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Recovering a Baby Car Seat

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Do you love your infant car seat……but hate the cover?
Is the material scratchy or stained?  Torn or outdated?
Well, then start picking apart that old one……and making it into a new one.
You will be so happy you did.
While searching for a new car seat, I wasn’t loving any of the fabric.  I know, not really all that important, but if I can re-cover it……why not?
We needed a new baby car seat anyway, so I found one online that had the frame/design that I wanted and then purchased the cheapest color and design.  (You know how the colors that don’t sell well, are always a bit cheaper…  Perfect for this.)

And then turned it into a fresh and original car seat cover.

And I know, these little satin flowers are seen here, there, and everywhere.
But I couldn’t resist a little girliness added to the seat.
I even coordinated the little seat belt shoulder covers.
And yes, the canopy was completely re-done as well…….
………..and collapses perfectly.
The car seat cover tucks around the seat frame in the same way, keeping the seat nice and tailored to its specific size and dimension.
And of course, a little label attached to the side……marking my work.
(Click here for more info on my labels.)
Nice and bright and perfectly fitted to our new car seat.
This seat is happily awaiting the arrival of our little girl.  Perfect.

Disclaimer: Altering your car seat may void your car seat’s warranty.  Make It and Love It is not responsible for any decisions made regarding your own car seat or fabrics chosen.  I do, however, show how to use the exact same batting from the original seat and keep the same shape and dimensions, but just change out the top layer of fabric.  But the thickness of the fabric is the same…not changing the thickness of the cover at all.  However, in the event of an accident, your car seat may or may not be replaced with a brand new one.  So consider the risk of having to pay for a new one, if your seat was damaged in a way that your seat’s company would have been willing to replace it for free.  (I have heard of companies replacing the seat even though new covers were used, and other scenarios where they would not replace the seat.  So keep that in mind.)
Also, flame resistant fabrics can be used in event of fire, so choose fabrics accordingly.  (Consider using a spray such as this to treat your fabric, to make your fabric flame resistant.  But do some research to find a product suitable for you.)

Would you like to see how I transformed the original car seat cover into a new one?

(Keep in mind that every car seat brand constructs their seat covers a bit differently.  But with a visual of how to deconstruct a cover, you’ll be able to do this with any car seat brand.)

 

First of all, I purchased the yellow fabric at HB Fabrics here.  (Alexander Henry Amelie in Yellow, Matisse Collection)  And I bought the gray fabric here.  (Ty Pennington, Lace Taupe)  I actually purchased the thicker Decor Fabric in the grey because I knew I’d be using some of it for the canopy, and wanted it thicker.  It has a nice sateen finish and is very soft.  But the Ty Pennington collection also comes in the regular weight cotton.

