Feral Cat Shelter Tutorial

My Mama feeds some feral cats that live in the forest surrounding her property. So over the past few years I've been trapping them when I can to get them their shots and spayed/neutered, and I've been making them some feral cat shelters to help keep them warm during the cold winter months. I have looked at a bunch of tutorials on how to do it, and some friends of mine have asked how I make them so I thought I would post my own method here with photos.

Materials you will need:

- Rigid Foam Insulation - 1 in. x 2 ft. x 8 ft (Product Link)
- Reflectix (Product Link)
- 30gal/120qt Plastic Storage Bin (Product Link)
- Gorilla Tape (Product Link)
- Utility Knife (Product Link) - This what I have but I would suggest one with a longer blade.
- Sharpie/Marker
- Straw (not hay or blankets)
- Two heavy bricks/stones to put on lid to keep the top secure and keep heavy winds from knocking it over when empty.






























Instructions:

1) First you are going to place the bin on top of the rigid foam and trace the bottom with your sharpie.  Once traced, cut out the shape with your utility knife, and place it in the bottom of the bin.



















2) For the long sides of the bin you can either measure the height with a yardstick or place the sheet of foam into the box and mark where you want to cut.  You want the side pieces to come up to about 2-3 inches below the top of the bin to leave room for the top and the lid. I didn't do that here and had to do some after cut trimming to let the lid latch on.  The nice thing about this size bin is that the width of the foam is perfect for the width of the tote. It just saves a few extra cuts.

 3) Because the storage bin is slightly angled, with the top being larger than the bottom, the small side pieces are not going to be perfect rectangles.  With the bottom and the long side pieces in place, and leaning as is natural for them, you can either measure the length at the top and bottom of the empty space, or like I did here, you can take 2 scrap pieces of foam and get a rough estimate of the top and bottom measurements needed.




3a) After you have these measurements, or rough approximations, take one of the long side pieces and place it on the foam, lining up the edges. Draw a line across the top onto the uncut foam. Now you have the correct height for the side pieces.


3b) Using either you're measurements or your rough approximations, mark them with the marker onto the uncut foam. Remember to center the bottom measurement in relations to the top measurement.  
3c) Draw a lines connecting the top endpoints to the bottom end points. Cut out the shape. Now take the new shape, and trace it and cut out another one.  These are your two short side pieces.
3d) Place the short side pieces into the bin.

4) You can either measure the length and width needed for the top piece (it will be slightly smaller than the lid) or you can eyeball it like I did here. I placed a piece of the remaining foam on top and cut out what I thought would fit. It was a little big so I trimmed it down, and rounded the corners to fit.

5) Now its time to line the foam pieces with the Reflectix. This adds extra warmth to the shelter by reflecting the body heat back to the cat, like a Mylar emergency blanket.

Place the foam pieces onto the Reflectix, and trace the shapes and cut them out, one by one. If you need to use two smaller pieces of Reflectix to cover a foam piece, that is fine. You can see in the one picture where my two long sides have a seam because I was trying to minimize material waste.


5a) Once the pieces are cut, make tape donuts with the Gorilla tape and place them on rigid foam pieces. Attach the matching piece of Reflectix. Do this for all pieces.
5b) Put all the pieces back inside to make sure they all fit. It will be a bit snug in spots depending on how tightly the pieces fit before. If anything does not fit, trim as needed. You want a snug fit, but don't want to press so hard to put the pieces in that you end up snapping them.




6) Draw a 6x6 inch square on two sides of the bin, about 4 inches up from the bottom. These will be the entryways.  Why two? Because cats like to have an escape route in case another animal comes lurking around one of the entries. Think of it as an emergency exit.

6a) Use your knife to cut out the openings in the bin. The plastic may crack a bit. Using a hairdryer on the plastic for a few minutes first helps soften it and make it easier to cut.  I find the Sterlite bins to be easier to cut than some of the harder plastic. If you end up cracking the door some, its ok.
7) Now that the doors are cut in the plastic, place the the bottom and sides pieces back into the bin. Once everything is in and snug, trace the entryways onto the foam pieces.
7a) Take out the foam pieces and cut out the entryways. This is where a knife with a longer blade than the one I have would come in handy. It can still be done with a shorter blade, it just takes several cuts to get through the foam and Reflectix layers and is more like carving out the doorways.
 7b) Doorways cut out.
8) Now that the doors are cut out, put all the foam pieces back inside again. Remember you want the Reflectix facing inward like shown.
 8a) Sides all snugly placed.
 8b) Put the top foam piece on.
8c) And place/latch the lid on.













