DIY

Making a Parka for an Alpaca

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I should probably apologize right now, as this is going to be another of those oddly-specific posts that you are going to either get VERY excited about, because it’s exactly what you need, or it’s not relevant to your life at all. This post is about making coats for alpacas! ๐Ÿ™‚

These coats lay across the animal’s back and attach under the belly with a strap and fasten across the front of their chest with overlapping panels and either straps or velcro. Let’s start with the basic shape. I found this pattern image online and used it as a guideline. I would love to give credit to the originator, but all I have is this google drive link.

The U-shaped part at the top is where the alpaca’s neck will go, and the chest straps will connect across the alpaca’s chest and the belly straps will connect under the belly. You will need 2 measurements for the alpaca you are making the coat for: around-the-belly circumference and length of back (from neck to tail).

My first venture into making coats was last fall, when we knew we had a baby on the way and it would be due in October. What a heck of a time of year to be born! So I made two coats — a lightweight one and a warmer one. I used measurements off the internet for the sizes of coats that were for sale. I was so glad I did. That little guy really needed his coat! He was basically born shivering and after I dried him off, I put it on him and he perked up a lot!

Look how pink his ears and nose are!

The next day, I made him a neckwarmer and put that on him too.

As he got bigger and winter got colder, we put his thicker coat on him. This one was insulated with alpaca fibre from his mama!

Isn’t he adorable!?! He grew up really well and is still very gentle and likes to come nose-to-nose with me. I think he knows we will take care of him no matter what!

Okay, we are in danger of getting sentimental, so let’s get down to business and look at how I made these coats! ๐Ÿ™‚

I guess I didn’t take many pictures of the construction of the first coat, but here it is all finished, waiting for the little one to be born! My mom supplied the light blue fabric and wide velcro — thanks Mom!
Making the second coat: The pattern piece overlaid on fuzzy cloth.
To add an insulating layer, I hand-carded alpaca fibre and made it into mini-batts which I laid out inside the coat, overlapping a little.
I machine quilted the coat and added a windproof layer — the dark blue fabric (thanks again, Mom). It puckered quite a bit, but at least the alpaca fleece layer would be anchored well.
I underestimated how big Pigpen was getting, so it didn’t even fit him! I had to make the coat bigger… or the straps longer!

I felt pretty good about how that went! We used the light blue coat for Rupert for a few days when he was born this summer too!

I think he likes it!

If you just can’t get enough of these little ones, check out my posts here.

One cold evening last year, I noticed our elderly female, Uki, shivering. I felt so bad for her! She was still nursing little Pigpen and earlier in the year, she had been putting a lot of energy into growing him and not her coat.

The proud mama, not long after Pigpen was born! (He had just stood up!) Yes, that’s a washcloth on his back. I had to run back in the house for his coat!

So, I quickly made up a three-layer coat to help her keep warm. This year, with more time to work on it, I made some alpaca fibre into batts and added a quilted layer! I used the existing coat as a pattern and cut out the cloth from an old but very soft sheet.

Here is the coat laid out on the floor. The batts are different colours because it is fibre from different alpacas!

Using full-size batts was far better than hand-carded fibre, and I only anchored it every 3-4 inches.

I quilted the coat by hand with thread, tying small knots. I seem to love projects that take a lot of time!

I machine quilted the section at the chest, so that it isn’t quite as puffy. I figured out how to do it without the cloth puckering (thank you, internet). I then stitched it to the windproof layer in ten or so places. We put it on her tonight, even though it isn’t forecast to be too cold. She is pregnant again, with her cria due in June, so I think she might just wear this coat all winter!

An alpaca in a parka!

Last year, the coat was a bit too loose and would sometimes creep forward and end up bunched up around her neck. Hopefully now that it’s a puffy coat, it will stay put better. I did it up as tightly as I could.

I should make another one in case Daisy needs it! She is still nursing little Rupert, but at least she is not pregnant too. What a toll that must take on a body!

Now I have friends asking if I can make coats for dogs! I’m not sure I want to get into that racket… but then I hate to see an animal cold! ๐Ÿ™‚

Take care, everybody! Stay warm!

Forest Labyrinth

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I love labyrinths. Walking through a labyrinth is so meditative. So, I decided that I needed a labyrinth in the forest behind my house. It’s a large enough area, and the bush is not too dense. I now know why labyrinths are always made in open fields! It’s bleepin’ hard to make one in a forest! Here is a photo of my labyrinth so far:

Can’t you see it? Ya, I know, you can’t see the labyrinth for the trees! ๐Ÿ˜› Here’s another photo, a MUCH better photo! ๐Ÿ˜›

Sorry I’m so cheeky! I should say right now, this blog post is not meant to be a tutorial or any sort of helpful instructions! ๐Ÿ™‚ I have been out several times stomping in the snow — winter is slow to go this year — trying to make my curved paths between trees, around fallen trees and in the deep snow. It’s hard to really see where the middle of the area is. I can’t very easily see where my other paths are, and they all need to be made relative to each other. Let me explain.