I purchased 2 yards of the yellow and 1 yard of the gray.  But the amount of fabric you’ll need depends on how much fabric you need for your canopy, how much of the old canopy/car seat fabrics you use, how much of each color you use on the car seat, etc.
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I didn’t hate the color scheme/design of this car seat……..but it wasn’t exactly what I wanted.  And even though the fabric was a bit slick, and would have wiped well, my babies tend to be sweaty and the fabric wasn’t very breathable.
**I used the exact padding and sizing…….keeping the cover true to its fit inside of the car seat.  So it is exactly the same size, fits the exact same way, and will be just as safe as the original.
Before taking anything apart, I took pictures of the car seat from every angle, so if I had any questions later on, I could take a look at how something looked.
Then, I started picking apart each piece of the car seat, using a seam ripper to carefully un-sew each seam.
Each piece had a top layer of fabric and then a layer of batting.  I had to pick apart each fabric piece from its batting piece as well.
Then I used each fabric piece as a pattern and cut out each piece in the color that I wanted.
**You’ll see that the gray piece at the bottom (where the feet would go) didn’t make it to the final car seat cover.  I changed my mind at the end and swapped it for the yellow fabric.
Then I placed each pattern piece with its appropriate batting piece, pinned them together with the fabric facing right side up, and zig-zagged around the entire piece.
Then I made seams in the appropriate places, just like on the original pieces.  Seams such as these just allow the cover to bend at the appropriate spot.
Now your car seat cover may look differently in some spots, but mine has a hole where a narrow strap comes out to be able to adjust the tightness of the shoulder straps.  I took the original fabric piece, placed it on top, and traced the size of the opening.
As you deconstruct a tricky area such as this, take pictures and pay close attention how to put it back together.
Mine had another piece of fabric that was used to finish off the opening.  So I recreated mine in the same way.  I used the original fabric piece (shown above) to draw the right square size on there too.
Then I placed the fabric square right side down, lined up the 2 squares, and sewed right on top of the traced square shape.
Then I cut the square open, trimmed down the edges, then cut slits in towards the corners of the square, allowing for turning the fabric in the next step.
So next, shove the fabric through the hole, flipping the fabric out to the back side.
Pull the fabric square towards the back, nice and snug, and pin in place. Then sew around the square opening.
If you turn this piece over, you’ll see the square on the back side.  I trimmed the square with pinking shears, to help avoid fraying.  But you could also zig-zag the edges before attaching the square several steps ago.
Now, onto the center piece of the car seat, where the slits for the straps go.
I placed the original piece over the top of my new piece, and marked little dots at each side of each slit with a pencil.
Can you see the little dots that I used to mark the width of each opening?
I then used those dots as a guide, and made button holes that were the same width and the same location as the original openings.
Then I used a seam ripper to slice the button holes open.
The rest of my pieces were basic, with no other tricky parts to it.
So I referred back to my first picture, and started putting the pieces back together.  I used pins each time I put 2 pieces together, and then sewed it together……..keeping things very precise.
You want to put the top of the seat together by itself……and then the bottom section.
And then sew the 2 sections together.  This can be tricky to maneuver under your needle, so do it slowly.
The view from the back side.
Next, I took some shortcuts.  I used the original fitted pieces, that keep the cover tucked into place over the car seat.  The color matched perfectly and saved me some time.  Perfect.  But you may need to use your original pieces to cut out new ones that match your new fabric……..but I just don’t have pictures showing that step.
So I just skipped to adding the fitted sleeve to the top of the seat cover, with right sides together……….
………and to the foot section of the car seat as well.
Then I used the original bias tape (because, again, the color was perfect) and attached it to the car seat, all the way around the raw edges.  You can either buy some or make some of your own if you don’t use the original stuff.  (Need help making bias tape?  Click here.)
Now slide your cover onto your seat…….it should fit exactly the same way your original one did.
Are you ready to tackle the canopy?
Make sure to take pictures just like you did with the car seat cover.  You don’t want to forget how anything looked.
**If you are taking apart an old GRACO canopy, the main plastic pieces of the canopy attach like shown in the image below, right at the center of each piece.  You will have to hold on either side of the center of the arch, and tug really hard to pull them apart.  Then slide them out from each end of the canopy.
Then I picked all of the pieces apart, just like I did with the car seat cover above.  Each section has a light pink piece of satin material on the underside that I peeled off the top piece……but didn’t take a picture to show you.
Another shortcut. I used some of the original pieces in my final canopy…..simply because they were the exact color I needed.  And each piece of the canopy was double layered, so I used the main pieces as pattern pieces to cut out the new pieces in the colors that I needed.  And then I used double-sided-iron-on-adhesive to seal the two pieces together, with wrong sides together.  (Sealing these 2 layers together for each section, will also give the canopy a sturdier structure.)
But if you are completely re-making your canopy, remember that you will need to cut out 2 pieces of fabric for each canopy section……..and then seal them together with wrong sides together, with the adhesive.  (Keep in mind that you may want a thicker/sturdier fabric for your canopy, to give it more shape and to protect the baby a bit more.)
My canopy had 2 little tube sections down the center, that housed little plastic piping pieces.  So I made sure to duplicate those strips of fabric, sewed them into tubes the same way as the originals…….
……..slid in the plastic forms, to be sure they fit…………
……….then sewed the tubes right to the center section of the canopy (just like it was done on the original canopy), with the raw edges matched up with the outer raw edges of the center canopy strip.
Then I slid the plastic pieces back in…
……..and sewed off each end with a zig-zag stitch, keeping the plastic pieces securely inside.
Now, the back piece of my canopy has a casing to slide the main plastic structure of the canopy.  I cut the strip for the structure just like the original, then serged the raw edge (you can zig–zag it too).
Then I folded under each end of the strip, then sewed along each long edge of the casing, securing it right to this section of the canopy.  (Make sure your are re-creating the same casing as the original…….so that the canopy will fit the same way.  So cut your pieces precisely and remember to take many pictures.)
The front of my canopy, has a little extra fold down strip, which is how the front casing is actually attached.  So I re-created it the same way as the original (and serged the lower raw edge like the one above), but this time, the casing was sewn with the right side of the fabric facing down.  And remember to tuck the ends under again like shown above.
See, this is my very front piece, with the gray color on the outside.
The next step, is to attach that front strip to the next canopy section.
I placed the two strips together with right sides together, then sewed along that edge.
Then I folded that casing piece away from that more narrow front canopy strip.
Then, I opened up these 2 canopy pieces, with the bottom side facing up.  I folded over that casing section, along with the raw edges underneath that casing, and sewed the casing down to the bigger canopy section.  (Make sure it lays flat and that you sew evenly, as the seam will show from the other side.)
Attach the other canopy sections in the same way, creating the domed shape.
Then use the original bias tape like I did, purchase some, or make your own (click here for help) and encase each raw seam where each canopy section was sewn together.
Now, again, remember that not every canopy style is the same, but mine has a little extra piece of plastic boning along the front.  This helps that little extra addition to the canopy at the front to keep it’s shape.  So, because the next step is to attach bias tape all the way around the canopy, you’ll use the bias tape as a casing for teh boning along the front for this style of canopy.  So I attached the bias tape along the front only…….
………then slid the plastic boning on in.
Then I finished attaching the bias tape the rest of the way around the canopy.
Now, if you have a GRACO brand car seat, the main plastic pieces attach like this right at the center of the arch of the canopy.  (If you were taking your canopy apart, you would need to pull it apart, by tugging really hard.)  To put back into the canopy, slide one piece into each side, and slide each piece back into each other.
Then attach the plastic pieces to the car seat……..allowing your canopy to stand up.
Last step……the seat belt shoulder covers.
I took apart each shoulder cover and cut out new fabric pieces……just like above.  (If you’re wanting to create your own shoulder covers from scratch, click here for tutorial.)
I then zig-zagged around each fabric piece, attaching it to the original piece of batting.
Then, I made my own bias tape (click here for help) and attached it to the raw edges of each shoulder cover.  And lastly, I attached the velcro to each strap……just like the original ones.
And that is it. Whew.  I know, a lot of steps.

