Making your own baby carrier can be a fun and affordable project. Whether you are interested in a DIY baby carrier because of budget constraints or you just enjoy creating things, here are a few things to keep in mind when creating your own baby carrier:
Safety first. You should have a good understanding of babywearing basics and safety before you start. Here is a link to Babywearing International’s Babywearing Safety page. In addition, you should have a good understanding of how to make a safe baby carrier. Don’t re-invent the wheel; there are good instructions available for making baby carriers. Here is a link to the Sleeping Baby Productions’ page with information and instructions for several baby carriers. Keep in mind that, just as a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, a baby carrier is only as strong as its weakest seam. Every weight-bearing seam and construction point should be reinforced, and every buckle or ring should be carefully chosen to bear significant weight.
Keep it simple. If you are new to babywearing or to making your own baby carrier, there are many reasons to keep it simple. One is cost: it is easy to be “penny wise and pound foolish.” You could try to make the ultimate baby carrier, using nice fabric and hours of time, only to find that your project isn’t as comfortable or as functional as you hoped it would be. (Ask me how I know!) It is not legal to sell homemade baby carriers. (Actually, it’s not the “homemade” part that’s the problem … you could open a home-based baby-carrier sewing business, but you’d have to comply with regulations which require, among other things, third-party testing of products, which is expensive. There’s no exemption or waiver for small, home-based businesses.)
Consider a no-sew stretchy wrap. The simplest carrier to make is probably a no-sew wrap. Buy 5 yards of cotton knit jersey or cotton interlock (in other words, t-shirt fabric) (6 yards if you’re plus-sized). This fabric is usually sold in a 60-inch width. Cut it into two long strips 30 inches wide or three long strips 20 inches wide. The end. Use it as you would a commercially made stretchy wrap. BWI has a great resources page with stretchy wrap wearing instructions. There is no need to hem the edges; they won’t unravel. Each strip is a wrap. This is my favorite DIY baby carrier!
Not into the wrap idea? Consider a “Ball Baby Overall” Mei Tai. A DIY “BBO” mei tai uses two yards of print canvas or denim fabric (more if you like extra long straps), matching polyester thread, and no special items such as rings or buckles, so it’s still pretty affordable and there’s probably a fabric store near you with what you need. There are many great canvas prints in our local fabric store’s home decorating fabric section. This project takes one to three hours or two to make, depending on how much sew-fu you bring to the project. Here’s a link to the instructions.
Last, but not least, consider a ring sling. Two and a third yards is a good length of fabric for most people. Personally, I like a double-layer dupioni silk ring sling, because who cares if you’re covered in spit-up when you’re wearing a fabulous silk sling? I’ve found good deals on silk ($10.99/yard sale price for some colors) at fabric.com, but shop around. A 54″ width of fabric will yield two layers and result in a sling about 26.5″ wide, which is a good width. You will need good rings for this project, and those are probably not going to be found at the fabric store. Craft rings can break or bend and are not suited for this project. Rings from SlingRings.com are made for baby slings. Here’s a link to ring sling instructions.