Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Customized Mei Tai soft structured baby carrier

I have recently become obsessed with babywearing. I wore Kylee in a non ergonomic carrier when she was a baby and carried her around in the carseat/infant carrier until she could walk. Now that I think about it, it was pretty ridiculous. With Joseph, I made my own ring sling and used it until he was almost 2. Then I discovered wraps and it seemed so cool. I could really do whatever I wanted to with that. Well, I joined a local babywearing group and got a cheap structured carrier from another mom. I really didn't like the fabric that was on it and decided that I would sew something over it before I used it for my baby (due in July). Well, after purchasing a few rainbow Girasol wraps and obsessively looking at buy/sell/trade babywearing group pages on facebook where people were always selling wraps converted to carriers, I decided I was going to customize my mei tai with a beautiful rainbow wrap. (here's a stock google image of the mei tai that I had. I suck at taking before pictures)

     I found some beautiful scraps from wraps other mom's had had converted to carriers (the leftovers) and made sure to get pieces big enough to cover the front and have a little leftover to make accessories, like a hood and suck pads. It took forever to get them both to me. One came from Canada and took several weeks and the other came from Georgia and went to Florida, then back to Georgia, then to Florida again before it came to me. Thanks USPS, for the anxiety. The wraps are called Double Rainbow Diamond Weave Purpura (top) and Northern Lights Diamond Weave (bottom). I did not realize when I bought them that they matched perfectly. I thought I would use one or the other.

     I wore Joseph in the mei tai a few times, and after studying other people's more expensive carriers, decided my carrier needed more padding at the waist as well as a new pretty fabric panel. I purchased some 1" high density foam from JoAnne's and cut it to size for the waist of the mei tai. I wanted it to go out on the straps a little so it would wrap around my waist, not be just on the front. A lady at the fabric store told me that I needed some peel and stick interfacing to make my fabric stick to the padding before I quilted it on my machine or it would move around. I didn't buy any of that. I went home and used my trusty E6000 glue (i use this for almost every project) and glued the fabric to the padding, leaving an inch and a half to 2 inches all the way around. (I used northern lights for this part). I started sewing the lines from the middle and moved out from there, keeping them as straight as possible. I really had to push and pull the padding/fabric through the machine. The presser foot barely lifted high enough to get the 1" padding through. I was worried that this would be harder than I anticipated. When I got to the last line, I folded the edge of the fabric under and held it tightly with my hand to sew that last line. I then sewed the end pieces down the same way.
Here is my finished waist padding:
I knew that I wanted a pocket on this too. I layed out my fabric and figured out which part of the rainbow I wanted on the panel. I found that this could continue down to the pocket and look really pretty. I cut my fabric 1/2 inch larger on all 4 sides for the panel and pocket (1" longer on one edge of the pocket so I could hem the top part of the pocket). I ironed everything and pinned it in place. I also sewed around the panel and pocket to make a nice crisp edge before I sewed it down. There was also a band of fabric with velcro on it that is used to cinch up the carrier to forward face your baby (which is not ergonomic or necessary, so I won't be using it, but I wont be cutting it off either), so I removed the velcro and pinned it back over the new fabric where it previously was. I went ahead and sewed the pocket to the waist padding so that it stayed in place while I hand stitched everything else down. It hung down past the waist padding to go to the bottom of the carrier, which stuck out about 3/4 of an inch below the waist padding. I think that ended up working nicely.
Everything looked great, so I took several hours to blind stitch everything down. On the waist padding and pocket, I sewed the padding down under where the pocket hangs down, then sewed the pocket down over that. I can't really explain what a blind stitch is, but basically, you can't see my stitching anywhere on this piece. It looks like it is just magically attached.  It also is as much work as if I could do magic. In this next picture, I was trying to get the stitches to show so I could tell you all how I did it. They would not show. this will also keep them from catching and pulling out or breaking.
I put the carrier on my dress form since my big boy was in bed at this point. I never thought I could finish this project in one day, but once I start, I just can't stop to sleep, eat, or anything.  Here is the finished  project:

The waist band can also be flipped up so that the padding faces your waist for a smaller baby.
Here is what this project cost me:
Infantino Mei Tai carrier: $15
2 pieces of Girasol wrap scrap: $30 and $20
1" high density foam: $2
purple thread: $2
total: $69.

Here is a screenshot of a custom mei tai for sale on a B/S/T page: Just examples of wrap conversions so you can see my inspiration. Mine is not that fancy but I think I saved some money trying to make my own and mine may be a bit more comfortable with the waist padding.