Introduction: Sewing a Steering Wheel Cover (aka: Swimsuit Elastic Practice)

The interior of my car is black and I'm sure you can guess how hot  black vinyl become in the summer sun!  My first thought was to drive with oven mitts on, but a steering wheel cover seemed like a better idea... and it's great  elastic application practice for those of you who wish to make your own swimsuit or underwear.  The technique is the same but mistakes are less of an issue.

Like this pattern and want to try something bigger?

Step 1: What You Need:

- 5" x 60" strip of fabric - avoid heavyweight fabric like upholstery, velvet, outdoor vinyl...
- Dimensional (Puff) paint, preferably that matches your steering wheel or a strip of a non-skid mat fabric to go under the steering wheel cover
- 60" of 1/4" elastic - avoid clearance elastic because it doesn't stretch well
- Thread
- Measuring tape
- Pins
- Pen or pencil

Step 2: Make the Pattern:

Measure around the circumference of the steering wheel and add 1".  (mine is 46 1/2" + 1" = 47 1/2").  The extra inch is the seam allowance.  

Cut your fabric 5" wide by the measurement you just calculated.
Cut 2 pieces of 30" elastic.

Step 3: Safety First!:

Option 1: Lay out your fabric face down and paint the back with some puff paint.  Do a better job than I did.  For the picture, I didn't put enough paint because I wanted it to dry faster.  It doesn't have to be pretty, no one will see it.  The paint will help prevent the cover from slipping around and in an emergency, that's probably a good thing : )

Let the paint dry before proceeding to the next step.

Option 2: If you're using the non skid fabric, cut a 2" strip and make sure it's long enough to go around your steering wheel.  Sew the short ends together (most likely by hand) to make a ring.  Put aside until the end.

Step 4: Elastic Time!:

Fold both the cover and the elastics in quarters and mark using pins or your pen.  You'll need to mark both edges of the cover.

I use regular elastic and I want it hidden so I'm lining up and pining the elastic to the back edges of the fabric (match up your quarter marks).  If this was underwear and you had decorative elastic, the elastic would be sewn to the good side of the fabric with the ruffled edge facing inwards (see last 2 pictures).  Unfortunately, most underwear elastic is too flimsy for this project.

Set your sewing machine to a zigzag no wider than the elastic and sew the elastic in place.  If you own a serger, serge the elastic in place instead.

Step 5: Last Step:

With right sides facing (and no twisting in the fabric), sew the short ends together using a 1/2" seam allowance.

Fold the elastic under and zigzag around steering wheel cover again.  This gives a clean edge and a stretchy, decorative finish.  Don't like the zigzag finish?  Fabric stores also sell "twin needles", this gives a finish similar to the hem on a t-shirt.  I find them expensive and a bit fragile for this type of project.

Flip right side out and place the cover on your steering wheel.  If you chose to use a strip of non-skid mat instead of the dimensional paint, place it on the steering wheel between the steering wheel.  It's actually really nice.  the non skid fabric adds cushioning and an extra layer of insulation.

Step 6: Extra Tips:

- If you're making a swimsuit, use chlorine resistant elastic or clear elastic.  It would be a shame to have the life of your creation shortened if the elastic disintegrated before its time.

- If you use clear elastic and don't have a dual-feed sewing machine, sew with the elastic on the bottom and the fabric on top.  The machine's feed dogs will help pull the elastic through and reduce sticking.

- if you serge clear elastic, avoid accidentally cutting it with the serger's cutter.  Cutting into clear elastic can cause it to rip and the bits that stick out are really irritating against the skin!

- Elastic distribution on swimsuits is a bit different than the steering wheel cover.  Most of the stretch is needed at the back of the leg and the front has very little.  The elastic was distributed evenly on the steering wheel cover.

Summer Sewing Contest

Participated in the
Summer Sewing Contest