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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  Torn or outdated?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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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Then I slid the plastic pieces back in…
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……..and sewed off each end with a zig-zag stitch, keeping the plastic pieces securely inside.
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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.
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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.
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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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This post is sponsored by:



Ashley Johnston
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Ashley Johnston

Owner at Make It & Love It
Ashley Johnston is a professional DIY costume maker, sewist, crafter, and owner of Make It & Love It. She is a mom of 5 and a wife to a very patient (with my craft clutter) husband. In case you’re wondering, she always chooses crafting/sewing/designing over mopping/dusting/wiping base boards……but bathrooms/laundry/full bellies are always attended to. Whew!
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Comments

  1. Kiera says:

    First I'd like to say what a wonderful job you did at recovering this carseat. I would have never thought the canopy could be taken apart. I have my original stroller and carseat from when my 1st daughter was born almost 5 years ago. Back then I thought everything had to be pink. The fabric got dirty, scratched and nasty very quick. I've always wanted a new one but it wasn't in the budget. I'm definitely going to try this now. Have you ever recovered a stroller?
    Second, I feel bad for you that so many people criticized your idea by bringing up safety concerns. You never changed the actual carseat so I can't understand why people have to be critical. The majority of carseat related accidents happen because the seat wasn't installed correctly, not because of the pad. I'm sure if the pad were completely removed the seat would still work…it's a matter of comfort and stability. Anyway, great job again!!

  2. Amy Jami says:

    Thank you! Thank you! I am expecting my 3rd and although my original infant car seat is still "safe" I am getting a little tired of sage green with jungle animals! I wanted to recover mine for my second son but the task always seemed to daunting. I knew I could probably figure out the seat cover but the canopy had me baffled! This post helps me solve that challenge (and my car seat is a Graco one just like the one you used!) I find out the gender of this baby on April 15 (after 2 boys I'm hoping for a girl!) and as soon as I know what color schemes I should be using (think pink!) I'm going to get this going (especially before I get too big to sew!) You are amazing and I just love your blog! I am actually sewing one of your convertible 2-in-1 Messenger Bags today! Thanks for sharing and thanks for helping me solve my crafter's block on this project!

  3. Kristen Taylor says:

    I absolutely love it! Beautiful!! Thanks so much for taking the time to make the tutorial too! I did something similar with my high chair cover and for whatever reason never thought about a simple seam ripper…lol…so I just hacked it with scissors on the seams! It totally worked but this is definitely much neater… and in the case of a carseat much safer. I would 100% put my put my precious children in a car seat made like this!!

  4. Jenn Earle says:

    Ashley I LOVE This, I am currently recovering mine now using your tutorial!!! Thanks so much…

    As for the safety…I mean seriously people…every car seat is accident prone. Chill out…You baby will be fine no matter what…I mean how often do our cars explode? and if you are in a wreck with your infant isn't it the seatbelt straps that hold your baby in? I don't know…I mean I want my baby to be safe and sound but I see no reason to start being worry warts over the fabric that covers your car seat.

  5. Vixen says:

    Gorgeous!! I love the colors and I sooo wish I could've done this for my twin boys car seats!! Amazing job!

  6. sami says:

    Wow – you are ridiculously talented and I am soo jealous. I wish I could recover a pram I'm about to purchase to match the nursery but well I'm only learning to sew. I am just so in awe of so many of your projects and tutorials! Thank you.

  7. Vanessa Goertzen says:

    Wow, that is beautiful. Great color choice!

  8. Sara says:

    I, like Rachel am a CPST and work in the NICU at a local hospital. I happen to disagree with Rachel however and see this as perfectly acceptable and darling! As long as you did nothing to change the straps (shorten, lengthen, or create a different hole adjustment)- which you didn't – you are fine. As a lot of people have mentioned, in the event of an accident, it's really the position of the base and the corect instalation that will save your child and not the carrier. In the situation of a roll over, the carrier will offer protection but the fabric covering it will not. If you are unsure how to properly install your base, your local hospital, police station, or fire station should have a CPST on staff and can assist you.
    Congratulations and excellent job, I wish I could sew like that!

  9. Sarah H says:

    Wow! Love it!! I have a travel system, so if I recover my carseat, I should probably do the stroller too….hmm….any tutorials coming up like that? My only issue is with the canopy….yikes! Thanks for a great tute!

  10. Courtney says:

    Ugh, where was this step by step photo tutorial 6 months ago when I tore apart our convertible car seat trying to recover it for my three year old (after three years of use, it was MIGHTY nasty!) I ended up getting so frustrated that I scrapped the whole project and bought a new high backed booster to take its place.

  11. juniperbrea says:

    My button maker has you put the button in to make the correct measurements… how did you do yours so big? Your help is much appreciated since I'm going to tackle this project soon for my sister's baby due in May!! Thank you in advance!!

    This car seat is gorgeous BTW!!

  12. Emily says:

    Thanks so much for giving an awesome tutorial. I was always myself curious on how others that had done it on other sewing blogs. I don't think anyone else has ever given a tutorial on this before, so thanks so much!
    Take me back 3 years ago when I had my first son after 2 girls and I would have totally done this! But I'm glad my baby making days are done. I think it's a personal preference and if you have sprayed it with a flame retardent spray and also sewed it the same bulkness, then to me there's no harm. But I wouldn't do this for anyone else though besides myself for liability reasons. So I guess I'll never know what could have been. I'm sure glad though that many others can benefit if they choose to though. I'll definately recommend and remember this for the future in case a mother is as desperate for a neutral look like I was.

