Try a homemade Halloween costume for your pet

By Sue Manning

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 11 2011 12:00 a.m. MDT

In this photo made on Friday, Oct. 7, 2011, AmyJo Casner puts a camouflage hat on her nearly 1-year-old male ferret named Marcuz at the park in Harrisville, Pa. Casner makes outfits for her ferrets by hand.

Keith Srakocic, Associated Press

LOS ANGELES — Halloween's coming up and with a little DIY ingenuity, you can turn your dog or cat into a bee, bear or badger. Whether you are planning for a parade, party, photo session, contest or trick-or-treating, a homemade costume for your pet can make it more fun for both of you.

You can start from scratch or go half-scratch, adding bling, attitude or accessories to human hand-me-downs or garage sale or thrift store finds. The McCall Pattern Co. Even even sells several patterns for pets.

Lisa Woodruff of Huntington Beach, Calif., builds whole floats around costume concepts so her pugs, stepsisters Olive and Mochi, can take part in the Haute Dog Howl'oween Parade and Costume Contest in Long Beach, Calif. They've attended the event, held annually on the last Sunday in October, for seven years.

The pugs have been geisha girls, fish, sushi, surfers, flowers, "pupcakes" and amateur movers. "The costumes have to be comfortable and dog friendly," said Woodruff. "They can't be completely indestructible, but they are dogs so they (the costumes) have to be durable."

She shops on Craigslist and carves a lot of Styrofoam. The year Olive and Mochi were pupcakes, she started with inverted, pleated lampshades and painted them. There was a slight hitch, though: Both dogs couldn't fit in their pupcake wagon sitting down, so her husband had to carry one down the parade route.

"We had technical difficulties. But that's what homemade is all about," she said.

AmyJo Casner, of Harrisville, Pa., dresses her ferrets up for Halloween.

"Ferrets don't really have shoulders," so the hardest part of designing clothes for them is making sure they can't slip out of them, she said.

"The second hardest part is sewing the smallest seams on the hats. I am still improving each design and will do so until I have come up with one I can't improve on," she said.

Her pets, Manny, a 2-year-old therapy ferret, and Marcuz, a year-old deaf ferret, dress when they go out.

They have matching red silky shirts, commando shirts and PJs. A few months ago, they won first place in the pet pocket category at the local Fourth of July parade.

Casner also sells her designs on Etsy.com, an online homemade marketplace.

"All closures are sewed on with Velcro strips that have been cut in half and the items are machine sewn. I don't put anything on my ferret clothing that might get easily chewed off either. Hats are held on by elastic that is triple-stitched to the brims," she said.

The McCall Pattern Co. has several pet patterns to choose from, and they're not just for Halloween. The busy season for pet pattern sales lasts from October to December, said Carolyne Cafaro, director of merchandising at McCall's headquarters in New York City.

One of the most popular patterns is Santa Claus, she said, which many buyers build their Christmas cards around. Other hot sellers include a holiday apron, a doggie bathrobe and a tuxedo collar that can be used for Halloween, Christmas, weddings or any formal occasion, she said. Some buyers make costumes for their own animals; others make them as gifts for friends' pets.

During the winter months, pet patterns will move up into the top 50 of the 600 patterns McCall sells, Cafaro said.

McCall's packages its pet designs with a costume plus accessories. For example, the Santa pattern comes with a collar, leg warmers, bow tie, a couple of coats, a blanket or sleeping bag and pajamas.

"Pets are so popular," she said. "We try to come up with something new every year."

The company also watches social media sites for comments. After a lot of requests, McCall's designed a coat for very large dogs, she said.

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