Monday, December 22, 2014

Guinea pig cuddle sack tutorial

Now that your piggies have tunnels, they also need sacks!!  The Scoobies always have two in their house, one for each of them.

They really are like Buffy and Willow in matching twin beds in their dorm room.

When we go anywhere, such as the vet, I take both sacks with us.  They tend to feel safer in the sacks, so it helps with the whole vet trauma.
Mama, we're not so sure about this whole vet thing.  Can we go home yet?  What do you mean we're waiting for nail trims?

So, on to actually making sacks.

Again, as with the tunnels, hit up the fabric remnant section of the fabric store.  This pattern uses a 12" or so length of standard 58" fleece.  I used batting for this sack, but you can also use Uhaul liner or a hand towel. You'll also need boning of some sort for the sack opening.  I used these 36" cable ties again.

First, fold the fleece in half lengthwise so it's 12" (or whatever length you bought) by ~29", with the right sides facing each other.

Now, basically cut the largest sized rectangle you can with the fleece you have.  You'll need two pieces of fleece and one piece of liner in this size.

The strange dancing pandas are face to face.

Separate one piece of fleece, and fold it in half with the right sides facing in.  Pin.
I like to pin two adjacent sides.

Face the WRONG side of the fleece with the liner, then fold in half with the RIGHT side of the fleece facing in.  Pin.
Make sure you pin the same two sides you did above.

Sew along where you pinned.  Make sure to leave a hole in the SINGLE FLEECE piece through which you can turn everything inside out.

Flip the fleece/liner piece right side out, then slide it into the still inside-out single fleece piece.

Pin along the edge and sew.

Pull everything right side out through that hole you remembered to leave in the single fleece layer.

Now, grab your cable ties or whatever you're using for boning.  With cable ties, first cut off the head and pointy tail, then bend it so it'll fit through that handy hole you left, and push the whole thing right up against the seam between the fleece and fleece/liner pieces you just finished sewing.

Make sure the cable tie is flat between the layers.

Pin just below the cable tie.

Time to sew a casing for the boning.

I like to put the foot right up against the cable tie.

Finally, sew that hole closed.  It doesn't have to be pretty.

Yay, a sack!!

One final step before handing this to your piggies. If you didn't already wash the fleece, time to do so now.  New fleece comes with a protective barrier that prevents moisture from going through, so you want to break down that barrier.  Fabric softener and dryer sheets help replenish the barrier, so do NOT use those.  I've had good luck soaking for a few hours in hot water, then one or two hot water wash/dry cycles, but no guarantees. 

Hopefully your piggies love sacks as much as mine do!!  Mine like to nose around in their sacks, talking to themselves and making things exactly right for optimal comfort.

Willow demonstrates two methods of using sacks:  in and on.

Buffy stays warm and cozy in her sack.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Guinea pig tunnels tutorial

Pretty much the main reason I decided to learn to sew was that I wanted to make stuff for my babies.  Yes, you may call me a crazy animal lady.  Everyone else does.

One of the things I decided to make for the Scoobies was tunnels.  I had already made sacks, based on a few tutorials I'd found, but I hadn't found one for tunnels that I liked, so I decided to try figuring them out on my own.

Buffy is hanging out in her astronomy-themed tunnel, while Willow uses the twig tunnel.

So, what do we need, other than a sewing machine and thread?
  • One piece of fleece that's approximately 24-28" by 29".  I usually look through the fabric remnant section and buy a piece of standard 58" fleece, which makes two tunnels.  My piggies are larger, so they won't go in tunnels that are less than 7" in diameter.  If your piggies accept smaller tunnels, you can use less than 24".  Just keep in mind to count your seam allowances into your calculations.
  • A piece of liner fabric, such as an old towel, Uhaul liner, or just batting, that's the same size as the fleece.
  • Boning of some sort.
I did some research and found that an acceptable substitute for the boning you can find in fabric stores is cable ties. So, I found these.

Alrighty, time to get started.  I started with a full 58" piece of fleece, so I had to start by folding it in half and cutting it so it was 27" x 29".

Apparently the piece I had was 27".

Now, cut that piece in half, so you end up with two 27" x 14.5" pieces.  I like to square off all the edges, which is pretty easy to do with a rotary cutter and a cutting mat.

Ok, down to 26" x 14.5".

For this tunnel, I used batting as a liner, but you can also use a more absorbent lining, such as towels or Uhaul liner.

Cut ONE piece of your lining that's the same size as your fleece pieces.

Line up the lining with the wrong side of one of the fleece pieces.  Fold it in half along the long side (26" in this case), with the right side of the fleece inside, and pin the edge.  Repeat with the single fleece piece.

Time to head to the sewing machine.

First, sew the pinned edges.  Then, turn the fleece/lining piece so it's right-side out, and slip it inside the still inside-out single piece of fleece.  Match up one of the edges and pin.

You should have the right sides of the fleece facing each other, and the lining on the inside of the tunnel.

Sew along that pinned edge.  Then you want to take the fleece only piece and shove it into the center of the tunnel, so all the right sides of the fleece are facing out.  I like to turn things once more so that the fleece only piece is on the outside of the tunnel and the fleece/lining piece is on the inside.

Now, it's time to grab one of those cable ties.  

Cut off the head and the pointy tail first.

Put the cable tie between the fleece/lining piece and the fleece only piece, right up into the seam you just finished sewing.  Pin just below the cable tie.

Pins.  So many pins.

 Alright, time for the sewing machine again.  Basically, we're sewing a casing for the cable tie.

