Monday, May 2, 2016

Babywearing Sewing

My daughter has wanted to be held a LOT since she was born. Babywearing has been a huge help. I have under-utilized it for sure, but I've learned a lot along the way. I've recently sewn/started sewing my own babywearing gear for fun and to save money.

The first thing I made was a linen ring sling, but I just don't think ring slings are for us. I gave it to a friend.

Then, I recently sewed up a reverse onbu, aka a ruckbu. This page from BWI is a good quick overview of types of baby carriers. An onbuhimo is similar to a mei tai (and I love mei tais), but has rings at the waist that the shoulder straps are threaded through instead of separate waist straps; a reverse onbu has rings at the shoulders and straps that thread through from the waist.

I used half of a Mahogany brand jacquard tablecloth (originally 60x120), dyed it, and sewed it up. After the fabric was washed and dried, it measured 28" by 104". I only used the tablecloth fabric for the basic construction (no internal panel). I used bar tacking for reinforcement on the shoulder straps. The shoulder straps are actually too long - I haven't bothered to shorten them, but the rings end up right around my armpit which is much lower than I'd like. The waist band is shown as two pieces below but I actually just cut one long piece and sewed it into the body panel with multiple rows of topstitching across it all. I lost a bit of length that way but I have more than enough length in the straps. I never use them for reinforcing passes - the point of using an onbu, for us, is for quick use. Put it on, tighten the straps, done.

I also cut two 12" x 12" pieces of fleece for shoulder padding and two 6" x 7" pieces of fleece for leg padding; two pairs of small aluminum rings from slingrings.com were used on the straps. I used 1/2" seam allowances on the straps, 1" seam allowance on the body.


I used a variety of sources for my basic construction. The only part I did differently than the other full tutorials I've seen online was the shoulder strap construction. I've seen similar commercial carriers, and it's similar to using webbing on a buckle carrier but with fabric. I made two tubes (from the 4" x 18" pieces in the diagram) that I attached the rings onto. Then I stitched those along the full length of the shoulder straps. For the padded shoulder straps, I did this:

  • Fold each fleece shoulder padding piece in quarters to make two 3" x 12" pieces
  • Tack each end with a few stitches to keep fleece in shape
  • Lay one padding piece on the wrong side of one shoulder strap, aligning edges with the seam allowance and the center of shoulder strap, 1/2" from the end
  • Stitch down the center of the padding to secure it in place
  • Fold shoulder strap right sides together; sew along long edge and one short edge (just outside of the padding)
  • Clip corners, turn right side out, smoothing out fleece as needed; topstitch along three edges leaving the end with raw edges open
  • (Next step would be to attach ring straps)

I used my presser foot to stitch just to the side of the fleece
 This method of padding the straps saves you from having to stuff the fleece into a tube of fabric. As far as the double-strap idea, I didn't like the idea of just having a tiny strap holding the rings onto the shoulder straps, either aesthetically or mechanically, and since I added padding, it would be a little trickier to attach the rings directly to the shoulder straps. I think you could just end the padding sooner, then wrap the unpadded portion over the rings and stitch securely in place, either with an x-box or with 3 lines of stitching like you'd use on a ring sling.

Finished onbu:

Right side - as seen when worn

Inside
I also have a wrap that I bought to convert to a wrap-strap mei tai, then decided to create a half-buckle instead, but am not quite ready to make. I really love the wrap - Kokoskaa Royal Quill Gilia, a Tencel blend - and although I just don't think I'll get as much use out of a shortie as I would a HB, I really don't want to mess it up. I have no extra wrap if something is off on my measurements. I just started cutting up a tablecloth I had but don't like to test out my size, shape, etc. This is the "muslin" stage of making a carrier.

I also have a carrier waiting for me at the post office. I wasn't home to sign for it - I hate when that happens! Now it's the weekend so I have to wait until Monday to pick it up. Finger crossed it will be a replacement for my Tula (which is OK but I don't love), and then I can sell the Tula. I'll probably put that up for sale as is, but if it doesn't sell, I might dye it and make it a little more interesting. As if I need another project. The question there is what direction to take it - my top theme contenders are Peter Pan, Wicked (possibly a Peter Pan/Wicked dual option although that's an odd mashup when you say it together), Luna Lovegood, or a rainbow galaxy dye. I think the Luna will take too much time but is my favorite idea. Of course, I might end up doing something else entirely. We'll see.

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