Saturday, October 26, 2013

Tablecloth Mei Tai Tutorial with Wrap Style Straps


This TCMT tutorial will show how to make a Mei Tai Baby Carrier with wrap-style straps from a table cloth!

Wrap Conversion Mei Tais (WCMT) are high quality, supportive, comfortable baby carriers that tend to be a fairly hefty babywearing investment, between the cost of the woven wrap and the cost of conversion. Enter the Tablecloth Mei Tai (TCMT) with Wrap Style Straps! You can make your own basic wrap conversion style Mei Tai (MT) for a fraction of the cost. 

The wider "wrap style" straps offer more security for smaller babies by covering more of the open sides of the carrier, and offer more support for bigger babies and toddlers by spreading the  full width of the straps across and under the back and bum. They also allow for spreading the straps to cup/cap the wearer's shoulders for even weight distribution and to avoid the straps digging into the neck. Mei Tais are very versatile carriers that can be used for front, back, and hip carries. Enough blabbing, let's get on to the DIY Tablecloth WCMT tutorial!



Here's what you'll need:
  • A sewing machine and basic sewing skills
  • A tablecloth that is at least 60" x 84" and is made of strong, woven, 100% cotton. If you are plus-sized, you'll want a longer table cloth. (I'm about a size 12 and a size "Large" top, and the 84" length is JUST long enough for me.) I used this one for this project. Another popular and suitable choice are Mahogany brand tablecloths. Target's 100% cotton tablecloths would also work, and thrift stores can be a gold mine for high quality table cloths!  
  • 1/2-3/8 yard of a strong fabric such as canvas, twill, or duck. This will be the inner layer of the base of the carrier and is the foundation you will anchor your straps to. 
  • Thread to match your table cloth. Use a high quality, all purpose thread such as Gutermann Sew-All or Coats & Clark Dual Duty All-Purpose Thread. [affiliate links]
  • Basic sewing tools: sharp scissors, pins, something to measure with
  • An iron and surface to iron on
  • Paper, cardboard, newspaper, etc. to make your pattern for the body panels. 
  • Time and patience. I'm still pretty new to sewing and this was a fairly complicated project for me. All told, I probably spent around 5 hours over 3 days on it. 
Preparation

Before you get started, wash and dry your table cloth and inner panel fabric. Thread your sewing machine. Decide what size panels you want and design your pattern. The pattern should be one half of the desired panel size/design. 


I used an extra panel (folded in half) from the first MT I made as a starting point for my pattern.
The easiest panel style is a rectangle with top corners cut off at about a 45 degree angle, like the plaid panel shown above, BUT, include "tabs" (see pattern below) at the shoulder and waist strap openings.

Approximate measurements for an infant-sized MT would be 14-15" wide and 20" high 
(about 4" of the height is taken up by the waist strap).

Approximate measurements for a toddler-sized MT would be 17-18" wide and 22" high.

Alternately, you can trace the panel of a MT 
or copy the dimensions of a carrier that you know fits well. :)

Allow about an inch total in both directions (height and width) for seam allowance.

For this project, I went with a more toddler-sized body panel 
with contoured sides and a head rest.


If you plan to do a similar size/style to mine, I recommend making the shoulder strap openings 6" wide instead of 5" wide, as I was cutting it VERY close and ended up with pretty bulky seams right around the shoulder straps. If you're doing a more basic rectangular panel like the plaid panel shown above, you'll want to include 1" "tabs" for the shoulder and waist strap openings like the ones shown on my paper pattern for this project. This is one of the things I learned the hard way in making the first one. ;) If you're doing a head rest, make it about an inch taller than the one shown in my paper pattern. (Again, learned the hard way.)

Take a deep breath, you're ready to start cutting up your table cloth!



Start by cutting the shoulder straps from either side of the table cloth. 
These will be the full length (84") and you can cut them 10"-14" wide. 
(I went 14" because I like WIIIIIDE straps.)
Cutting the straps from either side means less sewing/time, 
as 3 sides of each strap are already hemmed!