Your cat shelter is now almost ready!  The final thing is to get some straw (not hay) and lightly fill the interior with the straw. This provides a warm bedding that repels water. Hay and blankets do not repel water, and if a wet cat comes inside, they will absorb the water. Imagine being in the cold wrapped in a wet blanket vs a dry blanket. Not fun!

9) Fill the shelter with straw, pushing the straw up on the sides somewhat, making a nest.  Keep the doorways clear as you can. Once the cat comes in, they'll rearrange the straw as they like.

10) Place the shelter where you'd like. Try to take into account the direction the wind blows most of the time and keep the doorways facing away from the wind as much as possible.  Put the bricks or stones on top to help weigh down the shelter and keep the lid in place.

And you're done!  You've just made a cozy little place for a feral/homeless kitty to hide and warm up when the temperatures are low.  Thank you for helping out a feral kitty or two. Don't forget to Spay and Neuter!

















Here is a picture of two of the shelters at my Mama's house currently still in use.


Pit Bull Dog Ornament Pattern (FREE!)

Just in time for the holidays, I am releasing my pit bull ornament pattern! For FREE!

Back in 2011 I created some cute pit bull ornaments to donate to Stubby Dog as part of their holiday art auction. Read my previous post about this.





People really liked my little ornament design, and I've received many requests for more of them.  I tossed around the idea of making them a regular part of my shop, and donating a portion of the proceeds to various pit bull organizations. Instead, because of time restraints, I decided to make the pattern free for anyone to use.

I love the idea of this ornament reaching those who have had trouble finding a cute pit bull to put on their tree (I have received emails from some telling me this). And even more, I love the idea of spreading around a cute pit bull design to the public, and giving the breed some good publicity.

So please, share this pattern with anyone and everyone. Share it within any animal organizations that might like it as well.  This pattern is completely free, and you may use it for personal use or sell items created from it.

Download the free Pit Bull Ornament Pattern

Fly, fly, baby don't cry.

Earlier this year, in January, my dad died. I haven't written about it yet, or really talked about it much outside of my family because I've been unsure what to say. Recently at a therapy appointment (I'm working on some anxiety and OCD issues) I opened up about it. Not because it made me sad, but because it didn't. I felt I needed to explain why I didn't feel that his death was contributing to my anxiety issues. And now I feel like opening up about it here. Expect long-winded, not perfectly chronological stuff to follow.

My dad had been suffering from COPD for a while, and in the last couple of years had congestive heart failure. He underwent a procedure a few years back to put a pacemaker/defibulator in him to keep his heart regulated, and later underwent a procedure to replace a faulty valve that was heavily contributing to his issues. Even with that his mobility was limited and his ability to do things for himself had greatly diminished, though cognitively he was still very much still well and "there".

When you are born when your dad is 51, you have a different perspective of your future and how your dad will play into that. Its never guaranteed that your loved ones will be around for all your major life events, but when you are the child of much older parents, you think about the odds even more so. I was absolutely thrilled that my dad got to meet my husband Keith, and that he got to see me get married. For a while there, while he was still struggling with things before his surgeries it didn't look too hopeful that he would be around for that.

My daddy and I dancing at my wedding to Johnny Cash - I Walk the Line.

 Xmas of 2012 was a bit hard, as many of us had the feeling that this might be our last xmas with our dad. Its why I rushed so in 2011 to make him a handmade afghan in his favorite colors, and why this year I gave him one of my plush sharktoplushies. All of my creative leanings and talents come from my dad, and I wanted to show him what I could accomplish with the skills and natural talent at picking up new creative techniques I had inherited from him.

This is one of the many wooden cars and toys my dad used to make. He was an artist and crafter in his spare time too!

This is my daddy with his sharktoplush, and behind him over the chair is the afghan I made for him.  He died less than a month later.

