(private use only)
The Finished Product...
A little background...
PS: If you don't really care and want to get right to it, just scroll on down to the tutorial!
3 Years later! Isla 1o months, Aislynn 3yrs
I have been making carriers for almost four years. I discovered the world of “babywearing” when my foure year old was just a few months old. I was looking for an alternative to the baby bijorn I had at the time, that was starting to hurt my back. Through surfing the web, I stumbled onto numerous unconventional carriers and was amazed and excited. I wanted to purchase a mei tai right then and there! Money was tight at the time, and I didn’t feel I could justify the purchase, especially without being able to try on the carrier or even see if my daughter liked it. I wondered if I might be able to find some instructions on how to sew one, and sure enough, I stumbled onto a DIY pattern. Of course I did everything wrong, made every mistake, and used the worst materials! But in the end I had my first mei tai. I felt so proud of myself, especially when my daughter loved it.
I still have that carrier. I had a lot of great memories with it. I remember feeling a sense of freedom in discovering the concept of “hands free.” I remember feeling so much love for my daughter when she snuggled up close to me the minute I put her in the mei tai. And most importantly, I remember feeling like I had succeeded at something-which as moms-can mean the whole world sometimes when you feel like you are doing everything wrong.
I decided it was my turn to “pay it forward.” So this is my Do It Yourself Tutorial for a hood to headrest mei tai. I loved the concept of a hooded mei tai, and wondered if the hood could do more than just be a hood. So I added padding and some additional loops to allow the hood to fold down into a padded headrest. I am a very visual person and so I have tried to be very vivid with my description, especially for that mom who only has sewn straight lines up until now! I also tried to include pictures and a few video clips of some of the trickiest parts in the assembly process. I hope you find this tutorial helpful in your attempts to make this mei tai whether it is your first one or your fourteenth! Above all I hope you feel successful and proud of yourself. If you have questions about any of the steps or need clarification, you can email me at email@example.com
and I will try to answer your question.
If you are interested in finding out more about babywearing, styles of carriers, or DIY patterns, www.thebabywearer.com
is a wonderful resource.
(Above) My first DIY mei tai with my 3 year old when she was 9months and 14months
and is for PRIVATE USE ONLY.
PART I: ASSEMBLE YOUR SUPPLIES
- Rotary cutter or sharp pair of sissors (maybe this is silly, but I thought I’d offer it anyway…don’t use your sewing sissors to cut paper…they will be sewing sissors no more and incredibly dull!)
- A fabric marking pen or chalk to mark on fabric (I use chalk, a chalk pencil, a invisible ink pen, and a white marking pen all interchangeably).
- A tape measure and ruler or yard stick
- High quality thread (I use guiterman)
- Iron/ironing board (sometimes I use spray starch too)
- Long straight pins
- A piece of paper or something for cutting out your pattern (I use my daughters 11x17 construction paper and I just tape a few pieces together)
- 2 ¼ yards long of a sturdy fabric such as canvas, denim, twill (for straps), at least 33 in wide (as you will cut three straps a little over 10 inches wide each)
- Between 5/8-3/4 yard a decorator fabric, apparel fabric, or quilters cotton
- Between 5/8-3/4 yard sturdy fabric for center stabilizing body piece (a canvas or dense denim)
- Between 5/8-3/4 yard a fabric to go on the inside panel that your child will be against. This could be anything you want ( the material you used for straps, a décor fabric, something super soft like a microfleece or flannel, etc.
- Padding material: I use nearly natural batting, I love it. I have also used regular fleece, foam, nu-foam, and regular batting. You will need ½ yard of warm and natural batting (if you are using something else for padding you will need to calculate how much padding you need based on the dimensions of the padded items). Warm and natural batting usually comes 60 in wide.
**5/8 yard is enough for a smaller baby. For an older baby or toddler you should use ¾ yard and make the body longer (I will explain how to do this later.)
PART II: CUTTING EVERYTHING OUT
- Once you have all your materials gathered, it is time to cut out your pattern.