Next, cut the waist straps. 
Cut one 5" wide strip, the full length of the table cloth.
Cut that in half, leaving with you two strips that are 5" wide 
and half the length of your table cloth.
If you are petite, or if you started with a longer table cloth, 
you may wish to trim the waist straps shorter.
I would recommend completing the project first, 
then going back and trimming/hemming
the ends of the waist straps if desired. 

You should be left with a piece that is approximately 27" wide 
and the full length of your tablecloth.
Cut two rectangles, with which to use your pattern to cut out your body panels.
(The rectangle size depends on your pattern/size.)

The rest is scrap! 
If you're crafty and/or ambitious, you could use the leftover scrap to make a hood, 
add a pocket, make a bag, or even a mini MT for a child!

Time to cut out the body panels!


Fold one of your rectangular pieces in half.
Line up the long, straight edge of your pattern with the folded edge of the fabric, and contoured/shorter/outer side with the open side.
Pin the pattern to the fabric and cut around it.

Repeat with the other rectangle.


These are the front and back panel of the body of your Mei Tai!
(I cut one in each direction so that one side of my MT 
has vertical stripes and one has horizontal!)

Cut the inner "base" panel


Use your pattern to cut a panel from your heavy weight base fabric 
I used twill; canvas or duck are also suitable. 
DO NOT use stretchy or light weight fabric.
Trim off the shoulder/waist strap opening "tabs" to make it easier to finish off those seams.

Ready to start sewing?


Start by hemming all of the straps. 
You should have to have hem one long side on each of your wide shoulder straps, 
and the two longer sides on each of your waist straps. 
(You can leave the ends of the waist straps with a raw edge un-hemmed)

You can either press or pin your hem, I prefer to press it with an iron.
Fold the edge over about 3/8" inch and press, 
then fold over itself so the raw edge is buried and press again.


Or fold it over twice and pin, if you prefer.

Use a basic straight stitch to hem all straps. 

Attach straps to base body panel.

You can gather, fold, or pleat the straps in a variety of ways. 
This is a vague direction, but do what makes sense to you.
I did sort of a sloppy pleat:


When you determine how you want to gather/fold/pleat, pin the straps to the heavy-duty inner panel piece.
They need to be "sunk in" at least 4 inches. (I sink them in closer to 6.)
Keep the hemmed side up, facing away from the panel piece.
The raw edged ends of the waist straps should be on the end toward the center of the carrier.


This photo is from after sewing, but shows how you want them attached:


The waist straps should be attached straight across the bottom, 
about 1/2 inch up from the bottom of the panel.
The shoulder straps should be attached at something approximating a 45 degree angle.

Attach the straps to the base panel using X-Box stitching. 
Go over the X-Box 3-4 times to reinforce it. 
I do two smaller x-boxes to attach each waist strap and one large x-box to attach each shoulder strap.

These points where the straps attach to the base are the weight-bearing points for the whole carrier. 
They need to be sewn securely in order to safely bear the weight of your baby. 

To sew an x box, start by sewing a square that reaches to each hemmed edge of the strap. When you get back to the starting point of the square, pivot and sew diagonally across inside the square to the opposite corner, then pivot and sew straight across (reinforcing one side of the box) to the next corner, then pivot and again sew diagonally to the opposite corner, forming an X inside of the square. Reinforce all sides of the square and both lines of the X by sewing over them 3-4 times.

Repeat for all straps.

(NEW! If you would like to add a padded waist and legs-out padding to your Mei Tai,
please click HERE to proceed!)

Pin the Body Panel pieces together.


Lay down your inner panel piece with the attached straps on a flat surface, 
with the strap attachments facing up. 

Lay the panel that will be the "back" of your MT on top of the inner panel, right side facing UP.
Lay the "front" panel of your MT on top of that, right side facing DOWN.

Line everything up and
PIN, PIN, PIN!

