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On-The-Go Booster Seat in 2 Sizes and with a Carry Handle

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Booster chairs are becoming more familiar in restaurants, but are still not commonplace. And if you and your kids like to visit friends and family who don't have children at home, you're unlikely to have many options other than the classic phone book to boost your child to table height. But wait a minute... who still has a big phone book?!! It's time to make your own portable booster seat in cute, wipe-clean oilcloth or laminated cotton with a sturdy yet lightweight foam core.

We used two foam thicknesses for our samples: 5" and 3". Our choice was Project Foam by Fairfield, a resilient, affordable home décor foam option that is soft yet supportive and very easy to cut and shape. The available sizes are smartly designed to work well for a variety of projects. 

Because toddlers are known for the amazing messes they are capable of creating, we made our boosters with a removable cover. The top is a single layer of laminate/oilcloth, but the bottom has an envelope opening so you can remove the foam block if you need a more thorough cleaning.

We used two laminates for our booster seat samples to make surface clean-up fast and easy. If you're new to working with this substate, take a look at our tutorial for helpful tips and tricks: Successful Sewing With Laminated Cottons (And Other Sticky Stuff).

It may go without saying, but we'll say it anyway: these boosters are not for babies nor as a replacement for a child who still needs a highchair. Use them only for toddlers and young children capable of sitting and balancing on their own. 

We've made our samples with kids in mind, but these boosters would be great for anyone who needs a little extra height or cushioning on a hard, dining room chair. 

Our boosters finish at approximately 12" x 12" x 3" and 12" x 12" x 5".

Sewing Tools You Need

Fabric and Other Supplies

Supplies shown are for ONE 3" or ONE 5" booster seat.

  • ONE 24" x 36" 3" or 5" thick sturdy foam; we used Project Foam by Fairfield
  • ¾ yard of 45"+ oilcoth, laminated cotton or similar; we used laminates from our stash, but recommend the great selection of oilcloth at Fabric.com
    NOTE: The yardage above is enough, at a 45" width, to cut either the pieces for the 3" or the 5" booster. At the narrower width, the side strip has to be cut as two pieces. If you have a laminate that is 52"+ you can cut the strip as one continuous length, and so could get away with a bit less yardage. Check the cuts below to make your final determination based on your chosen fabric. We very carefully fussy cut and pattern-matched all our pieces. If you wish to go this same route with specific fussy cutting, we would recommend a full yard. 
  • TWO packages of coordinating piping; we used Wrights Maxi Piping in soft pink and teal
  • Scrap or ⅛ yard of lightweight fusible interfacing; we used Heat 'n' Bond Lite
  • All purpose thread to match fabric
  • See-through ruler
  • Measuring tape
  • Fabric pen or pencil
  • Seam gauge
  • Seam ripper
  • Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Straight pins or clips (better for working with laminates); we used Clover Wonder Clips
  • Pressing cloth
  • Electric knife or bread knife for cutting foam

Getting Started

  1. FOR THE 5" DEEP BOOSTER -- From the laminate, carefully fussy cut the following:
    ONE 13" x 13" square for the top 
    ONE 13" high x 9½" wide rectangle for the back overlap
    ONE 13" high x 10½" wide rectangle for back underlap
    ONE 6" high x 49" long strip for the side - if your fabric width is narrower than 49", CUT TWO strips 6" x 25".
    ONE 6" high x 4½" wide rectangle for the carry handle
  2. FOR THE 3" DEEP BOOSTER -- From the laminate, carefully fussy cut the following:
    ONE 13" x 13" square for the top 
    ONE 13" high x 9½" wide rectangle for the back overlap
    ONE 13" high x 10½" wide rectangle for back underlap
    ONE 4" high x 49" long strip for the side - if your fabric width is narrower than 49", CUT TWO strips 4" x 25".
    ONE 4" high x 4½" wide rectangle for the carry handle
    NOTE: Keep track of the direction of the fabric's motif and center your design top to bottom within the side strip(s). Take the time to cut the two back panels so when overlapped, the pattern matches. We also cut our carry handle strip to best match the back seam area of the side strip. Remember, if you are new to fussy cutting, we have a good, getting-started tutorial
    ANOTHER NOTE: Printed designs are not always 100% straight. We found this to be true with our cherries laminate, as you can see in the photo below. When this happens, you must find the the straightest point of the motif or cut the strips in sections and piece them back together to get a nice, even side loop. This is why we always recommend getting ¼ to ½ yard extra when precise fussy cutting and pattern matching is involved.
  3. From the interfacing, cut ONE 2" x 6" strip (for the 5" seat) or ONE 2" x 4" strip (for the 3" seat). 
  4. On the foam, draw a 12½" x 12½" square with rounded corners. Draw the square first with your ruler. A coffee mug or similar works well to round each corner.  
  5. Using an electric knife or a bread knife with tight serrations, cut out the block. We cut the general shape first ...
  6. ... then used our scissors to clean up the corners, carving it into a shape to fit. 

    NOTE: Because the foam is squishy and the laminate is stretchy, we found cutting the block of foam just slightly larger than the finished size allowed for the best fit. You don't want the cover to be baggy, but you do want to be able to get the foam in and out should you need to aggressively clean the cover. The sizing listed above is our recommendation after testing, however, you could always cut at a full inch larger than your finished size, then trim down the block if needed as you test inserting it in and out of the cover.

