One of the best things about Christmas is seeing the look on a loved one’s face when you give them a thoughtful present. Sometimes, though, our Christmas gift budget doesn’t stretch quite as far as our desire to give requires. Never fear, if you have a sewing kit, some old clothes, and a little bit of time it’s really easy to put together some really special gifts that you can on a budget. We’ve got one for cats, one for dogs and one for the animal lover in your life.
For your cat:
What you’ll need:
An old item of clothing
Some strong kitchen string
A needle and thread
It’s well-known that cats love catnip, and that is all you will need to buy for this quick and easy project. You can pick up for a couple of pounds either online or in your local pet shop.
The first thing to do is to cut out your mouse shape from your scrap fabric. Any non-stretch material will work perfectly, so an old top, pair of pyjamas or even a hanky will do the job. You can print out this template or draw your own, freehand.
Once you’ve cut out your fabric you need to get your string and tie a knot in either end. One end will be the nose of your mouse and the other will be the tail. Lie the string along the “inside” of your piece of fabric (if you are using a fabric with a print this will be the unprinted side) with just the knot poking out at the pointed end, and the longer end poking out at the fat end. Make a few strong stitches with thread of a similar colour to your fabric to secure the string in place.
Now you need to start sewing around your mouse’s back. Fold the fabric in half length-ways with the “right” sides in (your string should be facing out). Sew along the cut edges of the fabric, leaving a 1 inch gap at one end. You can use a sewing machine if you have one, otherwise you can sew it by hand using a back-stitch. Once you’ve sewn almost all the way along, you can turn your mouse inside out.
Once you’ve done this you should have an empty little mouse with a little strong-knot nose at one end and a tail on the other. This is the point at which to stuff your mouse with catnip. You can either fill it entirely with catnip or mix your catnip with a bit of wadding, if you have it. Make sure the mouse is nice and full. When you’ve filled it you can sew up the remaining gap to stop the stuffing escaping!
You can give these to your own cat or make them as gifts for your friends’ cats and watch them go wild!
For your dog:
Wooly Warm Cushion
What you’ll need:
An old jumper that’s at least 50% wool (the bigger the better)
Stuffing (polystyrene beads, wadding or fleece)
Needle and thread
This is a very easy project that takes a couple of basic supplies and turns them into a really lovely, unique dog bed. You can either use an old, misshapen jumper you have lying around the house, or you can support your local charity shop by finding one there. The size you need will depend a little on the size of your dog, but I find that bigger is better with this project. You need a jumper that is at least 50% animal fibre (wool of some kind) because you need to “felt it”. Felting is where you force a fabric to fuse together to make it sturdier. This will stop your stuffing from escaping and your fabric from fraying, as well as making it easier to work with. It will also make the fabric shrink a bit, which is another reason you will need to get the biggest jumper you can find!
To felt the jumper put it in the washing machine at a high temperature with some soap. You can wash it with your bed sheets (as long as they are a similar colour) or any other fabrics that can be washed at a high temperature. It will help if you are then able to tumble-dry it, but if you don’t have a tumble dryer them a radiator will do.
Once your jumper is felted you need to do a bit of sewing! Firstly, turn your jumper inside out and sew the neck-hole closed and sew the bottom hem together, leaving a 2 inch gap at one end. Then turn the jumper right-way out. Then sew a curved line from armpit to armpit (see the diagram below).
Once this is done you’re ready to start stuffing! Stuff the “body” first through the gap you have left in the hem of the jumper. Once it is firmly packed sew the gap closed.
Now you need to stuff the arms. The easiest way to do this is to stuff each arm individually until the stuffing is evenly distributed. When you’ve finished filling the arms with stuffing you need to sew the ends of the sleeves together to make a loop. This will form the sides of your dog bed.
The final stage is to secure the arms in place around the sides of the body. This process will vary depending on the size and shape of your jumper, and how you’d like to arrange it. The best way is to try pinning it first to make a basic shape that works for you, then sew around the inside and outside edges to keep everything in place. You may wish to go around a couple of times, just to make doubly sure that your sides are secure.
For your pet-loving friend:
Cat or dog-shaped biscuits
What you’ll need:
100g/3½oz unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
100g/3½oz caster sugar
1 medium free-range egg, lightly beaten
275g/10oz plain flour
1 tsp vanilla extract (or a few drops of peppermint extract if you want to make them even more festive!)
Quick and easy sugar biscuits can be cut to any shape and take under an hour from start to finish. Wrapped up nicely they’re a great present for the animal lover who has everything!
Firstly cream together the butter and sugar until they go a little pale and fluffy. You can use a wooden spoon or a hand mixer. Then beat in the egg bit by bit before adding your flavouring and the flour until everything is evenly combined. The dough shouldn’t be too sticky and should come together in a ball.
If you have time it’s best to chill it in the fridge for about 15 minutes, to make it easier to roll out.
Once your dough is ready, sprinkle a light dusting of flour over your kitchen surface and roll it to about 1cm thick with a rolling pin, before cutting your shapes. You can do this freehand or with a cutter. These come in almost any shape and cost anything from around 40p. Place them on a baking sheet that you’ve lined with greaseproof paper.
Pop these into the oven for around 8 minutes, or until they are golden brown. Leave them to cool, and then ice them if you like. You can use anything from chocolate drops to coloured icing – get creative! Your friends will appreciate the effort, if you don’t eat them all first!
So there you have it; three thrifty gift ideas to help you stretch your Christmas budget a little bit further and give your pets and friends something to smile about this festive season.