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My son is 6 months old, and is finally getting to the point where he can sit up on his own in a shopping cart. As much as I want him to slow down on the growing up I am SO thankful that I don’t have to cart the stroller everywhere I go now. The world is just not ‘stroller friendly’ and I can’t imagine how people who are confined to wheel chairs do it. I can’t tell you how many doors I have struggled to open or how many aisles I have tried unsuccessfully to roll down with that big clunky stroller while doing my best to lug all of my items in a small tote bag and avoid other irritated shoppers. Moving to a shopping cart means freedom! It also means a lot of germs.

I’m not one of those moms that freaks out about my kid getting dirty, and in six months he has never once been sick, probably because I’m not a stickler about keeping him from touching anything and everything that hasn’t been sanitized, but shopping cart seats and handles are as close to a public toilet seat as I can imagine in terms of nastiness. Spend one day walking around Wal-mart watching what people do before they put their hands back on their cart and you’ll agree with me.

Some brilliant mother out there invented shopping cart covers a while ago and thank goodness, but they’re ridiculously expensive and I’m cheap. (Yep, I said it, I’m cheap.) Not to mention that they come in pretty boring colors. Etsy has some cart covers available in fabulous fabrics, but the prices are even more pucker worthy.

Admittedly, I have a degree in Family and Consumer Sciences Education (Home Ec. Teacher, people), but my sewing experience is limited to teaching a class full of eighth graders how to make a gym bag and even that I haven’t done in over five years. Somehow I got it in my head that making my own shopping cart cover couldn’t possibly be that difficult and I made it my mission to dust off the old sewing machine and try my hand at it.

HA.

It’s honestly not -that- hard, but it is tedious and I have the patience of a five year old. All things considered it came out well and I’m proud of it but there are definitely things that I would do differently if I were to make another one. Because I could only find ONE basic idea of how to make one on the internet I decided to create this blog post – hope it helps! (I’m going with the mindset that whoever is attempting this can operate a sewing machine but doesn’t have much more experience, obviously if you’re more experienced you can ignore some of my warnings and forge ahead.) Beware that I am one of those people who doesn’t have the patience to pin and iron all of my folds and seams before I move forward, I have a need to just get things done. If you want to be perfect, take your time and do it right.

*This is the way that I did it, that doesn’t mean it’s the right way, it’s just one option, do whatever you feel comfortable doing and see what happens. You can always take stitches out!*

Supplies

  • Fabric (I suggest using fleece as one of them unless you have a different plan for closing the leg holes after you read this, the other one can be something different or you can make the whole thing out of fleece). I would say 3 yards total just to be safe, but that depends on how big you want to make it and how good you are with a sewing machine.
  • Batting – I use sheet Poly-fill batting, it comes in a huge roll and I can cut whatever size/shape I want. You can use cherry pits if that’s what you feel like using, doesn’t matter.
  • Thread – something compatible with your machine that matches your fabric, or contrasts, whatever look you’re going for.
  • Elastic – I had a 5yd roll of round elastic. I used probably 3.5 yds of it all told but yours might be different, it’s better to have it and not need it than the other way around. You can use round or flat, any width, whatever appeals to you.
  • Marking pen/chalk
  • Scissors
  • Ruler or measuring device of some type
  • A safety pin/bodkin/leader for the elastic
  • Sewing Machine (or you can do it by hand, sure, but it’ll take forever)
  • Laundry Basket (optional)
  • A nice big glass of wine!

– Plan to use large sections of fabric. I made mine out of remnants which only complicated things because I had to stitch bits together that wouldn’t ordinarily have needed it. I used a laundry basket as a basic template. with the idea that I’d make it rectangular and roughly 40” by 38” or so, mine ended up considerably smaller just based on the fabric that I had, and I have concerns that it won’t actually fit on a shopping cart. We’ll see. If it doesn’t I’ll add a skirt to lengthen it and rework the elastic, no big deal.

– I chose a cotton flannel and a coordinating polar fleece. Both are soft and washable, and the polar fleece doesn’t need to be ‘finished’ on the edges which will come in handy later. I also used a poly-fill sheet batting (you can use stuffing but it will be lumpy), some ribbon (for toy tabs), and some elastic (I started with 5 yards of round elastic but didn’t use all of it).

– WASH AND DRY YOUR FABRICS BEFORE YOU USE THEM. Otherwise things will fade/shrink/and stretch differently when you do wash it and make your finished product all wonky.

– Go for the pillow case approach. Two identical pieces that you stitch together on all four sides (yep, four) with the part you want showing facing the inside. You want to be looking at the ‘back side’ of your fabric. I tried the tube approach and it left messy seams. The shape and the seams are pretty fluid concepts, remember you’re going to run elastic around the outside so no one is ever actually going to see it stretched out and laid flat. Large and rectangular is all that really matters. If you want to be scientific about it you can always measure a shopping cart at your local store.

– Create a channel for the elastic. You should still be one the wrong side of the fabric. You’re going to need several yards of elastic, no, I don’t know how many, it will depend on how big your cover ends up being. I used round elastic but you can use flat or whatever you have. However wide your elastic is, your channel needs to be wider. Basically, you’re going to stitch all the way around your rectangle again about one inch in from the seam you already created, leaving a gap in one corner so you can run your elastic through. I would not suggest stitching your elastic to the project because you’ll get pulling and bunching before you’re finished, fabric is much easier to work with when you can lay it flat. Trust me on this next part. Snip a small hole in the seam in the corner directly opposite of the gap you left in the channel. Using that nice neat little hole, thread your elastic through. Take the time to do it, before you go any further. They sell something called a ‘bodkin’ at the fabric store that grabs onto the end of your elastic and allows you to thread it through the channel you’ve created, but IMO they’re too long to make the corners. Instead I used a safety pin and pinned it through the end of the elastic, then I ran a piece of tape around the pin to keep it from popping open. It does take a few minutes to fish the elastic all the way through but do it anyway. DO NOT PULL IT TIGHT. Leave both ends hanging out of the same corner. I would suggest safety pinning them to the fabric so they don’t pull through. It’s okay to leave some excess hanging out at this point.