- Referring to my pattern diagram cut out your own pattern. You can make half a pattern you are planning on folding the fabric in half (which would help it to be more symmetrical)
a. You can make a basic mei tai by eliminating the hood.
b. For a taller mei tai simply lengthen the body 1-3 inches. For a smaller mei tai you can shorten the length of the body pattern 1-2 inches.
c. Make sure you label the top of your pattern and the fold.
(Above) Pattern:Half the body
to clarify dimensions-starting at the top and going clockwise,
6 in, 21 in, 9 in, 5 in, center 1/2 width 8 in, strap angle 5.5 or 6in, 2.5 in
Full body once unfolded (above)
Step 1: Cutting out the body pieces
- Lay your pattern on top of your fabric. Make sure the top of your pattern is at the top of your fabric. If you made half a pattern, make sure to fold your fabric in half (the fold will be the center of the body and the other side will be the edge of the carrier)
- Use your chalk to trace your pattern onto the fabric. Then cut out the body, or lay the other two body pieces underneath the piece you have traced and cut all three out together. This is ideal, but only if you have very sharp scissors or a rotary cutter.
Step 2: Cutting out the padding
- You will need ½ yard of warm and natural batting (if you are using something else for padding you will need to calculate how much padding you need based on the dimensions of the padded items). Warm and natural batting usually comes 60 in wide.
- Cut out the following pieces of batting with the following dimensions: 2 straps 16x22, 1 waist strap 15x28, 1 hood 15x13 (two layers for this one)
- Take the two strips of 16x 22 batting and fold the short ends (16in) into the center.
- Then fold the whole strip in half. You will fold the waist piece the same way, short ends into the middle and folded in half.
- You will end up with 2 pieces of padding for the straps approx 4 in wide, and a piece of padding for the waistbelt 3-3.5 in wide.
- Make a small stitch in the two bottom corners and the center edge, just to keep the layers together when you stuff them.
- The hood pieces you will set aside
Step 3: Cutting out the Straps
- You need between 78-85 inches of fabric (lengthwise) for the straps. Approx. 2 ¼ yards. I would recommend making your straps 80-85 inches long because you can always shorten your straps. Longer straps also give you more options for tying. Remember that 5 inches of your strap will be inside the carrier.
- You will now cut three strips for the 2 straps, and 1 waist belt. Using a yard stick or ruler, draw a line as long as you are making your straps (approx 84 in), and 10 ½-11 inches wide. Your straps will end up being about 5 inches wide. If you like narrower straps, simply make your strips of fabric between 7.5-9 inches (that will produce straps 3 1/2 -4 ½ inches wide). Cut out the three straps.
- Fold your shoulder straps in half widthwise, with the wrong side out (right sides touching inside). Pin along the edge.
This video shows how you should fold the straps
Step 4: Sewing and Assembling the straps
OPTIONAL STEP: You can iron flat the seams which can make it easier to straight out the straps when you flip them if you like or you can just skip to step.
- Using a straight stitch, sew all the way down all three straps using a ½ to 5/8 seam (meaning there is a ½ to 5/8 inch to the right side of the stitch you are sewing). Now you should have three long tubes.
2. Flip all the tubes so they are right side out. Since I make my straps so wide, I usually just reach my hand all the way down the tube bunching as I go and flipping. The seam will now be one of the long edges of the strap.
3. Iron all three straps.
4. Lay the 2 shoulder straps flat . Using a ruler and a special marking pen or chalk, draw a
line 5-6 in from the left raw edge-horizontally.
5. Now draw a line 22in. from the line you just drew (essentially 29 to 30 in from the left raw edge of the strap).
6. Peel the left edge of the straps back all the way past the line 30 inches in. You should have wrong sides facing now pulled over part of the strap you turned previously. Slide a couple inches of the padding material into the opening.
7. With one hand firmly holding the portion of strap that is still right sides out, use the other hand to slowly “unpeel” the strap back over the padded material, trying to keep it as straight as straight as possible until the strap is completely unpeeled and covering the padding. You may need to reach your hand in and pull the padding down a bit or make some adjustments to straighten it out. Repeat this process with the second shoulder strap. The straps should fall in between the two lines you drew on the outside of the straps.
