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Why You Need a Poncho with a Zipper

girl wearing floral poncho with hand slits and hood
Elaine Searer Car Seat Poncho with Two-Way Zipper

If you’re shopping for a car seat poncho or a wheelchair poncho for winter, you need a poncho with a zipper! I’m not exaggerating. You don’t just want a poncho with a zipper; you NEED a poncho with a zipper!

When you’re buying an item that you’re going to use every day, make sure you buy the style that will benefit you most.

Elaine Searer car seat ponchos and wheelchair ponchos are all made with your comfort and convenience in mind. That’s why a two-way zipper that opens from the top and bottom is a standard feature in every poncho I make.

Five Benefits of a Two-Way Zipper

Put on and take off the poncho with ease. A zip up poncho can be easily slipped on your child by keeping the zipper partway open. You will never have to worry about the neck opening of your poncho being too small since you can adjust the opening with the zipper. If your child is one of those kids who does not like having clothing tugged down over his head, a zipper front poncho is the very best choice for you and your child.

In the words of one of my customers,
“A zipper is a must have. My kid has a giant head (he’s 2 and we wear the same size hat) and if there wasn’t a zipper I’d be fighting him to get it over his head.”

Quickly buckle your child into the car seat. The two-way zipper on your Elaine Searer poncho will allow you to put your child into the car seat, unzip the poncho from the bottom, and quickly and easily fasten the car seat buckles. Your child will appreciate your not having to throw the poncho up over his face to have access to the car seat buckles.
A happy mom writes,
I ordered my poncho from you because of the features (2-way zipper, snaps to create sleeves, slits in the front,etc). The 2-way zipper makes it really user friendly for getting him strapped in and out quickly.”

Unzip from the bottom to quickly and easily buckle your child into his car seat.

Adjust your child’s level of warmth without having to remove the poncho. If your child tends to get warm in the car, you have options in a zip up poncho that you don’t get with a slip on poncho! You can adjust the poncho coverage in the car or stroller by partially unzipping the poncho from the top or bottom. This works well, too, if your child is wearing the poncho in a store. You can even totally unzip the poncho without having to completely take it off of your child.
One customer says,
“I love the 2 way zipper. My kids usually get too hot in the car so I zip the bottom (2nd) zipper up to open the poncho without taking it off. Then when it’s time to take them out of the car I just pull the zipper down. “

No more bad hair days! Being able to enlarge the opening in the poncho will allow you to put on the poncho and take it off without messing up your child’s hair. I know you don’t want to spend time fixing that hair bow just to have it pulled askew by an over-the-head poncho.

Another customer shared,
” The zipper is great! It is a selling point and one of the reasons I bought your poncho. I….unzip the poncho halfway all the time to get it over my daughter’s head without messing her hair up. “

little girl wearing happy kitties poncho
No worries about messing up your little girl’s hair with an Elaine Searer zip front poncho!

A zipper front poncho just looks great! I know, I know. This post is all about the benefits of a zipper, but I feel compelled to add that you will get compliments all the time on your zip up poncho! The two-way zipper lends a classic appearance to your poncho that you just can’t get from an over-the-head or snap-up design.

navy blue poncho with plaid lining
Zipper front provides a classic look.

These are just a few of the benefits of owning a zip front car seat poncho or wheelchair poncho. In addition to the two-way zipper, your Elaine Searer poncho will include other premium features like hand slits and wrist snaps that make the poncho easy to use for you and your child.

Order your custom zipper front poncho right now here in my shop. You can also browse my ready-to-ship ponchos in my Etsy shop.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on my ponchos with zippers. Please share a comment below or contact me directly with any questions.

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Toddler Dress from Man’s Shirt

mans shirt with toddler pattern for cutting
This colorful checked shirt will make a memory keepsake for a special little girl.

A Friend’s Request

A few weeks ago, one of my local Facebook friends contacted me about taking on a different kind of sewing project for her. She wanted me to sew a toddler dress from a man’s dress shirt. This particular friend and her husband are foster parents and will soon be adding another child to their family by adoption. They also recently lost a family member–the husband’s father passed away last fall. It was their desire to honor his father’s memory by having their new daughter wear a dress made from one of her grandpa’s dress shirts.

This is where I come in. In the words of my friend, I happen to be her “most expert sewing person”. She wanted me to make her daughter-to-be a simple jumper using a man’s dress shirt. I agreed to accept the commission. A toddler dress from a shirt was a totally different concept from the usual memory pillows that I make.

