A Finished Mei Tai

It's a good feeling to work hard at something and have it turn out better than expected.  I didn't take any in-progress pictures of my mei tai aside from the one I showed last time because I expected this to be a practice run, and not something I'd absolutely love and be proud to wear.  But this project proved to be excellent practice in sewing straight lines, and though my carrier isn't perfect, I do love the way it turned out and none of its flaws are noticeable from a distance. :)

Mei tai (pronounced "may-tie") carriers have a history that dates back hundreds if not thousands of years.  They originated in China, experienced a resurgence in Australia in the 60s and have gained popularity in the States over the last decade.  A mei tai is made of a rectangular fabric panel and 4 straps that are tied.  They are versatile carriers, suitable for both infants (with a rolled and cinched waist) and older babies, and can be worn on front, back, or hip. Because the straps tie rather than buckle and there is less structure, they fit a greater variety of body types and often are liked by people who can't seem to get a good fit in a soft structured buckle carrier like an Ergo, Tula, Boba, or Beco.  A mei tai can be worn higher than a ssc, and also holds a baby's body more snugly against the caregiver's, so they can be used safely for back carries earlier. 

This is a great video showing how to use a mei tai in a front carry, and this is a good one for a back carry.  Note that these videos feature a mei tai with wrap-style straps that can be spread more.  This video shows a few additional tie offs.

As mentioned previously, I followed Beth's "Man Tai" instructions, but made several of my own tweaks based on what I knew I liked in other carriers.  I added legs-out padding (cushioning where baby's leg rests), a different kind of pocket because I couldn't wrap my head around the pleats, and removable, matching drool pads (kids love to suck on carrier straps!).  My carrier is sized for a toddler with final dimensions around 17"x23" (including the waist piece, more like 17"x20" without it).  I shaped the body panel more like a Tula and modeled strap positioning after my Infantino.  Here they are side by side.

It fits well and is very comfortable, and we have room to grow in it.  Feels like a win to me! :)

All my materials were purchased at Jo-Ann's. I used 100% polyester Gütermann thread, a heavyweight needle, black bottomweight twill, and a canvas-like home decor fabric called "Hipster Jet" for the carrier.  Both the fabrics softened nicely with a wash and dry. 6 oz. polyester batting is the padding material, doubled up in the shoulder and legs-out areas.  I also found having a cutting mat, rotary cutter, and quilting ruler invaluable.  


P.S. - International Babywearing Week 2014 is October 5-11th! :)


Lori said…
Ok I think I need to invite you over to educate me! Splendid job on this carrier! Question. I have read your post about the different carriers and itnis time for me to re-read, but pls tell me, what carriers can I put my 4 month old in on my back?
Lori said…
And some of the tweaks that U can visibly see between yours and the man tei are incredible! Question: have you thought about doing a little side business in making these or perhaps in babywearing consulting?
Sara B. said…
Lori, for an infant who is not yet sitting independently, you need the structure and support of a woven wrap or mei tai, because they need to be carried high enough that you can feel their breath on the nape of your neck, and tight enough that they can't slump into an airway-compromising position. When the child can sit independently it opens up your options a lot, because a soft structured carrier like an Ergo, Boba, Beco, etc. can be used for back carries starting usually around 6 months. Some mei tais officially follow that guideline as well, though. The Infantino Sash is a great budget one at around $20-23.

The carrier industry is strictly regulated in terms of testing requirements, and so I could never sell my creations. I'm always happy to help friends on an individual basis with figuring out what works though, and you could always come over to try out what I have! :) But we also have a local Babywearing International (BWI) chapter, which is an awesome resource--I'd highly recommend going to a meeting sometime. The ladies who run it are extremely knowledgeable and there's a fairly large lending library available at meetings so you can try carriers on. I'll get in touch with the meeting info. :)
Sara B. said…
I wanted to add, back carries in woven wraps have a steep learning curve and are definitely a practiced skill, so a mei tai would be a better bet for something easy to work with and easy to learn (you can get baby on your back from a seated position on a chair or couch), as well as being much cheaper!

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