This video shows how to put the padding in the strap
8. For the waist belt, find the exact center of that strap and mark it. Then find the exact center of your piece of padding for the waist belt and lay it on top of the waist belt in the center. Draw a small line on either side of the padding. You will follow the same process used for the shoulder straps to get the padding inside, except you will have to peel the waist belt almost all the way back to get this piece of padding in the direct center.
9. Now you are ready to sew in the padding. Some people like to sew rows, some people sew rectangular boxes, I like to sew rows. I have included a short video clip explaining how I sew clean rows. You can follow these instructions or just sew your own straight rows across the padded portion. At least three of them.
10. Using a straight stitch, stitch straight down the center of the strap until you are one inch from edge of the padding (you may want to mark this spot before you start the stitch-you can also draw line straight down the middle for a guide if you are concerned about sewing straight!) You do not want to stitch over the edge of the padding as it will make it more difficult to keep your rows from bunching. Sew at least 1 row on either side of the center row you just sewed (see my video).
This video explains how to sew in your padding so you only have to break your stitch once!
***In order to create a nice clean edge for your straps (the ends where you are tying). Simply fold the edges into the tube about ½ to 1 inch. Then press them flat and stitch closely to the edge, to create a nice straight edge with sharp corners. You will do this while you follow my instructions to sew in the padding, or you can do it when you stitch around the perimeter of the strap after #19.
This video shows how to fold the ends down to get a nice clean edge
11. If you followed my instructions for rows, you should have already stitched around the edge of the strap all around the entire thing.
12. If you did not follow my directions, and just stitched over the padding, you will now need to stitch very closely with a straight stitch all around the entire strap (except the raw edge you will attach to the body.
13. For the waist strap, sew all around the entire perimeter of the strap, making two very nice sharp edges for strap ends (like you did with the shoulder straps).
14. Now you should have 3 straps ready to attach to the body. You will sew rows into the padding of the waist belt once you attach it to the body.
PART III: Making a Padded Hood
- Front and back hood pieces
- 2 layers of padding cut out
- Bias tape or two strips of fabric for hood ties
Step 1: Making a decorated hood
(skip step 1 if you are just using two pieces of fabric for the hood)
Fabric laid out (above) Pinned to hood flap (below)
Finished decorated top hood flap, ready for assembly
Step 2: Constructing the hood
- Press under the one edge on each of the two strips of bais tape or hood ties you cut out
- Stitch along this tiny edge then while leaving your needed down, turn the strip 90 degrees and sew along the edge of the strip lengthwise.
- Take your 4 inch strips of bias tape and fold the short ends under and press. Stitch around the edges. Now you should have 2 ties ready to attach to the hood and 4, 4 inch long strips to attach later.
the bias tape I use
Here are 4, 4x4 inch squares of fabric you can use for the loops in place of bias tape
Step 3: Sewing and flipping the hood
- Lay the 2 layers of batting (or other padding material) down.
- Lay the hood piece that will be showing to everyone, right side up, on top of the padding.
- Take your two hood ties and position them on either side of the hood sides about two inches from the bottom. Since the hood is rounded, there is not really a corner for you to place them in, and I prefer them coming out the sides.
- The ties should lay straight across the hood so that about ½ to 1 inch of the raw edge of the ties come out the sides.
- Carefully lay the inside hood piece (the piece that will show when your hood is use-the underside) wrong side up, on top of the ties, careful not to shift the ties.
- Pin all around the perimeter of the hood, especially where the ties are.
Layers ready for sewing:
padding, decorated piece (rightside up), ties, inside hood panel (wrong side up).
7. Using a straight stitch, sew all around the edge of the hood, careful to turn the hood as needed to keep the rounded shape. Leave the top of the hood, the straight edge where you will be attaching it to the body, open. This opening will allow you to flip it rightside out!
