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Budget Babywearing: DIY edition

Babywearing can be expensive.  And for people who choose to spend money on a carrier, it is fine that it is- I love (even as a window shopper) looking at all the differences in the patterns and textures of wraps (then, I am a bit of a fabric nerd).

But if the cost has been deterring you, I have some amazing news for you:

It doesn't have to be.

You can have a safe babywearing device for under $15.  Less if you are savvy (and maybe a bit more if you're picky or in a hurry...).

In another post I will go over ways to buy baby carriers for budget savvy moms.  But for now I want to focus on the DIY.

First and foremost, I want to talk about safety, which should be the first thing addressed when discussing ANY carrier.  Be aware of safe babywearing practices.  Know what TICKS stands for (Tight, In view, Close enough to kiss, Keep chin off Chest, and Supported back) or, if that is too hard to remember, try ABC (Airway, Body positioning, Comfort).  Keep baby upright unless nursing.  There is more than I can address in the scope of this post, but check out this list of resources from BWI of SE PA for more info.

A wrap can be as simple as an unhemmed length of duck or osnaburg (this one has been dyed)
No sewing machine?  No problem!

No Sew Babywearing Options:
  • DIY Fauxby (fake Moby, a stretchy wrap)- Buy 6 yards of jersey fabric, which is what t-shirts are made out of.  It helps if you have had the opportunity to feel a commercially made stretchy wrap, as you don't want the fabric to be too thick or too thin.   Cut it to about 20 inches wide (leave the length).  AND done.  The cut edges don't need to be sewn because jersey doesn't fray.
  • No Sew Ring Sling- Buy a pair of sling rings (DO NOT skimp on this bit, there are no other safe options available in the US) and use a length of fabric to follow this tutorial.  The tutorial gives basic dimensions, but I am going to add to their fabric recommendations, which are fairly vague.  They use the word "scarf" a few times which I don't care for- when I think of a scarf, I think of either something warm and knit or light an gauzy, and neither would work for this.  There are scarves that would work, but err on the side of caution until you are super familiar with safe fabrics for this application.  Some suggestions- osnaburg, duck (Walmart sells a nice, thin but sturdy duck in their Waverly line for $4 a yard, and bonus- there are a ton of cute prints), linen or linen blends (high linen or linen cotton blends are best, and you want heavy weight... not thin and gauzy), cotton tweed (harder to find, but I have seen it at Walmart lately), cotton ticking (it should feel thick though).  For this application, I would buy the narrowest available and leave the selvage (ie, don't cut the fabric the long way).  If you have questions about whether a fabric is suitable, join the DIY Babywearing group on Facebook- they love to answer questions.  Remember to allow for fabric shrinkage when you buy.  For a neater look you can either fringe the ends or buy stitch witchery (strips of iron on stuff that lets you bond fabric to other fabric) and use that to do a rolled hem on each end (obviously NOT for weight bearing seams, and I wouldn't use this for top or bottom rails, either- for one it would get expensive, but also I don't think it would be very comfortable)
  •  Unhemmed Woven Wrap- You can buy a length of woven fabric (more on what kind in a second) and use it, unhemmed, as a woven wrap.  As above I wouldn't cut off the selvage, which can result in a wide wrap, but if you cut the selvage that opens it up to a lot more raveling (which will happen at the ends, but that is far less of a big deal, or you can stitch witch the ends as I explained above).  So buy the narrowest (35-45 inches should be fine, as long as it's not too thick) you can find.  Again, the most popular choices are osnaburg (which is found with the muslin and other utility fabrics, but it is NOT muslin- it looks much coarser) and Waverly duck fabric from Walmart, but there are others- refer to the facebook group mentioned above if you have questions.  As far as length goes, that depends on the size of wrap you want.  A quick summary of woven wrap sizes (in meters):
    • Size 2- 2.6
    • Size 3- 3.1
    • Size 4- 3.6
    • Size 5- 4.1
    • Size 6- 4.6
    • Size 7- 5.2 
DIY Babywearing tutorials for those with basic sewing skills (and a machine):
This list is less than exhaustive, there are tons available on the interwebs, but these are two of my favorites (although the first pretty much encompasses most of what you need to know.
  • Jan Andrea of Sleeping Baby Productions:  Most of my go-to tutorials come from here.  I use her video tutorial for making an Eesti shoulder and, as she is the queen of ring slings, her ring sling tutorials are amazing.  Her "Basic Mei Tai" instructions I feel are both super simple and detailed, which is nice.  I have also used her pouch sling tutorial because, if you didn't already know, I loves me some pouch sling.
My Eesti shouldered ring sling.

I made this Mei Tai 17,000 years ago and honestly don't remember which tute I used, but it is similar to the one Jan has.
  • Fine and Fair Tablecloth Mei Tai- If you know what to look for, a tablecloth can provide you with quality fabric to make your carrier (and not just a MT, it could also be used to make a ring sling or woven wrap).  The most popular tablecloth is the Mahogany, which is available on Amazon in a variety of really gorgeous prints (that are reversible, even), but most 100% cotton tablecloths will do, as long as they are thick (again, not thin and gauy or lacy).  Avoid synthetic blends as they tend to be too slick and don't breath well.
  • You can also just hem a long piece of fabric (see both the woven wrap sizes listed above, and the fabric recommendations) to make a woven wrap.  There isn't much detail about this if you google "DIY woven wrap" (not that is very helpful, anyway...), because that's essentially all you do- once you have picked out the fabric and mastered ironing a hem over and sewing straight, you're golden.  There is one fabric I will mention here that I wasn't comfortable mentioning above (although FYI, it would be good for a ring sling as well).  Upholstery/Home Decor fabric (which is technically what the Waverly is).  I do this because 1) most is super wide and would need to be chopped and hemmed, so not suitable for the no sew options above, and 2) the home decor section of a fabric store is even more overwhelming, IMO, than the rest of it.  The fabric is on big long rolls instead of bolts, and there are so many different types organized not by type, but by collection, that it can be hard to find something appropriate.  If you are brave, though, look for something heavy but not too stiff (and not backed with plastic or any other kind of backing) and either 100% cotton or linen.  The very first MT I made (pictured above) was, in fact, made out of home decor fabric (outdoor canvas, I believe), but I was only comfortable using it because I knew someone who used the exact same fabric for the same purpose.
Besides saving you money, DIY babywearing can be super fun.  You can customize your carrier to suit your tastes or needs.  You can make it an expression of you and/or your child.  Or you can make something that, while not a budget project on the surface, makes something otherwise out of your reach attainable (I'm specifically thinking of silk ring slings here...).   Whatever you choose to make, I hope I have helped you see that you CAN do it, and Happy Babywearing!


Jan Andrea on the Web- Tons of DIY babywearing tutorials.

No Sew Ring Sling by Sling Rings

DIY Babywearing on Facebook

Dyed Baby Carriers on Facebook

Fine and Fair Tablecloth Mei Tai 

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