But pat yourself on that hard working back of yours, because you just created your own custom car seat cover and canopy.

Wow.

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Comments

  1. Shelly says:

    You did a GREAT job! Thanks for the tips as I'm starting this project for my daughter this weekend.

  2. Heather says:

    Oh my gosh! Incredible! I hope that one day I get strong enough sewing skills to pull this off :) Thanks for the tutorial!!!!!

  3. Anonymous says:

    That's beautiful! I can't believe how talented you are! Thanks for sharing- I'm definitely going to use your tutorial when I get down to doing a carseat!

  4. Chelsey says:

    Wow. That's incredible. I can't imagine how long that must have taken you. And as far as the worriers go, we're all (for the most part) grown adults capable of making rational decisions. One person's decision may be different from another's. But implying that someone is a bad mother and is willing to risk her child's life for a cute car seat cover is just inappropriate.

  5. BECKY says:

    great job! so unique

  6. Anonymous says:

    While the cover is beautiful and well-sewn, your claim that this style of recovering project will perform the same as the original is really just a guess, isn't it? It is the same as any other after-market product in that we have no clue how it will perform. It may be safe or it may not be. We have no way to know until it is put into a real life crash test. Warranties and insurance are the least of my concerns when car seats are involved. This is your child's life. Are you really worried about the seat warranty? The real question is, Do you want your child to be the crash test dummy just so your seat can look pretty?
    Selina
    CPST

  7. Curtis and Dani Welton says:

    I love it! Thanks for taking the time to do the tutorial!!

  8. MrsJAllred says:

    Wow you are so brave! I'd be so afraid of taking it all apart and then not being able to get it all back together!

  9. MotherBeck says:

    you are seriously uh.maze.ing.

  10. Jennifer says:

    I love the color combo you used! Fantastic. Maybe this is a stupid question, but was this a ton of work (with all the seam ripping?) As in, how long can I put this off before my due date???

