Most parents of young kids know bulky winter coats are not safe to use with car seats. So how do you keep your kids warm without needing to remove those heavy winter coats? With a car seat poncho.
Car seat ponchos are quick and easy to make and all you need is a sewing machine, the free pattern from stitchuponatime.com, some fleece and a zipper or snaps.
I’ve made lots of car seat ponchos for friends, relatives and customers and quite often I’m faced with fleece with a directional print. What is a directional print? It’s a print that has to be cut a specific way to avoid being upside down. Like this traffic print. There is only one way to cut your pieces unless you want to end up with upside down vehicles. With a car seat poncho it’s one big piece with a hood so if you’re using a directional print you’ll end up with one side upside down. As you see, if I cut out the fabric using the original pattern piece the back of the poncho will be upside down.
I happen to know how to alter the pattern to avoid upside down prints so if you or your child has chosen a directional print fleece follow this tutorial. The extra few steps will result in a more professional finish and much nicer looking product.
Step 1: Altering the Pattern
First, you’ll want to go to stitchuponatime.com and grab the free Riding Hood car seat poncho pattern.
After you grab the pattern print out your desired size. I suggest size 2 for children 6 months to 24 months, size 4 for sizes 2T-4T and size 6 for 4T-6. In my opinion the height chart in the pattern is more accurate than the suggested ages. Assemble the pattern according to the directions in the pattern tutorial.
Once your pattern is assembled you can leave as is or trace onto cardstock or something similar. I opted to trace mine on poster board because I make lots of ponchos so I need a durable pattern. If you’re tracing remember to at least mark the fold line and size. Adding the grain line or direction of greatest stretch can be a big help too.
Fold your pattern in half matching the front edge with the “cut on fold” edge. Unfold and cut along the folded line. Next, I like to add triangles to the edges where I just cut. This will remind me to cut outward notches in the fabric so I don’t get confused on how to piece m fabric pieces together later. The last 2 steps in preparing the pattern are to add a 1/2” strip to the sides you just cut for your seam allowance and to mark the the pieces with size, whether it’s the front or back and the direction of the print or grain line.
Step 2: Cutting Your Fabric
Fold your fabric in half selvage to selvage. The selvage is the side of your fabric. On mine you can easily see the white strip running along either side of the fabric with the brand name written on it. Lay your pattern pieces on the fabric making sure to put the back piece on the fold where you marked the fold line. The front edge should be running parallel to the selvage edge. Place the hood piece in the remaining space.
Cut out your pieces remembering to cut out the triangle pieces or use clips or pins to mark those sides. This will ensure you piece your fabric together correctly.
You should now have one back piece cut on the fold, two front pieces and two hood pieces.
Step 3: Sewing the Main Pieces Together
Lay your back piece right side up. Lay your two front pieces right side down matching the clips or triangles you cut in the last step. Clip or pin together.
Sew along each side using 1/2” seam allowance.
When you lay your fabric piece out it should match the original unaltered pattern piece. Here is a picture to show it next to the original pattern piece and another to show what it looks like unfolded.
From here you can follow the tutorial in the Riding Hood pattern if you wish. Or stick with me and I’ll walk you through the rest of the steps. You can also visit the post on my blog for instructions as well as links to materials I used to make this poncho.
Step 4: Finishing the Main Piece and Lining Piece
To finish the main piece put the two hood pieces right sides together and sew using a 1/2” seam allowance along the top and back of the hood.
If you haven’t already, cut out your lining pieces. You can use a solid color as I have here or a second print if you prefer. Another option is to use sherpa in place of fleece for an extra soft lining. Just stay away from minky as It's not as safe to use as fleece or sherpa.
Sew the hood as you did with the main fabric.
Next, line up the center back of the main fabric hood with the center back of the main fabric poncho, right sides together, and pin or clip in place along the bottom of the hood piece lining up with the neckline of the poncho. Sew using 1/2” seam allowance. Repeat with the lining.
Now you should have the two pieces of your poncho, the main piece and the lining piece, ready to sew together.
Step 5: Sew the Lining and Main Pieces Together
Place right sides of the lining and main pieces together. I like to start by matching the tops of the hoods and sides of the hoods together. Then I clip together the sides of the poncho and finally around the bottom edge of the poncho. Leave a space at the bottom big enough to pull the poncho right side out but not so big that you will have trouble sewing it together. I like to leave about a 4” space at the bottom center open and I mark the edges with 2 clips so I know when to stop sewing. If you sew your poncho shut you will not be able to turn your poncho right side out.
Sew around the entire poncho remembering to leave a few inches along the bottom edge unsewn. Turn your poncho right side out and clip or pin the open edge closed.
Step 6: Topstitch and Add Snaps
Topstitch around the entire edge of the poncho. I like to start near the open edge and sew that closed first before I continue topstitching around the rest of the poncho.
Remember, if you’re making this to gift or sell attach your tag with contact info and tracking. Since the poncho is reversible you can choose where to place your tag. The care instructions, size and content can be written on a hang tag in you prefer.
The last step is to apply the snaps. Since I secure my tag on the bottom front edge of my poncho I like to place my first snap just above the tag. Then I apply a snap every 2 1/2” until I get within 2” of the neckline.
If you do not have snap pliers you can overlap and sew the front edges together as long as you leave a big enough opening to fit over your child’s head. Velcro may work as well but check with compliance laws before applying Velcro on ponchos you plan to sell or donate.
Congratulations! Your poncho is finished and your print is right side up on both the front and back of your poncho. Your child can now stay both warm and safe in and out of the car. If you aren't ready to dive in and make your own poncho you can find ready to ship and custom order ponchos fourlittleducksshop.etsy.com. You can also visit my blog called Four Little Ducks Blog and find me on Instagram.