Choosing a Toddler Dress Pattern and a Man’s Dress Shirt

My friend was interested in a simple design and wasn’t set on any certain style. That was music to my ears! We quickly agreed on a Simplicity Easy-to-Sew pattern that I just happened to have in my stash of uncut patterns.

I was delighted when I saw the shirt that they chose for the jumper. The rainbow of colors and check/stripe design are perfect for a little girl’s dress. The pattern pieces for a size 1 dress fit easily on the XL man’s shirt. I used the front of the shirt for the front of the dress and opted to leave the shirt pocket intact as part of the design. The sleeves provided enough fabric to cut bias binding to use for the armhole facings.

The pattern was a relatively quick sew, though it did take me a little longer than I anticipated. Turns out that I’m a little rusty when it comes to making toddler dresses.

The Finished Memory Dress

toddler girls dress back view

I love the way this little toddler dress from a man’s dress shirt turned out! The only change I made to the pattern is the back closure. The pattern called for a button and an elastic loop. I’m not a fan of that type of closure since the elastic loops will often fray or break. Instead, I added a small tab and stabilized it with interfacing so that I could attach a plastic snap. This was the perfect opportunity for me to use one of my fancy snaps that I’ve gotten free with my snap orders from KAM snaps.

snap closure on back of toddler dress

Welcome to Your New Family, Baby Girl!

I applaud my friend and her family for making room in their lives and in their home for their newest foster daughter. She is most fortunate to be finding her forever family with this couple and their other children. I wish them nothing but the richest blessings and happiness!

I pray that having their new daughter come into their family dressed in one of her new grandpa’s shirts will help them to feel that he is there with them in spirit on this special day. May this little dress be a reminder to all of them of their missing loved one and the special place he holds in their hearts and in their family.

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Fleece Car Seat Ponchos Are Getting Bigger!

car seat poncho with hood

We’ve probably all had the misfortune of ordering a clothing item online only to find that when it arrives, it’s smaller than we expected it to be. This situation is especially frustrating when ordering for a child because children grow so quickly. An item that just fits today may be too small in three months! I’ve always been up front about the fact that my fleece car seat ponchos run small. I’ve spent a fair amount of time during my busy season urging customers to size up. But I’ve still had some customers who were disappointed in the size when their order arrived.

That is why, after selling my handmade fleece car seat ponchos for four years, I’ve decided to make a change in the sizing of my ponchos. This decision was not made on a whim, but is the result of careful consideration and concern for my customers.

The ponchos will be exactly the same design — a circular poncho with a two-way zipper and hand slits — made from premium anti-pill fleece. I will continue to offer ponchos with hoods and ponchos without hoods. The difference is that effective March 1, 2019, the ponchos will all be one size larger than before. This means that my car seat ponchos will now more closely correspond with typical children’s clothing sizes.

Last year’s size 8 will be this year’s size 6. Last year’s size 6 will be this year’s size 4T, and so on. Ponchos will still be available in five sizes, but this year, the sizes and front zipper measurements will be as follows:

3-6 months 12″
12 months 13.5″
2T 16″
4T 18″
6 20″

I’m certain that this change is going to be a positive one for my business and for my customers. I look forward to offering a generously sized car seat poncho in my Etsy shop beginning March 1, 2019.

What are your thoughts on this change to my car seat ponchos?

car seat poncho with arm holes
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Car Seat Ponchos Without Hoods

fleece poncho without hood

Help! My Kid Hates Hoods!

Last year, during the 2018 poncho selling season, I had a few customers contact me asking if I could make car seat ponchos without hoods. It seems that some kids don’t like hoods. Who knew?
Several moms who asked for ponchos without hoods said that their kids didn’t like the feel of the hood behind their heads while they were riding in their car seats. I agreed to consider adapting my poncho pattern after my busy season was over.

Let the design process begin.

Over the course of summer 2018, I made several attempts at a poncho without a hood. All of my prototypes lacked a neck finish that I would be happy to offer to my customers. I just couldn’t seem to get that neckband right!

I was determined to offer a poncho without a hood, but it had to look good. If I just removed the hood and finished the poncho with no neckband, the neck opening would be too large. I spent quite a lot of time contemplating how to make this work.

