Monday, March 7, 2016

Back Seat Saver - Keep Your Car Seat Clean - Life Hack

Today we're making an easy upholstery cover to save the back seat of your car.  Seriously everyone with young kids (or grandma's of young kids) needs one of these.  And a big thanks to Shannon Fabrics for sending me the Cuddle Fabric, and Fairfield World for sending the Shield Water-resistent liner and support foam and compensating me for this post, so I could make my single-mom-sister this cover to save her car from her adorable kiddos.  All ideas and opinions are 100% my own.

We all know what happens to kids the upholstery in the car over time.  Those cheerios and cheez-it's combine with spilled water, juice, or milk shakes to form an impenetrable cement.  Not to mention all the crumbs, half-eaten crackers, and other debris that falls between the seat cushions.

My sister is a single mom who spends a lot of the time in the car doing school and daycare drop-offs and pick-ups and weekend outings.  It's inevitable that the kids eat snacks in the car, so she needed something to save her seats.

Her kids all have some sensory issues, so with the oldest about to graduate to sitting directly on the seat, and the middle child ALWAYS wearing shorts, something soft and comfy was a must, And since the oldest's favorite color is "polka dot" ( her that's a color) the Bubble Dot Cuddle in Hot Pink and Teal was perfect.

You can see the related tutorial for the Seat Belt Comfort Sleeves here.


Other Supplies:

  • Lots of Pins (preferably extra long)
  • Rotary Cutter and Mat
  • Sharp scissors
  • Sewing machine

Time: 1-2 Hours without binding or 2-3 hours with binding.

Skill Level: Beginner-Intermediate.  Beginners might want to make the version without the binding.

Start by thoroughly cleaning your seat from all previous debris.

Then measure the seat you wish to cover.  We chose to measure it directly onto our support soft foam stabilizer with a sharpie.  Mark the curve of the seat as well as where each seatbelt and buckle come out.  Our seat was almost exactly the width of the support foam.

Go inside and cut along your marking lines for the curves of the seat.

If you want your cover to go over the back seat a few inches to stop crumbs and spills from sliding between the seats, you'll need to cut another piece of foam the 6" wide, the length of the seat.  (We opted not to have it go more than 6" up because we figured if was behind the kids' backs there would be much more stress on the cover and it might get bunched up lower.) We transferred our buckle and seatbelt markings to our 6" strip.  We wanted the holes for those to come from the raised part of the cover to minimize spills or crumbs that can fall through.

You will need to cut your cuddle fabric in half, leaving the 60" width of the fabric complete.  (So you're cutting it in half by cutting across from selvage to selvage.  For us that meant we had two pieces approximately 3/4 yard long with a whole 60" width of fabric.

Layer your fabrics and interfacings.  Start with one piece of cuddle FACE DOWN, followed by the support soft foam stabilizer, followed by the Shield Moisture Barrier, and finally followed by your other piece of cuddle FACE UP.

I found it helpful to use a slight amount of basting spray to keep the layers from sliding.  (Be sure to protect you workspace from overspray.)

This picture my look like I'm cutting with appalling scissors safety...but I'm actually using one hand to feel through the layers for the edge of the foam while I cut with the other hand.  I found this more effective than marking since Cuddle is so plush.
Cut out the places that you marked for your buckles and seatbelts.  We found that slits worked well for the buckles to pop through, but we had to cut a vertical slit for the shoulder strap-seat belt for the middle seat.  We didn't want that to be a weak spot for crumbs to get through though, so we'll add snaps later.  We cut all of our slits about 1/2 in up on the part of our cover that goes against the back of the seat.  That still gave us a 1/2 lip for catching crumbs and spills.  Since it's difficult to see through cuddle, you may need to peak under to see your marked lines.

Without moving your work, pin thoroughly.  We found that about every 2 inches was effective.

Set your sewing machine to a very wide zigzag stitch and sew around all raw edges (meaning around the whole cover and around the openings we cut for the belt and buckles.

Once you've sewn around the edge, you'll want to add some quilting lines to keep all the layers together and snug.  It's difficult to tell in the picture because the cuddle hides the threads so well, but I sewed three horizontal quilting lines the width of the seat about 6 inches apart.  One of them is sewn right where the seat bottom and the back of the seat meet.

