Saturday, June 9, 2012

Recovering an Infant Car Seat

There are many advantages of having 2 (or more) children. One of the biggies is being able to reuse some, if not all, of #1 baby's things for baby #2! This is especially true for some of the more expensive purchases: changing table, crib & infant car seat.

A brand new seat can cost between $80-300 depending on brand & features. If you are able to reuse the carseat you already purchased for #1, that is a fantastic savings!! But what if #1 was a boy and #2 is a girl?? Or what if the carseat cover is soiled, ripped or stained?? Or what if you just want something different??? That's where recovering your car seat comes in.

When NOT to recover & reuse an infant car seat:

  • its been in an accident: NO MATTER HOW MINOR (check w/your car insurance, many cover cost of replacement after an accident) Shearing forces in an accident cause damage (visible and/or invisible) to the plastic used to make modern carseats.
  • you purchased it used: driving in a car is about the most dangerous thing you will do with your baby - you don't want to rely on the word of someone else that its been properly maintained and not in an accident it is best to buy new.
  • the car seat is past its expiration date: Find the manufacturers sticker (usually on the bottom of the seat) it will have the model #, serial # (important in recalls) and a date of manufacture OR expiration date. If no expiration date is listed, car seats are considered "expired" 6 years after date of manufacture. Why?? Tiny microscopic fractures are present in the plastic due to stress, age and temperature. You will need to buy new!!
  • baby #1 hasn't outgrown it yet: Most babies outgrow the "bucket" style carseat at around 1 year of age. At that time, you will need to get them into a convertible carseat (one that can face rear or forwards). Baby #1 should remain rear facing until a MINIMUM of 20lbs and 1 year BUT new guidelines suggest until age 2! (As a ridiculous safety nut, with small babies, #1 was rear facing in his convertible seat until age 3 with NO problems-- he actually complained when we flipped him!)

Getting Started:

You will need:
  • fabric-- you can go all one color, 2 or even 3 and it will look great. Keep in mind the colors of the plastic of the seat itself-- finding fabric in complimentary colors will give you more professional results. I used 3: 2 main colors about 1 yard each and 1 accent piece in about 1/2 a yard.
  • batting-- choose something that has the same or similar weight as the original cover. (it can be helpful to take the seat/cover with you to the craft store)
  • bias tape-- this will give you finished, professional looking results. You will be want to have at least 3 yards of a coordinating color on hand.
  • seam ripper -- we will be starting by destroying your old cover so BEWARE!!
  • sewing machine -- not really worth it to do by hand. A serger would be VERY helpful but is by no means required. I did it without and got great results!!
For detailed sewing instructions, I recommend this product from an Etsy store. As a person who is somewhat experienced with sewing, I got a real boost of confidence having the step by step guide next to me. If you are more experienced with sewing, you can probably skip buying the pdf.

BEFORE YOU BEGIN: Make sure you don't have anywhere to drive with baby! Carseat will be unusable during project! Either do it when you'll have a day or 2 that you won't need to drive or have a back up seat at the ready!!  Taking a few photos of the seat cover while still assembled couldn't hurt either, giving you something to refer back to.

Basic Instructions:

  • Remove car seat cover from car seat! TAKE A DEEP BREATH and very carefully, using your seam ripper, cut the stitches between all of the individual components of your car seat cover. You may want to begin with the edging and go from there. LABEL each piece as you remove it (upper left, center top, etc AND which direction is up) as this will facilitate reassembly of the new cover.
  • Trace each piece onto your fabric AND batting and add 1/2" seam allowance on all sides. *tip: pin new pieces to labeled old ones to keep everything organized and straight!
  • Serge or zigzag stitch the wrong side of each new fabric piece to its corresponding batting.
  • Stitch together each newly created component-- taking care to get everything back into the proper order and orientation as the original. I suggest putting all the top (seat back) pieces together first, then the bottom (lower seat) pieces together, then attaching top unit to bottom unit. At this point, check the fit of your carseat cover, it should fit as the original did. If not, rip seams and resew as necessary.
  • Finish edges with bias tape in a coordinating color. If they aren't too stretched out, transfer elastic loops & hooks at attachment points to secure the cover. Replace cover on car seat!! Enjoy!

Coordinating Accessories!!

  • Extra fabric can be used to create accessories:
    • Sunshade/canopy: Use this basic technique to also redo the canopy cover on the car seat (omit batting) Remember: disassemble, trace, add seam allowances, cut, reassemble, sew and finish edges!
    • Nap Shade/ Nursing cover up: Hem 4 edges of large (about 1/2 yard) coordinating scrap fabric. Make ties by cutting fabric into long thin rectangles about 14" x 1". Sew wrong sides together on 3 sides. Using an unsharpened pencil, poke fabric through hole until its right side out. Press. Turn in unfinished side and sew. Attach to 2 corners.
    • Strap covers: Measure distance between seat back and chest clip position, make sure your covers are smaller than this. Measure & mark on fabric scrap 2 rectangles that are the length you measured and 3x the width of the seat strap. Sew rectangles together (wrong sides in). Finish edges with coordinating bias tape. Fold rectangle in thirds over seat strap. Mark with pins where velcro will be added to hold cover on. Stitch male velcro to one side and female to the other. See above project picture for final results.

Project Analysis (out of 4):

Cost: $$$$        Satisfaction: :):):):)         Quality: ***         Green factor: ^^

You can save yourself a good chunk of change by simply recovering your old carseat. This is by far one of the most satisfying baby projects I did-- I got rid of an old ratty cover and got something totally cute for around $20. I loved this new cover and so did everyone who saw it! It was nice to have something "new" just for #2 and it held up as well (or better) than the manufacturers original cover. And, it always makes me feel good to be able to do my part of: REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE.

Leave a comment below letting me know what you think about this project!!


  1. what type of fabric did you use?


    1. Sorry I missed your comment before! The monkey and stripe are quilting cottons. The brown is flannel. All are 100% cotton.

  2. Thank you for posting the great content…I was looking for something like this…I found it quiet interesting, hopefully you will keep posting such blogs….Keep sharing
    Baby car seat accessories