Penelope Cake

Penelope Cake is a long-time The Bark crafts contributor.

Dog's Life: DIY
Cool Crochet Collars
A crochet hook, a button and a little yarn are all you need.

What do sharing your life with animal companions and working with yarn have in common? Both activities may have similar health benefits, including helping to lower blood pressure and reducing stress. I guess that makes me the epitome of good health, since I live with a dog and three cats and have been knitting and crocheting since I was six years old. I consider time spent crocheting as I lounge on my favorite couch with at least a couple of animals tucked up beside me to be a gift like no other: just me, my animals and some yarn. And, like daily vitamins and exercise, it’s important for my health!

Getting Started
If this project has inspired you learn to crochet, look for someone teach you; you will be surprised at how easy it is once you get started. There are also many how-to books and online resources available with excellent directions for first-timers. For the veteran craftsperson, this is a great way to use up leftover yarn.

A simple chain stitch and single crochet are the only stitches you need to know to make one of these collars. The variation in their look comes from the kind of yarn you use and the embellishments you add; if you select a textured yarn—which can be tricky to work with until you get used to it—you don’t really need to add anything else. Choose a crochet hook that will make a fairly tight stitch. If you still have the label from your yarn, it will tell you what size hook to use.

Measure your dog’s neck and consider how wide you would like the collar to be. Chain stitch to that width plus one stitch, then single crochet until you reach the right length. The collar will stretch a little, so take that into consideration when measuring. You want it to be snug, but not tight.

For the buttonhole, begin a row of single crochet as usual. After one stitch for a narrow collar or two stitches for a wider one, chain the rest of the row until just before the end, at which point you will join the chain to the collar again with one or two single crochet stitches as in the beginning of the row. Complete one more row of single crochet and bind off.

Like all crafters, you most likely have a jar of buttons stashed away, and in that jar you’ll no doubt find the perfect one for your collar. Make sure it fits and sew it onto the end of the collar opposite the buttonhole. If using plain yarn, you can then further decorate the collar with buttons, beads, bows or baubles to your heart’s content.

And speaking of your heart, continue the health benefits of this project by taking your dog for a nice long walk and showing off your handiwork. It’s much more fun than going to the gym!

[Note: This collar is not meant for leash attachment.]

Dog's Life: DIY
Cool Collarettes
With reuse all the rage, old becomes new again!

It’s like magic. Something old becomes new again. I have always been enchanted by this process of transformation, even before it became known as recycling and was recognized as good for the environment. As a child, I made milk cartons into doll houses  and lunchboxes into pocketbooks. Paperclips became jewelry and my father’s old neckties became bracelets and belts. Now, when I make things for my dog, this is the creative process.



I discovered this idea for dog collars while refashioning a shirt for myself, and even though it didn’t fit me at all, it is almost impossible for me to throw anything away. So there I was on the floor with scissors, needles and thread, and of course Eloise. She always helps me sew by finding as many dangerous things to chew on as she can. As I cut and tucked and modeled the changes in front of the mirror, I caught Eloise disappearing around the corner with the collar in her mouth for a nice private chew. And then the moment arrived ... when I saw something become something else. I think I actually got a surge of adrenaline when it happened because it made me laugh out loud. I removed the collar from her mouth and slipped it effortlessly around her neck. A perfect fit. Tight enough to keep it away from her teeth and paws, but loose enough to be comfortable. The concept of “dog collar” took on a whole new meaning.

But I couldn’t stop there. The possibilities were endless for decoration and embellishment. Trims, embroidery, buttons and bows. I began asking all my friends for hand-me-down shirts and combing thrift stores and flea markets for different sizes, colors and patterns. I gave them to all my doggie friends and started selling them in my local pet store. At 48 years old creating fashions for my dog is almost as much fun as making things for my dolls when I was 10, but with an added bonus. It helps soften the blows of middle age.



  • Shirt with a collar the right size for your dog. It should be 3"- 4" bigger than the exact neck measurement. You can find different sizes by using children’s, women’s and men’s shirts. It must also have a neckband. That’s the piece that joins the collar to the shirt and allows you to cut it off in one piece.
  • Some kind of glue that is made for preventing fray. There are several kinds available in sewing and craft stores.
  • Another kind of glue that creates a permanent fabric bond and can be washed.
  • A special button.
  • Small piece of Velcro tm.
  • Assorted trims and decorations.
  • Embroidery floss.



1. Cut the collar off the shirt being careful to stay as close to the seam as possible but without cutting into the neckband.

2. Spread the fray block glue along the bottom seam. It will dry clear on most fabrics. When dry, trim loose threads and fabric.

3. If you want to use the button to open and close the collar, then make sure your new button fits the hole and replace the old one. Or you can sew Velcro in place of a button for easier access and then you can add a bigger button or other decoration to the front.

4. Decorate with trims and/or embroidery to your heart’s content! These can be sewed or glued with the permanent washable glue.

[Note: The collarettes are designed to fit loosely around your dog’s neck and are not intended for leash attachment.]

Dog's Life: DIY
Great Toy Round-Up
Make a toy box for your dog's treasures

When my son was a baby, his toys were usually scattered across the floor, “toddler chic,” I suppose you’d call it. I found it charming, but my husband—who would inevitably step on one of the hard plastic playthings with his bare foot—found it dangerous. We bought a toy box and did our best to clean up after playtime. Years went by, toys disappeared and my husband enjoyed an era of safe travel through our home. That is, until my dog Eloise moved in. If he wasn’t tripping over her as she ran between his legs, he was being stabbed by half-chewed pieces of rawhide or sent flying by an unattended ball rolling underfoot. My son’s toy box was long gone and the plastic bucket we used to corral Eloise’s toys was an eyesore. It was time to get busy crafting.

Each of us has our own decorating style, and even a dog’s toy box can reflect your home’s character. The box shown here has a vintage look; however, by selecting images that suit your personal taste, you can tailor it to your preferred style. The same techniques apply.

•Wooden crate, old or new
•Copyright-free photocopied images or your own photographs (all of the images must be copied onto the same weight paper)
•Decoupage glue
•Water-based polyurethane varnish
•Foam brushes

1. Arrange your images in a pleasing design on one side of the crate (use Blu-Tack or a similar product to hold the pieces in place while you are designing).
2. Using decoupage glue and a foam brush, cover the backs of the images and stick them in place. When finished, cover the front of the images with a smooth coat of the same glue. (Some of the colors may run a little, but in this case, it added to the vintage look.) Repeat this process on the remaining three sides and let dry.
3. Using the varnish and a foam brush, cover all of the decoupaged surfaces with a smooth coat. Let dry and repeat. Two coats should be enough to complete the project.