Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Mei Tai Baby Carrier Tutorial

Babywearing. It's exactly what it sounds like. You wear your baby. To some, it may sound a little stifling, carrying your baby with you everywhere, but I think it's incredibly freeing. Not only has babywearing given me my hands back, but Jadon is a much happier baby doing chores and activities with me, not just watching me.

I currently have three carriers, the Moby Wrap, the Baby K'Tan, and the Snugli. I like all of them for different reasons, and for different purposes.

Shortly after I fell in love with babywearing, I started searching for all kinds of baby carriers. The Mei Tai seemed to be a pretty popular choice for babywearers. It's made entirely of fabric, so naturally, I decided to make one.

I checked out several different tutorials, mostly found through Pinterest. Turns out, there are several variations of this carrier and many approaches to construction. For my Mei Tai, I combined elements and techniques from a few tutorials.

Pinterest inspiration

This carrier has to be made out of durable fabric with little to no stretch in it. I had several leftover scraps of red and black striped fabric that fit the bill. However, there wasn't quite enough for all the required pieces, so I found a complimentary fabric for the inside face of the straps. Even still, I had to sew some pieces of striped fabric in order to make the straps long enough. You'll see what I mean in the pictures.

Here's the tutorial of how I made my Mei Tai carrier:

First, I made my straps. The two shoulder straps are each 60 inches long, and the one waist strap is 90 inches long. They are all cut 4 inches wide. With the colored side facing in, I sewed seams up the long edges of the straps to create a tube. Then, I turned these tubes right-side out.

Setting the straps aside, I pulled out my pieces for the main body panel. These will go back-to-back, each cut 20 inches by 30 inches. I ironed the sides and bottoms so that there was a two inch fold. I didn't iron the top edge yet because I wasn't sure what I was going to do with it. As it turns out, I could have ironed it like the rest of the edges right away because I ended up ironing a two inch fold later on in construction.

Next, I took my long waist strap and centered it on the bottom of the body panel. I sandwiched it inside the two body panel pieces. After pinning all the layers in place, it was back to the sewing machine.

After tapering the ends, I made one continuous seam from one end of the waist strap to the other. Then, I turned the strap around and followed the opposite edge with another long, continuous seam. The waist strap was finished off with a reinforcing "x" in the corners of the body panel.

The arm straps were attached to the body panel on an angle, about 45 degrees. The arm straps each intersected with the edge of the body panel 4.5 and 12 inches from the top of the body panel. I sandwiched the straps in between the body pieces and pinned the layers in place.

Before heading back to the sewing machine, I ironed a two-inch hem along the top edge of the body panel. If I were to make another Mei Tai, I would have made this hem earlier in the process. Then, I followed the edge of the body panel with a seam which sewed the arm straps in place. I crossed over onto the body panel about a half inch to reinforce the straps' attachment.

Some Mei Tai carriers have a flap at the top that can be used to support a sleeping baby's head. I decided to include one on my carrier because Jadon falls asleep in the wraps I own all the time. In order to hold the head flap in place, you have to tie the corners of the flap to the shoulder straps when they are in use. I made my tie chords by folding in the edges of a long strip of fabric and zig-zagging it in place. I decided not to attach the chords because Jadon isn't tall enough to need them yet.

There are three ways to carry a child using a Mei Tai. As Jadon is only about three months old, he's not quite big enough for the "hip" or "backpack" carry yet. Here's me and my cutie doing the "face in" carry:

I love my Mei Tai!

*Update! I made another Mei Tai (with some improvements) a few months later. Check it out! Mei Tai, Take Two...

Friday, November 23, 2012

Handmade Gifts for Men

I have never attended a Black Friday sale. Maybe I really am missing out on the greatest deals of the year. Maybe I'm also missing out of a headache.

I've always loved making gifts for people. I enjoy the creative process, saving a little money, and putting thought into a custom gift. However, it is so much easier to make gifts for women and children. I find myself typing "DIY gifts for men," "handmade gifts for men," or "homemade gifts for men" into Google every holiday season. Whether it's intended for my dad, brothers, husband, or male friends, men are just plain difficult to make gifts for.

I think I have successfully pulled off several gifts for my husband over the years, though.  I thought I might play "show-and-tell" with the crafty people out there looking for some gift ideas for the men in their lives.

