Wednesday, July 30, 2014

DIY dog crate carrying bag

You are not likely to find something like this in the American consumer market.
That's a standard steel folded dog crate for a medium-sized dog (the crate has a 2' x 3' footprint), and the crate memory foam pad, both tucked into an oversized shoulder bag.  In this post, I will describe how I created the bag.   
The reason why you won't find this product for sale is that it's a spinal injury lawsuit waiting to happen.  In other words, manufacturers most likely won't produce carriers for fear of liability.  Even though steel dog crates are designed to fold flat and therefore presumably are intended to be moved from place to place, they are heavy and awkwardly large, and yet the result is that there's nothing on the market (that I have found) in which to carry them.
If you search for a carry bag product in the commercial market, mostly what you're going to find is flimsy nylon portable dog crates, "travel crates", some of which do come with an outer sack for carrying them.  But a dog's crate is her castle, and my 45 pound mutt considers hers to be her Linus blanket.  She would not do well in a tent-like portable crate.  She would chew through it and then there would be no crate at all.

Screengrabbed from Google image search for 'dog crate carrying bag'.  
My husband and I are physically fit and therefore it is not a problem for us to carry an oversized tote bag with a heavy load.  In the photos below, I will show the sequence of easy steps that it takes to create this item.  These instructions assume that you know how to operate a sewing machine, but advanced skills are not required.  
To create a sack for a crate this size, you're going to need a good sewing machine (mine is a 10-year-old low-end Kenmore similar to this one), approximately three and a half yards of 56" wide light upholstery fabric, and extra strength thread, what we used to call "coat thread" when I was a kid.  
I'm saying "light" upholstery fabric because there are limits to what most consumer-grade sewing machines can handle in terms of fabric thickness and (more importantly) fabric density.  If you've got access to a heavy-duty sewing machine, you could perhaps choose a heavier material such as canvas.
This was a textured velvet fabric that I had left over from a home theater drapery project I did many years ago, back when I owned a McMansion with a separate theater room.  This is the fabric laid out on top of the crate before sewing.  Our dog is very attached to her crate and was made anxious by the fact that I was working with it.  She would plop herself forlornly on top of the project at every opportunity.  

I cut a 90 inch length of the fabric and doubled it, wrong sides together.  Normally when sewing, you would primarily work with right sides together, but I was making this bag in a double fabric thickness.  

I don't present a lot of measurements in this post.  I mostly made this bag free-form by fitting it step by step to the folded crate and crate pad.  The first step was to fold the doubled fabric in half, selvage edges together, in order to determine how deep the "lip" around the top opening of the bag had to be.  
Remember to straighten up your fabric before starting this process, making sure that the edges are in parallel and that the bias is on square.  We have ceramic tile through our entire house and it makes a very convenient measuring template for large projects such as this.   
Here I'm folding down the two edges of what will be the top opening of the bag (the "lip"). In other words, I finished the top edge before sewing up the two sides.   
Your main limitation with this project will be what your sewing machine is capable of plowing through, thickness-wise.  Mine is just a low-end Kenmore, but I tell you, the thing is a hawse (sorry I can't find a good slang definition to link to that).  It'll sew through quite a lot of thickness.  
This photo shows the opening "lip" created, with the seam side turned outward, because I didn't want the crate to catch on the edge as I was slipping it in and out of the bag.

Additionally, I had sewed up one side of the bag and then put the crate and pad back in it, in this partially-finished state.  For projects like this that do not need to be precise, I find it more efficient to fit as I go, rather than sewing based on measurements that I've made.  So for instance, if you use a thicker crate pad, you'd want your bag to be slightly larger than this one so that it would accommodate the extra bulk.

Don't make your bag too tight.  There's no reason for that and it will only make it more difficult to insert and remove the crate and pad.  The crate has many wiry edges.  It will tend to catch on fabric.   
Now I've sewed up the second side.  
A steel crate is heavy, so I needed big wide thick shoulder straps.  I created them out of two twelve-inch lengths of the same upholstery fabric.  
I half-folded the wrong sides together like this.  
Then I folded over the end pieces so that they could be stitched first.  
Once the ends of the straps were sewed, I folded the straps together again, seam edges on the inside, and stitched all the way around each perimeter.  The resulting strap is approximately three inches wide, four layers thick.

Then I experimented with placement on the bag, as to what would be the best strap length and position.  I decided on this configuration shown above.  Again, no precise measurements - I used the tape only to ensure that each strap would be anchored the same distance inward from the sides of the bag.

It was very awkward to sew these straps on using the sewing machine.  At this point in the project, the machine was sewing through six layers of this fabric.  But it was able to handle the task as long as I proceeded slowly.
Once I got the first strap sewed on, I flipped the bag over and positioned the other strap in the same manner, lining the two straps up by feel.  This pic actually shows both straps on top of each other, but you can only see the top one.  
BTW, have you ever seen those popular Facebook posts that say "LIKE if you remember this object!" where they showcase a lot of nostalgic consumer products of yesteryear?   This object shown above was, in fact, featured in a recent mass posting.  When I saw it, I thought to myself, "Like if I REMEMBER this object?!  WTF - I'm STILL USING that object!!
I would have preferred to run my straps all the way down the side of the bag for strength, the way better tote bags such as this one are constructed.  This tote is by Steele Canvas Basket, which just might be the only remaining manufacturer in America that sells oversized tote bags to the public.  Most of them were taken off the market about 15 years ago because of liability fears (so I was told by a prominent manufacturer when I complained about their sudden disappearance).  Injury lawsuits, in other words.

However, regarding my strap ambitions, with only a light-duty sewing machine to work with, I opted not to get too elaborate with my design, doing only what was needed instead of going for maximum strength. I don't need to be climbing mountains with this crate bag - I just need it to move the crate from house to car to hotel and back again.  As such, I could make do with only minimal engineering.  
Selfie in a smudgy mirror.  This thing is not going to win any design awards, but it only took me a couple of hours to make and it will get the crate-carrying job done.  Not only does it allow me to carry the crate, but it also will prevent the metal edges from scratching the interior side walls of my minivan when it's loaded into the back of it.

Note the visible muscles in my fifty-year-old yoga arms.  If you are not physically fit, I don't recommend that you try to carry a big crate like this, bag or no bag.  You could, indeed, hurt your back or shoulder.   Or both.  

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