It was a lot of fun expanding my color palette into lighter and brighter materials. This collection includes even more reclaimed materials, carefully selected to be durable and look refined. Some of the items that were upcycled into an accessory for someone’s special dog include:
khaki cargo shorts
heavy cotton twill pants
To see all of the newest options, visit the my shop.
I have a love for tote bags. I’d say especially tote bags made with canvas. And I wanted to translate this affection for a utilitarian, elegantly-simple, classic staple into something for pets and the home.
Being a fan of classic design, classic boat-tote styling is a big inspiration to me, and I incorporated this aesthetic into the canvas pet toy bin design. This foldover bin stores several (smaller-scaled) pet toys right on the floor, so pets can reach in and pull them out. The goal is to provide some flexible, pet-friendly organization in a simple, unobtrusive way.
The contrasting base comes up from the bottom enough to add interest, and the exposed corner flaps stitched in place at the sides have a directness and honesty of form that I strive for.
I initially made a batch of just three bins, to see what people would think. There was enough interest to encourage me to add another small batch to my maker schedule, and that’s what I’m making in the workshop this week.
Each of these new bins is made with sturdy canvas, soft cotton lining, and a fold-down accent made from reclaimed wool. I focus on choosing color groupings that work well in living spaces, as well as those that fit with the Oxford Dogma style.
The best thing about making the Pocket Critter is how delightful it is to watch dogs play with it and work to get the treats out of the pocket. It’s not just the dog that’s having fun — we humans get to have fun, too!
With this soft, interactive dog toy, I wanted to put the Ivy League Classics twist on a toy. Many dog toys are focused on being bright or eye-catching (or noisy). But this toy is more subtle and understated. It’s classic and huggable.
And it’s not industrial-strength. Being soft and cuddly, and filled with stuffing, it’s designed for gentler dogs, who nose around and play rather than approach toys as something to be destroyed and left in pieces. If your dog has a tame appetite for eating toys but would enjoy hunting for treats or kibble, this would be a fun solution for you.
Pipsqueak has a pointy nose, and I’ve watched her poke around the pocket for goodies, but I wondered if a dog with a flat nose would enjoy the toy. I was happy to learn that one customer’s Shih Tsu had lots of fun playing with it and was able to get the treats out as well. It’s great to hear about these success stories!
Stories of Pocket Critter fun
I love hearing stories of dogs enjoying the things I make. Here’s what some recent customers have said about the Pocket Critter toy:
“Fiona playing with her new @oxforddogma mouse. She’s definitely a fan of hunting for buried treats!” — from Niki, with her dog Fiona
You can view this hilarious video of a tiny Pomeranian going bananas with the toy on Instagram
“Harley loves her new toy — she snuggles with it all the time, and I’ve been having fun putting food in the pouch for her to find. I feel like it gives her a deeper activity than just chewing on something.” — from Larissa, with her dog Harley
“Thank you @oxforddogma for the new toy! The pocket of treats is driving me crazy. If there’s ever a time I wish I had opposable thumbs its now…” — from Amy, with her dog Leia
Where to buy this interactive toy
The Pocket Critter was first available at my 2015 Method + Madness Pop-up Shop. Of the nine I brought with me, eight of them sold. Some people wanted to buy one, but knew their dog would instantly tear it apart. One woman’s solution to this was to buy one anyway — as a tooth fairy pillow for her grandson!
If you’d like to check out this cute and cuddly dog toy, there are some available in my shop, with more on the way.
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When I set out to design the Pocket Critter Toy, I zeroed in on creating something that would give dogs a mental challenge — a problem to solve — in order to get a treat. Rather than handing a dog a biscuit for sitting, with this toy the dog would have to nose around until they discovered the treats, then figure out how to get the treats out.
The timeless-yet-cuddly materials
I wanted the interactive toy to be soft and cuddly. So with this in mind, I focused on choosing fabrics that would be thick and strong yet soft and cozy. The toys are made from a combination of wool (both reclaimed and from the remnants store), fleece, and flannel.
It was a lot of fun combining the fabrics and colors — there’s definitely an Ivy Leagues Classics influence there, but the combinations are a little more playful since it’s a toy. Well, a reserved playful. I’ll be upping the playful aspect even more with a new group of Mutt Love Pocket Critters, made from scraps and less “pure” (read: mismatched and unexpected).
The pocket has the most specific logistical requirements. After watching Pipsqueak chew threw some thinner pocket prototypes I chose a double layer of tough twill fabric for the pocket. Twill is a sturdy fabric (our jeans our made of a twill weave) that can stand up to some chewing.
Putting it all together
Once the fabrics for these little guys are all selected, I cut out all of the pieces, then start prepping the pieces for assembly. First I sew together the ears and the tails. For the tails, I use the freezer paper technique I learned about on whileshenaps.com. It makes the odd shape so much easier to sew around accurately, and then it’s a snap to trim them to size.
