As bird owners, we purchase gaily colored toys to intrigue our companion animals, yet many of us resort to old blankets for cage covers. Instead of throwing an old blanket over the cage, why not create a lasting and beautiful cover that will not only brighten your bird’s cage but also coordinate with your home? Fabric, thread, a marking pencil, a measuring tape, a seam gauge and a sewing machine comprise the list of needed supplies. If you wish to make a pattern of your cover, newspaper and an ink pen may be needed as well. Gather these items before beginning.
Your cage cover may be sewn by either hand or machine. I use a simple discount store clearance sewing machine. Forget the latest model. Your machine only needs to sew straight lines and have the ability to change the needle position. As for your skills, the ability to measure, cut, and sew in a straight line using the guides provided by the machine are needed. Many communities offer beginning sewing classes, and these lessons will provide the necessary skills.
- Determining the amount of material to buy is the first step. The easiest way to determine the amount of material is to measure the dimensions of the cage, then add one inch to each measurement for seams. A looser fitting cover may be obtained by allowing up to two inches for seams, but keep in mind how tailored you wish your cover to look. An ill fitting cover may look no better than a blanket.
- Oddly shaped cages pose their own sets of problems. A slightly curved top may fit well under a square cover, but a decorated cone-shaped top forces alterations to be made. While worrisome, this problem is easy to overcome. Simply measure over the offending item, then perform your alterations later. For my parakeet cage with a large bead at the top of the lid, I measured over the bead, then took in the material later. While this may use more fabric, it is easier to sew, and easier to shape the fabric once it is draped over the cage. As a rule of thumb, for a large parakeet or finch cage, one and half to two yards are sufficient.
- The second step is to choose your material. To truly match your decor and tastes, recycling old linen or draperies works beautifully; however, if you wish to purchase fabric, many colors and patterns are available. Most craft stores carry outdoors prints boasting birds or scenery, or you may wish to use a solid color, of which there are several to choose. I found a pattern containing multicolored feathers on a solid background from one such outdoor collection at a reasonable price. Fabric fits any budget. From the simple three dollars-a-yard fabrics up to expensive velvet or satin at more than ten dollars a yard, the choice remains yours.
- Once you get your fabric home, you have several options before cutting. If you’ve sewn before, or are mathematically inclined, you may simply measure out the pieces directly on the fabric. For those who wish to have a pattern from which to make more, or who worry about making mistakes, you may simply draw the pieces on a piece of newspaper, then use the paper pattern to cut the fabric.
- When you cut the fabric, lay it on a large, flat surface, such as the dining room table, and cut it all at once. A tablecloth placed beneath the fabric protects the surface of your table. As you cut the fabric, use a marking pencil to note what each piece is. Simple abbreviations work the best, such as a “T” for the top, “F” for the front, “B” for the back,” and “S” for the sides.
- I suggest sewing your cover immediately after cutting the pieces. As always, begin with the top. Lay the side(s) against the top, and pin them together. (Note: If you have a cylindrical cage, you will only have one side. A square cage will have four.) At this point, drape your cover over the cage to determine if the cover fits well. Go ahead and sew the sides to the top.
- Once the sides are fitted to the top, any needed alterations need to be done.
- Contouring the top on a cylindrical cage need not be hard. Looking at your cage, you see that the top appears baggy, like an ill-fitting pair of jeans. Facing your cage, pinch the fabric between your fingers. It doesn’t matter where you start. Pull more fabric toward you until the fabric lays smoothly against the cone-shaped top. Take the excess fabric that you’re holding and wrap it around the pointed top cage. You’ll notice that when this is done you will have a single seam running from the pointed top of the cage to the edge. Pin this seam. You have just made a dart. Ensure that the top fits exactly as you wish before moving to the side seams.
- With the top properly fitted, sewing the sides becomes easy. Pin together the side seams. If you’re working on a cylindrical cage this will be simply the single opening. If you’re working on a square cage, this will be the four corners. Again, drape the cover over the cage so you can check the fit and look of your cover. This is a good point to GENTLY remove, then replace the cover to ensure you have enough space to slide it on and off the cage. Once everything fits as you would like, then sew the sides together.
- The last step to completing your cage cover, hemming, may be the most time consuming. First, place the cover over the cage to determine how much you wish to raise the bottom edge. Turn up a sample piece, such as a corner, and pin it in place. Remove the cover from the cage, then, with the seam gauge, measure the amount of the hem. Use the measurement to then turn up the rest of the cover. For a polished look, hems of no more than one half inch are recommended. If your hem is longer, fear not. Simply cut off the excess above the seam once you’re finished.
With the cover sewn, your creation is finished. Final touches may be added, if you prefer fringe or lace, but for a simple, utilitarian cover that looks better than a blanket, this cannot be beat.