Wheelchair Rain Poncho Tutorial

Thanks so much for your patience waiting for this tutorial! It has been a comedy of errors, but finally, it's here just for you! Drum roll please...

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The rainy season has hit the Pacific Northwest with a vengeance! This Wheelchair Rain Poncho is just the answer to keep kids and their wheelchairs dry as they brave the rain squalls. It can be made with a polar fleece lining if you deal with snow or cold temperatures where you live.

For this sample, I used “utility cloth” from Joann Fabrics sold for making
waterproof diaper covers. It’s very soft and drapes well.

Here is one made from nylon. Notice how the back
can also be tucked in without interfering with sitting.

This hooded rain poncho is one-size-fits-most-kids. Feel free to adjust the measurements to fit your wheelchair user.

Features that make this poncho handy are:

• a waterproof outer fabric to keep rain off and fabric choices to make the inside varying levels of cozy-warm;

corner tucks that keep the poncho snuggled around the knees for a drier, warmer lap;

• the ability to fold completely flat for storing in a backpack;

• a shortened back length. It’s long enough to keep the wearer’s back dry, along with any tote bags hanging off the back of the wheelchair, but short enough not to interfere with push handles (a longer-backed variation is described at the end). It can also tuck between the wearer's back and the seat without interfering with sitting;

simple sewing.

Please note that this pattern is for personal use only. Thanks!


• 1 5/8 yd 58-60” wide waterproof outerwear fabric (slicker vinyl, oilcloth, waterproofed nylon, “utility fabric” or other)

• 2 ½ yd 42-44” wide flannel (be safe and buy 2 5/8 yards to allow for shrinkage)
-- OR – 1 5/8 yd 60” fleece for warmer poncho (note: if using fleece, the extra bulk may require you to sew slightly deeper seam allowances. If you own a serger, this is a great time to use it, as serging nicely compresses the bulky seam allowances of fleece)

• 2 large snaps (use the prong type rather than sew-in. Attach using whatever method you prefer; I like a hammer and a wooden spool)

• Thread to match

• TEST YOUR PRESSER FOOT on the selvage edge of your outdoor fabric to see if you might need a Teflon or roller foot to keep the waterproof fabric from sticking…or use this clever masking tape trick

• Pattern for hood and neck template. When printing both files, select PAGE SCALING > NONE. The pages of the hood overlap so you can line them up correctly. The taped paper will measure 15.25 x 18.5” before you cut out the pattern piece.

Prepare fabric and cut pieces

1) Prewash flannel. The outerwear fabric or polyester polar fleece does not need prewashing.

2) Cut the outer fabric to 45” x 60” (it’s okay to fudge a bit on this, so don’t sweat it if straightening the edges makes your fabric a titch smaller). Trace around a dinner plate (mine is 10.5” across) to round the corners; cut off excess. Use the trimmed outer fabric as the pattern for cutting the lining fabric to match.

3) If your lining is flannel, you will need to seam two 1 ¼ yd lengths together along the selvage edge. First cut off the selvages and then stitch the two lengths with a ¼” seam. Press the seam open and topstitch down each side of the seam to hold the allowances flat.

The underside of the seam after it has been pressed open
and topstitched from the top side.

Lay the outer fabric on this, aligning one short end of the outer fabric close to one of the selvage ends and leaving room to cut the hood pieces from the other.

Use the trimmed outer fabric as your pattern. Note that the seam
on the flannel lining will fall just across the top of the chest.
The scraps from the hood pattern are simply to show you
how the two hood pieces will fit when you double over the excess lining.

4) Cut 2 hood pieces from outer fabric and lining fabric. Mark notches with a 1/8” snip. [Note: the neck opening accommodates a head size up to 23". If your child will need a larger neck opening, taper the back neck seam out from the curve to the neck edge. Increase the neck opening by tracing around an 8 1/2” salad plate instead of the printable template].

Sew body of poncho

Note: Any time you sew two unlike fabrics together, it is especially important to practice on scraps. You need to work out the best combination to encourage your particular fabrics to cooperate. For example, I found my pair for the tutorial—a plastic-coated knit “utility fabric” and cotton flannel—worked best if I sewed with the flannel on top, pinning inside the seam allowances (and I rarely use pins). Your mileage may vary…test, test, test!

Practice with scraps cut from the fabrics as you squared up
your rectangles or cut out the hood pieces.

1) Pin layers right side together, running pins parallel to the cut edges and within ¼” of them.
Using a long stitch length, stitch both layers, right sides together, with a 1/4” seam. Leave an 8” opening on one short end for turning the layers right sides out. This will become the back edge. Be sure to backstitch at both ends of the opening.

2) Clip seam allowance at corners if necessary. Turn the poncho right sides out through the opening. Use your fingernail to crease the seam allowance at the opening to the inside.

3) Topstitch a scant ¼” in around the entire outer edge.

Sew hood

1) Sew left and right outer hood pieces right sides together. Use your thumbnail to press both seam allowances to one side. Repeat for the lining, but press seam allowances in the opposite each other (note: fleece will be bulky. You will need to cut down one of the seam allowances to reduce that bulk).