This will keep all of the layers securely together to make sewing our binding easier.  You can also skip the binding if you want and just leave the edges as is, but we liked the look that a coordinating binding gives and it gives some added durability.

Now we're going to add the binding.  I'm providing some quick directions for the binding, but you can go here for Shannon Fabrics Cuddle Binding Tips for more thorough directions.

To make your binding, cut 3 -  2" wide width-of-fabric strips of Cuddle 3.  (Cuddle comes 60" wide, so if you're using another kind of fabric that's only 45 inches, you may need additional strips.)  Sew two of the pieces together end-to-end to make a long strip.  Sew the strips to the curved side of your cover as well as any seat belt slits with a 3/8 seam allowance.

Turn project to the other side, fold the raw edge of the binding under 1/2  and pin in place.

From the front of your project, "stitch-in-the-ditch" to catch the binding on the back.

When you sew the binding onto the straight back of your seat cover, be sure to add ribbon or straps to help secure the seat cover and keep it from slipping around.
We sewed a ribbon at each end as well as at the place where the back seat splits, so the ribbons could clip between the seat back to tie to the loops that most cars have for the LATCH system.  The length of the ribbons/straps that you'll need may vary depending on the size of your car.  We left our ribbons really long because we figured we could trim them later.

Sew snaps top of seat belt opening, so that you can snap the cover closed behind the seat belt.

See the tutorial for the related Seat belt Sleeves here.

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  1. I totally need one of these! What a brilliant idea. My backseat is always a disaster courtesy of my kiddos. Love those kids, but they sure make a mess. Thanks for sharing the how to.

  2. Replies
    1. Thanks so much for your interest. I'm afraid that I'm not able to sell these, due in part to the need to have the car available for making measurements and ensuring a custom fit. Your best bet may be to find a seamstress local to you who could sew one for you and share my tutorial with him/her so they could make one.

    2. where are you located what city and state? i am in Iowa

    3. Thx for sharing! I am a seamstress and love new ideas like this!

      all the family is getting them for christmas for the carr, trucks, SUV's...

      love it

  3. I haven't used the water resistant lining before. Is this machine washable when it's all done?

    1. Yes, the waterproof lining (called Shield) from Fairfield World is completely washable.

  4. Do you have a tutorial on how to do this for a captain seat that a car seat sits on?

    1. Sorry, I'm not familiar with that kind of seat.

    2. I believe Tanner is refering to a single seat like maybe what would be found in a van where you can walk between the two middle seats.

  5. Did you find the Shield and foam at a chain store or quilt shop or?

    1. I got mine direct from Fairfield World, but I've seen it at Joanns.

    2. most wal-marts and fabric stores in your local area should have both of the items she is using they might be called by another name.

  6. Thx for sharing! I am a seamstress and love new ideas like this!

  7. Is there anything else you can use instead of the soft foam stabilizer

    1. It would also work with only the waterproof liner in it.

  8. Do you have a video for the binding?

  9. Great idea! I'm going to make one of these for more safely and cleanly transporting my 88 year old parents who have some incontinence issues. Thanks for posting this!

  10. If this is only for the car seats to sit on top of why use expensive cuddle fabric? Why not just a cotton fabric? Wouldn't cotton work okay?
    I'm thinking about making it for my doggies to ride on and think they would enjoy the cuddle fabric.....

    1. Two of my sisters kids have sensory issues and are in small booster seats and their legs still brush against the seat cover frequently. Her son is wearing pants in the picture, but he wears shorts often even during cool weather, so the cuddle fabric is more comfortable for them. However, cotton fabric would work just fine as well.

  11. Can you please do a seat cover designed for dogs? My grand puppies make such a mess.

    1. I think this same cover would work well for dogs as well.

  12. Replies
    1. I'm sorry I don't. You really need to have access to the car itself to make it fit well.

  13. I was thinking for my dog as he sheds horribly but would want to cover the whole back seat back besides the sitting area. Would I just measure the seat back and adjoin the two near the sitting area? Hope that makes sense.


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