Wednesday, September 21, 2011

DIY Mei Tai Baby Carrier

Finished carrier hanging
in our entry way
I mentioned how we like the baby carriers here, and that I made two to carry our two boys. This is a pretty easy sewing project in general. However, positioning the straps so you don't sew them into a side seam can be a little tricky. I consulted this pretty comprehensive pattern and a few others and then worked out what worked well for us. I think these could also make a nice unique gift for new parents, if you knew the parents would like this type of carrier. Here are some general instructions about how I made these carriers and how you can make your own.*

Mei Tai or Bēi Dài (背带) Baby Carrier

  • 1 1/2 yards sturdy woven fabric (60" width)
  • 12" square decorative fabric for pocket or applique (optional)
  • thread
I cut 3 straps (11" by 60"
and body (18" by 48")
  1. Lay out you fabric on a clean flat surface folded width wise. I wanted a finished body size of about 17" wide by 23" and 5" wide straps and used a 1/2" seam allowance.  I cut 3 strips 11" wide by 60" long (the whole length of my fabric). This is a good length of strap for me, and I am almost six feet tall. You may want shorter straps if you are shorter. I cut one of these strips in half (to make 2 strips 30" long) to use for the short waist straps. Then I cut a rectangle 18" by 24" doubled over, making it 18" wide by 48" long. I cut this with the 18" width on a fold so that I didn't have to sew the top of the carrier shut or worry about sewing the straps into the top seam. But if you don't want to cut on a fold, then just make sure to cut two pieces (18" by 24").
  2. Cut a 12" square of decorative fabric to use for an applique or pocket if you wish.
  3. If you wish to make a pocket, sew a double folded hem along the top of the fabric. Sew a single folded hem around the other three sides.  Center the decorative fabric on the right side of the front piece of body of the carrier. Pin in place and top stitch around the applique/pocket.
  4. For the straps, I folded the 11" strips in half right sides together and sewed lengthwise. I finished one end of each at a 45 degree angle to make a point. Turn straps right side out. I did not choose to top stitch the straps, but you could at this time to give them a more finished look.
  5. Now for the one tricky part: positioning the straps. Lay the front piece of your body fabric right side up. If using one piece for the body like I did, mark the fold line with pin and the whole piece flat. Position the straps at each corner—long finished side in towards the right side of the body, short unfinished end out (at least 3" to use for reinforcing the straps) at each corner. You may want to angle the straps like she shows, but I did this on one and sewed the other straight out perpendicular, and, personally, I didn't notice a huge difference either way.
    All straps pinned securely
  6. Fold and pin the long straps securely to the front of the carrier so that you don't sew them into the side seams. Place the back piece of the body right sides together with the front and pin around all side, leaving a gap for turning at the bottom. Sew around all sides (unless the top is a folded edge), leaving a gap for turning at the bottom. Make sure to stitch all the straps securely; back stitch over them, or sew additional seams to make sure they are secure.
  7. Turn right side out, and unfold the straps.
  8. Pin the bottom seams closed, and top stitch around the whole body. Sew reinforcing rectangles at each corner, over each end of the strap, and then stitch through the middle of the rectangle or make an X through each rectangle. You really want to make sure that the straps are really well reinforced and stitched securely to the body of the carrier!
    Body sides sewn securely
  9. Look over the whole project for any mistakes or weak areas that need attention. Trim any hanging threads, and you're done with the sewing!
  10. Learn how to tie your baby securely to yourself. I found the these instructions helpful. Now you're ready to go hiking with baby.

*This is what worked well for me and my husband (who is the same height but with wider shoulders) and our two toddler boys. This doesn't mean this is the best design for every adult and baby combo out there. Personally, while I see these used all the time here for even really little babies, I don't think they are the best type of carrier for infants. I am sharing these instructions with the hope that it may be useful to someone wanting to make their own carrier, but use your own judgment as to what would be best for you and your baby. I am no baby wearing or baby carrier expert and take no responsibility for how you choose to make your carrier. Our children are obviously the most precious cargo there is, and we should take great care when transporting them.

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