Sew the Panels Together.


Sew around the edges of the body panels, but DO NOT sew across the straps/strap openings!
Sew across the bottom, starting/stopping within 1/2 inch of the straps. 
Sew up each side, again, starting/stopping within 1/2 inch of the straps.
Sew across the top, you guessed it, starting/stopping within 1/2 inch of the straps.

IT IS IMPERATIVE THAT YOU DO NOT SEW OVER THE STRAPS/OPENINGS!

Once you have sewn the 3 panels together along the top, bottom, and sides, 
you are ready to turn your MT right side out.

Did you guess that you're going to do that by 
gently/carefully pulling the right side out through a strap opening? ;)

I prefer to use one of the shoulder strap openings since they are a little wider.
Gently and carefully work the right side of the carrier out through the opening, 
then pull each strap through its opening.

Turn and Pin the shoulder openings.


Turn under the raw edges of the openings on either side of each strap and pin them together.

Topstitch!


Topstitch around the entire edge of the carrier to finish it off! 
Take care when sewing across the strap openings 
to ensure that you're getting through all of the layers 
(shouldn't be a problem if everything is lined up properly, 
but mine weren't lined up perfectly and I ended up having to 
go back over a few spots which was sloppy looking.)

Done!

Trim any remaining loose threads, and you're done!


Take a moment to admire your handiwork,
then grab your baby and give it a test run!



As this is a handmade, item, check often for wear and tear and discontinue use if you have any concern that the integrity of the carrier is compromised. Use your best judgement to determine the weight limit for your carrier. If you used appropriate materials and proper construction, it should safely hold 25-30 lbs. I feel secure carrying both my 25-ish pound baby and my 30-ish pound preschooler in mine, and imagine I will feel comfortable with it up to 35 pounds if I'm diligent in checking for wear and tear.

This is my very first sewing tutorial, so if you have questions or feedback, PLEASE comment with them!

If you make your own Mei Tai based on this tutorial, I'd love to see it! 
Please share a photo of it in the comments or on the Fine and Fair Facebook page!

33 comments:

  1. I have to say... Every other tutorial I've seen has the shoulder straps cut side-by-side. You're brilliant!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. HOW I GOT MY MAN BACK
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      HOW I GOT MY MAN BACK
      i just want to start this way by giving a huge thanks to this man DR. UGO ANDREW for what he has just done in my life and my family . At first i thought it won,t work because many has failed me before but on a second thought i said let me just try and to my best surprise Harris my husband that said and insist he has nothing to do with me and my family again called me immediately this great man DR. UGO ANDREW of generalspelltemple@gmail.com cast a love spell on him and started begging for forgiveness. Well i love him so much and at once i accepted him back and today we are both living in pace and harmony, all the glory is to this man DR. UGO ANDREW of generalspelltemple@gmail.com DOC I THANK YOU once again for you are worthy of all the praise and thanks. forever am grateful and shall ever be to you . i also want to say if you are out there passing through any relationship issues you can contact him today and i strongly believe he will also help you out. once again you can contact him through the following way

      Email Address: generalspelltemple@gmail.com

      WhatsApp Number: +1 (518)855-8371

      Delete
  2. This looks great!

    On the pattern...is it 22" from top to bottom or 22" plus the 4 at the waist?

    ReplyDelete
  3. hello i LOVE this tutorial Thank you :-)
    can i use this fabric to make my own?
    https://www.fabric.com/buy/uk-709/premier-prints-barber-natural-village-blue
    please advice me

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Just in case you didn't see my reply on facebook:

      Hi Karla! That fabric will definitely be strong and sturdy enough. You may find that it's a bit stiff for the straps at first, but will probably soften up with use. You could use a coordinating blue twill or linen for the straps and this fabric for the body panel, those would be a bit more soft/easier to use for the strap material. Let me know if you have any other questions!

