Monday, February 22, 2010

How to make a doll sling: A tutorial in pictures

All right, full credit for this idea goes to Missy of A Work in Progress, who suggested in an aside that I should use the scraps from my normal-size mei tai baby carrier to make a mini mei tai for little babywearing kids and their dolls.

So read on — a 41-step process to craft a no-sew (or minimal-sew: your choice) doll carrier mei tai out of fleece scraps. Skip a step at your peril.

(Editor's note: Slightly abridged version with pattern is at the end, as well as a chance to WIN YOUR OWN mini mei tai!)

Take your existing mei tai and drape it around your willing dressform to eyeball how much smaller your new version has to be.
Confirm that room is as messy as possible for the pictures.

Make sure he's holding two baby dolls to allow for tandem babywearing.

Sorta kinda measure your child and mark the results on your scrap fabric, using a precise scientific method.

Admit that perhaps pins might be more helpful, so mark the overall length you want.

Cut nowhere near your mark because you have an obsession to make everything too big.

Have your cat get in the way of your picture taking.

Decide to take a picture of her instead, but have trouble with the focus. Watermark the pictures so no one can deny the proof of your genius.

Ah, there we go.

Have your sick child get mad at you that he's not sitting on your lap as he has for the past four days straight.

Ask his father to please take the cranky guy on a walk.

Go back to taking pictures and find the cat's tail in the way.

Distract her with the box of pins.

Muse on the awesomeness of the name Prym Dritz.

Measure out the strap widths because you forget the trick of folding fabric in half. Every time you sew.

Mark how tall the apron part should be so you don't cut the straps too far.

With all your pins marked, get ready to cut.

Be interrupted by hysterical baby who won't leave for a walk until he has nummies first.

Have husband carry over the invalid.

Look into your child's look of reproach for not paying absolute attention to him.

Check out how long this sucker is.

Start those scissors, and appreciate how nice and sharp your new pair are.

Look up to see what's going on with ice skating.

Cut over across the top of the apron.

Witness it all cut out! Consider stopping here, because honestly — dolls aren't that heavy. You could just kind of wrap the shoulder straps around the doll's bum tightly enough to hold it in.

But realize people might think you're a slacker for not doing a proper mei tai. Resign yourself to sewing on a waist strap.

Cut the remaining scrap in half lengthwise.

Fold it in half and pin it onto the bottom of the apron, matching up centers.

Check out the underside view.

Congratulate yourself that you were able to find your sewing machine. Then note that the power cord is not with it. Sigh loudly.

Grudgingly bring down your hand-sewing box. Hope that thread and needles are inside the jumble.

Dark green? Sure, you can work with that.

And it's done! Pat yourself on the back and wait impatiently for your kid to get back from his walk with dad.

In the meantime, make sure the (naked, always) doll will fit. Yup.

Keep one eye on the Olympics.

Compare the size of the mini mei tai to the regular one. Yup, it's smaller.

They're back! Get help trying it on your son.

Admire how cute it is even from the back.

Coo over the sweet cuddliness of a babywearing baby.

Take the mini mei tai off because your two-year-old refuses to keep it on.

Oh, well, it was cute while it lasted. Give yourself an A for babywearing effort.

Here is the real tutorial:

Mini Mei Tai doll baby carrier pattern from Hobo MamaYou can click to see the pattern larger.

I've adapted the mini mei tai pattern from my regular mei tai pattern, which was in turn adapted from a pattern at (but the links to that site don't appear to be currently working).

The idea is that this pattern should fit within the scraps you had left over from making the adult mei tai out of a heavy fleece fabric. If you look at the pattern for the large size version here, you'll see that three large pink areas are discards. There should be something in there that would give you enough fabric to create a mini mei tai for a baby doll.

Otherwise, just look for some other big fleece scraps you have around! Fleece is preferable because you don't have to hem it since it won't unravel. Yea! Plus, it will be plenty sturdy enough to hold a doll or two or three.

