Winter is fast approaching and if you have children in car seats you know how annoying it is to get them bundled up and brought to the car only to need to undo all that bundling to get them buckled in their seats and then figure out how to keep them warm again once they are buckled.
I'll admit right here right now that with our first kid we made big ol' mistakes when it came to car seat safety. We had NO IDEA we weren't supposed to use coats in the car seat. Parker had a giant puffy coat and we stretched those straps as far as needed in order to fit him in the seat while wearing the coat. About a month later I learned from a friend that we were making a HUGE mistake and we set out to correct it immediately. We saved the coat for snow play only and instead dressed him in a couple layers that still allowed his straps to be at the correct tightness and wrapped a fleece tie blanket around him to carry him to and from the car. I knew there had to be a better way!
The next winter Jamison was big enough to be out of his infant bucket so we did the same thing with him - big fleece blanket and we each carried a kid in our arms all bundled up. Again, there had to be a way to let these kids walk but still stay safe and warm in the car.
Thankfully the best search engine to ever be created (at least for visual people) was publicly open by now and I stumbled upon this tutorial for a fleece car seat poncho. I made one for each big boy and once Mercedes got big enough I made one for her. I also made one for our niece and will probably make one for our other nephews as well at some point soon. They make life so much easier! There is no fabric between the child and the straps so safety isn't affected and because it is worn over the head it also isn't going to fall off like a blanket could.
I've taken the tutorial from PatternShmattern and modified it slightly based on what I've done. The first one I made I followed her steps exactly but I didn't like how awkward it was for me to get the hood attached. I came up with a slightly different method for achieving the same result so hopefully it works for you!
I know this is going to get long with lots of pictures but bear with me so you can create your own awesome car seat poncho!
I made this poncho for a two year old so you will need to adjust the size accordingly.
Measure your child from the center of their neck to his or her fingertips then double this measurement. I measured my son at 21 inches. Your doubled measurement (42 inches in my case) is how much fabric to buy but with wanting to size up to ensure it fits for a few years plus adding on for a hood I decided to go with 1.5 yards or 54 inches. I also did this because the fabric I chose has a specific direction to go in order for the words to read correctly. If you don't want to worry about that choose a fabric that can be turned any direction and still work, ha!
Buy two pieces of fleece in the sizes you need. This will ensure your poncho is nice and warm as well as reversible!
Fold each piece of your fleece in half and then half again to make quarters. Fold with the "right" (the side you want to see) sides in so marks you make are on the "wrong" side of the fabric.
Measure from the folded corner down the fold to the measurement of your child. Although I measured 21 inches for my kid I decided to do a full 24 inches so this will last him several years. I'd be surprised if I need to make him a new one before he begins kindergarten. After I measured the first side I marked with chalk along a curve starting at the corner and measuring out 24 inches until the full quarter was measured out on each piece of fabric.
Cut out along the line you drew or marked.
With the remaining fleece you are going to create a hood. Find a place with enough remaining space and make sure it's two layers for each color fabric. Place a hood from a sweatshirt or jacket you already own on top of the fabric to use as a guide and cut out a hood shape about an inch bigger all the way around.
Use the hood pieces you cut out from the first fabric to cut out your hood shapes from the second fabric.
Time to assemble the hood! Make sure the “right sides” are together and pin along the curve of the hood. This is the hood that runs along the top of the head and down the neck. Sew this for each color.
Once the spines of your hoods are sewn place one inside the other with the right sides touching. Pin together the opening for the face and sew this together. Turn the hood right side out top stitch around the face. Your hood is done!
Grab your poncho circles and place one inside the other. Measure to your halfway point and mark it with a pin. Place your hood centered with the pin and fold in the sides to where they should be. The further apart the sides the larger the opening will be. The first poncho I made the opening was way too big. I’d say three to four inches for this size poncho is plenty or your kid will be able to escape through the neck opening!
Place a pin for the side markers of the hood as well then cut through both layers of fleece in the marked area.
Things can get a little tricky here. You can follow PatternShmattern’s instructions for this part or follow my method. Either will work and get you the same result.
Take the hood and place the back center of the hood at the center of the neck hole you cut in your poncho pieces. Slide the hood in between the two pieces of fabric and pinch it in place while you open up the two layers of the poncho. From here you are going to want to fold in the layers of the poncho so the cut edges are all lined up. It takes a little bit of wiggling around to get this to work but I found matching them up on the inside easier than trying to tuck all the layers together and hope I caught them all from the other side. I tried to take pictures of doing this but I’m not sure they really explain what I’m doing. If you have questions please ask!
Pin the hood all the way around the neck from between the two layers as well as the remaining space between the hood sides (where the face will be). Sew around the neck opening from between the two layers. At this point the hood is sandwiched between the two layers of the poncho so you have the raw seams of the neck available to sew. By attaching the hood this way all the edges will stay hidden to make the poncho reversible.
Once the hood is attached you can flip it all the right way again and it should look like this. You can top stitch around the neck if you want. I’ve chosen to do it on some and not others. I chose not to on this poncho.
Lay the poncho spread out on the ground and smooth it out as nicely as possible to match up the edges. It’s more important that it’s smooth than perfectly even. There are spots where mine doesn’t line up exactly but it really won’t be noticeable in the final product.
Pin the two layers together anywhere from 2-6 inches up from the edge depending on how long you want your fringe to be.
Sew around the edge however far up you choose. I usually go about 5 inches from the cut edge and I keep it somewhat even by using the sewing machine neck (if that’s what you want to call it) as my guide.
After sewing the two layers together spread the poncho on the floor again and cut 1-2 inch fringe in the bottom (I eyeball it). This step is totally optional but my kids like to play with the fringe so I add it. You could tie them to add extra detail or just leave them be as I do.
I really hope you enjoy this tutorial and all credit goes to PatternShmattern for the instructions to create it. If you have any questions shoot me a message in the comments or an email and I will do everything I can to help you out. And if you make this poncho please share a picture of your results!
How do you keep your kids warm in their car seats during the cold weather months?
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