  11. Bonnie says:

    Beautiful! I love our car seat cover but hate the seat itself so I've been thinking of getting a new one for the next baby…maybe I'll take up an offer for a used (but pretty new) one and just make my own cover. Thanks for the tutorial, I am definitely bookmarking this!

  12. Emily says:

    Lovely, as usual! Great fabric choices. Thanks for sharing how you made it. I also like your quilt/coverlet. :)

  13. Sayonada says:

    Thank you so much for posting your pics and your process! I've been considering doing the same thing to our infant carrier, but was a little gunshy — the suggestions of taking tons of pics is so simple, but so genius!

  14. Nancy says:

    Nice work! Thanks for taking the time with pics of each step.

  15. Andrea H. says:

    That is totally cute. If I ever get around to learning how to sew (and get good at it and have another baby), I would definitely do this with our infant seat.

    Also, just to put in my two cents about the safety of this, I personally think that it is fine. You are using a lot of the original materials from the cover and modeling it exactly like the original in design and thickness among other things. The original cover is tested to ensure its safety, but I am positive that they don't test every cover that they sell. Rather they just test a model and if it meets whatever standards, then they replicate that model. What is being shown here is pretty much the same thing.

    Additionally, I think that the disclaimer and its placement are perfectly adequate (I find it kind of absurd that you should have to include one in the first place — people can't think for themselves? But Ashley, who is not a carseat expert, told me I could do this, and no I didn't bother checking the user manual for the carseat so that I could know the manufacturer's policy on this…). If someone is going to do the carseat cover, I imagine that they would carefully read the instructions (all of them and before beginning the project as well as during) and then they would easily notice the disclaimer.

  16. Shannon says:

    Holy cow, you are even more amazing than I previously thought! Fabulous job! I really love it and wish I could get myself to do one for my sweet baby girl!

  17. Eunice says:

    amazing! I don't think I apt enough to do that but you sure make it looks so easy. Great work!

  18. The Smith Family says:

    WOW! This is amazing! You totally make me feel like I could do this. I just made your stroller/messenger bag the other day and was RIDICULOUSLY proud of myself :) I just learned to sew a year ago and am so in love with it. Thanks for all of the great inspiration and tutorials. You are awesome!

  19. Amanda says:

    I have loved your blog from afar for a long time now. I finally decided to comment! First, this is amazing. I am learning to sew and come to your blog every single day to get inspiration and hopes for skills like yours someday! :) Second, this cover is for YOUR baby. You can decide to recover the car seat if you would like to (thanks for sharing it with us). I am so impressed!

  20. Danielle @ Savvy Chic Home says:

    wow one of your best projects yet!

  21. Katie says:

    How sweet!

  22. Melissa says:

    Awesome job! This is so darn cute! Makes me want to trash my car seat, so I have a reason to re-cover it :-)

  23. Barb says:

    Absolutely beautiful…you make something "hard" look really easy. The suggestion about taking pictures as you take things apart is a great idea. Thanks again for the beautiful work.

  24. Ashley says:

    I appreciate the comments and concerns about the warranty and such. This is a fun project to do, but one must also be smart before altering a car seat cover……and I completely agree.

    My car seat cover is exactly the same as the original, with the original batting and fabric thickness used……not adding any extra bulk or shape to the cover…..or any extra thickness below or around the baby. Therefore, it will perform the same as the original car seat, in the event of an accident. But as for the warranty, I do understand that it is now void. So I am willing to take that chance to have to re-purchase a new car seat without being provided a new one, in the event of an accident.

    So the choice is yours. I've just provided a tutorial on how to create an exact replica of your original without altering the design or shape or thickness. And without having to spend the money on a new car seat, should you want a new cover. But use your best judgment.

    Ashley

  25. Anonymous says:

    wow!! you are amazing!!!! if i send you our carseat cover and canopy will you make us a new one?! i am so not skilled enough to do this myself. haha!!

    – jen
    jehling2 at gmail(d0t)com

  26. Jessica at Me Sew Crazy says:

    I need to ask, how difficult was this project? I have been thinking of making one for our new addition this summer, but keep putting it off based on what seems like an incredible amount of time and effort involved.

  27. Malori and Jon Saline says:

    This looks so amazing!!! It's so original too – I always notice in church that there are always at least 3 people with the exact same car seat. This one looks so original and fancy!