The measurements I used in the photographs above turned out to be a wee bit large. I've tried to adjust the finished size down for the pattern. That said, compare your own child's size. I have a 2-year-old who weighs 35-ish pounds and wears 4T, and his biggest doll is 14 inches long; if your child (or doll) is much smaller or much larger, you might want to do a specific waist and torso (and doll) measurement to see what would be best. Keep in mind that big dolls might be able to have their legs outside of the fabric apron as with carrying a larger baby in a real mei tai.

In this pattern, the apron covering the child's chest will be 12 inches wide and 14 inches tall. The straps will be about 45 inches long.

To use the pattern: fold fabric over into a big rectangle and mark and cut out, along the folded side, the smaller pink rectangle of approximately 3 inches by 45 inches. You'll probably have excess to cut off the other side and the top or bottom as well, unless you want an oversized mini mei tai like mine. I mean, hey, mine works, so whatever you want to do! You know, it's scraps anyway, so if you want to just sort of eyeball it, feel free.

And that's it, if you want to stick with not sewing. The leftover scraps weren't enough to do a legitimate no-sew mei tai with waist straps, but I think the shoulder straps alone should be sufficient to hold a doll's weight.

But, if you don't mind sewing a straight line or two, you can add a waist strap from the small pink rectangle you cut out.

Cut the leftover rectangle in half lengthwise and then line it up along the bottom of the apron, as in the pictures. (Those captions were serious.) I folded mine in half lengthwise and tucked the bottom of the apron inside so that the mei tai would be reversible and look the same from either side.

Then just sew the waist strap on! I imagine you could use some sort of hemming tape or glue if you really want a waist strap and really don't want to sew.

Does that all make sense?

Then you tie it on your child like a normal mei tai:
  • If you have a waist strap, tie that on first.
  • Have your kid hold her doll against her chest while you pull the apron up over the doll's back and smooth the shoulder straps over your child's shoulders.
  • Cross the shoulder straps over her back.
  • Bring the shoulder straps around front and tie. You can do a knot or a bow.
  • If you don't have a waist strap, tie the shoulder straps under the doll's bum to keep it hoisted!

This should be ever so clear, but let me be explicit: This is a doll carrier. It is not meant for human babies. It is not designed to support an infant's weight, only a doll's. Supervise your kid if he's likely to try to wear his baby sister when you're not looking! Also just supervise your kid in general, because these are some long straps on this carrier that could be a hazard if your child becomes tangled. Keep an eye out when the carrier is in use, and put the carrier away when not in use. Ok?

So what do you think? Is this cute or what? Passing on babywearing to the next generation!

Send me your photos if you make one, and I will die from the adorableness. I also welcome any feedback or suggestions, because I am not, and I think there is no doubt here, advanced at doing sewing tutorials and/or sewing. Oh, and did I mention the pattern's not to scale? It so isn't.

For a chance to WIN YOUR OWN Mini Mei Tai, check out my giveaway post on Hobo Mama Reviews! Winner chooses from these four sweet fabrics. Contest closes March 18, which should give you lots of time to pick.

Mama Knows Breast: A Beginner's Guide to BreastfeedingWhile you're there, check out my giveaways page, where you can currently also win a copy of Mama Knows Breast, a wonderful breastfeeding guide by Andi Silverman.

Just think what a great combo pack this would be for a new sibling gift: a mini mei tai for the older sib, and the breastfeeding book for the mama!

In fact, get an extra entry into the mini mei tai giveaway by entering the Mama Knows Breast giveaway! But hurry — the Mama Knows Breast giveaway ends this Thursday, Feb. 25!

Read more about different baby carriers and babywearing, complete with pictorial how-tos, in my Natural Parent's Guide to Babywearing!


TopHat said...

I've been meaning to make my daughter a mei tai for months, I just haven't done it yet. Must start sewing...

Missy said...

ha! love it! best tutorial EVER! and just in time for me to make one for my niece's birthday..

