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Adventures in Carrier Making: A Brief Guide to DIY Babywearing

I sure did make a reverse half buckle out of the Target tablecloths everyone else was DIYing with! And the appliqué is a total cheat…it’s an iron on 😉

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!

My Singer hard at work…mei tai straps are really LONG!

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.

If you want to DIY a carrier, there are a few important things to keep in mind to ensure safety and comfort:

  • 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.

    Another reverse half buckle…told you not to look too closely at my stitching!

Ring Slings:

  • 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:

  • 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.

Mei Tais/SSCs:

  • 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.
Eleanor approves of this combo…don’t look too closely at the stitching!

General Resources:

As I said, I take no credit for coming up with this stuff – there are many smart mamas who have come before me.  The great thing about experimenting with DIY-ing carriers is that you can tweak existing designs to get something that’s just right for you – and that’s just what I’ve done.  I’ve used elements of mei tais and soft structured carriers that I love and have patterned my creations after them with some minor adjustments.  I’m not selling off my professionally made carriers anytime soon but I’m definitely pleased with my DIY efforts.

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!

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Published in Babywearing Crafty Stuff

2 Comments

  1. Yasmin Latocki

    Yasmin Latocki

    What is the toddlers weight limit? Also are these specs for any body type (mom/dad)

    • Meredith

      Meredith

      The weight limit really depends on the construction of the carrier. Most commercial carriers are weight rated to 35 pounds or higher. As for wearer’s body type – it’s most ideal to try out some different types of carriers to see what you find most comfortable. Mei tais and wraps are friendly to all body shapes and sizes since they can come in different lengths or with different strap lengths.

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