My light bulb moment

By August, I still hadn’t come up with a workable solution to my design problem. I had just one last option….I prayed. Yes, I’m a praying woman who believes firmly that it is God who has given me a talent for sewing and creating. I don’t know why it hadn’t occurred to me earlier in the summer to ask Him to help me with my dilemma. Not long after praying, I was lying in bed one morning, and a thought came to me about finishing the poncho neck edge with a method I had used before for finishing knit shirts. It worked!

fleece car seat poncho without hood

A successful product!

At the beginning of September 2018, I offered car seat ponchos without hoods. As an add-on purchase, I also offered the option of a detachable hood that snaps onto the neckband with six sets of plastic snaps.

During the last four months of 2018, my busiest time of year, I was surprised by the number of customers who chose ponchos without hoods. My ponchos with hoods still outsold the new hood-free ponchos, but not by a huge margin. Forty-two percent of the ponchos that I sold in those four months were ordered without hoods. I was pleasantly surprised by the success of this addition to my shop!

All of the feedback so far has been positive. Customers have appreciated the option to choose their fleece car seat poncho with or without a hood. I’ve even added hats to my shop, and they work beautifully with the hood-free ponchos.

The moral of the story

If you’ve got a need that a shop owner may be able to meet, don’t be afraid to reach out to a business owner. I’m very thankful that those customers made me aware of their need for a car seat poncho without a hood.

All of the improvements that I’ve made to my poncho design over the past few years have been made because of requests that I’ve received from past or potential customers.

If you’re not wearing a car seat poncho on your child instead of a bulky winter coat, you can head on over to my Etsy shop right now. I’ll be happy to work with you on a custom order.

Car seat poncho without hood
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Too Soon to Say Good-bye

Chad on his Harley motorcycle

Chad on his Harley motorcycleThese past six weeks have been difficult ones for my family.  On September 16th, my thirty-six year old nephew died from injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident, plunging our family into sadness like we’ve never known before.

Chad leaves behind his parents, a nine-year-old daughter, a six-year-old son, a sister, two nieces, and a lot of other family members and friends who will never stop missing him.  Our family has experienced loss before, but this time, it’s different.  And it’s different because Chad was what we all consider to be too young to die.  It was just too soon to say good-bye.

I know that life doesn’t come with guarantees, and young people die everyday.  Just the same, I fully expected Chad to be around at least another thirty-six years.  I wanted thirty-six more years of his goofy grins, his funny stories, his presence in our lives and at our family functions.
Chad with his mom and his kids

We all expected Chad to be here to enjoy hunting season with his father and his son, to take one more beach vacation with the whole family in tow, to teach his kids to drive, to help his sister choose his parents’ nursing home, and to walk his daughter down the aisle.  And so we grieve.  We grieve for missed opportunities.  We cry for all those things that might have been, but now will never be.

Our only comfort is in knowing that it is God in his sovereign wisdom who numbers our days. It is God who gave us thirty-six years to know Chad and to love him.  Why only thirty-six years?  I don’t know.  But I know the One who knows the reason why, and I trust Him.

These past six weeks have been dark ones, especially for Chad’s immediate family.  I don’t exactly know what it must be like to pick up the pieces of your life after the death of your son, your brother, or your daddy.  It’s heartbreaking to see their pain and to know that my own pain is just a shadow of theirs.

I’d like to tell Chad that I was proud of him.  He was a hard worker, a great guy, an awesome dad!  It’s too soon to say good-bye, so I’ll just say, “See you later!”Good-bye Chad

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A Swimsuit for a Special Doll

My Life doll in swimsuit

On the 4th of July, I decided to take a break from sewing fleece car seat ponchos and do a little sewing for fun.  I already had a project in mind.  I wanted to make a swimsuit and beach bag for my granddaughter’s 18″ My Life doll.  Aaliyah is six years old, and she loves playing with My Life dolls!  I enjoy watching her change their clothes and create scenarios for them while she’s playing.  I knew that she didn’t have any swimwear for her dolls, so the project choice was an easy one.

This is Aaliyah with one of her dolls that looks a lot like her.  The doll is modeling her new swimsuit and swimming goggles. Aaliyah is modeling her pink cast that she’s been wearing for the past three weeks.