Dionna @ Code Name: Mama said...

Beautiful! And that polka dot fabric? I made Kieran an apron out of the same stuff. Hilarious!!

~Dionna @ Code Name: Mama

Betsy B. Honest said...

Oh no... now I MUST find polka dot fleece. I MUST!

Anonymous said...

It really is super-cute. But I have to admit, I don't want to misplace my sewing machine power cord. I am willing to skip that step and take my chances, because I'm a rebel, man.

Melodie said...

I enjoyed that immensely. Best post I've read all day. I'd like to try to sew one myself but the reality if that happening is almost nil. Sooo, I think I'll just mosey on over and enter to win one. :)

Cave Mother said...

I loved your picture tutorial, though I'm a bit jealous of the ice-skating-watching since it's all on in the middle of the night over here. Anyway, it doesn't look too hard. One to bookmark and try to make some day!

Lisa C said...

What's the deal with cats always walking in front of the camera? And why must they walk all over anything you lay on the floor? And what's the deal with naked dolls?? Why must they always be in the nude? (Subconscious desire to run about nekked all day like tribal babies???)

Hee, hee. Nice post.

Anonymous said...

This was hilarious! and fabulous!
I love the cat competing for attention and such a sweet sick baby giving you such sad looks. AND you watched the Olympics!! I am in awe!

The Pure Mom said...

So cute and fun! Your tutorial is amazing too! I made a child sling for my toddler, but I think this is so much more cool :)
The Pure Mom

Anonymous said...

I so enjoyed your picture tutorial!!

Unknown said...

Hi, I am past the breastfeeding, babywearing stages (my boys are 16, 12, and 5) but I've been reading through a lot of your stuff and I love your blog. I wish I had seen some of this 16 years ago when I had a very difficult time with my first. We only co-slept with our when they were newborns. Aside from that, we have followed most of attachment parenting principles and just didn't know that it was anything different.

When it comes to discipline we have always started from the definition of discipline. It means to teach. It has nothing to do with punishment. That's not to say that we don't lose our temper and act like ill-mannered children ourselves sometimes, but our aim is to teach appropiate behavior and logical consequences of bad behavior.

The best books I have ever read on babies, toddlers, and dealing with kids in general are:

Dr Karp's "The Happiest Baby on the Block" and "The Happiest Toddler on the Block"; and "How To Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk" (I don't remember the author(s) names for that one but it is worth looking up.

Thanks for all of the information as well as the upbeat attitude!

Lauren Wayne said...

I just need to chime in with a warning to Amber: I can't guarantee the results if you don't follow every step of the tutorial! Oh, dear, though, it's going to be hard now that the Olympics are over, isn't it?

Speaking of which, cave mother, I know — I felt so indulgent that it was in my time zone for once!

Lisa C: No kidding!! On all points!

The Pure Mom: I'd love to see your sling. Do you have pictures online?

Sue: Love the tips, and thanks for the book recommendations!

Anonymous said...

Wow, you are simply amazing. Thank you for taking the time to share this ;)

Pam said...

Lol made me smile and so cute too - my baby too small for this yet but sure I can find another wee one who'd love it so I'm going to give it a go! Thanks for sharing :)

Lauren Wayne said...

@Pam: So glad! Have fun. :)

Evi Andrews said...

I know this entry is kinda friend posted this tutorial on FB and asked if somebody could make MeiTai for her daughter. I stepped up and yelled "pick me, pick me" and so I was chosen :). I don't have any fleece so I used regular cotton. I had to figure out how to sew it but it wasn't really all that hard. Turns daughter loved the MeiTai so much she wanted to take her baby Stella to bed strapped into the carrier :). I will make her one tomorrow. What a cute idea. I had a MeiTai myself but my daughter did not want to be carried, unfortunately.

Michelle said...

I loved your tutorial. It was so hilarious. My husband thought there was something wrong with me. I loved it. So many similarities to my life.
Thank you for posting. :)

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