So in the middle of January, when I received a call from one of my sisters that daddy was in the hospital and on a ventilator, it was upsetting, but not the shock I assumed it would be when this day would come.  I called my husband and my work, and packed up a few things and headed up to PA straight to the hospital, getting there late at night, where my sister and mama were with daddy.

I walked into the ICU room where he was, and immediately something felt off. I looked at him laying in the bed, and it looked like him, but there was something missing. Its very hard to describe. It just didn't FEEL like my daddy was there even though I was staring right at him. I had seen him immediately after his valve surgery with all kinds of tubes coming out of him, so it wasn't the sight of all the machines. I didn't know what it was. Something just felt off, felt missing.

Now that I was there I learned more about what happened. Daddy had been sick before Xmas with a bad cough which we all knew. Mama was worried he had pneumonia, but after some xrays the doctors figured it was just his congestive heart failure acting up again. He had been sick ever since. Earlier that week, before being rushed to the hospital in mid-January, he had collapsed at home and wasn't moving. By the time my mama called 911, he just came back, and they both wrote it off as his blood pressure dropping too low, which did make him fall a lot. Later we'd come to realize that his heart probably stopped right then, but his pacemaker/defibrillator probably shocked him back.

A couple of days later, after having spent over a week struggling to breathe, and my mama begging him to let her take him to the hospital (she had been wanting to take him since he collapsed, but he was a stubborn old man and didn't want to go), he finally said ok. They called the ambulance because at this point he couldn't walk and my mama couldn't carry him. They took him in and started running tests.  They confirmed he did indeed have pneumonia and started him on some antibiotics. While they were running more tests, daddy was sitting up and looked over at mama to talk to her, but only garbled nonsense came out. Mama was very upset, and called in the nurses, telling them, "he can't talk!".  Then my dad looked over at my mama and said her name before collapsing on the bed. It took 10 minutes to get his heart beating again, and he never woke up.  He had to be incubated to have machines breathe for him, and they didn't have to sedate him at all, which isn't a good sign.

I have 2 more sisters who were on their way. By 2am 3 of the 4 of us were there, and the last one would be arriving the next day. That next morning I called the remaining sister who is a medical doctor, and was going through all the information I knew and had. I then told her about how I didn't think daddy was "there" anymore and explained the feeling/sensation, or lack there of that I had when I first walked into the hospital room. She said she didn't think he was there anymore either, in a kind of odd tone. I asked her what made her think that too. She replied "because I think he's here with me". As she was wrapping up things at the clinic where she works, and was getting everything together for her drive up, she heard my daddy's voice, plain as day, out of no where, saying "where are you?".  She didn't know if this was really happening or just some coping mechanism, but replied out loud anyway telling Daddy that it was ok, if he needed to go he could and didn't have to wait for her.

Throughout the day, we tried to convince mama that daddy wans't there anymore. More of his organs had begun to shut down, and he was still incubated without any kind of reaction. Soon he would need to be on dialysis and would require a feeding tube. Mama wanted to wait for our last sister to come see him and tell her there was no hope. At this point she was the only doctor my Mama trusted, and we understood, since his cause of death on the death certificate would end up being "complications from Pneumonia", which was what the previous doctors said he didn't have.

While waiting for my sister, a couple of close family friends came to see him, and us. I was ok with this, until one of them starting talking about religious things, and was hoping my daddy made his peace with god before all of this so that he didn't end up in hell. I was really upset by this, because while I understood he had good intentions, why would someone even mention the idea of someone's dying father going to hell? My parents were never particularly religious, and us kids even less so. I would describe myself loosely as "spiritual" and that's it.

Anyway, the man left the room and I was by myself with my daddy. I was upset at this point and crying. I walked over to the bed, and wiggled between the machines so I could be close to him.  I held his hand, and petted his head and told him not to listen to his friend. I told him he wasn't going to hell. That he could go be a ghost and do whatever he wanted to do. I told him it was ok for him to go that we'd take care of mama now.

