Thursday, December 16, 2010

Reversible Car Seat Poncho Tutorial

I've been reading a lot about car seat safety- when to turn the seat around (not until at least 2 is the new recommendation) and what to do about bulky winter coats.  It's not safe to buckle your child into their car seat while wearing a bulky winter coat.  We're visiting family in the great northern state of Minnesota soon, which was -20 degrees this week.  The recommended solution of just taking off your kid's coat in the car and using a blanket just won't work when it's that cold.  The solution? A Car Seat Poncho.  A poncho allows you to thread the car seat straps underneath while still keeping your kid safe and warm.

Here's how I made mine.

My son is almost 18 mos, and he wears between a size 18 mos and 24 mos. This poncho tutorial is generous for that size and I'm sure it will still fit him next year since it is down to past his knees.  It's fairly easy to adjust for a larger or smaller child.  I like longer ponchos for car seat use because it covers their entire legs when they are in the car. (Update: It's 2013 and my son is now four years old and he still wears this same poncho!)  You can measure to the ends of their arms, for example, for a shorter poncho.

Step 1: Measure child from their neck to where you want the edge of your poncho to be.  Multiply that by 2 and that's how much fabric to buy.  If you want a hood on your poncho, it's easiest to add at least a few more inches to your yardage when you buy.  I bought 1 1/4 yards of two different pieces of fleece (for the two layers) to make a 23 inch poncho and had enough left to make a hood.

Step 2: You're going to cut your fleece into a circle.  The easiest way to do this is to fold both pieces of fleece (separately) edge to edge twice, so you're folding it in quarters.  Measure out, from the folded corner, the length from step 1 (from your child's neck to where you want the hem to be).  My measurement was 23 inches.  Mark your quarter circle out with pins or draw it if you have something that writes on fleece.

 Cut along your pins:
Step 3: Making the hood.  I had enough fabric left over after cutting the circle to make a hood.  To know what size to make, you can measure a hood that you already have, or measure your child's head.  The measurement I decided on was 12 inches tall and 10 inches wide.  Cut one hood piece from each of your fabrics so the finished hood will have two layers.  Since my robot fleece was one-directional, I cut two pieces (10"x12") of robot fleece and sewed the 10 inch sides together with a 1/4 inch seam so the robots would both be upright on each side of the head.  The blue fleece only needed one piece that was 10" x 23 1/2".
You need to fold and sew up one of the sides of both hood pieces.  If your pieces are 10" x 23 1/2" fold them each in half the short way and sew up one of the 12" sides.  Round the corner like this if you don't want a pointy hood.

Turn one hood inside out and place it inside the other hood, right sides together.  Line up the edges of the fabric and sew around the front of the hood that would be around your child's face.

Turn the hood right side out through the open neck and top stitch (pictured above) around the face.  I pinned before top stitching just to keep the seam as even as I could.

You may want to baste stitch the raw neck edge to make the next step easier. 

Now your hood is ready.

Step 4: Making the hole for the hood.  Open up your circles 1/2 way and place one inside the other.  Mark the center with a pin.  Lay out your hood on the edge how you would like it to look (I recommend placing the edges of the hood just a few inches apart) and mark the placement of the edges of the hood on your circle with pins.

 Then cut a line through both layers of fleece the length between your pins.
 After I cut the line (mine was about 11 inches) I slightly rounded the lower edge of the hole that will be facing the front of the poncho.  This is optional.
Step 5: Adding the hood to the poncho.
Sandwich the raw edges of your hood between the two pieces of fleece all the way around the hole.  Fold down the raw fleece edges on the poncho neck as you go around and pin.

 Carefully sew the hood on all around the neckline.  This was the most difficult part for me.
 Now the hood is done!  You should celebrate.  I did.  If sewing the hood on this way is too difficult, try my tutorial on another way to attach the hood, linked here.

Step 6: Making the fringe edge.  Sew around your circle two inches from the edge.  An easy way to make sure your seam allowance is always two inches is to use masking or other tape and place it at the 2 inch mark on your machine.  Keep the edge of your fabric on this mark as you sew.
 Lastly, take some pinking shears and cut a fringe all the way around, making sure to not cut all the way up to the 2 inch seam you just sewed.  I think my fringes are about 3/4 of an inch wide.
You're finished, now try it out in the car.  Congratulations on making your child safer and warmer!
Some people also like to cut a line straight up the back of the poncho to make it easier to put the child in the car seat.  You could use velcro or snaps in the back to keep it closed when not in the car seat.  I opted not to for now to keep it really warm since my kid is still rear-facing.  The back of the poncho will be able to drape over his car seat.  When we turn him around I'll probably cut a slit in the back.  You can also experiment with pockets or arm slits.

I'm not the best at taking the right pictures, so feel free to contact me if you have any questions as you go along. If you make one, share a photo on the Pattern Shmattern Flickr group.
***This tutorial is for personal, non-commercial use only.  Reproduction is prohibited. Making these ponchos using my pattern or tutorial and selling them is prohibited without written permission from the author.***  

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Twin Sheet Teepee

It was time to retire the refrigerator box playhouse.  The kids had ripped out the curtains and one of the windows.  My daughter spilled her brother's sippy cup in there, used a toy sword to make some holes in it, and pulled the roof down on the side.  It lasted a good 9 months, which I think is kind of impressive. 

