement.
Fold one end up 1/2″ and sew across the bottom. Thread that end through the centre bar of the slider. Fold the end over attach it about 1″ down. Sew across all layers several times for stability. See above diagram to thread the rest of it.
Fold the second edge up 1/2″ and sew across the bottom. Place the second strap on the second bottom point – about 1″ in from the edge (raw edge down). Secure by sewing across the bottom, up one edge – about 3/4″ up, across and back down forming a box. Sew an X in the box and repeat two more times to fully secure strap.
Match neck seams but don’t overlap. Tack with a wide zig-zag stitch. The strap on the neckline should be long enough so that the belly strap can be threaded through it and lay straight across the dog’s back. Sabrina’s measures 4.5″ long. Add 1/2″ to that measurement.
On the “wrong” side, tack strap end to the bottom edge of the seam so that the strap is facing outwards. Thread D-ring through and fold back allowing for the back strap (see above). Pin in place so the fabric seam lays along the middle of the strap. This placement is VERY important. Sew down one edge of the strap, across the edge (in line with the fabric) and up the second side.
Fold strap over the top edge of the fabric, and lay it across the right side of the neck seam, matching it with the strap on the underside. Attached the strap by sewing down each side and along the edges at top and bottom of fabric. Do this 2 or 3 (or 5) times to fully secure strap.
Cut strap so that it is the same length as the finished strap on the underside. Fold edge under 1/2″ and sew across fold several times. You now have 3 layers of strapping – 2 from the underside (bottom and middle straps) and 1 from the top-side. By hand whip-stitch the top strap to the middle strap along the side edges to hide the raw edge. The belly band is threaded between the bottom and middle straps.
You (and your dog) are now the proud owner of a cooling vest. Soak it in cool water, wring it out and venture forth!
Things I learned / would do different:
The Chilly Pad is very stiff when it is dry. It is quite pliable when it is wet. When sewing the neck seams and the straps onto the neck, I would wet it down. Otherwise the small neck opening combined with the stiff fabric WILL make you a bit twitchy.
9mm strapping is just a touch too narrow. A slightly wider strap would have sat much better. 12 to 15mm would have been a nicer width.
The fabric store I visited did not have a great colour selection for the strapping, in the width I wanted. I purchased a length of ribbon and sewed it to the strapping to make the pattern I wanted.
If you end up buying the collar and leash combo from the dollar store for the hardware, you may want just use the leash as your strapping. You know it will be wide enough for the hardware and you will most likely be able to find nicer colours/patterns than what the fabric store sells (unless your store is way more awesome than mine).