Thursday, May 27, 2010

DIY Shopping Cart/High Chair Cover

For an upcoming trip (that I'll blog about later), I panicked during the packing stage and decided I "needed" a shopping cart/high chair cover for Emeline. I had seen another parent use one in a restaurant but when I found them in stores, they seemed a little pricey. I simply can't plunk down my money when I think I can make the same thing myself for half the price. However, after I began the project, I second-guessed myself--chided myself--for giving in to the forces that target parents with a vengeance, urging them to buy this and that for their child. It's for their development! It's for their safety! If you are a good parent, you would have one of these! 
Can I get an Amen?

I had already purchased the fabric, elastic, and bias tape so I decided to forge ahead anyway. I used the finished cover early last week and after Emeline--still in the throes of a cold--sneezed on it a few times I was happy I went to all the trouble. Previous chagrin quickly evaporated; just think of the people I saved from an unwanted cold with my cute new shopping cart cover! I mentally patted myself on the back.

I'm learning this is how it is with parenting. Chide. Congratulate. Berate. Console.

But on to the Cover. Here's how I did it:

I cobbled together the instructions from my own ideas and a few ideas I found online--basically I found the dimensions online, which I would change if I had to do it all over again.

Here's what you need:
1 1/4 quilted fabric
approximately 4 yards 7/8" double fold bias tape in contrasting color
approximately 2 yards 1/2" double fold bias tape in same contrasting color
2 yards 1/2" elastic
thread to match the bias tape
dinner plate
fabric marker

Lay out a yard and a quarter of quilted fabric and trim the salvage off the two ends. 
Once you have trimmed the salvage, remeasure the width of the fabric. My new width was 44", so I cut the length to match it. Ultimately, you need one big square of fabric. Mine was approximately 44" wide and tall, but don't worry if yours is an inch or two wider or more narrow; there's some "give" in this project.

Next I rounded off the edges using a dinner plate, fabric marker and scissors.

This is what your square of fabric with rounded edges should look like:

It's also helpful to have your own cheering section while you work. Just like Oprah. And Ellen.

Next, you need to cut out your leg holes. I made a mistake here. Mistake often happen in DIY projects. No worries. Live and learn. Move on. Adjust. Adapt. I guarantee no one will notice with the finished project. No one except that mean old biddy in your head. But don't listen to her. She's crazy. And a little bitter.
As you can see in my first cut to the left, I forgot to round the edges. The second time around I got it right. Don't forgot to round your edges--it'll make a later step much, much easier!

Now on to where to cut your leg holes. As you can see from the photo below, I cut the holes 12" up from the edge of the fabric. Out in the real world, I have found that placing them 14 to 15" up from the edge would have worked better. I am gladly passing this gem along to you, dear reader.

As for centering your leg holes, here are some guidelines for 44" fabric: measure 16" over from the left edge. Mark it with a fabric marker. This is where the first leg hole begins and it needs to be 5" wide. At 21", make another hash mark--this is where the first leg hole ends. There needs to be a 1.5" gap between the leg holes, so at 22.5" the second leg hole begins. Again, measure over 5", so that at 27.5", the second leg hole ends. From the edge of the second hole, you should have about 16" of fabric.

Are you still following me? Here's a picture to help:

If your fabric is an inch or two wider than 44", then add a 1/2" or 1" respectively to the left and right edges. Ultimately, you want these two leg holes centered left to right.

Now it's time to pin on your bias tape. Use double fold bias tape that is 7/8" wide. The bias tape needs to be about an inch wide so that after you stitch it onto your quilted fabric (finishing off the raw edge), there is still enough room to thread elastic through the tunnel you created with the bias tape.

Helpful Hint: The careful observer will notice one side of the bias tape is the teeniest bit wider than the other. Pin the wider side to the underside of the cart cover so that when you begin to sew on the top side of the fabric, carefully stitching down the biased tape, you'll know beyond a shadow of a doubt that your stitches are picking up the bias tape on the underside of the fabric as well. (But it always pays to take a break, flip over the sewn fabric and make sure both sides of the bias tape are sewn down.)

When pinning, don't hesitate to use lots of pins; corners can be tricky.
Now line up your foot and sew!

When professionals use bias tape, they machine sew one side down and then hand stitch the remaining side. Since we are not professionals here, we don't follow their stringent rules. We cut corners and save time by machine sewing both sides at the same time. The only drawback to acting unprofessional is this:
A crazy little pucker. I think this is a very small price to pay for saving about an hour or time, or more! Especially when you consider you'll be threading elastic between the stitch and the edge of the tape. By the time the outside edge is cinched up, you won't even be able to see this pucker.

Speaking of elastic, be sure to leave an opening when sewing on your bias tape so that you have a place to begin threading your elastic through the outside edge of the cart cover:

Now it's time to finish the raw edge around the leg openings. Pin and sew the bias tape around the leg holes just as you did around the outer edge of your cart cover. Remember to pin the widest side of the bias tape onto the underside of the cart cover. This time use double fold bias tape that is 1/2" wide.

Using smaller bias tape and lining the inside of a circle is tricky. This part of the project doesn't look perfect, but it finishes the raw edge and when the shopping cart cover is in use, I'll be the only one who notices--and that's only if I look really hard.

With the biased tape sewn on, now it's time to thread your 1/2" elastic through the outside of the cart cover. To make this step easier, pin a large safety pin to the end of the elastic. This will give you something to grip as you move the elastic around the perimeter of the cart cover.

The perimeter of the cart cover is approximately 4 yards long. You'll only need 2 yards of 1/2" elastic for the correct tension.

Once you've threaded the elastic through the biased tape, sew the edges of the elastic together.

Now it's time to sew up the last few inches of bias tape on the outer edge of the cart cover (remember, we left this undone so that we could thread the elastic through the outer edge). Fold the ends of the tape under twice to conceal the raw edge, pin, and sew it closed by sewing the bias tape onto the rest of the cart cover.

I added button holes on the back of the cart cover to string the shopping cart seat belts through the cart cover. The button holes need to be approximately 2" long to accommodate most seat belts. Line up each button hole near the center of each leg hole and place them 10" from the back edge of the cart cover (the edge farthest away from the leg holes).

Finally, I used the extra 1/2" bias tape I had on hand and added two little loops to the front of the cart so that I could attach toys. (For placement, line up the loops on the outside edge of the leg holes and 1-3" down from the front edge of the cart cover.) Not only do the toys allow for a few more minutes of peaceful shopping, but also they give Eme something to hold on to so she doesn't topple over when I whip the cart around corners. This may or may not have happened once or twice. 
All in all, I think she loves it:

Was it worth it? I'll just say it was worth learning some new tricks and being able to say that I made it myself. This blog post made it sound long and arduous. It really wasn't! Otherwise, I wouldn't have tackled it.

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