A while back I wrote about dusting off the old Singerand having a go at some craftiness. After much reading of tutorials – and some practice with some cheap Osnaburg fabric – I felt ready to give carrier making a go! It turns out that my carrier collecting is really related to a greater love of textiles – so many fabrics; “sew” little time (yes, that was a lame pun!). Anyway, I’ve loved picking out fabric combos …and bringing them to life without the wait-time of a custom carrier. My creations are no where near as polished as the talented mamas who do this for a living, but they are safe and sound and I’ve had fun putting them together!
Everything I’ve learned about DIY carriers I’ve learned from the internet, primarily through the lovely DIY mamas over on thebabywearer. While you really should go and read through the stickies on the TBW DIY forum before commencing a DIY journey, I will share with you a quick rundown of considerations that I’ve collected from various sources. I’m totally stealing this list from my local babywearing group – Babywearing International of the Triangle – but since I wrote the flier, I guess that’s ok 😉 If you’d like a printable version, click here.
- Always select appropriate materials. While you can find good deals on the right type of materials, you may need to spend a bit extra to make sure you are making a carrier that can safely and comfortably support your precious cargo.
- Be mindful of construction. While carriers don’t require particularly advanced sewing skills (if you can sew a reasonably straight line you can probably make a serviceable carrier), you do need to use the right sort of seams and such. It’s always a good idea to check out a number of proven tutorials, even if you are a seamstress, to understand how a carrier is put together before attempting to make your own.
- DIY carriers can be a great option particularly if you love to sew! But if you aren’t a sewer, you can easily buy a quality used carrier as cheaply as you can make one (given the cost of materials and the time invested in sewing).
- The information here is intended as a starting point only. Please visit the links below and read as many tutorials and tip threads as you can before making your own carrier (even if you do know how to sew!). You are ultimately responsible for the safety of your baby!!
- Finally, if you enjoy making carriers and are tempted to sell to others, do your research first. The WAHM carrier market is not what it was even a few years ago. Things are increasingly regulated – which is good as it ensures safe carriers on the market (it’s worth noting that many carrier sellers on etsy are in violation of current industry standards). If you do wish to sell carriers, you should purchase liability insurance and join the Baby Carrier Industry Alliance.
- Always use SlingRing rings; never use craft rings as they are not designed to support a child’s weight. Utility rings will be too heavy and difficult to adjust (although technically they are safe if they have a high weight rating). Always use a high quality thread (like Gutermann).
- Slings should be made from a thinner, bottomweight fabric. Medium weight linen is a great easy to find choice. More information on selecting sling fabric here from the talented Jan at SBP.
- Slings should be around 30 inches wide (although a bit narrower is fine for a newborn and you can certainly go wider). Length is largely a matter of personal preference and your size. Jan at SBP has great sizing info here.
- Wraps are generally about 27-30 inches wide (don’t forget seam allowances when cutting); a size 6 wrap is 4.6 meters long (that’s the size an average sized mama would likely start with). Length is dependent on your size and the carries you’d like to do. Most wraps are tapered on the ends but it’s fine to leave them blunt as well.
- It’s best to use one long length for a wrap as opposed to piecing together shorter pieces. Wraps should be made from a single layer of material.
- For a small baby, cotton jersey knit makes a nice stretchy wrap; usually you don’t need to hem jersey knit unless you want to.
- For hot weather, cotton gauze is a nice choice; you can simply zig-zag or serge the raw edges.
- If you want to DIY a woven wrap, osnaburg is an easy to find option. Many people have luck with 100% cotton tablecloths as shorties. In general woven wrap fabric should not have a wrong side, should have a bit of give on the bias (diagonal), and shouldn’t be slippery or stretchy. Most wraps are 100% cotton but you might also find a suitable linen or hemp blend. A 6-8oz fabric is generally a good place to start. It is also helpful to check out a commercial woven wraps so you have some sense of what wrap fabric should feel like.
- Common fabric choices for MTs and SSCs include cotton duck and canvas or similar materials (around a 9 oz weight); woven wraps are also an option. Quilter’s cotton and similar fabrics are fine as accent fabrics but should never be the weight bearing or strap material. Most MTs and SSCs are made from at least two layers of material in the body (depending on what material you use and the construction method).
- Always use a high quality thread like Gutermann.
- If you want padded, fleece or cotton batting are good choices.
- Strapworks is a good source for buckles and webbing for a SSC.
- Always xbox or bartack straps to the body. Shoulder straps should be made from a continuous piece of material.
- DIY forum at thebabywearer.com. See the stickied threads at the top of the forum for tutorials and tips for each carrier type.
- DIY info for different carrier types from Jan at Sleeping Baby Productions; lots of great tips on fabric and materials selection as well.
- DIY info from Wear Your Baby
- DIY Carriers Facebook Group
Maybe with the next carrier I’ll do a tutorial on how I put things together. In the meantime, a few snaps of my creations to show you that really all you need to to make a great carrier is the ability to sew an (almost) straight line and knowledge of the right materials and construction techniques. I’m pretty sure my extensive “research” of carriers balanced out my novice sewing skills – I’d definitely give some professionally made carriers a good once over before DIY-ing just to get a sense of how things are put together. And then…have fun!!
Update: Check out my mei tai/onbu tutorial!