Monday, October 11, 2010

IBW Day 6: DIY Babywearing!

In honor of International Babywearing Week, Judy reminds us that Babywearing doesn't require you to go buy a carrier at the store, a great carrier can be made in your own home!

I admit, I have the sewers curse.  You know, when you see something at the store, it's the curse that makes you say "I can do that better", or "I can do that more cheaply" or both.  This has resulted in a LONG list of to-do projects.  Baby carriers are not exempt from this curse, and as such, my entire stash is DIY. Thankfully, many carriers are not too complicated to make, even if you only sort of know your way around a sewing machine.

Let's start with wraps.  The simplest one to make is a stretchy wrap.
Step one:  go to the fabric store and buy about 5 yards of cotton interlock.
Step two:  cut it in half lengthwise.
Step three:  go use your new wrap!

Easy peasy, right?

Woven wraps require a bit more work.  Many people like to use muslin or osnaberg.  I didn't find muslin to be all that comfy, and I haven't tried osnaberg.  The big advantage to both of these fabrics is that
you can dye them whatever color you'd like.  I personally am a fan of wraps made from woven tablecloths.

Step one:  buy a 100% cotton tablecloth with a somewhat loose weave.
Step two:  cut it in half lengthwise.
Step three:  hem the raw edges.  If you want a short wrap, then you
are done.  If you want a longer wrap, then . . .
Step four:  overlap one end of each of the two halves by 4-6 inches.
Sew a double seam all around the overlapped box.
Step five:  go use your new wrap!

The next type of carrier that is relatively simple to make is the pouch.  They are so simple, in fact, that you could whip up a whole bunch in all different fabrics to match with whatever outfit you are wearing.  Take note, if you and hubby are different sizes, you'll need to make different pouches as a pouch that is the wrong size is both unsafe and quite uncomfortable for all people involved.  These are the two tutorials I have used to make the pouches.

A close kin to the pouch is the ring sling, with the biggest difference being that a ring sling is adjustable while a pouch generally is not.  There are tons of different way that you can sew a ring sling shoulder, and Jan Andrea has a great tutorial on how to do them.  (
A very important thing to note is that you want to get very sturdy rings, ones without a seam in them.  This means that the rings you can find at a craft store ARE NOT sufficient. I've gotten rings from Lowe's or Home Depot that have held up quite nicely, but they are regular silver metal.  If you want colorful rings, you can order them online from  Please be sure that your rings are very sturdy as they will be bearing a large portion of your child's weight.

We are now leaving the land of "easy to make" carriers and entering the land of "easy if you have mad sewing skills" carriers.  "Why would I want to enter that land?" you ask?  Because then you can make your
carrier how ever YOU would like. Let's start with the mei tai.

The most basic mei tai is a rectangle with four straps with no padding anywhere.  This would be a good place to get your feet wet in mei tai making.  Once you've done that, you can then branch out and think about whether or not you want padded straps and/or body, whether or not you want a sleeping hood and if it should be flat or shaped like a hoodie, if you want toy loops . . . you get the idea.  Lots of mamas have posted really great tutorials on how to make them.  I spent MANY hours pouring over the different tutorials, taking notes, and synthesizing the different directions to come up with something that worked for me.  I have to warn you, once you've started down the mei-tai making road, you sort of become addicted.  You'll find all sorts of fun fabrics that you can use, and you'll keep coming up with different things that you can tweak.  I personally have a lot of mei tais, and I have fabric for several more!  What can I say, now that I've gotten the hang of making them, I've become addicted.  =)

Probably the trickiest type of carrier to DIY is the soft-structured carrier.  It's quite similar to the mei tai in that it's a rectangle with four straps, but the straps are much shorter and are buckled.
Another major difference is that SSC's have structured waists.  This part can be somewhat tricky to get right, finding padding that works for you and getting it correctly situated in relation to the body.
This is a project I've only tackled once, and I'm not sure that I'll be revisiting it!  This is the only tutorial I know of for an SSC:

Making your own carriers is very rewarding, kinda gives you a sense of accomplishment that you have made something cool for you and your little one.  Can you do it better than the "official" manufacturers?
Maybe, maybe not.  Can you do it more cheaply?  This definitely depends on your materials.  You can choose less expensive,  yet sturdy materials, or you can go for broke and get fabric that is $50 a yard.
The cost of the carrier is totally up to you.

A final word on DIY. I can't stress enough how important it is that you use sturdy and safe materials, high quality thread, and good, strong seams.  Always double check your work and make sure all of the
weight bearing seams will hold up to intense use.  If in doubt, add another line of stitching or add and extra layer of fabric.  As my mom has always said, "better safe than sorry!"

So go find yourself some great DIY tutorials, make a few practice carriers to get the hang of it and go nuts in the fabric store finding great fabrics for your carriers.  Above all have fun and be thorough!

Posted by Judy

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