So I started looking for a kind of replacement- something inexpensive and durable.  I was browsing a craft thread on a parenting forum and found this awesome tutorial from Obsessively Stitching.  The best part is that the material needed is just a twin flat sheet, only 4 dollars at Walmart.

 Here's the finished teepee. 

I actually made this owl because I got some sewing machine grease on my fabric, so I needed to cover it up.  I have a thing for owls, and it matches the new playroom curtains I made.
 My daughter saw me making it last night, and it was the first thing she asked about this morning.  She ran into the playroom and declared, "Mom can have the computer.  I'm playing in my TENT!"  Then she ran around the outside of it and said, "Dad, there's no door."  Haha. He showed her how to open the door flap and she promptly filled it with toys.  I declare it a success.

A couple of things I noticed when making this-
- I had to make the pole sleeves closer to 2 inches instead of 1 1/2.  I used 3/4 inch PVC pipe as instructed, so I'm not sure why I had to sew bigger sleeves.
-I spent a good 15 minutes staring at the pattern instructions for the door piece (step 2) before I realized the right illustration is zoomed in.  I was so confused about where I should be sewing "along the upper left edge," but then I figured it out.  It's just at the very top right of the door piece.

This is actually a really simple project.  I really liked it.  Total time start to finish was about 4 hours.

Monday, December 13, 2010


This is what I made today on a whim.  I've had this book, Wild and Wonderful Fleece Animals, since last Christmas, but I hadn't tried any of the patterns yet.  I used up some leftover fleece I've had sitting around for a while.
 It was pretty simple to make- just 3 body pieces and 3 "spike" pieces.  My son hasn't put him down since.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Red Fabric Flower Hair Clip

These hair clips are so easy to make. They took about 15 minutes. All you need is
-any synthetic material.  This is some kind of polyester satin I found in a remnant bin.
-a small amount of felt or other non-fraying material
-a couple of beads
-hair clips
-non-slip shelf liner.

Cut four circles of increasing size for each clip you want to make.  I like the look of rough hand cut circles, but you could trace them to make them exact.  Using a lighter or candle, melt the edges of the circles.  Be careful not to catch them on fire .  You can also warm up some of the center material to give it a little more wavy/wrinkle look.  Stack the circles and hand sew the bead in the center. 

On the back, attach the clip by hot gluing a small circle of felt to the flower and the clip.  Glue over the knots on the back of the flower where you sewed on the bead.  I also like to glue on a piece of non-slip shelf liner so the clip will stay in hair better.

Sorry the pictures aren't the greatest.  There was no natural light in my crafting room when I was working on these this evening.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

ModPodge Canvas Bird

I picked up some Mod Podge at the store so I could work on using some of my scrapbook paper I picked up on my last trip into town.  I have two bird silhouette pictures in my bedroom that I purchased, so I thought I'd make another one on a canvas to put on the wall.

It's my 2nd only ever decoupage project, so please ignore the wrinkles.  I like the way it turned out.  The bird silhouette can be downloaded here.  I think it's a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, for those who are interested in birds.  For the twig I used paper that had printed scribbled writing on it.  I like how it made the twig look like birch bark.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Pumpkin Soup

Wondering what to do with all those cans of pumpkin you bought up on sale after Thanksgiving?  I bought a bunch this year.  I love pumpkin pie all year round, and when I wanted some for my birthday in June last year, the grocery store didn't have any.  I decided to try out a pumpkin soup.

Here's a great recipe for that came out of a Better Homes and Gardens magazine and then I tweaked it a bit.

3- medium carrots, peeled and sliced
2- Tbsp margarine
1- medium onion, diced
1- stalk celery, diced
1- clove of garlic, minced
2-15 oz cans of pureed pumpkin (make sure it's not the pie mix kind, just pure pumpkin)
1- 32 oz box of beef broth
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup water
a squirt of syrup (I didn't have maple syrup so I used non-maple pancake syrup)
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
salt to taste

Cook sliced carrots in a large stock pot in the margarine over med heat for 2 minutes.  Add the diced onion, celery, and garlic and cook 8-10 more minutes until vegetables are tender.
Stir in the pumpkin, broth, milk, water, syrup, and spices, and heat through.  Salt to taste.

The photo in the magazine is prettier than mine.  This makes a yummy fall/winter side dish.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Homemade Hand Warmers

These are so easy that you don't need a tutorial. Just cut out 5 inch squares of fabric (these are 100% cotton flannel) and sew them like you would a bean bag. Instead of beans, fill them with rice. When you need to warm up your hands (driving to work in the morning or shoveling snow, etc.) Just pop them in the microwave for a minute. Toss them into the pockets of your coat and use them to warm up your hands.

These are great inexpensive stocking stuffers.