Babywearing is back in a huge way, and if you have basic sewing skills you can whip up a huge variety of mei tais, ring slings and other carriers. It’s worth trying a few different kinds of carrier to see what suits you and your baby. Some styles suit newborns, while others are better for babies who can hold their own heads up. It’s important to find a style that doesn’t strain your back and shoulders, especially if you plan to babywear a lot.
Free Mei Tai Tutorials
Traditional Chinese mei tais are easy to make – the “meat” of the carrier is a simple square of fabric, tied around the mother and baby with long straps. As a result, there are plenty of Internet tutorials available. It’s worth surfing the net for some fun variations – a mei tai by MakeBabyStuff.com includes interchangeable decorative panels held on with Velcro. The Scandi mei tai includes a hood. If you want your mei tai to double as a purse so you can go really hands-free, pick a simple pattern and add a pocket to the carrier. It can hold your car keys, wallet or even a spare nappy – and if the carrier is padded, the whole thing can double as an emergency changing pad as well!
Mei tais, onbuhimos (a 1940s Japanese version) and podaegis (a Korean variant) are handy for mothers with shoulder or back problems. The baby’s weight is distributed evenly across both shoulders.
Free Pouch Sling Tutorials
These are extremely simple to make and wear: basically a slightly curved tube of fabric worn over one shoulder across the body like a pageant sash. You may need to make one for Mum and one for Dad, though – the slings aren’t adjustable, so one parent may find the sling too loose or too tight. Handmade Adelaide has an excellent tutorial for a lined or unlined pouch sling.
Free Ring Sling Tutorials
Ring slings are pouch slings that are made adjustable using D-rings or “sling rings” (the latter are available online). This means people (and babeis!) of different sizes can use the same sling. Ring slings can also be worn in a few different positions, as opposed to pouch slings.
The excellent birth blog Stand and Deliver has a simple pattern for a pleated ring sling – don’t be put off, the pleating process is made much less intimidating by the clever use of masking tape! A non-pleated ring sling pattern can be found at Maya Wrap, along with some handy safety and sourcing advice about sling rings.
How to Make a No-Sew Wrap
Many traditional societies made wraps for their babies without using a needle and thread. African kangas, Mexican rebozos and Peruvian mantas are all no-sew wraps. For a truly no-sew wrap, use a knit fabric like jersey – this is best for smaller babies, as knits usually aren’t super-strong. For a bigger baby you may need to use a woven fabric, which will require hemming or serging. With some cunning, however, you may be able to find a pre-hemmed piece of fabric in the right dimensions – Indian and African clothing stores sometimes stock large scarves, shawls and sarongs in beautiful colours.
The Baby Wearer describes a number of different methods for tying a rebozo. A tutorial proper is probably not necessary, but these instructions give a guideline for the best length and width.
Jan Andrea has a handy, though unusual variation – a ring wrap. This version does require sewing, but helps cut down on some of the excess fabric of tied wraps.