Project Inspiration

My inspiration for the fabric selection for this project came from a kitchen towel that I found on clearance at Walmart.  When I saw the towel, it reminded me of a beach towel.  It was a little larger than most doll beach towels, but I knew Aaliyah wouldn’t mind.doll with beach towelMy Life doll with swimwear

I chose a yellow floral swimsuit fabric for the main part of the swimsuit.  I used a black and white polka dot fold over elastic for the edges of the swimsuit.  The polka dots in the elastic mimic the black and white pattern on the towel.

For the beach bag, I chose yellow with a black and white trim again.  But this time, I added a coral color print for the pocket to coordinate with the coral letters on the towel.  I chose blue jelly bracelets for the beach bag handles.

Swimsuit Details

Everyone’s favorite part of the swimsuit is the bum ruffles!  This detail on this particular pattern is just adorable!  The pattern is from Lee & Pearl.  It’s their Retro Ruffled Swimsuit Pattern.

I chose a black and white check swimsuit fabric for the bottom ruffle with a solid yellow for the top ruffle.  These particular fabrics were available from Lee & Pearl, too, and I’ve had them in my stash for a few years.

doll swimsuit with ruffles

This project reminded me how much I enjoy making doll clothes.  I love the process of choosing a pattern and fabrics with no complicated fitting issues to work around.

It’s pretty awesome to hear Aaliyah tell me how amazing I am, too!

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Car Seat Ponchos Changes for 2018

new shape for car seat poncho

Change can be scary!

In spite of our fear of change, sometimes change is good.  That’s certainly the case with the car seat poncho changes that I’m making for 2018.

Ever since I began sewing and selling car seat ponchos in 2015, I have used the same pattern.  That pattern has been well received by my customers.  On occasion, I have had customers tell me that they wish their poncho was just a bit longer.

That’s why, when late last year, my pattern designer made a few minor changes to her pattern, I knew I wanted to make the same changes to the car seat ponchos that I offer in my shop.

New for 2018

The new ponchos will be slightly longer in the front and back and slightly shorter at the sides.  The new ponchos have an elongated shape with the extra length where needed.
The photo below is a “old” size 2T poncho that I made using the pattern that I’ve been using for the past few years.

Size 2T car seat poncho

Now, this poncho below is a new size 2T in a beautiful gray and purple feather print.  You can see the slight difference in the shape of the ponchos.

Size 2T car seat poncho

For comparison, check out the photos below.

Two car seat ponchos
New shape of car seat ponchos

In the first photo, you can see the old poncho is approximately two inches shorter than the new poncho in the front and back.

In the second photo, notice that the new poncho is not as wide at the shoulders as the old poncho.  This allows for a better fit with less bunching at the hands when using the wrist snaps.

Admittedly, these changes are not earth-shattering, but both of the changes are positive improvements in the car seat ponchos that you can purchase here in my store or in my Etsy shop.  Anyone who purchased a poncho after February 2018 already received this style.  The measurements in the listing descriptions in my shop will reflect these changes.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts on these changes to the car seat ponchos.  Rest assured that the features that set my ponchos apart from the rest — the two-way zipper, hand slits, and wrist snaps — will not change.  I will continue to make ponchos that you and your children can enjoy for years!

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Springtime in the Country

Nothing says springtime in the country like green grass, blossoming trees, and the fragrant smell of …… an open septic tank.

We live in a beautiful rural area, and sometimes people are envious of our location.  We love our country home, but I thought I should clear up any misconceptions that country life is all sunshine and flowers.

Here at Grandma’s house, we recently received a letter from our local township office informing us that it is time for an inspection of our septic system.  We are required to pay a $75 inspection fee every five years for the privilege of having our  septic system checked out by an expert septic system inspector (talk about a dream job!).

Had it been five years already since Grandpa uncovered our massive septic tank?  Time flies when you’re busy flushing!

As soon as we mailed off our $75 fee, Grandpa commenced digging.  It was hard work, but thanks to Grandpa’s ingenious use of logs five years ago to displace some of the earth, it didn’t take as long as it did last time.

Finally, it was time for the inspector to inspect.  We knew this because he called us yesterday at 6:36 AM to confirm his appointment.   He arrived at our house in the afternoon with his assistant who is pictured below.

While his assistant waited in the truck, the inspector jumped right in and started inspecting.


If you’ve never had the joy of standing outside on a warm, sunny day staring down into a septic tank, then you haven’t experienced country life to the fullest!  The verdict is that our septic system looks good, at least as good as a septic system can look.   We passed the inspection!

