Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Make it Better: L.L. Bean Tote to No-Sew Dog Bag DIY

L.L. Bean Tote Dog Bag DIY
Like most dogs, Manny loves to travel. Whether it's to New England, California, or just my office, each and every trip is equally as joyous for him. When he flies with us, he has a secure zippered carrier so we can close it up completely and pop him under an airplane seat. When he takes Metro North trains,  he doesn't need to be in a carrier at all.

Taking the subway requires a carrier of some sort to avoid a penalty. When his trip only requires a quick ride on the subway, I find it annoying to wrestle with his big zippered case, and I don't love the look of it anyway. So, I set out to find a lightweight bag that I liked to carry.

Traveling by plane and by train
I find that my L.L Bean tote bags are really useful no matter where I'm headed, so I was drawn to the dog carriers that look a lot like those totes. However, I wasn't excited about the colors of most of the canvas tote dog bags I found in the price range I wanted to spend. My wife thinks I have far too many L.L. Bean tote bags, which is a statement I believe is impossible, but I do have enough that turning one into a dog carrier made sense. I have seen tutorial versions of this type of canvas dog tote before, but wanted to create one that would be no-sew, and could be easily made. To my delight, it ended up being quite easy to make, taking well under an hour excluding drying time.

Supplies needed:
-Canvas tote bag that will fit your pup and also go over your shoulder.
The one pictured is size medium with long handles from L.L Bean. Manny weighs 9lbs, and didn't fit comfortably in the small.
-An old dish towel, or other scrap fabric
-Cardboard or foam-core
-Mod Podge
-Grommets and carabiner (optional)
If your pup is wiggly when he's in a carrier, this is a good addition.

Step one: Starting no less than .5" from the side of the handle, mark where the "U" shape will start on each side. Manny likes to keep his head out even if he's laying down in his carrier, so I cut all the way down to 3.5" from the blue point that folds up from the bottom of the bag, but other pups may not prefer for this cut to be as deep.

I found it easiest to cut straight down from the top of the bag first, then decide how wide I wanted the bottom of the "U" to be. Starting at the top of each of the sides, I then connected them to the bottom.

Step two: Using Mod Podge, cover the cut edges liberally. Mod Podge is non-toxic, so if the pup tries to lick it, he should be okay.

Optional step: Once dry, the Mod Podge will keep the edges from fraying, and this is how I've left mine for a year. But if the unfinished look is annoying, simply fold the edge in and hand sew in place using a leather needle so that it's strong enough to go through the canvas and the dry Mod Podge. If this step is taken, I would suggest starting no less than 1" from the side of the handle in step one so that the canvas folds over more easily.

Step three: If adding grommets, place them about an inch or so from the handle closest to the cut. Manny's harness attaches here when we travel.

Step four: In my experience, dogs like carriers better if the bottom feels safe and solid. This was the case for Manny, who refused to stay in the carrier without the bottom, but the minute it was added, he sat down. I cut some scrap foam core to size, which for the medium L.L. Bean tote is 6.5" wide by 12.5"long.

Wrap the bottom in an old dish towel or scrap fabric and it's easy to wash later if necessary.

The best part about the shape of this carrier is that when he's walking with me to the subway I can toss my own bag inside and easily pull it out when it's time for him to hop in. And oh, my -- you've never seen a happier creature head off to work. I bet everyone who sees him wishes she had some of his enthusiasm for spending a day at the office.

Cost: Nothing for repurposing the tote and using the Mod Podge I already had.

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"There's only one rule that I know of, babies -- God damn it, you've got to be kind."
-Kurt Vonnegut