Why this P.E.I. woman is upcycling sweaters into petwear

·3 min read
'I value functionality, fun and the environment,' says Hand-Me-Down Hound owner Kayel Lewis with her dog Exi, and her stash of pet sweaters.  (Submitted by Kayel Lewis - image credit)
'I value functionality, fun and the environment,' says Hand-Me-Down Hound owner Kayel Lewis with her dog Exi, and her stash of pet sweaters. (Submitted by Kayel Lewis - image credit)

A P.E.I. woman has a new side-hustle with a few different missions: to keep pets warm, to make a little extra money and to upcycle old sweaters that might otherwise be thrown away.

Kayel Lewis of Rice Point started altering vintage human sweaters for her dog last winter and enjoyed it so much, she turned it into a small business and Hand-Me-Down Hound was born.

"I've always been a bit of a thrifty person and I couldn't find other jackets and sweaters [for him], so I bought a sweater and turned it into a dog sweater," Lewis said.

"I think for the most part people just think it's cute to see a dog in clothing!"

Lewis's dog Exi is an integral part of the story: she adopted Exi from Spain last year through an agency called Extraordinary Galgos and Podencos.

Exi in the very first sweater his human Kayel Lewis made him.
Exi in the very first sweater his human Kayel Lewis made him.

Galgos and podencos are ancient breeds of Spanish hunting dogs. Like racing greyhounds in the U.S., when their owners see them as having outlived their usefulness in the field or on the track, they often are given up for adoption — or in the case of the Spanish dogs, abandoned on the streets.

Extraordinary Galgos and Podencos is one of several agencies that now help rehome the dogs, which like greyhounds can make excellent pets.

Also like greyhounds or whippets, the dogs are very sleek, without much hair to keep them warm in colder climates.

"It started cause I wanted him to be warm!" she said with a laugh.

Great excuse to go thrifting

Lewis is a lifelong thrift-store enthusiast, sewer and crafter, so the idea of repurposing vintage sweaters was natural for her.

Louis the pug shows off his new duds from Hand-Me-Down Hound.
Louis the pug shows off his new duds from Hand-Me-Down Hound.

"I kind of realized it was a niche thing that people seemed to really like, and I really like finding sweaters — so it gave me an excuse to buy sweaters that I've found. It's kind of just a satisfying thing for me."

She moved from British Columbia and said she appreciates the abundance of beautiful handmade sweaters she has been able to find in P.E.I. thrift stores.

Lewis said she is excited to make sweaters for all animals people consider pets, including goats, pigs and chickens too.

This podenco looks cosy in her new sweater, which Lewis called the Oh My Heart.
This podenco looks cosy in her new sweater, which Lewis called the Oh My Heart.

She will alter sweaters customers already have, or they can choose from her collection of vintage sweaters she has thrifted. She has made about 20 so far, and is excited to grow her business.

The one-of-a-kind creations cost $35 to $50, less if customers provide their own sweaters.

"I'm just starting, and I'm more excited just to get sweaters out there than to try to make a big profit," Lewis said.

She sells on Facebook and on the online maker marketplace Etsy, but said she'd prefer to keep most of her sales local, since it is more sustainable not to ship and "because it would be fun to see the dogs wearing the sweaters — it feels good," she said.

'He's very proud'

Exi loves wearing his sweaters, she said.

Seeing the dogs in sweaters 'is pretty entertaining!' says Lewis. Here, Silver models a sweater with rosebuds.
Seeing the dogs in sweaters 'is pretty entertaining!' says Lewis. Here, Silver models a sweater with rosebuds.

"He kind of struts around, it's very cute, he's very proud," she said.

Lewis has a day job on an organic farm and said she's enjoying growing Hand-Me-Down Hound as a side job, for now.

For the month of February, she donated 10 per cent of her sales to Extraordinary Galgos and Podencos, and plans to make donating to her favourite causes part of her business model.

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