One of the best parts of wearing your child is the freedom it can give you. It can be instrumental in assisting you share your adventures with your little ones. It can be anything from soothing a baby while you explore town to hauling your preschooler on terrain past what their little legs can manage. We would like to celebrate International Babywearing Week 2014 by sharing some of the adventures of our members.
International Babywearing Week 2013: Get Carried Away is here! In its honor we are kicking off our blog with a post on Do It Yourself babywearing. Many of us have looked around at all the different baby carriers out there and wondered "how did they do that?" Not only about how the particular carrier was used, but also how it was made. While it may be intimidating, the world of DIY baby carriers can be an option for some caregivers.
Special care must be taken because they do carry the most precious cargo. Be sure to check over your work and to regularly inspect it for wear. Use quality fabrics. Fabrics such as quilters cotton, flannel, and muslin are generally not suitable for baby carriers. An exception is osnaburg muslin which can be used. Other muslin such as baby muslin are better suited for trying out patterns. Good quality thread is also important. Store brand thread, such as Walmart thread, does not hold up as well.
Also, there are new regulations for the production of baby carriers. If you plan on producing baby carriers for sale you must be compliant with the CSPS regulations. There is no small batch manufacturer exception, if you sell any then you are subject to them. The Baby Carrier Industry Alliance is a great resource in navigating them.
Wraps can be divided into two categories: stretchy and woven. They generally have a width of about 30 inches, give or take a couple inches, and come in a variety of lengths. If you have questions about the different ways to use a wrap, please join us for a meeting or ask on our Facebook group and we would be glad to help.
Stretchy wraps are made from a knit jersey or interlock fabric. They have stretch in multiple directions. Because of this, they are not recommended for back carries. You can simply purchase 6 yards of knit jersey fabric. The width of the wrap should be about 30 inches. If you find a bolt of 60 inch wide fabric, then you can split in half for two stretchy wraps. Knit jersey also does not have to be hemmed. :D
Woven wraps only have stretch on the bias (diagonal). Popular fabrics to use for a DIY woven are osnaburg and 100% linen. Other fabrics can be used, however try to stay with natural fibers. Synthetic fibers such as polyester do not breathe as well and can cause overheating issues. When you select your fabric it should not have a really dense weave. If you hold it up to the light, some light will pass through. It should not be so flimsy that you can see right through it or poke a hole in it with your thumb. Lower quality fabric such as muslin (other than osnaburg which makes great wraps) and quilters cotton (all those pretty prints) are not recommended. Try to look in the apparel fabric. Another test you can do is to take the fabric, tightly wrap it around your hand, and pull to try to see if the fabric digs into your skin.
Once you select your wrap, then it is very important to pre-wash it. Many fabric can shrink considerably in the wash. After it is dry, then you should iron it. You might want to put on a long movie to watch while you do this bit. There are a couple different ways to try to cut the wrap to the desired width. I prefer to carefully fold the wrap in half until it is a couple feet long. Then I mark the width and use a straight edge and a rotary cutter to make the cut. After this then you can cut the desired length and add tapers if you wish. Tapers make the wrap shaped like a parallelogram They can measure anywhere from 10 inches to even 24 inches. And then finally, woven wraps should be hemmed. If you plan on later dying the wrap then you should use a cotton thread to hem as a synthetic thread will not take up the dye.
Another popular source of fabric is tablecloths. 100% cotton table cloths can make excellent short wraps. A 120x60 inch tablecloth can be split in half into two long size 2 wovens. The wrap pictured is Mahogany peacock tablecloth in teal/grey.
Ring slings are a more intimidating project. Your sewing becomes a safety concern instead of a cosmetic one.
Proper ring choice is important for making ring slings. Craft rings which are the thin and shiny rings that can be found at many craft stores are not strong enough for wearing a child. You can also find welded rings at some hardware stores. While these may be strong, the welds can rub against the fabric of the sling and weaken it. This can also cause a safety issue. Rings made for the purpose of making baby carriers can be found at slingrings.com. These have been tested for safety and come in nylon and aluminum rings. Once again, stay away from quilters cotton and muslin unless for decorative elements. Gauze can also become unstable when sewn and should be avoided in single layers. Use caution with multiple layers. Use good quality thread, stay away from cheap thread like the Walmart brand. Look for Gutterman or other high quality threads.
Jan is the woman behind Sleeping Baby Productions, a local company out of the New Hampshire. She has graciously not only made her patterns available online, but even posted video of how she makes her slings. These are for personal use only. The patterns and items made from these patterns are not licensed for retail. Please respect her generosity and intellectual property.
Single Layer Sling: http://crafts.sleepingbaby.net/sling.html
Different Shoulder Styles: http://crafts.sleepingbaby.net/shoulders.html
Mei tais can be a more challenging project. A mei tai consists of a body, shoulder straps, waist straps, and any extras such as a hood. There is much more sewing than a ring sling and much of it is structurally important. Bottom weight fabric (so named because they are appropriate for bottoms aka pants) is a great place to start. The straps should be bottom-weight I prefer a twill. They should be securely attached to a layer of heavy fabric such as canvas or duck. You can secure it with either a triple box stitch or by bar tacking. Layers of decorative fabric can be used on the body, and you can reach for something something flimsy such as quilters cotton because it is not weight bearing. These may not hold up as well in the wash, so keep that in mind. I also find wonderful patterns in the home dec section as well. Quality thread is very important and I recommend using Gutermann polyester thread.
There are many different instructions online on how to make your own. Here is a general overview for a reversible mei tai. The body can be as simple as a rectangle that is 16x18 inches for an infant or 18x20 inches for an older baby. Mei tai measurements do not include the waist, so be sure to add extra length for it. Personally, I use two layers of fleece for light padding in my straps and 4 layers for stiffer padding for my waist. Shoulder straps can be anywhere from 75-80 inches. You can leave them long and then mark where you want to hem them after trying it out. Wrap style straps are generally a half of the width of the wrap, so about 15 inches. You don't need to chop a woven to do a wrap conversion style mei tai. You can do wide straps other fabric or even do a faux wrap conversion with a DIY woven or tablecloth.