Thursday, June 19, 2014

DIY Critter Tunnel

Meet my guinea pig, Remnar! He is about seven months old, and loves to snuggle in anything soft. Since we got him, I've been experimenting with all sorts of burrow bag designs. I'm sure my friends and family think it's excessive. In fact, I know it's excessive, but I enjoy myself. It's fun watching him explore new things. Although, his favorite still seems to be a simple fleece blanket draped over the side of his cage. So much for all my efforts, silly pig.

As a result of my experiments, I ended up with tons of fleece scraps in all different shapes and colors. So, just for fun, I decided to use up some of those scraps by making a tunnel for my piggy.

If you don't have scraps on hand, the remnants section of the fabric store is perfect for projects like this. And if you don't see anything you like there, just get 1/2 yard of whatever strikes your fancy.

Next, pick up some aquarium tubing from the local pet store. The fabric needs something to keep the tunnel from collapsing whenever your critters decide they'd rather trample it than snuggle in it. Aquarium tubing is just the right size, and provides flexible stability. It's also fairly cheap, and it comes in varying lengths and colors to suite your needs.

Before you get started, you need to make sure your sewing machine has a free arm. That means you can take off the larger workspace to expose the arm, like so:

You will need to be able to fit the tunnel around the free arm. If it's too tight, it is pretty much impossible to stitch the tubing in place in the final steps. Thus, you may want to measure around the the free arm before you begin. Yes, I learned this the hard way while making a smaller tunnel and ended up hand-stitching the cuffs closed. Lesson learned.

Now, to make the tunnel! Take your main color fleece and cut a square big enough to fit around your pet, plus an inch or so for seam allowance and wiggle room. (My piggy is fairly small, and he fits comfortably in the 15 inch tunnel I made. In fact, with some effort, he manages to turn himself around inside of it.) Cut two more squares the same size from a contrasting color. Now take one of those squares and cut it in half.

Next, cut four sections of aquarium tubing the same length as your square. Cut a small slit in one end of each section of tubing, about 1/4 inch long.

Put a little craft glue into the end with the slit. I discovered that a hot glue gun will not work for this. Fast-drying craft glue, such as Beacon 3-in-1, works much better.

Stuff the other end of the tube into the end with the slit. It takes a bit of twisting and pinching to get it in snug, but it can be done! Once it's in, set it aside to let it dry completely.

To start the tunnel, fold the exterior fleece square in half, right side facing in, and stitch down the long side to form a tube. Trim the seam. Repeat with the interior fleece.

Turn the interior fleece right-side-out and stuff the exterior  fleece inside of it.

Line up the seams and stitch it in place.

For the cuffs, fold each piece in half and stitch along the side to form a tube. Trim the seams.

One at a time, fit each cuff over the main tube.

Line up the seams and stitch it in place with a slightly larger seam allowance to hide the last line of stitching. Trim the seams.

Turn the tunnel right-side-out.

Slip two tubing rings over each end and fold the cuffs over so the rings are inside.

You want the cuff to cover the seam with about 1/2 inch overlap. Stitch the cuffs closed, as close to the original seam as you can.

Now, feel inside for each ring and line them up so that one sits in the folded edge of the cuff, and the other sits next to the inside seam. Stitch along the open edge of each one to hold them in place. It helps to use the zipper foot or move the needle position to the right or left to get the stitching closer to the tubing.

Of course, you can make your tunnel whatever size or length you want, depending on what your critters prefer. I had enough scrap material, I decided to make a skinny, longer tunnel as a gift to a friend who has rats.

I had to coax my piggy in with some treats to begin with, but now he loves it. It's perfect for play time, when all he wants to do is sprint in and out of small spaces. I would imagine that other little critters who like to burrow will enjoy tunnels of their own.

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