Whew!  That’s over for another five years.

I hope you enjoyed this little glimpse of country life.  In spite of our septic system, I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else!

City life or country life, what’s your preference? 

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Why I Became an Entrepreneur

Why I became an entrepreneur

When I was a child, I remember people asking me what I wanted to be when I grew up.  I’m pretty sure I never once responded to that question by saying, “I want to be an entrepreneur.”  As a child, I had never once considered the possibility of owning my own handmade business.  Yet, here I am, sole proprietor of Elaine Searer, Sewing & Alterations, and I’m loving it!

Three Reasons I Started My Own Business

My top three reasons for owning my own handmade business are as follows:
1. Opportunity to work in my own home
2.  Setting my own schedule (except during my busy season)
3.  Satisfaction of doing work that is appreciated by my customers.
Making fleece car seat ponchos

Not only do I make custom items, but I also do alterations.  I find it extremely satisfying to take a garment that someone couldn’t use and turn it into something that fits and works for that person.  I feel that same satisfaction when I take two pieces of fleece fabric and make a car seat poncho that will keep a child warm all winter long.
Paperwork is part of my businessMy husband and I have created a comfortable, practical sewing studio in the basement of our home.  It’s one of my favorite places to spend time.  I am very thankful that I can contribute financially in a way that is enjoyable and fulfilling.
Choosing snaps for a car seat poncho


Before I became an entrepreneur, I was a high school English teacher.  I liked that job, too.  The time I spent in the classroom with my students was especially enjoyable for me.  I did find, however, that I was not well-suited to running my life by a system of bells.  I craved an opportunity to be more in charge of my own schedule.

Owning my own business doesn’t mean that I can work only when I feel like it, but my schedule is flexible.  My husband, Jack, and I start every day with coffee and a “business meeting” in our living room.  We love our local customers whom we see face-to-face.  It’s fun to follow our packages that are sold in my Etsy shop and here in my own online store as they travel across the U.S.A. and Canada.  Our customers often make our day with their orders and positive feedback for my products.
Handmade fleece car seat poncho
For right now, I’m fully convinced that I’m doing exactly what God created me to do right here in the space that He’s given me.  If anyone would ask me what I’d like to be doing with my life, I’d proudly tell them, “I’m already doing it!”

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How I Found an Extra $100

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When I need an extra $100 or sometimes even $200, I look in my pantry.  Money hidden in the pantry?  Don’t be ridiculous.  If I hid money in the pantry, I certainly wouldn’t advertise the fact online.  I find money in my pantry by doing a month long pantry challenge!

Pantry Challenge—>intentionally limiting grocery spending in order to use items that are already on hand in the pantry, fridge, and freezer. 

You probably won’t find that definition in the dictionary since I just composed it myself for this blog post. The pantry challenge principle is quite simple, but it works because most of us tend to overspend a little at the grocery store from time to time.  We buy more than we need, and that excess piles up in our cabinets, pantries, and freezers.  Instead of using up all of the groceries that we buy each month, we add to it the next month.

I have found that I can trim $100 or even $200 from my grocery budget a couple times a year by committing to eat from our surplus rather than buying more food at the store.  During a pantry challenge month, I still buy some groceries.  I have found that the best way to do this is to budget a set amount that is about 50% less than what I would normally spend.  For instance, I might aim to spend $25-$50 a week instead of $100.

If you are different from the vast majority of people I know and you never overbuy, then a pantry challenge will not work for you.  You’ve got to eat, and you’ve got to feed your family.  If you have no excess in your pantry and freezer, then this method for freeing up a hundred dollars is not for you.

In the past, I’ve done a pantry challenge when Jack and I wanted a little extra money, and we didn’t want to take the money from any of our regular spending categories. We once paid for a weekend getaway using money from our grocery budget, and we certainly didn’t starve in the process!

This month is pantry challenge month at our house.  If you’d like to try a pantry challenge, here’s what you can do to prepare:
1.  Do a quick inventory of your pantry, fridge, and freezer.
2.  Make a meal plan using ingredients that you have on hand.
3.  Make a note of any ingredients you may need to purchase to round out your meal plan.
4.  Set a weekly grocery spending limit.
5.  Enjoy the challenge!

Who knows, you just may find some money in your pantry!  

What would you do with an extra $100 this month? 

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