I looked at several labyrinth designs and considering that I already have some curving paths, I settled on a round one. The photo at the beginning of this post is a replica of the Chartes cathedral labyrinth (at the Centre for Spiritual Living in Edmonton, Alberta). It has 11 circuits (count the rings from the outside to the inside).

I found a simplified one with only 5 circuits:

I knew even 5 circuits would be too many, so I went with 3. At first it was a sketch, but I did up a proper drawing for this blog post:

And, on my second or third time out, I took a GPS tracker out so I could see my awesome labyrinth! It’s amazing! My sketch is on the left and you can CLEARLY see how perfect my labyrinth is.
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It looks like a squashed turtle! Subsequent GPS tracks did not come out better. If anything, they were worse. Apparently, GPS tracking is not very accurate in this part of the world. Or I walk too fast. Or there are too many tress. [shrugs]
It was clear that some legs of the path were not long enough, so I edited the labyrinth. This makes it interesting every time I go to walk it. I have to try remember what parts to use and what parts were the old route. Here’s another photo, this time of the outside track on the right:


That’s Sammy out with me! He loves to go exploring. Sometimes he climbs trees!

So, last time I went out, I flagged some trees to help even this crazy thing out. I marked the major turnarounds in orange tape and the mid-points of the labyrinth area, to the best of my estimation, with blue tape. I also decided to expand the area, so that it would go all the way to the neighbour’s fence, which is currently covered by a 5-foot-high snow drift! No kidding! It’s epic! As I was working in the SE quadrant, I realized that I had done it wrong! I had an extra turn! Did you notice that on the first drawing? So, here is the correct path:

Let me just say I am quite pleased with my work! In the end, no one will ever know if this thing is asymmetrical (which I suspect it always will be) because GPS tracking will be strictly prohibited while walking meditatively on the forest labyrinth. It’s kind of neat walking among the trees, where you can’t see the whole labyrinth at once. You don’t know the path is going to fold back on itself, until you get there.

Once the snow melts, I will put down wood chips to mark the path and try to keep the flagging tape or signs to a minimum. I plan to preserve every tree (although some smaller shrubs may get squashed). Wish me luck! This thing isn’t finished yet.

If you have an open area, I encourage you to look at labyrinths you can make with rope or stones to mark the path. But if you have a treed area, GOOD LUCK! ๐Ÿ˜€

DIY Reusable Humidifier Filter

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Hi everyone! I know I havenโ€™t blogged in a while, but Iโ€™ve so been busy! I wanted to share a simple practical thing that I made.
We always run our humidifier in winter to make the air more tolerable. The replacement filters used to work great, but weโ€™ve noticed the last few we bought are really poor quality. We used to be able to rinse and reuse them easily, but now they disintegrate. Itโ€™s like they used to be made with plastic and now they use cardboard, which degrades when wet. So, with my knitting prowess :), I decided to knit a reusable cotton filter!
This is our humidfier. It’s a Honeywell (model HCM-6013IC), and we have no complaints about it except the filters. But if you have a different model, I bet you can adapt my filter to work with yours!
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First, I decided to make a wooden frame for the filter to hang on.

The filter is round, so I cut two half circles and joined them, then added posts to stand on. If I did it again, I would be a little more careful about how I joined the two half-circles. I did not drill large enough pilot holes, so when I put the second screw in, the wood cracked. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ Next, I knitted the filter! Here I am trying out the filter (knitting needles still attached).

A little detail for the knitters out there: I used ordinary worsted-weight cotton,the exact same yarn you would make washcloths out of. I used 8 mm needles for knitting in the round, which makes a very holey fabric. Whatever you use needs to wick water well (say that three times fast!) and have lots of holes for air to move through. I think I cast on about 95 stitches, but since everyone’s gauge is different, you ought to knit a swatch, measure your filter/humdifier and cast-on accordingly. ๐Ÿ™‚ Message me if you need help with this step — I’d be happy to help!

The filter works great! We soaked it thoroughly and hung it over the frame with the ends dangling in the water tray. It works great and should be almost infinitely reusable! This is the filter about two months later. Still going strong, and I’m so glad we don’t have to buy those disposable ones anymore!