Mama was signing the paperwork to remove all the tubes and devices.  Medical doctor sister had arrived and explained to mama what had happened, and what little chance of him coming out of this there was, and even if he did, going that long without oxygen to his brain would have devastating effects. My oldest sister and I went into the room with our daddy to be with him after everything was removed. The other 2 sisters stayed in the waiting room with my Mama. She didn't want to go back in there if he wasn't there anymore anyway.  The hospital wasn't sure how long it would take. It took 10 minutes. After everything was out, and all medications were stopped, his blood pressure slowly dropped, and his breathing slowed, until finally it stopped. We held his hands the entire time. We made all the last arrangements at the hospital. That part was very surreal, and I probably was in a state of shock or something during that point.

We all went home to Mama's, ate a little something, and finally managed to all go to bed. The next morning my sister who had heard daddy talking to her earlier, said she heard him again in the middle of the night. Her and another one of my sisters heard this super loud wind outside, and then what sounded like someone walking around room from room. Then "ghost whisperer" sister heard daddy. He told her that he was ok, and that he could watch after mama better than he could before now. He said he hadn't been happy as he was. Then he told her to "tell Suzi not to be sad, and that I like being a ghost".

Now, I know it seems far-fetched, and there are many that read this that won't believe it, or will write it up to being grief-stricken minds coping with a tragedy. I'm not here to try and convince anyone of anything. But that last part, personally, is just a bit too much for me to ignore completely.  Also, all of my sisters are scientists, and have that scientific, data-driven mindset more often than not. Even I'm not sure what I think about the whole experience. What I do know is that, I'm not sad and ever since that night I've just felt a little extra comforted or protected. Because maybe, just maybe, there is a big bad hillbilly ghost watching over me just like he would have done when he was alive.

So yeah. That's my story. The story of my dad's death, and why I'm not sad about it. My daddy lived a good long life, had many friends, and had 4 daughters that he was very proud of. He had all kinds of adventures and I believe in the end he was at peace with moving on. Having that kind of closure, whether real or a product of grief, is hard to go against, especially when you know how unhappy he had been with how he was living that last year. And every now and then you might see me skipping or hopping along while I repeatedly say in a "sing-song" voice, "Daddy daddy daddy", or randomly say out loud "I love you daddy.".  Because he might just be watching or listening.

 Everyone's favorite picture of me with Daddy. We are bad asses.

 "Well I met an old man dying on a train.  
No more destination no more pain.  
Well he said "one thing, before I graduate...  
never let your fear decide your fate."
I say ya kill your heroes and 

fly, fly, baby don't cry.  
No need to worry 
cuz everybody will die.  
Every day we just  
go, go, baby don't go.  
Don't you worry 
we love you more than you know" 
- AWOL Nation



Let's catch up, shall we?

Its been so long since I last posted. I'll eventually get better about that. I have so many ideas for posts, and freebies, but then I get side-tracked. The holiday season was just a blur really as I had many orders for my sharktoplushies to fill. I still have a few custom orders that I need to finish up so I can regroup and get started on the 2013 crafting! Again, I have so many ideas!

Starting this year I've officially switched over to working part-time, to give myself more time for my craft business. So far I've still be really busy, because not only am I doing my arts and crafts in my free time but I also am now an official member of the NOVA Roller Derby! I was part of the 2012 Fall Meat Class, and passed my assessments at the beginning of December. I was super excited because I was drafted to the Vineyard Vixens team, which was the team I served as a mascot for in the 2012 season.

SEE!


On top of that I also was nominated to be the Marketing Chair to be in charge of all the Marketing sub committees for NOVA RD. So I'm pretty much back where I left off, with working almost full time on things as well as crafting and doing roller derby. I just can't fight the urge to DO ALL THE THINGS!

But it is giving me good practice with keeping up with my design skills and getting some illustration skills.  This is the poster I made for our upcoming bout this March.  If you are in or near the Northern Virginia/DC Metro area, you should come out and watch.  I won't be playing in this bout, but will be there working and cheering on my fellow league-mates.


Also, my new found roller derby excitement makes me want to make some roller derby related crafts.  So many ideas! I really need to start making lists and writing things down.  But first, I've got to run and pick up these derby posters from the printer.  *zooms off*

The Silence Plush and exciting news

Oh my, its been a long time since I've posted. I've been super busy with my job and haven't been crafting as much until just recently. This will change in the coming months. I'll explain why a bit further down.

