I tore open the latest edition of Selvedge Magazine as soon as it landed on my doorstop. Late as ever, but, rather like my dog, I always feel forgiveness for such misdemeanours when I experience its delights. This time, it's full of animal themed treats, especially doggy things. It inspired me to share some of my dog-themed projects from the last year or so.
We always had dogs as I was growing up but no one told me what a pleasure they are when you form a close bond. It is quite special. I have to confess that it did revolve around trying to find solutions to protecting my carpet, clothes, shoes and furniture from destruction and staining but the upshot was I had a new joy in my life.
The stuff you get in the shops expensive, mostly made in China out of synthetics and decidedly unappealing. So I found myself making things for the dog. Let's start with my most recent creation. I might just add that I make these in a rather hurried way over a couple of evenings. They don't quite receive the same attention to detail my coats receive. I made this oversized dog bed out of three old pillows, an old blanket, another piece of fabric and two old sun lounger covers of my grandmothers' in a nice 1950s print:
This dog in front is Juno, my fairly new-to-me dog. The one behind is my mother's ageing Tibetan Terrier, who I sometimes look after. Juno is approximately 7 months old, according to the vet. She's a rescue dog, abandoned. She's had a good go at an old upholstered chair this morning so I am a little exhasperated. However, she's really an angel and her fur is soft as a rabbit. I suppose that might not last as she's still a puppy. When I got her from the rescue centre, she had a jacket on because it was November and she slept outside and so was cold. I dropped everything and made a tweed jacket for her. I was terrified that she would get cold and I saw that other sight hounds (such as whippets, greyhounds and lurchers) wearing these on the common and assumed that she would need one too.
So I made her a nice one in a large off-cut of organic Silver Herringbone. I lined it with a piece of old blanket. As it happens, she doesn't really need it, except if I have to leave her in a cold car or something. She seems pretty hardy and I reckoned that if I saw her shivering, then that would be a time to get the coat out. Plus, I read this wonderful book, Inside of a Dog, by Alexandra Horowitz. Horowitz is an unabashed dog lover and also cognitive scientist who has directed her studies towards dogs and dispels many of the myths propagated by dog trainers, to my relief. She confirmed my suspicions that dogs are just fine without jackets.
He was very sporting. In fact, when my photgraphers IHeartStudios told me they were running a dressed-up dog competition to cheer up Friday afternoons, I thought we had to go for this challenge, especially as I had some teenagers in the house. They were Doctor Who mad and it was shortly after the news of the new Doctor and his tweed jacket styling. So we fished out a tweed jacket and bow tie and managed to even find a darlek.
Some people think it a little mean to dress a dog up like a human. It's a dog and should be treated as a dog. But, I've always loved William Wegman's dog fashion photographs. He styled his dog in Versace and other designers. It's so funny and endearing but at the same time a little strange and uncomfortable. I quite like that mix. I have to confess, however, that I was a little concerned that the RSPCA might disapprove so I was rather shy about these pictures when I was up for my RSPCA Good Business Awards so they are only coming out now.
To my great distress I no longer have Scooter. Too sad to say more in this blog, but it was a dreadful wrench. I never really understood the connection people have with animals, nor the loss they experience and the lengths they go to for their beloved pets until I had a dog. In the midst of my grief, I went to Origin, the craft show in London in which I exhibited a couple of years ago. Amongst all the beautiful, high-minded craft from makers such as Helen Beard, Ptolemy Mann, I stopped, mesmerised, at this stand "Knit Your Own Dog".There were about twenty different breeds of dog, all in knitted yarn. The makers and authors, Sally Muir and Joanna Osborne were most sympathetic and interested in the loss of my half lurcher half Tibetan Terrier. You could buy their book, or a kit, or an already-knitted dog of your own in the breed you wanted.
We decided that the best strategy was to buy the book and then I could use their patterns to knit the dog I wanted. I looked in my rather neglected knitting bag and found some organic ardalanish wool and got going, ignoring the suggestions of what wool you should use. Of course, mine came out bigger than the ones in the book, and a little wonkier. But, I like to think, they do have considerable charm. However, they say that creativity is a great cure for depression and loss. It was indeed.
Knitted dog number 1, a whippet, went to Thomas (6).
Number 2, a border collie, went to Lucas (6 m).
Doggy number three, a pug, went to David (grown up box office manager and pug lover at Farnham Maltings)
Next up was the corgi, this one was named Rosie and Jonty (6) is the proud owner.
The most recent one, just in time for Christmas, went to Seth (4). He decided it was Juno, even though I couldn't quite get across that it was a Jack Russell and not a Lurcher.
You can make them in a few evenings, and aren't too difficult if you've got the basic knitting skills. I messed up a few times with the increasing and so on but I wasn't aiming for perfection so it was fine.