  13. Rhoda says:

    thats absolutely gorgeous!!
    I was jut wanting to re-do ours cos of the photos ive seen, so thanks a million for the tutorial!!
    -Rhoda

  14. Cherie says:

    Wow, who knew there were so many car seat experts out there! Your car seat is absolutely beautiful. I don't think I could be brave enough to try it though–I would be afraid of ruining the old one and the new one! :) And, I think what the one lady said is right. (from what little I know) I don't think recovering a carseat would remove any liabilty from the manufacturer and definitely not the insurance company. My husband is a lawyer and works at a personal injury firm. I'm curious to ask him about this when he gets home… Good luck with your new little one!

  15. Pondering says:

    I wish I had seen this before we had the baby. There is NO WAY I could finish it before we would need it to go somewhere! Very creative!

  16. Andrea says:

    that is an awesome tansformation! i love it.

  17. Anonymous says:

    I think you did an amazing job. However, I am with those that think it shouldn't be done. I don't think anyone has been negative or rude or nasty about it…just honest and possibly educational.

  18. lily says:

    hello to france!
    Your blog is beautifull.
    good continuation

    lily

  19. Bert n' Beepers says:

    WOW what a controversial tutorial reading some of those posts! I am sure no one was in any way intending to put their child in harms way by "simply" (not necessarily meaning it was simple..) changing the fabric of the car seat cover..its not like she altered the structure of the seat or the way the straps work…maybe instead of being so critical and judgemental about this wonderful transformation, you naysayers should think about just how many parents out there are still using unsafe and outdated car seats!! Whats worse – a new fabric on a car seat or one thats 20 years old and barely has any fabric/padding left? Seriously!!!

    I LOVE the look of the new car seat cover! I think its absolutely beautiful and if I had the skill, I would probably try to redo my babies car seat cover too since it is soooooo hard to clean. I am just amazed at how effortless you make this project look! GREAT JOB!

  20. Libby says:

    Love this and thanks for the generous tutorial. Hope it's okay if I linked to your post on my blog:

    https://scraphappyutah.blogspot.com/2011/02/feature-friday.html

    These can easily be purchased on Etsy and elsewhere! At least you know what went into yours and obviously you took great care to recover it.

    Regardless of some of the comments, you should still be very proud of your talent and creativity. Keep on keepin' on and be proud of all you do!

  21. Sara says:

    This is incredible – your skills are amazing! I would never even thought of doing this (not that I'm sure I could tackle this project) – but wow – the end result is absolutely gorgeous!

  22. JessinNM says:

    You would think that Ashley is the first person to EVER recover her car seat. Good grief, she has posted a disclaimer end of story.

    Thank you for all your creative ideas and wonderful tutorials Ashley!

  23. Christa says:

    I love it! Thank you so much for posting this tutorial. I'm in the process of doing the same thing. I will comment that I was shocked at how crappy my car seat cover (original manufacture) was put together. It was shockingly easy to pull apart and I think actually re-sewing it will make it a much higher quality. Thank you again, you are amazing!

  24. Sippy Cup Central Mom says:

    You should be really proud, you did a fantastic job! When are you due? We are due with a girl the end of June. Karen

  25. Alyssa says:

    Wow that is amazing! I wish I had the talent to do something like this to change my boy carseat into my girl's carseat but I would not trust myself to do this. Great Job!

  26. Jennifer says:

    Fantastic, creative, professional work here. Very inspiring and well done.

  27. Anonymous says:

    Great job, I love it. I have a few comments to make.
    first, the safety of the child in an accident has little to do with the seat cover, it mostly has to do with the harness, straps and where they are located on your baby's body and how the seat is buckled in the car. If someone puts extra padding that makes the baby sit funny which alters the way the straps buckle the baby in, this is likely a problem and a safety risk. I don't see any problems with your seat cover.

    Second, that lady is incorrectly associating product warranty with insurance. Just because altering the seat cover will likely free the manufacturer from liability, does not mean your insurance company will not pay if your baby is injured in an accident. People customize their cars all the time and void their manufacture's warranties but the insurance companies still have to pay. Insurance is a method of allocating risk and voiding the manufacturer's warranty on your baby seat does not necessarily relieve the insurance company from liability.

    I am sure the negative comments were just people who have concerns and as a parent I understand. However, I am more concerned about sound logic and facts instead of false accusations. For what it's worth, looks like most everyone has figured this out on their own and will or want to make this cover too! :) Love your blog!

    Monica

  28. meags&me says:

    Wow! This is amazing!! I love yellow and gray, it is beautiful

  29. Anonymous says:

    Awesome tutorial. Car seat companies need to get on board with using cute fabrics!

    As for the safety of using it, all I have to say is that as a parent, everyday you have to weigh pros and cons. This is not a forum to bash the poster for her tutorial. She included a disclaimer for other parents to read and for them to make a decision for themselves.

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Hi, I’m Ashley—the DIY-enthusiast behind this crazy blog!

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