Sewing a child’s Mei Tai

So I keep starting these projects that take weeks to complete, and I know it’s a bit impatient of me, but I do get discouraged when I haven’t managed to finish anything in a while (hence doing easy machine-dye projects while I’m sewing upstairs!)  Anyway…

So on Friday my son asked me if I could make him a sling for him to carry his toys in.  Well I didn’t have the fabric available for that, but decided I could make him a Mei Tai.  His only requirements were that part of it was black, and part of it used the fleece ooga booga fabric scrap that I had in the box.  So I sat down after dinner that evening, and 2 hours of concentrated sewing later I’d finished!

It’s a reversible Mei Tai with black straps and an appliqued Ooga Booga monster on one side.  The Boy loves it! 😀

Finished Child’s Mei Tai Dimensions

The body of my finished child’s mei tai is about 10″ wide by 12″ high.  This will happily fit most normal sized dolls or teddies.  Each shoulder strap is 45″ long and the whole of the waist strap is 46″ long.  All straps are 1.5″ wide.  It comfortably fits my average sized 5 1/2 year old son, though older or larger children may need longer shoulder straps in order to have enough to tie off with.  I think these sizes would also be fine for younger children and you could just tie the longer ends in a bow if needed.

What I used

2 x fabric pieces 12″ x 14″ for the 2 sides of the body (mine were light blue cotton lining fabric and navy with skulls patchworking cotton)

Other fabric piece or motif for decorative applique

3 x fabric pieces 48″ x 4″ for the straps (I used some basic soft black cotton I’ve had lying around for ages – this replaced the royal blue fabric in the pic that I’d originally found)

How I made it

I started by cutting the 2 fabric pieces for the body.

Before sewing them together, I’m going to applique the plain side to make it more interesting.  If you’ve got 2 patterned fabrics, or don’t want to applique, obviously just miss this bit out.  I started by drawing the shape of an ooga booga monster on card, copying the shape from one of the monsters already printed on the fabric I’m using.  I cut out the shape then drew around the template onto the back of the fabric with pen before cutting out the fabric.  I’m using a fleece fabric that doesn’t tend to fray too much.

I pinned the shape to the middle of the mei tai body piece and sewed around the outside to attached the pieces together.

I used a normal straight stich, about 5mm from the edge to sew on the arms and legs like this:

To go around the body I used a 4mm wide zigzag spaced about 3mm apart to reflect the spikey shape of the ooga boogas on the fabric.  I went over the zigzaged bits 2-4 times to make the whole thing look quite fuzzy and to make sure the edges were all fixed down securely.

Here’s the finished ooga booga applique from the back to show the stitching more clearly.  In the second pic below you can see I’ve also now drawn the seam lines onto the fabric in pencil to show me where I’ll be sewing (as with most pics on my site, just click to view a larger version):

I then cut out the 3 strips for the straps.  Each one is cut 4″ wide so I folded them in half lengthways and sewed all the way along, leaving a 1/2 inch seam allowance.  I then pinned a big safety pin to one end and used it to thread the end through the whole long black tube to turn it the right way out.

I then turned the ends of the straps that will show into themselves to hide the raw edges and to make a nice neat, tapered end.  I topstitched this in place to secure.  You need to do this to one end of each shoulder strap and both ends of the waist strap.

Now to sew it all together!  I put the body pieces together, face to face, and pinned the sides and top edge (not the bottom edge yet).  Now I’m afraid the pics for this aren’t very clear, but what I did next was to thread the raw end of each shoulder strap up between the two body pieces from the bottom so that their raw edges stuck out just at the top corners.  I then pinned these in place.  I’ve already drawn a line in red around the body, 1″ from the edge (plus the 1 1/2″ long diagonal in each top corner) as a sewing line.  Starting from about 3″ up the body fabric, I then sewed all the way around to 3″ up from the bottom of the other side.  At the top corners, I sewed 2 little X-boxes to securely fasten the straps to the two body fabrics (this probably isn’t necesary for a toy-sling, but you never know when over-engineering is a good idea!)

Turn the whole thing the right way out.  Press and pin the seam that you’ve just sewn.  Place the waist strap onto the inside edge of one of the body fabrics (making sure that the middle of the waist strap matches the middle of the body), and roll it once up inside the carrier.  Pin in place. turn up the final raw edge of the other body fabric to match the one rolled around the waist strap and pin that too. The waist strap should now be folded into the bottom of the mei tai body, with the parts for wrapping and tying sticking out at the sides.

To finish, just use a straight stitch to top-stitch all the way around the body, about 1/3 inch or so from the edge.  This will make the whole thing look neater, and secure the waist strap in place.

And you’re finished!

And here’s this one in action front and back (it’s being used with Henry the Monster, who has very short legs and a rather big pointy tail – the fit is much better with a normal doll or teddy!)


Note of Warning: The shape and construction for this child’s mei tai are essentially like a normal, adult-sized mei tai.  However, for ones that will carry babies, you need suitable strong fabrics like cotton drill or cord and to take much more care with reinforcing the weight bearing seams at the shoulders.  This mei tai will not carry a child safely! Please do not use these instructions for making a mei tai to carry your baby!


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