T-shirt quilt. Jon had a lot of t-shirts left over from an electrical company he used to work for. He was going to throw them away, but I rescued them. One side is just t-shirts, and the other side is a soft fleece fabric. It's the perfect blanket for bringing on trips or picnics since it folds up so flat. Jon especially likes that I made it so long, since he's tall.

Sweater scarf. I made this scarf by buying wool sweaters at a thrift store, felting them, cutting them into little squares, and piecing them into a scarf. It's incredibly warm. You could make mittens or a hat to go along with it.

Embroidered handkerchiefs. Back in the days when we'd go swing dancing twice a week (wow, those were pre-baby days!), Jon was always searching for napkins to wipe his glistening forehead in between dances. I replaced the napkins with a set of four handkerchiefs that I embroidered with his initials.

Honeymoon memory frame. I was saving all these little mementos from our honeymoon: train tickets to New York City, postcards, restaurant advertisements, Broadway ticket stubs, etc. I finally decided to take them out of the box where we never looked at them to display in a simple frame. You could make a nice collage of any life event or vacation mementos.

Man apron. Jon is quite the cook. When we were dating, I asked him what his dream apron would have (I know, subtle, right?). Little did he know, he'd be receiving it for Christmas that year. Not only does it have pockets, it also has a Velcro tie, and little "tool belt" loops for utensils (all on his "dream apron" list!).

I still haven't decided what I'm going to make Jon this year. And guess who else is still on my list: my two brothers and my sister's new fiance. How typical of me, saving the men for last. Maybe there's a few more people like me out there who are spending Black Friday at home. I want to spend some of the day on Christmas gifts. I've got a few ideas to get me started. What gifts have you made for men that were a hit? There's enough time for us to finish a project if we get started soon!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Pinterest Project: Crocheted Yoda Hat Tutorial

My most recent crochet challenge was a Yoda hat for the one-year old son of a friend. I found a picture of a Yoda hat on Pinterest to use as a model. My friend approved of the picture, and I got to work.

My Pinterest inspiration
The basic hat form was quick and simple. The ears were another story. How was I going to get these trademark ears to stick out so that people could tell that it's Yoda?

Pinterest saved the day again! I remembered recently posting a picture on my "yarn yarn yarn" board that I thought was really clever. Someone shared a photo showing how they got crocheted bunny ears to stand up: pipe cleaners!

Crochet pipe cleaners along the edge of the ears! Genius!
I had to try the idea on my Yoda ears.

I started by tying the corners of my ears to the pipe cleaner to anchor them down.

Then I crocheted the edge of the ears, making sure to cover the pipe cleaner completely.

Next, I wound the ends of the pipe cleaners together to create a strong base. This is the side I would attach to the hat.

Completed Yoda ear!
I attached the ears last night. Jadon had no idea that he would become a model this morning! It looks big on him, but it is for a kid who's more than one year older, after all.

"When two months old you reach, look as good, you will not, hmmm?"

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Crocheted Hats Galore!

I've found myself in the middle of a hat-crocheting marathon.

It all started in early October. A friend invited me to sell some baby hats at a craft booth that she and her mom manage every year. They were looking to expand their inventory and knew that I'm rather crafty. Since I discovered that I could nurse Jadon and crochet at the same time, I cranked out about a hat a day and handed them over to my friend to sell at her booth. Here's a sample of the hats, all with multi-colored yarn:

Then a different friend (who had received a pink hat from me at her baby shower) told me that a woman she knows wanted to buy a similar hat from me for her baby, but in blue. Here's the result:

After I finished this hat, it was sitting on my desk during a third friend's visit to my apartment. She oohed and ahhed over it, and asked if she could buy hats for her two daughters. She wanted one to match a pink coat and one to match a purple coat. I soon finished them:

This week yet another friend said that she wanted to purchase a "dragon" hat for her daughter. I did a quick google search and found this inspiration:

By this time, my little Jadon was getting bigger fast, and I couldn't crochet and nurse as easily. But I found another way to multitask: babywearing and crocheting!

When he gets fussy, I throw him in my wrap, tuck a ball of yarn behind his back, and start pacing and bouncing around the room. Puts him to sleep every time. For this hat, I decided to ditch the ear flaps and tie and came up with this:

                                           (front)                                                      (back)

I still have two other friends expecting babies in a few months who also want hats! I'm having the time of my life with this creative outlet. Any other requests for a crocheted hat? I make the little flowered ones for $15, and custom hats for $25. Pretty much anything you see in a store or on Etsy I can imitate.

Bring it on!