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Saturday, June 29, 2019

Sewing a Martingale Dog Collar

Panzer is a beauty.  
As a rescue greyhound, he is spending retirement in a loving home.

We recently visited family in Kentucky.  One of our Kentucky families has a rescue greyhound, Panzer.  They asked if I would make him a new martingale collar.  Having never been around greyhounds, I was unfamiliar with martingale collars.  They provided an old collar to use for sizing and hardware.  I was excited to give it a try. 

Because there are patterns and tutorials available online, I did not need to struggle with reverse engineering the old collar.  Even with a good tutorial, several failed attempts resulted in a few changes to accommodate the products I could find. 

This blog is not a step-by-step on how to make the collar.  My intent is to explain my selection of products, as well as how and why I made minor changes to the pattern.  There are a lot of words, so you may prefer to follow along with the photo captions until you find something of interest.  


The old collar was made of nylon webbing, with a soft lining inside and decorative jacquard ribbon outside.  It was two inches wide with sturdy hardware.  I did a little research to understand what makes a good martingale collar.  It seems the best rated collars have three primary attributes:
  • Sturdy webbing or fabric that dries quickly with no irritation to the dog's skin
  • Strong hardware that will not rust or pull apart
  • Attractive
The pattern I used is free online at Country Brook Design.  It is step-by-step, with pictures and good explanation.  Although they have a chart for sizing the collar, I used dimensions from the old collar.  As in anything, there are many ways to accomplish the same task.  The changes I made helped eliminate bulk and provided a more polished finish with my products.  

Beautiful solid brass D-ring and triglide sliders.  The tutorial calls for one triglide and two rectangles.  I used all triglide slides because that is what the old collar had.
I am sure both work equally well.
This hardware is shown on the black cotton twill fabric used for the final collars.

The lightweight fleece will be more breathable and dry more quickly than regular stabilizer.

I will say up front that Country Brook Design has webbing and hardware.  Strapworks in Eugene, is my go-to for good hardware, so that's where I purchased mine. 

The two-inch durable and decorative ribbon was more difficult.  I could not find it locally and turned to Etsy.  Since I could not examine the ribbon closely, I decided to stick with a two-inch woven jacquard ribbon as used in the old collar.  I found a limited variety on Etsy and purchased one yard each of two different styles.  I also purchased a small amount of soft flannel to use as liner.     

Trial and Error

Too bulky and stiff with untidy stitches.
The black hardware is attractive and strong, but it is plated.  I did not want to risk chipping, especially at the D-ring where a leash or tags might hook.

When the supplies arrived, I sewed a test strip layering the flannel, webbing and ribbon.  It was too thick and bulky. The webbing was very smooth, so I eliminated the flannel.  I felt confident enough to proceed with one of the jacquard ribbons.  That was a mistake.  Even after eliminating the flannel, the webbing and ribbon were difficult to sew and still too heavy and stiff.  I can re-use the hardware, but the ribbon and webbing are ruined.

On the third trial collar, I used cotton fabric (from my stash) with a good lightweight fleece stabilizer.  It went well enough that I completed it with hardware.  

Reasonably successful prototype using cotton fabrics and solid brass hardware.

It comes together

Finally, I used a black twill fabric with a two-inch strip of lightweight fusible fleece.  The lightweight fleece should be more breathable and dry more quickly than regular stabilizer.  

The stabilizer and straps are sewn differently than in the tutorial.  This method will reduce bulk resulting in sturdy flat strap ends.  No raw edges to deal with in tight spots.  Read on for more explanation.....

I cut one 20"x 5" twill rectangle for the large loop.  One 12"x 5" twill rectangle for the for small loop.  These dimensions accommodate 1/2" seam allowance on the long edge and 3/8" seam allowance on the ends.  You can use whatever seam allowance you want.  Simply adjust your fabric rectangles accordingly.  The lightweight fleece rectangles measure 20"x 2" and 12"x 2".  Fuse the fleece down the center of the fabric.
Fold the strips lengthwise.  With edges even, stitch the long edge leaving about 3 inches open in the center on the long tube and about 2 inches on the short tube.  The ends are still open.

Press flat with seam down the center.  Sew the ends and clip corners.
You will see later that it creates a neat and tidy end that is easier to work with than folding under raw edges.
The strips turned right side out using a handy tube turner.

For demonstration, this picture shows the interior lightweight fleece.  
 Once the fabric straps were turned right side out, I pressed again making sure the fabric at the opening meets in the middle.  You should not be able to see the stabilizer inside.  I stitched about 1/4 inch on both sides of the center seam.  This seam will be covered by ribbon, so it was not necessary.  However, the extra lines of stitching will add a little strength, ensure the lightweight fleece will not shift, and keep the width of the strap consistent when you are attaching the ribbon.  

The the lines of stitching along center seam are visible from the back, but not offensive.  Turn the ends of the ribbon under, and sew the ribbon to the twill by stitching close to the edge all the way around. 

Front side of long strap.  Back side of short strap.  Tidy ends - no bulk.

Now it is time to look back at the Country Brook Design tutorial.  The hardest part is stitching the small loop together.  You need to sew secure seams inside the small loop.   

A general sewing foot will grip and move the heavy fabric better, but makes it difficult to sew against the hardware.
A zipper foot makes sewing against the hardware a little easier.  You can sew a box and "x" pattern, as I did here, or several lines of straight stitches.  I carefully sew over the lines of stitching several times to ensure it will not come loose.
Follow the Country Brook Design tutorial to thread the tricky adjustment triglide slide.  The tutorial uses rectangle slides on the side of the small loop.  I used triglide slides because the original collar used triglides. I am sure they both work equally well.  

That's it!  A lovely martingale collar.  

Look at those sleek, flat seams!  

I enjoyed making these collars.  It was an interesting exercise.  This blue and black collar may become available in my Urban Stitcher Etsy Shop.  For two reasons, it is probably the only one I will make to sell:
  • After purchasing nice jacquard ribbon and solid brass hardware, my costs were very near $20.  There are many competitively priced martingale collars on Etsy.  Perhaps they buy in bulk, or have a local source of ribbon and hardware eliminating shipping costs.  Scrimping on less expensive hardware would risk chipped finish, rust, or worst case, a lost dog because the hardware failed.  
  • The second reason is sizing.  Collars made custom to fit your dog would be ideal.  Accepting orders for custom collars, even with a reasonable turn-around is not something I would be comfortable doing.   You never know!....I might be in the middle of a clay doll project!  

That's it!  My experience and minor contribution to making a martingale collar! 

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