– Now you need to cut your leg holes. Scary, right? I made mine 4” x 4” and approximately 2” apart in the middle. I set them towards the front of the shopping cart cover, keeping in mind that they would be against the front of the cart, not the seat. The bottom of the holes on mine start at about 12” in from the part that will go over the front of the cart. Center them (left to right). You can make one long rectangle instead of two leg holes if you prefer, but that means they’ll touch the cart against their legs. I laid my fabric out flat, used a ruler and marking pen to outline my holes, and then cut through one layer at a time.

– Turn your project right side out through one of the leg holes, making sure your elastic is still pinned in place. You should now be able to access your elastic through the gap you left in the channel you sewed. Fish the ends through. You can leave the tiny hole you threaded the elastic through in the first place, it won’t show, or you can pull it back through the leg hole and stitch it shut if you can’t leave it open. (Presumably, I did mine a little differently and with a great deal of colorful language while I used my seam ripper so I’m having trouble visualizing this method in my head but I -think- it works out right.)

– If you want to add toy loops, this is when I would do it, just cut a piece of ribbon, fold the ends under, and create your loop a short distance above the leg holes. Position your fabric so that you can stitch through only one layer and sew as many as you want. I used a zigzag stitch and mine is a little messy because I didn’t take my time. I didn’t add any pockets to my project, that’s something I would have done before stitching the two layers together and if you already know where your leg holes are going to be you can do your toy loops at the beginning too.

– Lay the cover out flat on your batting and trace the size you need. I used two layers of batting for the whole cover and then placed a third partial layer of batting across the front of my cart cover where my son has the potential to bang his head. Batting comes in different weights so use whatever you feel comfortable with. I cut out my three pieces of batting, stacked them on top of each other and then rolled them up like a sleeping bag. Then, I stuffed my batting in through the leg hole and laid it out flat inside my project.

– I used a basting stitch in each of the four corners to hold my batting in place. A basting stitch is basically an unanchored stitch that you are going to remove later, and I do mine by hand because they tend to be one or two loops through the fabric and are much looser than if you do them with a machine. Machine stitches can be hard to remove so keep that in mind. You don’t have to baste, I just didn’t want my batting shifting while I was working on the rest of it. Making sure that I was a couple of inches inside the project so that I wouldn’t obstruct the elastic channel, I used the machine to throw in a few stitches near each corner to permanently hold the batting in place. It may not be a problem right now but once you start washing the shopping cart cover it will help keep things from getting lumpy. Then I removed my basting stitches. Easy Peasy.

– The leg holes gave me some trouble. I wasn’t sure how I wanted to finish them or what I wanted to do with them. I considered ribbon but I wanted it to be soft. I ended up cutting wide strips of polar fleece (here’s where the part about not having to finish the edges of polar fleece comes into play) to line the leg holes. I stitched the leg holes shut with a zig-zag stitch, cut the excess batting from the middle, and then wrapped each one in a band of polar fleece. Fleece is stretchy, so I was able to sew a constant curve as opposed to trying to fill in a square and I overlapped one end over the other all with a zig zag stitch. As you can probably tell in the pictures, I did not take the time to match up the front side of my fleece loop with the back side and as a result had some double stitching. If you take your time and pin things first you’ll have a much cleaner look.

– Now all you need to do is tighten up your elastic! Tug it through the channels until it scrunches everything up and tie it off with several knots. I measured mine using a laundry basket. I tucked mine back in and sewed fleece ‘caps’ on all of the corners to hide the elastic that was showing from the one spot and to make the corners easy to find when I’m trying to put the shopping cart cover on in the store. You could easily hand stitch the one open corner shut and stuff it down inside and no one would ever notice.  To make the caps, I used a coaster to mark two circles of fleece, cut them out, folded them in half and stitched down the middle twice leaving enough room in between the two lines to cut them in half again which left me with two cones from each circle (four cones, four corners, you get the idea). I fitted each cone over a corner and zig zag stitched them into place but I DID NOT STITCH ALL THE WAY ACROSS. Why? Because I didn’t want to inhibit the elastic sliding through the channel to keep things gathered. I am so glad that I found a textural way to delineate the corners from the rest of the cover, now it’s easy to grab them and pop them into place instead of shifting the cover around one handed while holding a baby in the other and trying to figure out how it fits. If you attempt the cones you’ll see what I mean about it being much harder to sew with the elastic already pulling your project together.

Voila, you have a shopping cart cover!

I’ve included a few pictures of mine. The polka-dot fabric is flannel and the mustard yellow fabric is fleece. I had scraps of both, so to make my two original halves of fabric I had to sew the fleece and the polka-dots together which is how my ‘seat’ is a different color. It’s not hard, it just takes more time and involves more sewing.

GOOD LUCK! Have a little faith in yourself, I promise it can be done. I’ll try to answer questions to the best of my ability. I wish I had taken pictures of all of the steps – if I ever attempt another one I promise I will!

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I bought fabric on sale and used a 40% off coupon for notions. All told I spent about $8 on my custom shopping cart cover and love it!

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