Dog collars in progress

collars in progress
Long thread tails ready for their clean finishing on this small batch of dog collars made from upcycled ties and trousers

My first small batch of dog collars is just about ready, and I’m really enjoying how crisp and refined they’re looking (and feeling). I made some improvements to my original prototype, including making them thicker and more substantial, and doubling up on my topstitching thread for a more striking accent along the top.

One of the most time-consuming aspects of my design is cleaning up the threads from sewing on the buckle (shown above). Simply clipping off the thread ends looked fine at first, but when I tugged on the flaps the stitches started to come loose. We don’t want that! So instead, I carefully tied the threads off, and buried them into the fabric for a clean and durable finish.

This batch is primarily made from reclaimed silk ties and cotton trousers. If you’d like to get an email when they’re available in my shop, just fill out the form below and I’ll be in touch.

Dog collar design development

pink paisley reclaimed silk tie collar | oxforddogma.com

Often times when people see my handmade dog accessories they ask if I make collars. So my latest product in development is… a collar!

Since I’m a fan of classic design, I wanted my collar to have classic metal tongue-style buckles, with metal grommet size holes. And for the strap fabric, I’m testing out a sturdy canvas or twill accented with reclaimed silk ties.

After Pipsqueak has worn it for awhile I’ll get started making a variety of sizes and colors.

If you’d like to get an email when they’re available in my shop, just fill out the form below and I’ll be in touch.

Designing the Pocket Critter interactive dog toy

Field testing the Pocket Critter interactive dog toy | oxforddogma.com

When we got the DNA test results for our dog, Pipsqueak, we learned she’s part Jack Russell Terrier. And terriers like to participate in earthdog trials, where they use their keen sense of smell to hunt down little rodents (typically a rat in the trials). This fascinated me to no end, but our dog is shy and likes to stick close to home. So when she snatched up a little stuffed javelina toy that had tumbled onto the floor one day, we were delighted. To her, it looked like a little rodent — her terrier instincts were kicking in! We coined it her “little piggy” and it was the first toy we could get her to play with.

Fast forward several months, when we learned from her trainer that dogs like to be challenged by hunting for their treats or food. After hearing this, I ran to my workshop and attached a crude pocket to Pipsqueak’s little piggy. We stuffed some treats inside and waited in anticipation to see if she’d figure out they were in there, and if she’d figure out how to get them out.

pocket stitched to javelina plush | oxforddogma.com
The pocket is dirty, but it’s holding up great.

She did! It was so fun to watch her investigating, and from then on whenever we wanted to give her a treat or stimulate her appetite we’d put some food (her regular kibble) in the pocket and set the toy somewhere for her to find. “Little piggy” was now “pocket piggy”.

My design challenge was set: how could I create a soft toy that would keep dogs entertained and challenged, engaging them in a mental activity with a treat for a reward?

Design goals

My design goals for this new toy included:

  • a pocket that holds little treats or pieces of food to mentally challenge dogs
  • adding a floppy tail for grabbing (Pipsqueak likes to do drive-by toy grabs and sometimes these little appendages help her pick up the toy)
  • no plastic pieces, like eyes, that could get chewed off and harm a dog
  • roughly rodent-like (but cuter)

Inspiration

The inspiration for the Pocket Critter interactive dog toy comes from three main sources:

  • the rat that’s used in earthdog trials
  • the way dogs like to be mentally challenged and hunt for treats
  • the crude pocket I stitched onto the original plush toy

The design process

The design didn’t come easy. I’d only made one other stuffed toy before, the stuffed pig project from Martha Stewart. I actually modified that project to have a long pocket along one side, but the fabric was too thin and it got chewed up.

pig toy sewn with integrated pocket | oxforddogma.com
I learned that a single layer of flannel was much too thin for the pocket.

I scoured Abby’s great tutorials on whileshenaps.com and did all kinds of experimenting with different designs. The trickiest part was integrating the pocket into the design, and sizing it so Pipsqueak could actually reach the treats without just chewing through the pocket itself.

My final design was kind of a 180° turn from what I initially thought it would look like. Instead of being more true-to-life in shape, I sketched out a flat front-facing version that I fell in love with. The addition of big ears and a stuffed tail really help give it character.

field testing the pocket critter toy with Pipsqueak | oxforddogma.comAfter field testing the toy with Pipsqueak, I was happy with the design and ready to start making a bunch of them for a pop-up shop. (Spoiler alert: they were my best seller at the event.)

In my next post, I’ll be giving a look into the making of the cute and huggable Pocket Critter toy.

Does your dog have a favorite soft toy?

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Preparing for PechaKucha Night Phoenix 2015

preparing for PechaKucha Night Phoenix

On Friday, October 16th, 2015, I’ll be one of the speakers at the PechaKucha Night Phoenix. It’s kicking off Phoenix Design Week 2015 and will be held at The Duce in downtown Phoenix.

PechaKucha is a quick presentation of 20 slides that automatically change to the next slide after 20 seconds. The idea is that someone shares something they’re ideas, work, thoughts, etc. for 6 min 40 sec — keeping it short to inhibit long, droning presentations.

I was invited to talk about my approach, philosophy, toolsets, and processes, revolving around the idea of pushing beyond our comfort zones and taking our work to the next level. Heck, just getting up in front of a group to present is pushing beyond my comfort zone!

I love learning, so my plan is to share the things I’ve learned during my experience changing career tracks from graphic designer to product designer.

With the basic outline in place, next I’ll need to determine 20 photos that will help tell my story.

If you’re in the Phoenix area and want to check it out, get your tickets here.