Did you wear your baby when she was small? I did. I had a ring sling and a front pack carrier that I wore her in all the time. I wore her so much that I used my stroller twice. Really. Twice – the state fair and a local craft show, and both times, it acted more like a cart than a stroller.
Eventually, my baby got too big to wear comfortably in my ring sling. She was a 27-pound, walking and running 10-month-old toddler, and we couldn’t figure out the logistics of the sling.
Sadly, I gave up on baby wearing. Recently, however, my friend Heather told me how she wears her toddler all the time in a mei tai, and I was fascinated. Heather’s daughter and mine are about the same age and size, so I wondered if the mei tai could work for me.
Not wanting to spend a lot of money on a carrier that might not work out for us, I decided to make my own. Heather told me about a fantastic set of instructions on Jan Andrea’s Baby Crafts website. I was afraid those instructions would be a little confusing, especially for a novice, so I have rewritten and reworked them for you below.
Before you start buying fabric, you need to measure yourself. Measure the thickest part of your waist. Your straps have to be long enough to go around your body and tie in the back. The easiest way to estimate that is to add 2 inches to your waist measurement. Trust me, it will work.
40” waist + 2” = 42” of straps
Divide this in half because you’ll have two straps. Each strap should be 21” long. If each of your straps is going to be smaller than 21”, you can cut two straps in step 4 of the preparation. If they are longer than 21”, you will have to cut four straps in step 4 of the preparation.
Please note – I am a very plus-sized gal, wearing a size 24W or 26W. If you are an average-sized woman, you will need less fabric. If you are much smaller than average, you may want to make a sample out of brown craft paper and compare it to yourself. You’ll probably want to start with a smaller body section and shorter, narrower straps. Aside from the size of the pieces, everything is the same.
- Fabric – I have assumed that you are using 45” fabric. I started with 3.5 yards of a soft, slightly stretchy but very stiff, velvety fabric, and it was too much. I got my fabric in the $1 a yard bin at my local Walmart, so I don’t know exactly what it’s made from or what sort of fabric that it is. It’s sturdy and not hideous, and those were my only real criteria. Jan Andrea recommends using denim or upholstery fabric. Check out her notes on fabric selection.
- If your waist is 40” or smaller, you will use about 1.5 yards of fabric.
- If your waist is between 40” and 90”, you will use 2 to 2.5 yards of fabric.
- Coordinating or contrasting thread, for whatever look you prefer
The nice thing about these instructions is that no pattern is needed. You are merely going to measure and cut some rectangles and then sew them all together.
- Fold your fabric so that the selvage edges are together. For each cut, you will measure along the selvage edge and then cut from the selvage to the fold. Use a ruler or straight edge to keep your lines and cuts straight and even.
- Your first rectangle will create the body section of the mei tai. Measure 20 inches along the selvage edge and cut.
- The next 2 or 4 sections will make your straps. Measure along the selvage and cut two (if your finished straps need to be less than 21” long) or four (if your finished straps need to be more than 21” long) 12-inch-wide sections. If you cut only two straps, cut each one of those in half here:
- If you have left over fabric, and you would like your carrier to have a pocket, you can cut that now. I made mine 18” by 10”. Cut two pieces that are the same size and shape.
- If you’re using a pocket, sew it first. It is exactly the same process we used to make the blankets and changing pads before.
a. Pin the two pocket pieces together with the right sides facing in.
b. Sew most of the way around the pocket, leaving a space along one straight edge for turning.
c. Turn and press.
d. Sew the whole way around the pocket edge.
e. Decide where you want the pocket to be on the front of your carrier.
f. Your pocket will be a little easier to use if you pull the top sides in ¼” at the top, like this:
g. Sew the pocket in place by starting at the top left and sewing down the side, across the bottom, and up the other side.
- Sew your straps. I’m going to write the procedure once, and you will have to do the same thing for each of the four straps, no matter how long they are.
a. Fold the strap in half with the right sides together.
b. Using a straight stitch and a ½ inch seam allowance, sew across one short end of the strap. Back stitch at the beginning and end of the seam. Make sure you don’t sew across the second short end.
c. Sew down the long side the same way.
d. Turn the strap right sides out and press it so that the edges are flat and smooth.
e. Optional – If you want a more finished look, sew around the three finished edges of the strap with a ¼ inch seam allowance and a straight stitch.
f. Repeat for the other three straps.
- The next step is to make the body of the carrier. This is a little tricky, so be forewarned.
a. Lay your body piece down on the table, right side up. Find the center on the long side and mark it with a pencil or with a straight pin. Eventually, you are going to fold there, forming the top edge of the carrier body.
b. Make sure you’re working on the part of the body that will become the front (just to avoid confusion). When you look at the fabric, the pocket should be face up, with the pocket opening up.
c. Position the bottom straps so that they are parallel to the bottom of the carrier. I found it easiest to fold them and lay the length sitting on the carrier body. You want a small tail, just one or two inches, hanging outside of the carrier body. Pin the straps to the edge of the carrier.
d. Position the top straps so that they are at a steep angle to the top of the carrier. You want them to be almost parallel with the long side of the carrier. See my diagram and photo for a better idea of the placement. Your tail outside the carrier will be longer this time because of the angle of the strap.
e. Pin the top straps in place, then fold the remaining length of strap down inside the body of the carrier. Be careful while you’re folding that you don’t move the strap with relation to the carrier. (If you’ve pinned it well, that shouldn’t be a problem.)
f. Fold the top piece down over the bottom piece. Pin in place. Being careful not to catch the length of the straps in any seams, sew around the edges using a straight stitch and a 5/8” seam allowance. Start and stop sewing on the bottom side, and make sure you leave an opening large enough to turn the carrier right sides out.
g. Turn the carrier right sides out using the little hole you left on the bottom. Make sure the straps are free except for the end that is supposed to be sewn into the carrier body. Press so that the seams are all flat and smooth.
h. Sew the whole way around the body of the carrier. Start and end at a corner to make it easier.
i. Reinforce the straps by sewing over them as shown below in red. I sewed over the top straps twice, even though there is only one red line.
You’re done! Your mei tai carrier is now ready to use.
There is a learning curve to all baby wearing. Here are some resources for tying and wearing your mei tai carrier:
Inspired? Please share your thoughts and your blankets in the comments below or over in the forum. I can’t wait to see what you come up with!