      Good luck with your MT Karla! I hope you'll post a pic when it's finished, I'd love to see it! :)

      Delete
  4. Great tutorial!! I think I found the one I will be making! Just wondering if this size still works for a newborn baby, or should I make a smaller one?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If you go much smaller than the "infant" dimensions indicated above, it will be outgrown pretty quickly. I'd do the infant dimensions, then roll up the waist band as needed to take up height, and cinch with a ribbon to adjust the width for a newborn. :)

      Delete
    2. Thanks for answering :) Does your paper pattern already include the seam allowances? Or do I still need to add them?

      Delete
  5. http://m.kohls.com/kohlsopenapi/productmobile.html?productID=1680101

    Would this table cloth work?

    Also, thank you for making this tutorial! I have a few woven wraps but they can get very expensive.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hmmm...it's hard to say without feeling it in hand! It looks like it might be a little on the thin side, just on looks alone, but if it feels sturdy and similar in weight to a woven wrap, go for it! :)

      Delete
  6. Hi there, I've found a heavy cotton fabric I'd like to use but it's just 54 inches wide... can I use it? How much length would I need? The design is small so I don't think that would be an issue... thanks in advance!

    ReplyDelete
  7. I was going to comment on the HORROR of using a wine rack to store anything but wine, but mine gets emptied as soon as it gets filled anyway. It's currently overflowing, but I'm hosting girls' night tonight, so I expect it to be empty again tomorrow. :shrug:
    Infoeminent

    ReplyDelete
  8. Is there a reason you cut the waist strap in half instead of leaving it intact and running it all across the bottom? It seems like it would give a little more security, but maybe there's a reason that doesn't work well? Thanks! Great tutorial... I'm excited to try it out!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think it just gives you a little more length! Im going to do it as a solid piece!

      Delete
  9. Will 100% linen work in a single layer, or would it be better to double it, or to use one layer each of linen and canvas? I have some linen that I made into a wrap carrier, but my kidling is too impatient to wrap these days. I think a Mei Tai would be a little faster. That wrap is 170 inches long and 60 inches wide, so I have enough to double the fabric is necessary!

    ReplyDelete
  10. Would you happen to make one of these to sell?? I am in love with the wrap style mei tai but dont have a sewing machine.

    ReplyDelete
  11. thanks for this tutorial! i finally made my first ever mei tai and will be making more..

    ReplyDelete
  12. Hi....can you add this as a video tutorial Pleaseeeeeeeee........It will be very helpful for us to understand exactly how to do it.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Also I wanted to know...is it necessary to add canvas or duck fabric for inner panel?? Can't we use the remaining scrap cloth to make one more panel and attach all these three panels ..it will be also heavy and reliable right??? please reply I'm waiting... thank you so much

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, if you have enough table cloth left over, the internal layer can be table cloth. :)

      Delete
  14. Nice Post! This is a great post. I like this topic.This site has lots of advantage.I found many interesting things from this site. It helps me in many ways.Thanks for posting this again. Thanks a million and please keep up the effective work Thank yo so much for sharing this kind of info- Table linen hire essex

    ReplyDelete
  15. I've just made this WCMT, its lovely! Thanks so much for the tutorial!

    ReplyDelete
  16. Hey, if I am making the whole thing from %100 Duck canvas, so i still need a middle layer? Please Let me know soon, Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The important thing is the X boxes, as they bear the weight. Then you just need to get the two layers right so the straps are on the inside and you will be showing the X boxes.

      Delete
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  18. Are your seam allowances included in the paper pattern of do I still need to add those on?

    ReplyDelete
  19. Hi i recently bought a size 5 woven wrap (a cheap one) but its only 26 inches wide. ITs very very long though. Can i still use it to make this mei tai. I don't like the wrap at all, far to much fabric to be dealing with so want to make a mei tai and ring sling with it. Also can i double up on fabric instead of having to get more for the inner panel? Will this be strong enough for straps as well? ITs 100% cotton and very stiff.

    ReplyDelete
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