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If you have a similar humidifier, you have GOT to make something similar and leave a comment when you do!

DIY Doghouse on a Pallet

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Hi everyone! Just wanted to show some photos and explain a little about the doghouse I made a while back for our awesome chocolate lab-mix named Gunner.
This was the ghetto-style doghouse we had rigged up before hand. Poor guy! He had to crawl in under the tarp. There’s a dog crate under there, with several blankets inside and an old sleeping bag draped over the top, but still, it’s not very warm or cozy.

I started with a regular pallet. Be sure to choose a sturdy one in good condition. I decided a half-size doghouse was big enough, so I framed that out. If you look closely, you can see I only framed the front and back walls and just added boards to join them together. I added a board under the “floor” of the dog house right at the back edge, in order to make the edge stronger and then I nailed/screwed the frame down. Then I used a staple gun to attach old feed bags (white) and some windbreaker material (black) to the outside of the frame.


The next step was to insulate. I had a huge bag of raw wool, so I fluffed it up and then filled the space in the walls.

I used a piece of fleece and stapled that to the frame and that’s all I have for interior walls. No need for drywall or wood since the wind-proof barrier and wood siding goes on the outside.

I can’t believe how well wool works as insulation! This doghouse is so warm! Search on kijiji or Craigs List or wherever for raw wool and if you can get some, use it!
Next step was to attach siding. I had lots of rough-cut planks, so I cut them to length and screwed them in using deck screws. They are layered like siding should be and overlapped a bit at the corners. In the two photos below, I was still insulating the front section.


Once I finished the front, it was time for the roof. I like a traditional peaked roof, so I made rafters and attached them using long screws. This was trickier than you might think, but worked well. It’s not trivial cutting pieces to be identical, and some of my 2×4’s were a bit twisty… which I didn’t realize until I was trying to make them all work! All the material for the doghouse was just kicking around the farm, I’m pleased to say! Some things, like the huge box of deck screws, were given to us by friends that were moving — thanks Krista!

I also rigged a board across the middle to make the ceiling. The insulation for this part was added later in the form of an old sleeping bag. Next, the roof boards.

I guess there are a few more steps. Roof boards — very tricky to install yourself! — and siding for the gable ends. One of our outdoor kitties had started crawling on top of the dog crate and sleeping there, so I made her an attic room. She snuggles in the sleeping bag that is the insulation! And how did I cut the kitty portal? I didn’t have a jig saw, so I cut two straight cuts and then just hit the wedge shape out using a hammer. And then smoothed it out with a file. Cool, eh? I’m probably related to MacGyver…

I did not overlap the siding boards on the gable ends. That was just too nutty. I just put them up against each other.

Now, how to move it? I held off on mailing on the asphalt shingles because I knew they’d add a lot of weight. I moved the otherwise-complete doghouse all on my own, by manoevering it onto a plastic sleigh/toboggan that we use to haul bales in winter. I used levers, using smaller boards, longer boards, and whatnot, to get it from the shop floor onto the sleigh on the snow. Once I had the doghouse on the sleigh, I just pushed it across the yard from the shop to the house! It was pretty heavy. This is the doghouse in transit:

And here it is in it’s place! See the kitty portal?

Gunner enjoying his new house! He had been pretty reluctant to go in it while it was under construction, but once it was at the house, he knew immediately what do to! What a guy! initially, I stuffed more raw wool into old pillow cases to make cushions, but later I bought a burlap sack to make a mattress for him.
Before we got our second dog, Jenny, I made her a doghouse too! A slightly different design — and I was really under a time crunch on this one!
This is it 90% complete.

All I had left to do was put a couple of boards on each side to close up the roof. You can see I used reflective insulation on this ceiling. I also bought recycled denim insulation instead of using wool in the walls — I just didn’t have time to fluff all that wool up! I highly recommend using a safe insulation like wool or denim, and NOT fibreglass, if you are going to build it this way. You don’t want the fibres bothering your dog, and they might leak out of the walls! You would have to install solid wood or gypsum board walls.
This style of roof is much easier, I have to say. I just screwed two taller boards to the front wall, and then decided on the roof size and cut it out. I shingled it before installing it, except the last shingles which would cover the screws that attach to the taller boards. I also bent a couple of shingles over the front edge on a warm day and nailed them on. Darren and our friends Michelle and James helped me move this one! Thanks guys!
Anyways, I just wanted to share what I made. It’s not exactly step-by-step, but if you’re reasonably handy, I think you can figure most of it out by looking at the pictures. If you have any questions, leave a comment!
Take care everybody! Go give your dog (or kitty) some love! ๐Ÿ™‚
Other woodworking projects