If you have an old car seat you can't stand the looks of, sort of like this one:
... and you dearly want a different cover but oh, if you buy them, they are so expensive! Especially the original covers from the maker (if your model isn't so outdated that they stopped making covers years ago), and the ones you can find on Ebay are mostly, well, not exactly your style? The only answer is to make one yourself.
So I googled for patterns for my car seat and I meant "sewing patterns" but somehow Google thought I want different "fabric patterns". I narrowed my search and still didn't come up with anything. I'm sure you can buy sewing patterns for just about every car seat out there but, well, mine is old and I didn't feel like buying anything, either. The few tutorials I found didn't help me, either. Mostly, the suggestion was to take an old cover, rip the seams, and use the resulting pieces to create your new pattern.
But the padding? And the elastic hem? And old those holes for buckles and snaps and whatnot? It just seemed overly complicated.
So this is what I did.
I took the old car seat cover and pinned fabrics of my choice to it, sticking to the seams of the original cover.
I started out by doing this on the ironing board but I quickly learned it's much easier to keep the cover on the seat. This way, you can smooth the fabric around the curves nicely.
You can also play around with the fabrics and see which combos you like. I ended up using part of the Wheels! fabric line by Riley Blake. (Only a day later it occurred to me that I really did want to use this for a quilt for Jacob. D'uh!)
Anyway, pin away, using lots of pins. You want to be sure that all spaces are covered (see that tiny little bit of white-dots-on-blue peeking out on the bottom? Yeah, I didn't either, until way later...)
Once you got everything pinned in place, add some additional pins right where the crucial holes are - you can feel them through the fabric, or eyeball it. It's not important that these pins are precisely placed, just that the fabric in this area is stuck to the cover so that it doesn't shift around when you pull the cover off the seat.
Which you will do now. Flip it around and use a fabric marker to mark each and every single slit and hole -- just trace the holes onto the new fabric.
I'm a multi-tracer, as you can see.
In the next step, I ironed the cover to press down the seams so that I have it easier reassembling the whole thing - because now, you need to take it apart again. That step is optional
Next, I put some interface on the fabric to strengthen it - car seats take a lot of abuse. I used a Vlieseline H200 - not too strong, not too limp. Around the slits and holes, I tripled up.
Sew the hole outlines with a button-hole stitch. I have to tell you that I suck at button-holes. The very last belt slit I made was the best one and that is the bottom one which will be covered up because Leah's already on the second hole. Oh, well. I could have sworn I made a photo of this but it seems I didn't. (I'm adding a close-up of the finished product instead.)
Rip the holes open and tidily snip away all stray pieces. It shouldn't be too bad because of the interfacing.
With a needle and thread, align the new and old holes and sew them together with an invisible stitch. This makes sure that your fabric won't shift around when you pin it up again and also that the old fabric won't show through those holes. You do not want to ever think about this old fabric again, right? So tuck it out of view.
The next step is easy: Reassemble your pieces onto the old cover (best done, again, with the cover on the seat). By the way, I let the extra fabric hang over on the hem and didn't cut that until the very end.
I also pinned the curvy (dotted, in my case) parts in first, with the fabric extending an inch or so into the other panels, and then pinned the center. Then I pinned the outer piece under the curvy one. You can change that according to taste, I'm sure. Use lots of pins - the more, the less everything shifts around when you sew it all up.
Now comes the fun part: sew along the seams with your machine, right through the old cover. Don't sweat it if you don't hit the exact seam ditches. Nobody can tell later. It's like quilting because you sandwich everything together. I also added some horizontal quilting seams through the center part to prevent shifting and tearing when a child sits in the seat.
Again, put the cover on the seat and now tuck the excess on the sides under the hem and pin. Sew one long seam with a seam allowance you are comfortable with - I used a quarter inch -- all around the car seat. Do make sure that all those little elastic fastening loops will still stick out at the end (I didn't and it didn't matter much because my cover stays in place with the elastic hem that hold the fabric under the rim of the seat.) Trim the excess with pinking shears. (If you are anal, cut after pinned and hold the hem under. That's the neater version.)
Use the seat belt covers as a model and make two tubes from a coordinating fabric. Dress up your car seat. Done!
Your new car seat will definitely fit (because it's the old cover, eh?), it's nicely padded, and you can be very pleased. Well, I was, anyway.
I would not say it's perfect but I'm loving it. It's so much better than the old cover!
And please excuse the dearth of photos from the last couple of steps - I did this early this morning after a night of vomiting kid and another case of early-up-kid. That's why this is only a tutorial of sorts. My brain is tired.