The scene was straight out of "The Sound of Music" – where Maria throws open the soon-to-be-replaced draperies and has a flash of inspiration to stitch them into much-needed play clothes for the children.
Only in my case, I was watching our dachshund, Rummy, stuff himself into an old sweat shirt on the floor for the umpteenth time when (ta-da!) I got the notion of sewing the shirt into winter "dogwear."
We hadn't had much success with off-the-rack dog sweaters because dachshunds' rib cages require a size "large," while their necks are a "small," and their backs, of course, are "long."
Last winter we'd had to almost completely dismantle a cute little sweater my parents gave him for Christmas, just to get it around his chest – and now that he'd gained a couple more pounds, it didn't look as though it would suffice this season.
But the weather was getting unusually cold, and he needed something to keep him warm on walks and in our chilly house. That's when I hit on transforming old sweat suits into dogwear – and the family quickly provided me with a pile of possibilities.
A worn sweat shirt came first. It seemed an appropriate choice – tan in color and with a colorful design of Noah's Ark on the front.
From an initial fitting, I found that the arms wouldn't work (too tight), but the neck ribbing could probably be used as is. So I snipped and clipped until I'd fashioned a cape of sorts that would pull over the dog's head and drape neatly down either side.
Rummy sat patiently as I slipped it on and off him, trying to get the back and side lengths just right, and fitting a belly strap of extra fabric underneath to hold the "coat" in place.
I stitched it all up (feeling like Maria with the play clothes) – and it worked! Well, it looked a bit like my preschool attempts at making doll clothes, but it was functional for frosty morning walks.
I soon discovered, however, that the neck and belly-strap ribbing stretched and caused the coat to drag on the ground.
So I tried the old gray sweat pants next.
Sliding a pant leg over Rummy's obliging head, I found that the sturdy elasticized cuff would just fit his neck. So off came the pant leg and into a cape-shape it turned. A short strip of Velcro left over from making a guitar case (another of our unusual "clothing design" projects) allowed the belly strap to be cinched up snugly and better hold the whole outfit in place. After a couple more fittings, outfit No. 2 was ready for a final zigzag edging on the machine.
Rummy has gotten many days of warm wear out of his new, manly gray "sweat shirt."
But that brings us back to "The Sound of Music." When my stepson Charlie came in one evening and saw Rummy (the dog he'd selected from the local dachshund rescue) all dressed up, the expression on his face was a variation of Captain Von Trapp's reaction upon learning of the drapery clothes: "You mean to tell me my dog has been traipsing all over the neighborhood dressed in nothing but an old sweat-pant leg?"
Still, it works. Rummy's warm and cozy. And I think Maria would be proud.