I like to put the foot right up against the cable tie, as close as possible, and sew.

Yay, that end of the tunnel is done!!  Time for the other trickier side.

Grab another cable tie and cut off the ends. Put it up against the inside of the fleece only side and fold the edge over.  Pin from the outside.  Trust me, that's important.  PIN FROM THE OUTSIDE.

See, pinned from the OUTSIDE.  Make sure to leave a large section for sewing.

Once you're done with that, it's time to pin the fleece/lining side.  Basically, fold it down so it's the same height as the other side, then pin both sides together.  You can remove the pins from the fleece only side as you do this.

Remember, pins are your friends.

Finally, sew along the cable tie again.

Yay, a tunnel!!

One final step before handing this to your piggies. If you didn't already wash the fleece, time to do so now.  New fleece comes with a protective barrier that prevents moisture from going through, so you want to break down that barrier.  Fabric softener and dryer sheets help replenish the barrier, so do NOT use those.  I've had good luck soaking for a few hours in hot water, then one or two hot water wash/dry cycles, but no guarantees for you.

Hopefully your piggies love tunnels as much as mine do!!

They like to weave through these three tunnels as they zoom around their house.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Time for a reboot

I decided it was time to restart the blog, but with a different plan.  Not only will I be talking about crafting (of various sorts, not just knotting), other possible topics include pets, hair, food, random rants/commentary about various topics, and any other stuff that could possibly be considered helpful, useful, or remotely interesting to someone.  Or, hopefully, multiple people.

So, let's start by meeting my babies, in order of adoption.

This is Tribble.
Yes, that is Star Trek fleece print.  

We adopted her from the shelter when she was about seven months old.  She had been born to a known feral mama cat, and was taken to the shelter when she was old enough to be separated.  Pretty much right after she got there, she came down with an upper respiratory infection, so she was not adoptable until she got over it.  The day we went to the shelter was her first day back in rotation.  She was sleeping on top of a cat tree in the larger play room, and when we walked by, she woke up, stood up, and started meowing at us through the glass, demanding affection/attention.  We were totally in love.  You can see how tough her life is now.  She's about 12lbs, and as the doctor put it, she really shouldn't get any heavier.

This is Zelda, aka Princess Zelda.  Yes, she is named after THAT Princess Zelda.  And yes, I do actually call her "Princess Zelda" sometimes, although I usually refer to her as just "Zelda" or just "Princess".  
HRH Princess Zelda says, "Pet me, slave."

We have limited background information on her, but this is what we do know.  She was picked up in late July/early August one year by animal control.  She had been dumped in a park, and was pregnant when she was brought to the shelter.  I have a very strong suspicion that she was an Easter bunny whose humans weren't even intelligent or responsible enough to take her to a shelter or contact a rescue group, and instead just dumped her in a park.  She also seems to have a strong fear of small children, which just reinforces my suspicion.  After she was spayed, she was quickly adopted by some humans who brought her back to the shelter after a few months for unknown reasons. 

We saw her at the shelter just a few days after she had been brought back.  Since neither of us had ever had a bunny before, and we already had Tribble, we were hoping to find a calm, laid-back bunny.  When we met her in the play room, she was calm, laid-back (totally not afraid of us), and confident, so we were sold.  Luckily for us, we found that she was also completely litter-trained, so within a few months, she ended up having free run of the entire apartment.  Whatever the princess demands.  She's a little less than 5lbs, which I guess is a medium-sized bunny.

Don't worry, Tribble and Zelda get along just fine, although I'm pretty sure Tribble likes Zelda much more than Zelda likes Tribble.  As far as I can tell, Zelda likes carrots, raisins, greens, hay, and not much else.
Proof that they get along.  This happens multiple times daily:  Tribble walks up to Zelda, licks the top of her head and her ears, then they separate (usually Zelda's choice) and continue on with their lives.

This is Mulder and Scully.  
They really liked to snuggle, until they didn't.

Despite their names, they are actually both male Roborovski hamsters, brothers from the same litter.  Unlike almost all other species of hamsters, this particular species of hamster CAN be housed socially, but it is obviously not guaranteed.  Squabbling is normal, but once blood is drawn, it's time for separation.  And, blood was drawn.  Scully went to the doctor to get checked out and got antibiotics.  Yes, you can give a hamster antibiotics.  It's really adorable.  So, now they are neighbors rather than roommates.   I really should have named them Mulder and Doggett.

They now have matching labeled houses, so I can always identify them.  Amusingly, Mulder is the dumber one.

And finally (for now), Buffy and Willow.
Buffy, the one on the right with the solid face, and Willow, the one on the left with the striped face, are not enjoying their trip to the hospital.

The Scoobies are about 3.5 years old.  They were initially adopted as babies by a couple who ended up splitting up three years later, and they were turned over to the rescue group shortly thereafter, since the half of the couple who had them simply didn't want to take care of them any longer.  Since guinea pigs generally live 5-7 years, they're considered middle-aged.  I've never had guinea pigs before, so we headed to the foster site without really knowing if I wanted babies or older ones.  But, once it was clear that these were probably the least adoptable ones there, I had to have them.  They're going to live out the rest of their lives with me, in a 2x5 C&C cage with fleece bedding.  They seem to hate everything, especially floor time, but they love food.  And they really really incredibly love food.  Buffy is about 2lb 12oz, and Willow is about 2lb 8oz.  And have I mentioned how much they love food?

Well, that's it for now.  There will be more (definitely non-human) babies in the future.