  28. Maria D. @ DownrightDomesticity says:

    Just when I think you couldn't possibly outdo yourself for creativity, you do it again! What a great idea!

  29. Rhonda says:

    YOU ARE AMAZING!!!

  30. Nicia says:

    Amazing. Amazing!

  31. ~rachel~ says:

    The above poster is right that not only would using something like this will void the seat's warranty, but this has also not been tested with the seat. It could cause the seat to not function properly and could cause injuries to the baby. The fabric (or anything that is behind the baby that shouldn't be there) could bunch up and push the baby forward in an accident causing neck injuries- which would not be good on a newborn!
    I would recommend speaking with the manufacturer to see if they would recommend this and alco getting the seat checked by a CPST.

  32. Heather says:

    thats amaxing! I'm going to have to try it when we have another baby.

  33. Laree says:

    I am so impressed! When we bought our carseat, I splurged the extra $5 to get the cute girly version. I'm now positive that because I did so, our next child will be a boy! I'm so using this tutorial and recovering it if that's the case.

    I love how detailed this is – and the pictures too! Thanks!

  34. Erin says:

    this is amazing! gives me options when i have a child, but also could be way above my current skill level. love your step-by-step instructions!

  35. Zaira says:

    That is really cute!

    I think though that the disclaimer should be a little more obvious, maybe at the top of the post? Yes, using 3rd party carseat covers (including homemade) and other products that don't come with the seat will void your seat's warranty and your insurance company will also not be impressed should they find out in the event of an accident; I have heard of people not getting their seats replaced due to alterations/3rd party products being used. The covers may be ugly but they are what is made to go with the seat and tested during safety testing (flamability, compression of padding/fabrics etc) so better to be safe than sorry I think. 2c :)

  36. Prudently Painted Vintage says:

    You are very talented! Love it! You will be getting a million compliments on your car seat. Everyone will be asking where you bought it!

  37. Joanna says:

    This is absolutely incredible. However, I won't be showing this to my husband, because he would be begging me to recover both of our car seats immediately!!

  38. Anne Marie... says:

    holy camoly……that is the BEST sewing job – that looks so difficult to me…..love the colors chosen too!
    I'm just loving your blog – I've only been following you for a few weeks – but so happy I did –

    xo+blessings,
    Anne Marie

  39. CoconutKate says:

    I just re-did mine as well! I'm still working on the canopy, but I got the seat part finished (just in case this guy comes right away-probably wishful thinking). I love your yellow fabric…so nice and bright!

  40. Dominique @ Craft Couture says:

    Wow! It's soo pretty. If you don't mind telling me..where did you get that yellow print fabric? I've been looking for it to do my bedroom :).
    Thanks for the awesome tutorial too!

    dominiquesboutique@yahoo.com

  41. Inle says:

    You make me want to have another baby!

  42. D and G Stories says:

    Wow, I'm amazed! You are so clever! I may just get brave enough to try this. Thanks for an awesome tutorial!

  43. Jamin, Margaret & Elena says:

    wow! I actually like my carseat cover but I may try this if I ever want a change.

  44. mandimadeit says:

    Amazing! You make it look so easy!
    I will definitely be saving this tutorial for the next baby.
    Thank you so much! :)

  45. Mrs. Knitters says:

    It looks G R E A T !!! The makeover of the cover is really gorgious… so sunny and sweet :) just perfect :)

  46. Johnson Family says:

    That's fantastic!!! I have made carseat covers and I KNOW how much work that is, but your method is so awesome! It looks so professional, fits perfectly, and it's still safe. And the canopy, genius! I remade the canopy but did not use anything from the old canopy. I couldn't find boning stong enough, didn't use fabric stiff enough, and the canopy was always flopping around – disaster. I will definitely be using your tutorial when I need to recover it again. Thank you SO much for sharing!

    1. jessica says:

      ITS NOT SAFE!!! ANYTHING that isnt part of the seat when you buy it VOIDS VOIDS VOIDS!!! the munufacturer warranty!!! DO SOME RESEARCH!!! Cute does NOT NOT NOT = SAFE!!!

  47. Kristen says:

    It does look amazing! Sewing skills out of my league but definitely amazing!

  48. Lexie & Jeff says:

    WoW! This looks amazing. It looks like a lot of thought went into it, and I love how it turned out! What a thorough tutorial.

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