2) Meet hood and lining right sides together. The center seams should lock together where they meet because the seam allowances have been pressed in opposite directions. Sew around face opening with a 1/4” seam, turn right sides out, and topstitch.

3) Baste neck edge together a scant ¼” from the edge, wrong sides together, matching notches and using long stitches.

Attach hood

1) Fold poncho skirt lengthwise and mark the center line on the lining with disappearing markings. Measure 12” from the back edge and place the edge of the neck template pattern on this mark, centering it over the center line. Trace around the pattern, marking notches. Pin the layers together with pins IN THE CENTER of the circle you have made.

Notice the teeny white dots inside the soap-marked circle--these are the pin heads.
Pinning inside the circle keeps pin holes to a minimum, preventing leaks.
The soap sliver used to mark the fabric is highlighted with a red arrow.

Sew right on the traced circle with basting stitches. Cut out the inside of the circle, leaving a ¼” seam allowance inside your stitching (see the pattern if you are not sure where to trim). Clip notches 1/8” deep into the seam allowance.

2) Match center back of hood with center back marking on poncho, right sides together. Carefully pin hood inside seam allowance from the center back to the front matching clip at center front. Front edges should overlap about 1” at the center front. Stitch all the way around the neck edge using a ¼” seam allowance, stitching just outside the basting stitches.

Pin holes allow water to penetrate, so any pinning must be done
inside the seam allowances with pins running parallel to the edge.

3) Press all seam allowances out from the neck edge, using your thumbnail. Topstitch through all layers 1/8” from seam to secure seam allowances.

 For easiest, flattest, most accurate topstitching around the neck,
sew from the right side, checking underneath the seam often
to make sure it is catching under the needle.
Sew with the curve rather than stretching the seam straight.

Carefully trim any excess seam allowance next to the stitching, being careful not to nick the lining.

Attach snaps

1) The placement of snaps in the front corners of the poncho skirt gives you a custom fit that keeps the poncho in place around the legs. Measure across the front of the wheelchair’s leg supports and add 6-8” to that measurement for ease.

Mark half this measurement from the center fold, 2" up from the hem. Then fold the corner diagonally (along the red line in the diagram) to determine where the other half of the snap will be placed.

You might want to use office clips for a trial fit, and then mark the snap placement with a grease pencil on oilcloth/vinyl.

2) Attach the snaps 2” in from the hem edge at the place along the corner that makes the poncho fit your child’s lap. Important--be sure the working parts of the snap face out!

Notice how the ball and socket face away from the outer fabric.

When you snap the parts together, this forms a tuck behind the snap that creates the corner.

Create a tuck under the snap to make the corner that keeps the poncho snug against the lap.

If your child uses an extra tall headrest or wants more back protection for a motorized wheelchair, go ahead and add extra length to the back. You’ll need an extra 1 ¼ yard each of the outer fabric and flannel (or fleece) lining. Sewing the extra length to the back 12” down from the neck opening should put the seam where it is unlikely to get doused with the hardest rain.

That’s it! Now your child is ready to head out into the rain (or snow!). I'd love to hear how your poncho-sewing experience goes. Let me know if you have any questions.

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If this tutorial was helpful, you might also want to check out

Split-back Wheelchair Jacket


Tonya said...

This is great. Thanks for the tutorial. May I post about it and link to it?

Rose-Marie said...

Sure, Tonya! I'd be honored to have you share this with your readers! Thanks for asking.

If other folks here haven't seen Tonya's great site yet, be sure to check it out (just click her name in the comment above and it will link). GREAT stuff!

Tonya said...

Great, and Thanks. I made a post on it and linked back to you for the full instructions.

MysticalGlass said...

Thanks so much for sharing this pattern! I just finished making one for my little one. It will come in handy this spring!

Rose-Marie said...

I'm so glad to know the pattern worked out for you, Mystical Glass! That's great feedback. I hope your child gets lots of use from the new poncho.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your pattern and suggestions for the rain poncho. I made a similar one out of fleece for fall/winter, I am looking for suggestions for warmth as well as flexibility. I live in WNY and our winters can be cold and windy. Ihave used double layers of artic fleece and Inaul-Bright, it turned out OK but would like a more flexible liner that is wind proof. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated, as well as where to purchase. My daughter is a young adult (sz14) I do like your idea of the snaps near the knees to hold the poncho down. Thanks

Rose-Marie said...

Anonymous, it sounds like you've tried some good fabrics for your weather conditions. Our climate is milder than yours, so I haven't any specifics to offer, sorry! However, the folks at Seattle Fabrics (http://www.seattlefabrics.com/, 206-525-0670) would know what to recommend. They also have samples available. There may be an outdoor fabric supplier nearer to you as well; the Seattle folks have been knowledgeable and helpful when I've dealt with them. It would be worth a call!

I'd really appreciate you dropping a comment back here when you discover the answer, because I'm sure other parents would find it very helpful. Thanks so much!!!

Maren said...

Just a thought... Could you use a vinyl flannel lined tablecloth? Seems as the size is right. You could get another one if you need more. Cheeper in some stores and more prints for adults. Hood could be in a contrasting color.