Then the tail gets sewn to the back piece and the bodies are assembled, with ears sandwiched in place. At this point, I feel a sense of anticipation as I turn the toy right side out — I get a kick out of seeing how exactly the ears came into shape. Each one is a bit different, which is one of the reasons I enjoy making this toy.
Next, I stuff them with polyester stuffing (it’s more sanitary than cotton and washes well) so they’re full but not firm, and stitch them closed. Then I stitch the pocket (which has already been sewn together, and pressed into shape) on by hand.
It’s fun to see them go from flat pieces to something with three-dimensional shape and character. I think they’re rather charming (and a little French-like), between the slightly bowed legs, the big ears, and the hand-stitched pocket. Someone who knows my overly-detailed tendencies well asked me if I count the stitches on the pockets. And perhaps the more surprising thing about that comment is that no, I actually don’t count them! I think it’s more playful and down-to-earth to eyeball it in this case.
The final step is to pop them into the washer and dryer to fluff them up and pass my quality control double-check. There’s nothing cuter than a dryer full of fluffed-up Pocket Critters, just waiting for their new doggie friend to play with them.
I wasn’t necessarily looking for more wool sport jackets to use for projects, but I found several at the thrift store this week that really caught my eye. After washing and drying them, one felted nicely (and became a comically-shrunken jacket), so I’m excited to do something interesting with it.
I even found a nice long London Fog trench coat, which, from what I can track down, was made prior to 1976. One could spend hours tracking down this sort of information…for me, it’s good enough to know that it’s vintage. Once it’s turned into a jacket, I’d like to treat it with a waterproofing finish to help keep a little dog dry in wet weather.
Looking forward to repurposing these unique fabrics into something new!
Every time I finish making a Tailored Dog Jacket, I feel a rush. Both because finishing one is a big milestone (in case you missed it, you can read more about what goes into the designing and the making of the jacket) and because I can picture how cute it would be on a little dog :)
Do you ever get nostalgic about the things we lose as a society as we progress? I’ve been suffering from that feeling. Over the years, as manufacturing has become fast and cheap, the things we bring into our lives have shifted toward mass-produced, generic, forgettable experiences. I’m not talking about big things, like the decline in starvation around the world and the advancement of civil rights, but the little things, cultural details that once were standard and now they’re becoming lost. It makes me long for slow experiences when I think about how fast everything moves now.
I think it’s really important to preserve some traditions, like slowing down to savor moments with family. For me, family has always included pets. And to appreciate the care and attention to detail something was made with. That is, assuming it was made with care and attention to detail. Wouldn’t something that’s special and meaningful be so much better?
It’s the slow, intentional process — the combination of good design and good craftsmanship, which both take longer — that makes things feel special to use. I love to pay attention to the details so whoever is using the things I make have an enjoyable experience. Like they say: if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well. That’s kinda one of my mantras. (Another is “make hay while the sun shines”.)
In praise of timeless style
The main reason I prefer a timeless or classic style is this idea of intention. If something takes longer to design and make, then it costs more. If it costs more, you don’t want to replace it as often. And if you’re going to use it longer, you don’t want it to be something trendy or of-the-moment because after a few months of use you’ll be sick of it.
And I know this from many years of buying cheaply-made, ubiquitous, trendy mall clothes that I never wore because when I got them home I couldn’t figure out how they fit my wardrobe, then eventually I was just so tired of seeing them that they went into the Goodwill pile.
Finally I understood that the right fit for me was classic style. And by classic I mean a style that continues to be relevant, doesn’t look out of place or out of date, and doesn’t scream for attention. (If you’ve seen Robert Redford’s wardrobe in Three Days of the Condor or photos of Jackie O you know what I mean — that’s my idea of perfect clothing.)
The ultimate timeless-style piece in my own wardrobe is my Burberry trench coat. Every time I put it on I stand up straighter, feel more confident, and am reassured by its lasting qualities. That’s how I want it to feel when you put the Tailored Jacket on your dog.
If you’re someone who …
cares about details
wants to participate in the shift from anonymous, mass-produced, low-quality products and avoid the big box stores
wants to fill a need with something special instead of just something
appreciates a slower and more intentional experience
wants to express your own classic personal style
is crazy in love with your dog (of course you are!)
… my work might be a good fit for you. Check out my shop to see the one-of-a-kind Tailored Dog Jackets for sale or the other items available (currently 100% cotton leashes that feel really good to use, and leash pouches that dispense a roll of waste bags for doggie clean-up).
Do you have an old tweed jacket in your closet that you’d like to turn into a jacket for your dog? Get in touch with me about how we can breath new life into an old classic.