Wednesday, September 10, 2014

DIY Carriers: Safety first!

If you're thinking of making your own carrier or just shopping for one, this guest post has some great tips and information for safety! 


By: Alena Sutherland

When making or shopping for a carrier, fiber content is a good place to start. I love natural fibers. 100% cotton, 100% linen or a cotton/linen blend is my kind of jam. But not all cotton is created equal. Bottom-weight is what you want. 

What does bottom-weight mean? It means a fabric you would make pants or a skirt out of. So all those lovely, pretty patterns on quilter's cotton are out, very sorry. Don't worry, they can make a great accent panel on a mei-tai or pocket on a ring sling tail.

So, what are safe fabrics? Osnaburg is a popular choice for DIY carriers. Natural in color, it takes to dye easily. It can be found at most Wal-Mart and Hobby Lobby locations, and sometimes JoAnn's. Bottom-weight linen is also a good choice. My friend recommends http://www.fabrics-store.com/ for linen. She says product number IL019 is good for wraps or ring slings and product number 4C22 works well for soft-structured carriers
and mei-tai panels. 

What about tablecloths? I hear about them online a lot...Yes, I love a great tablecloth as much as the next crazy DIY babywearer. 100% cotton is my preferred fiber content. Mahogany Brand on Amazon.com and Threshold brand from Target are a couple great 
brands to try. I love to hunt thrift stores like the Arc for tablecloths too, but have a good feel for fabric weight before you try this if you're new to babywearing DIY. 

How about curtains? If they feel like one of the tablecloths I mentioned above, go for it. Otherwise, take a pass. 

What about bedsheets? Only for emergencies, I say. And then, only doubled. They are too thin and not sturdy enough to hold a seam. 

If wrapping isn't your style, you'll need additional supplies to create the carrier of your dreams. 

What are safe rings for ring slings? I order from slingrings.com. They are saftey and weight tested and approved for babywearing. Multiple pretty colors to choose from and they ship quickly. If you're in a pinch, you can use rings purchased from a feed and tack store. Look for something that is at least 3/8” thick and has smooth welds. Craft rings which are 1/8” thick from JoAnn's, Michaels, Hobby Lobby, etc., are NOT SAFE. Please, plan the extra 3 or 4 days for shipping and buy from slingrings.com. 

Where to buy safe buckles/webbing for a soft structured carrier? Strapwork.com is the place to go for these items. I've never made a soft-structured carrier, so I have no personal experience with them. 

Thread? I like Gutermann thread. Other name-brand poly-coated threads should be just fine as well. 

Now, with your supplies in hand, what would you like to make?

Wrap
A wrap is the simplest to make. First, pre-wash your fabric. Then, simply cut to width and length, add tapers if they thrill you, and hem. Most wraps are 28”-30” wide. If you want tapers, be sure to cut them like a parallelogram, not a trapezoid. If you've forgotten your geometry, don't worry, here is a visual: 





You want the green parallelogram, not the red trapezoid. This way, you have the same length along both the top and bottom rails. How long would you like your wrap? This handy table from paxbaby.com is my favorite quick reference. I've added a column of “Length in yards” which I rounded to an easy-to-measure number so you know how much fabric to buy at the store. Keep in mind most fabrics shrink in the wash, so buy a little extra.

Size       Length in meters        Length in feet       Length in inches        Length in Yards

2            2.7                            8.86                     102.36                       3

3            3.1                           10.17                    122.05                        3.5

4            3.6                           11.81                    141.73                        4

5            4.2                           13.78                    165                             4.5

6            4.6                           15.09                    181.10                         5

7            5.2                           17.06                     204.72                        5.75

8            5.6                           18.37                    220.47                         6

Ring Sling
A ring sling sews up fairly quickly and easily. Your fabric should be about around 30” wide. Lengths vary from 62” to 95” finished. Finished means you need to add a few extra inches for your shoulder sewing. You pick a shoulder style: gathered, pleated, eesti(for personal use only, this shoulder style is licensed property to Jan at Sleeping Baby Productions). Be sure to have a minimum of 3 rows of stitching. Please visit http://www.sleepingbaby.net/jan/Baby/slingsize.html and http://www.sleepingbaby.net/jan/Baby/shoulders.html for some of the best information on the web for DIY ring slings. 

Asian-Style Carriers
Rather than re-inventing the wheel, I shall direct you to a fabulous blog for the nitty-gritty how-to-sew instructions. Please, when sewing these carriers use quality thread, attach straps to a sturdy inner layer of fabric, and reinforce attachment points with x-boxes, as shown below.  




Mei-Tai
http://www.fineandfairblog.com/2013/10/tablecloth-mei-tai-tutorial-with-wrap.html

And if you'd like a mei-tai and a ring sling from one tablecloth: 
http://www.fineandfairblog.com/2013/12/how-to-get-mei-tai-and-ring-sling-out.html

Onbuhimo (or Onbu)
http://www.fineandfairblog.com/2014/02/diy-tablecloth-onbuhimo-tutorial.html

Podaegi (or Pod)
http://wrap-pod.blogspot.com/


Remember, all of these DIY safety qualities should hold true when you're shopping on Etsy, Facebook swap groups, or elsewhere online. If you're ever unsure of the characteristics of a DIY carrier being sold online, go with your gut! The safety of your little one depends on it. Always compare prices to other retail sources. Sometimes, if the price is too good to be true, it is. And of course, you can always ask a VBE on the BWI Colorado Springs page for advice or a second opinion. Happy and safe babywearing!




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