Rose-Marie said...

What an awesome idea, Maren! You are right that this might be a less expensive option. Certainly the color/print choices would have more to offer for adults. Also, there are some sizes for large dining tables that probably have plenty of extra fabric for making the hood. Of course, this would mean re-hemming the cut edge, but that shouldn't be a problem. The only thing I can imagine with this is that you'd probably still want to line the hood with fabric to increase comfort and durability.

Thanks for the terrific suggestion!

Anonymous said...

Rose-Marie, this looks awesome, Thank you!
Do you still live in the Northwest? Join us at the "Special Connections from the Northwest" facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/groups/341161579230591/
Hope to see you there.

Rose-Marie said...

Thanks, Lia. I hope you find the pattern useful.

Yup, we still live in the Northwest. I appreciate the invitation to the FB group. Sad thing is that I don't do FB, for lack of self-discipline to limit my time there. Hey, maybe there's hope yet, since I recognize the problem enough to keep myself from getting into trouble. :0)

Anonymous said...

Thanks SO much for the pattern.........just finished making an enlarged version for my mother........turned out great. Our weather up here on Vancouver Island is probably similar to yours so I lined it with fleece.........it feels like it will be nice and warm....it will certainly be easier then trying to get a huge bulky jacket on her!! Also it cost a fraction of the price of an already made one!! Mom hasn't seen it yet......we are going to go visit her this afternoon. Too bad I hadn't found this for the cold weather.......but at least we are prepared when it returns!!


Rose-Marie said...

Mary, I hope your mother enjoys lots of good wear from her new poncho! Thanks for letting me know the pattern was useful.

Unknown said...

Thank you for posting! Will definitely be making this for my son. :D

Unknown said...

Hi Rose-Marie,
I'm so glad to have found your poncho pattern. We live in San Diego and don't get a lot of rain but it's been tricky when getting our daughter in and out of the van when is does rain. But what's up with the hood and neck template? I clicked on both but nothing is there. Am I missing something?

Rose-Marie said...

I'm sorry, Unknown. I have tried the link and am unable to make it fail so that I can help you. It comes through Google Docs, but maybe it won't break for me because I am subscribed there? If you email me directly (don_gal_3 at msn.com), I would be happy to send you the PDF files directly. I apologize for the inconvenience!

I think you'll like the pattern. It is very handy for rainy areas. The snaps on the front corners can either create a boxed fit OR, we discovered, can snap around the wheelchair leg rests for a super defense against the wind. I hope yours turns out successfully because you'll like it.

Again, please don't hesitate to email me personally for the files. I'm happy to send them.

LisaAnn said...

Thank you so much for the tutorial! Making this for my sweet grandson who has CP for Christmas. He will love the Mickey Mouse super soft fleece I have found for him! I am also lining with polyester for extra warmth. Thank you for taking all the thinking out of this project for me. It will be great for our Colorado weather.

Rollinglegs said...

I'm far from being a kid, but I just moved to the south. I'm over getting soaked. Thank you for this I plan to make a few. Great Idea.

Marge said...

Fantastic idea! I would like to make this for my friend (an adult). Would I need 60" fabric and still cut it down to 45" wide for an adult? How much fabric would I need to make the longer back? I haven't decided whether or not to make the shorter back or the longer back. For each, what do you suggest the distance should
be from the left edge of the fabric to the cutout of the neck edge? I can't do the measurements because I want to surprise her. Thanks!

Rose-Marie said...

Hi Beagle Lover,

It is very thoughtful of you to surprise your friend with a wheelchair poncho. I hope she enjoys it!

You ask great questions. I'll answer the best I can, but it is hard for me without having your friend seated in her chair here with me to measure.

My daughter is about the size of a 12-year-old and you can see from the pictures how a poncho made with the dimensions from the instructions fits. Note that her chair also tilts, so her lower legs are somewhat exposed. I'm a pretty average-sized adult, carrying around about 40 extra pounds. When I put my daughter's poncho on and sit fairly upright on a standard chair, it covers below my knees just fine. There is some overhang at the hip width, but not enough that it would get in my way if I were propelling my own wheels.

The recommendations in the instructions here basically start with 60" x 60" squares of fabric (piecing the lining if it's only 45" in length). The hood is cut from 15" of excess, which is why the final size is 45" x 60" (minus seam allowances). If your friend needs extra width, you could buy an extra half-yard of outer and lining fabrics to make the hood. The body could then be cut anywhere up to 60" wide, but you want to be careful not to interfere with wheels.

Honestly, if I were making one for myself, the only size change I'd include would be to enlarge the hood a smidgeon. The neck opening would be more comfortable for me if its diameter was an inch wider. The hood would also fit my head better if it were an inch longer.

Longer coverage down the back would be excellent if your friend's chair is more upright. Adding 12"-15" to the back length would make the back hang 24"-27" below the back of the neck. Would that amount cover everything your friend would want covered?

I hope this helps. Your friend is fortunate to have someone who can sew for her!

Rachael Turner said...

Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU! I have been searching for something for my son and his chair and stumbled across this. You don't know how happy this has made me!