Saturday, May 3, 2008

Babywearing Baby

When Willow was a baby, Matt and I wore her nearly all the time in a couple of ring slings I'd made--blue plaid for him, purple stripes for me. Babywearing is terrific for the baby's emotional well-being, physical stimulation, intellectual growth, you name it. Ring slings are terrific for wearing babies, newborn through sitting up, because they're adjustable, versatile, and comfy. They're not great for older kids, however, because their weight isn't evenly distributed--then you need something more ergonomically correct. By the time Willow was a toddler, however, about Sydney's age, I'd completely stopped wearing her, and that's because of this:

See the package hanging around my neck? That's Sydney, taking her turn at being worn in the ring sling. And that's why my back has been killing me, now that Sydney is almost two and therefore almost a big girl. Thus begins the search for the big-girl baby carrier.

The mei tai is my big-girl carrier of choice--it's a soft Asian-style carrier, modified in the US to be easier to put on independently (traditionally, Asian mommies were never alone with their babies, and traditionally, American mommies nearly always are). You can wear your kiddo in front or back, vertically, with weight distributed over your shoulders, across your back, and around your waist.

There are a lot of really beautiful mei tais being made by stay-at-home moms just like me, only they sew better and have better taste. McKenzie Shields of Bunchkin Designs makes the most beautiful baby carriers I've ever seen, with lots of rich brocades and gadgety doo-dads. I also really, really like the mei tais at Babyhawk, on account of their awesome punk fabrics. The only problem with this terrific assortment of beautiful mei tais, all of them exactly what I want? They're super-expensive, as they ought to be, and I am super-poor.

I was super-sad for a while, lusting after the awesomeness of the mei tai, but what you have to do when that happens is remember your convictions. I don't buy things new; I craft them using recycled materials. Never mind that I've never made anything this complicated before and don't have the materials to make one now. I need a padded and beautiful fabric for the back--Matt's Aunt Vicki gave Willow a Hawaiian-print baby quilt, actually from Hawaii, when she was born, but the girls haven't used it in a year. I need some long, long straps, made out of a bottomweight fabric or home dec material--I'm never going to fit again into the half-dozen pairs of jeans I wore between Willow and Sydney, and even if I did, hell, they wouldn't be in style.

I was inspired by Jan Andrea's site years ago when I designed my ring slings, and she also has these terrific instructions for a mei tai, but mostly I just fiddled around. I quilted the shoulder straps to the back, and bound all my edges in denim to keep from having to hem and turn, except for the straps, which I topstitched around but I'm going to let the edges fray because that will be very cool. It's not perfect, but I did make it, and instead of ninety dollars it was free, and it's perfect for me and my almost big girl:

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