8. Flip the hood right side out, and press it with an iron.
9. Now top stitch very close to the edge all around the hood still leaving the top open.
***Tip: If your hood is two different colors, for example the top is piece is black and the reverse is white, you can use different colors of thread. The thread in the bobbin will show as the stitch on backside of your sewing. The thread going through the needle will show on the top. Keep this tip in mind for top stitching the body and x boxes later. You may want to practice this on scrap fabric to make sure your tension is correct. If the bobbin thread shows on the top, you need to decrease your tension. If the top thread shows on the reverse, you need to increase your tension.
Now your hood is ready to attach!
PART IV: PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
Step 1: Attaching the body and shoulder straps
1. Lay the interior, structure piece flat (this is the piece that will be sandwiched between the other two pieces).
2. On top of that, lay the piece of fabric that will be facing out for everyone to show, right side up. This means, you should lay it exactly as you want it to be seen.
3. On top of that, lay the hood piece, exactly as you want it to show when it is not in use.
4. Take one strap and lay it so that the 5 inches you are going to sew over, that are going to be inside the carrier are angled up, directly centered in the upper right hand corner. DO the exact same thing with the other strap. Angling the five inches you have marked, up.
5. Careful not to shift the straps you just laid out, fold the long portions of the straps up so they lay nice and flat inside the body and don’t get in the way while you sew around the perimeter.
6. Now carefully lay the last body panel (the one that will be against the baby on the inside) wrong side up , on top of the straps and the rest of the pieces. Remember, this piece should have the wrong side up, the side you don’t want to see. Line it up directly on top of the stack and pin all around the perimeter of the carrier.
Notice I have traced around the edge of the hood, so I don't accidentally stitch over it
Pin around the entire body
7. Now take a marking pen or chalk, and draw a line ½ to 1 inch from the edge of where the straps are coming out. Then trace around the sides of the straps underneath the layer. This will help be a guide when you stitch around the straps so that when you flip them they are nice and even. Draw a guide line all the way down the sides of the carrier and across the top approx ½ from the edge. Make sure you will be sewing over all the layers with the line you are marking.
8. Now starting where the corner of the strap edge meets the edge of the top of the carrier where the hood will be, begin to sew all around the carrier careful to watch the guidelines you have drawn. DO NOT sew across the bottom. This is how you are going to flip the carrier rightside out.
9. Make sure you sew nice neat lines along the edges and where the straps are going to come out so that your carrier looks nice and symmetrical.
10. After you have sewn around the body, go back up to where the straps are attached, and close to the straight line you sewed (across the 5 inches of the width of the strap), sew a zigzag stitch straight across this space. Do this across the top of the other strap too.
11. Now remove all the pins and flip the carrier inside. It should now look the way you want it to for use. If it seems to be getting a little bulky around the strap edges, flip it back to the way you sewed it originally and trim your hem a bit, careful not to snip your stitch.
12. Smooth out the shape and body of the carrier, and iron all around the entire body.
Step 2: Sewing in the X boxes and top stitching
1. Now trace a nice rectangle around the inner edge of the straps that you attached inside the carrier. Draw a nice rectangle on top of the carrier surface with an erasable pen or chalk. Draw a nice X in the center of the rectangle, corners to corners. Now top stitch over the rectangle. Make sure you are using a matching thread, or two different colors-one for the top-one for the bobbin (underneath color) if you have different colors of fabric you are using. This is only important if you are trying to blend the X boxes in subtly.
2. Once your X boxes are sewn, top stitch, using a straight stitch, all around the entire bdy of the carrier, very close to the edge.
3. At this point, you can fold bottom edge of the body under to make a nice straight edge across the bottom, iron this edge flat, and pin. You can top stitch this edge closed when you are stitching around the body.
Step 3: Attach the waist belt
1. Now you will lay the waist belt directly across the bottom of the carrier on the outside, centered. Line up the bottom edge of the body with the bottom edge of the waist belt.
2. Pin all across the top and bottom edge.
3. Sew a straight stitch very close to the edge across the bottom edge of the strap and body, attaching the two. When you get to one end, leave your needle down, and turn the whole piece you are sewing 90 degrees, so that you can sew up the side, to the top edge of the strap. When you get to that point, leaving your needle down, turn the whole piece you are sewing 90 degrees again.