At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board

Booster envelope back

  1. Find the two back rectangles. 
  2. On the overlap panel (13" x 9½"), along the inside 13" edge, make a 3" double-fold hem. To do this. Fold back the raw edge ¼" and clip.
  3. Then fold back an additional 2¾" and clip again. 
  4. Stitch in place, running your seam ¼" from the inside folded edge. We used our Janome Ultra Glide foot.
  5. On the underlap (13" x 10½") simply fold back the inside 13" edge ½". This side is completely hidden and laminate does not ravel, so a simple fold-back is fine. Topstitch in place, staying close to the folded edge.

Round the corners 

  1. Find the 13" x 13" top panel. Place it right side up and flat on your work surface. 
  2. Place the two hemmed panels, also right side up, over the top panel. Overlap the two back panels (remember the panel with the wider hem goes on top) until they measure 13" in width as well as height and the motifs match. The layers should now be flush on all four sides. 
  3. Clip the layers together.

    NOTE: If you are new to working with multiple layers, before rounding, you may want to make a small seam just across the overlap at the very top and very bottom of the overlapped back panels (you are not stitching through the top panel; this is just to anchor the two back panels). Stitch as close to the raw edges as possible. These short seams simply anchor the two pieces together, allowing you to work with the back as one piece rather than two through the rest of the project.
  4. As you did above for the foam block, use a mug or similar to draw in the curve of each corner.
  5. Cut along the drawn lines through both layers.

Piping

  1. Un-clip the top and bottom layers and find the two packages of piping. 
    NOTE: We used two packages to insure we could easily work with one, continuous length of piping around each panel. 
  2. Place the bottom overlapped panels right side up and flat on your work surface. Starting at the center of the top overlap (this will become the back of the booster seat), place a length of piping around all four sides of the panel, clipping in place as you go. We used our Wonder Clips. Leave about 1" free at the head and the tail of the piping.
  3. The raw edges of the piping should be aligned with the raw edge of the fabric.  

    NOTE: We did not find it necessary for this project, but you can snip into the piping at the corner to allow a smoother curve. Just cut into the raw edges; do not cut through the seam line into the piping itself.
  4. Attach a Zipper foot.
  5. Machine baste the piping in place all around, removing the clips as you go.
  6. We simply overlapped our piping at the start/end points. This worked well because the laminate is soft and flexible. If you'd prefer a more traditional cut-and-butt finish, check out our step-by-step Piping Tutorial for full details on joining and finishing options. 
  7. Repeat to clip and then baste piping around the top panel. 

Carry handle

  1. Find the small handle piece and interfacing strip 
  2. Center the interfacing vertically on the wrong side of the fabric. Following manufacturer's instructions, and using a pressing cloth, fuse in place.
  3. Fold in both long sides so they just overlap in the middle. Clip in place. 
  4. Attach a regular presser foot or the Ultra Glide foot.
  5. Topstitch down the center of the handle to secure the lapped edges. Set the handle aside. 

Side loop

  1. Find the length(s) for the side loop. If you cut two 25" lengths, stitch them together end to end, using a ½" seam allowance and carefully matching your motif. 
  2. Once you have one continuous 49" length (either one strip as cut from a wide-width fabric or the seamed length), again use a ½" seam allowance to stitch the short raw ends together, forming a loop. 
  3. Find the handle. Center it over what will be back of the booster: the side loop seam. Clip the handle right side up against the right side of the loop. The beauty shots of our samples above do a good job of showing how the handle is positioned and secured into the top and bottom seams.

Insert top and bottom

  1. Fold the top square in half both directions to find the center of each side. Clip a small notch to mark each of these four center points. Repeat to find matching center points on the bottom overlapped square.
     
  2. Repeat to find matching center points along the top and bottom edges of the side loop as well. The main back seam (where the handle is clipped in place) is one point; use it as a guide to find the other three.

  3. Turn the side loop wrong side out. Set the top piped square into the loop so the two are right sides together. It's a bit like setting a lid upside down into a box.
  4. Using all those handy notches you made, match the side ring to the top square. Start in the middle and work your way around. You are working right sides together, aligning the raw edges, matching the notches, and sandwiching the piping between the layers. Snip into the corners if needed to allow a bit of ease to create a smoother curve. Clip generously as you go. 
  5. Attach a Zipper foot.
  6. Sew around the entire edge with an approximate ½" seam allowance. You are stitching as close to the piping cord as possible. It can help to follow along in the machine basting line that secured the piping. 
  7. Repeat to set and stitch the bottom overlapped panel in place. 
    NOTE: If you are new to this type of construction, take a look at our tutorial on how to insert a flat circle into a tube. In this case, your "circle" is more of an oval/rounded square and your "tube" is just very short.
  8. Insert the foam block into place through the back envelope opening. It's a tight fit, as it should be, but the foam is also squishy. You can easily work it through the the opening and then fluff it out into the corners of the cover.

Contributors

Project Design: Alicia Thommas 
Sample Creation and Instructional Outline: Leah Wand

Section: 

Comments (2)

Belinda B said:
Belinda B's picture

I really liked the idea of a booster seat but when I checked out the thick foam it was quite expensive. I will have to see if I can find a less expensive way to make the the booster.

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ Belinda - Glad you are loving the project. The foam we specified is great quality and the blocks are usually large enough to create more than one seat.