Silence Plush
This year I was accepted into the Plush You 2012 Show. I decided to attempt to make my favorite monsters from the BBC show, Doctor Who. With being so busy, I only was able to complete one of these in time for the show, The Silence.  I'm glad though, as while searching the internet I saw that there have been very few attempts from crafters to capture The Silence in a plush form.

Here he is completed:

Silence Plush

I'll admit, this was a challenge for me. It involved learning some new skills to get him just right. Oh that head, that head I though would be the death of me. There may have been a tantrum or two trying to figure out how to get it to work. I've never used gussets or darts in my plush work before, and once I figured out that these would be the magic tricks to get him just right, it was smooth sailing.  Also, having learned these skills now, it opens up more ways to create future plushies, which I'm quite happy about.

He stands about 15 inches tall. I originally was going to make a full body in a sort of "chibi", short form, but during the sketching process I really liked how he looked with just a tapered half body and no arms. It made it look like he was looming over something. Also, this way, the the help of some poly beads, he is able to stand up by himself.  His face is a separate piece of fleece, hand sewn to the head and stuffed slightly to give it some depth. I enhanced the depth by shading some areas with some prisma color markers, which I had on hand. There are a few tweaks I'd make if I did him again, but overall I'm pretty pleased with how he came out. He's been shipped off to the show, and you can next see him at Schmancy in Seattle.

Exciting News!
Another reason I've been so busy, is I've been working out the details and preparing for a big transition.  Beginning in January of 2013, I'll be switching to working part-time at my job so that I can have more time to work on my art and crafts and to teach myself some new things with web design and animation. I'm super excited. I'm in the middle of redoing my entire craft room/office at home. Its been painted to something more my style, and has new workspace furniture. My husband bought me a new 27" iMac. I haven't had a new computer since 2001, and have been borrowing a laptop from my husband since we were first dating in 2005/2006. I still have a lot of cleaning and organizing to do, which is why I'll be opening up my Etsy shop on a limited basis beginning next week. That way I can still take a few orders while getting everything set up and ready. The amount of craft supplies and fabric that needs to be gone through and put into "keep" and "give away" piles is staggering. I may have a craft hoarding problem, but I'm working on it. I already have about a car trunk full of "give away" stuff. Yikes!

Shop Reopening
That's right, the shop reopens October 1, 2012 and will be open until December 7, 2012 when I close for the Xmas holiday.

The White Rabbit

Over the weekend I completed what turned out to be one of my favorite works to date.  It all started out as a small concept and sketch that I doodled a year ago.

The White Rabbit - Doodle

I just wanted a cute little piece that had a slight reference to the Alice in Wonderland theme. Also one of my favorite animals are rabbits. I had a little albino dwarf bunny when I was a child, pink eyes and everything.

During the Soundry's Cell Block 316 lockdown/show, I had begun to paint this little guy towards the end, but ended up getting a stressed phone call and had to pack up and go without finishing him. As I was pulling out canvases to work on for the upcoming Artomatic show, I found him and decided he had to be finished for this show.

The White Rabbit - Progress Shot

I'm really happy with out him came out.  I absolutely love how he ended up shaded. I tend to work on the fly, so his shading and details hadn't really been planned, so he took on a few different looks before this one finally came to be.

The White Rabbit

He ended up absolutely adorable.  When I was finished and put him up on the wall, I almost didn't want to let him go. But he indeed will be available for sale at Artomatic beginning on May 18, 2012 in Crystal City, VA.

I'm Married!! and Sam Plush

So its been a long time since my last post thanks to wedding planning and prepping.  Well as of March, 31 I am a married lady! You know what that means? Back to making time for crafting and art!

Expect more to come over the next few weeks. I've got a few projects I'm working on that I'll keep you updated on, and I'm hoping to be ready to reopen my Etsy shop at the end of June.

In the meantime here is something I made in November that I forgot to post. My friend asked if I could make a plush version of Sam from the movie Trick R Treat.  I watched the movie to get an idea for the character, and I admit, I loved the little guy. He was right up my ally of creepy/cute mixed together. Anyway, here is my plush version of Sam. I had to make 2, one for my friend, and one for him to give to someone else.



Sam Plushies


 I even made his little butt flap and lollipop. Sam Plush - Front/Back