4. Now sew a straight stitch across the top edge of the waist strap, attaching it to the body. Leaving your needle down turn your whole piece you are sewing 90 degrees one last time to sew from the top edge of the waist strap to the bottom.
5. You have essentially sewn a long rectangle attaching the body to the waist belt. Now you can sew at least three rows, straight across the waist belt spaced out, or rectangles.
6. You can sew the rows from one end of the padding to the other end, careful not to go over the edge (this pattern uses a piece of padding extra long beyond the shape of the carrier body to add more comfort for your sides). Or you can just sew across the padding directly in line with the body.
Step 4: Attach hood and headrest loops! Last step!
1. Using a ruler mark a small line 8 inches from the edge of the straps on the outside of the straps. This is where you will tie the hood if it is in use. Use a little straight stitch or zig zag to attach the two edges of hood loops. One on the outside of each strap going lengthwise across the strap.
2. Now attach the head rest loops on the inside edge of the straps. Attach the same way up on the corners of the straps
Here is the finished product (left)
Here is the inside where the headrest loops are attached (right)
Using the hood as a headrest...
Fold down once,
Fold again for a high headrest. Pull tight through the loops.
*If you make and love this tutorial, I'd love to see pictures! I'd like to start posting a gallery of completed carriers to inspire other moms! Email me a picture or two.
My personal Putting on baby mei tais
411: EVERYTHING YOU WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT A PUTTING ON BABY MEI TAI
Style: All POB mei tais are unique. While I may use the same fabrics to create another carrier, I never create the exact same carrier twice. Your Putting on Baby Mei tai will be one of a kind, just for you! All carriers are reversible. Some reverse to create another pattern combination, some reverse to a completely plain side to encourage those husbands to wear it!
The Fabric: Most POB (putting on baby) mei tais use a sturdy, but soft twill for the strap fabric. Some have a soft canvas or denim strap. Patterned fabrics are a quality cotton apparel fabric or quilters fabric. Some have a decor fabric for the patterned piece. All fabric has been machine washed and preshrunk by me. All carriers have a piece of canvas inside to stabilize for safety.
Washing Instructions: I use all machine washable fabrics. These carriers can be washed in the washing machine, but you should keep machine washing to a minimum to keep colors bright. To wash, put the carrier in a pillow case and wash separately in a gentle cycle. It is best to lay your carrier out flat to air dry. But you can put it in your dryer if you wish. However, air drying, or just fluffing it for a few minutes in the drier will reduce fading. Ironing of the straps might be needed.
Hooded carriers: Fold the hood up to keep a sleeping baby comfortable. All the hoods are rounded and long, which is different than a lot of hooded mei tais. This allows the hood to fit the baby longer into "toddlerhood!" You can also fold your hood in if you don't want to use it or don't want it hanging down. Some hoods are padded and fold down to create a padded headrest. If a carrier has one of these hoods, it will say so in the description. The "hood to head rest" conversion hood tie onto loops on the inside of the straps to create this cushion. See the May post entitled "Just sold" to see this feature in action. The hood also can be tied up provide extra support for a small baby. See post titled "Ty" to see a newborn in this carrier.
Straps: Most straps are cushioned. I use warm and natural batting for the cushioning in the straps and some cushioned headrests. Warm and natural has a high standard for their product using no glue or resins. It is extremely soft too. Straps are nearly 80 in long unless otherwise specified. This allows the carrier to be "one size fits all".
Wearing instructions: Links to Youtube videos I have recorded are coming soon! All carriers purchased include my own instructional dvd for wearing positions.
Pricing: Determined by materials, time and features. All carriers use a variety of quality fabrics that are purchased, washed, sewn, and ironed by me. Features such as padded straps, a padded hood, no hood, specialty fabrics, and reversible features add to the price as well. Each carrier is custom made and takes hours to create.
PS As always, if you have any questions about the tutorial, my carriers, or my personal creation-the one and only Mei-la Wrap, don't hesitate to contact me via email.
Mei-la Wraps at www.puttingonbaby.blogspot.com: