Feeling crafty: DIY Mei Tai baby carrier

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I have been wanting to make myself a mei tai for a long time now. I have always been a ring sling and wrap kind of girl, but the Asian-inspired carriers have always intrigued me! I wanted a mei tai with extra long wrap-style straps, so I figured I was best off making my own rather than buying one from a retailer.

Mei tais are made of an oblong body panel with long straps at the waist and shoulders. They’re suitable for all babies, from newborn up through toddlerhood and beyond. The wrap-style straps are great, because they can be spread out over baby’s back for extra support and security. I used this excellent tutorial from Fine and Fair – it is so well done, and incredibly easy to follow!

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Materials:
– 2.25 meters of 60″ wide kikoy (You can use less length if you want shorter straps. I’m 1.81 meters tall and I might actually hem the straps a bit, so most people will want something shorter!)
– .5 meters of heavy canvas
– matching (or contrasting!) thread
– a sewing machine and basic sewing equipment (fabric scissors, pins, measuring tape, etc)
– paper to draw the pattern for the body on (I used flip chart paper from Claire’s easel)

I started off by drawing my pattern onto my flip chart paper. I used the exact dimensions recommended on the Fine and Fair tutorial for a toddler-size mei tai: 22 inches tall and about 20 inches wide at the bottom.

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Once I drew my pattern and cut it out, I laid my kikoy out on our dining room table for cutting. I really loved the labeled photo from the Fine and Fair tutorial that illustrates how to cut the pieces! I cut the two long shoulder straps (about 90″ long and 14″ wide each) and two waist straps (half the length of my material, and about 5″ wide). Then I took the remaining piece of kikoy and folded it in half. I placed my pattern on top (the flat side on the folded edge) and cut out two body panel pieces. After I cut the straps and body pieces from the kikoy, I cut the inner body panel from the canvas.

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Then it was time to start sewing. I hemmed the long sides and one short side for each of the straps, leaving one short side unhemmed, as it would be sunk inside the body of the mei tai.

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After hemming the straps, I attached them to the canvas body panel. I pleated the shoulder straps before attaching them at about a 45* angle. I decided to attach the waist straps with no pleating. I attached each strap to the canvas using reinforced X-boxes, which ensure the structural integrity of the baby carrier. These are the weight-bearing points of the carrier, so these X-boxes are extremely important!

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Once the straps were attached to the canvas body piece, I pinned the kikoy body panel pieces in place. This part is tricky to visualize… I laid the canvas body panel on a table with the straps facing up. Then I laid both kikoy body panels on top and pinned them into place (the kikoy has no “right” or “wrong” side). I stitched around each side, leaving the strap openings unstitched, so that I could turn the piece right side out after stitching.

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I turned the piece right side out through one of the shoulder strap openings, then I turned over and pinned the raw edges at each of the openings. Once this was done, I top-stitched the entire body panel, and voila! My first mei tai!

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Heidi was napping when I finished sewing, so I persuaded Claire to try it out- all 15 kilos and 100 centimeters of her! Amazingly, she was weightless in this carrier. The wrap straps are really amazing, providing extra support around her bottom, and really keeping the carrier snug.

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Once Heidi woke up, I put her up in a back carry, which also felt amazing. I love the extra long straps, so I can experiment with fun tie-offs as well. (Okay, to be honest, the straps are a bit TOO long. I will probably chop off a few inches and hem them, once I figure out how much length I really need…)

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I’m really excited about this project, and really happy with how it came out! Many thanks to Fine and Fair for the amazingly helpful tutorial!

(Editor’s note – apologies for the terrible quality of some of these photos! I wasn’t taking pictures with the blog in mind, and many of them are grainy and blurry! Dah!)

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