How to Make a Baby Sling
If you are a sewer and know your way around the sewing machine, this project will be fun for you if you wish to make a gift for your mama friend, or if you are expecting. I’m going to show you how to make a baby sling with a pleated shoulder. In this instance, it’s a Ring Sling.
Some fashionable retailers that make Baby Ring Slings!
4 main types of Baby Slings
- Meh Dai
- Ring Sling (what I will show you in this tutorial). What I love about the Ring Sling as compared to the others is that it is easily adjustable. I started Baby Boomba as a place to sell all these types of slings and I have tried them all. It is really based on your personal preference. I loved my Peanut Shell Baby Pouch Sling, however I really didn’t trust myself to have a newborn in there. I would use that more for when the baby can hold their own heads up. The Wrap is a long 5 meter lump of gigantic confusion (although the Baby K’Tan has proved to remedy that) and the Meh Dai (my grandma use to carry me in that when I was a baby) is usually for back carry and just has too many spidery arms for me.
So essentially, the Ring Sling is one long piece of fabric with 2 rings sewn at one end.
Cost + Supplies
- Sewing Machine
- Measuring Tape
- Fabric (2 meters for $21.60 at a 40% discount!)
- Spool of regular all purpose thread for hemming.
- Spool of heavy duty polyester thread (Guttermann brand) for the shoulder pleat support ($3.89)
Note: Because this is thicker thread, make sure you adjust your sewing machine’s tension.
- A pair off Ring Slings. I got mine at medium size at SlingRings (in the USA) which are the go-to people for this sort of thing. ($10.71 CAD with shipping)
Retail Ring Slings can go anywhere between $35 (on ETSY) to over $250 depending on the retailer, their brand, the type of fabric whether it be organic cotton, linen, silk, camel hair, etc. Assuming you already have the sewing machine, measuring tape and scissors, this Ring Sling is costing me about $36.20 CAD. I will save my rant on fabric import to Canada for another post (which is why I had to resort to Fabricland, which that in itself demands these questions to be answered.)
Step 1: Getting your fabric. What type of fabric and how much?
Head into your favourite online fabric store or your local crotchety Fabricland. If you don’t want to be met with wrath, then I would choose Fabric.com. The best type of fabric to use is something that is not stretchy. You don’t want the baby to sag or heaven forbid fall out. So choose something that is sturdy and breathable like a Linen or Linen/Cotton Blend. Pre-wash the fabric and tumble dry low (if it allows).
Keep in mind that the tail of the Ring Sling that is showing will actually be the BACK of the fabric, so make sure that you choose a fabric that isn’t a one sided pattern/colour only or you will regret it in the end. Refer to my little diagram below and for a really neat calculator, visit Sleeping Baby Productions. Ring Sling widths are usually 30 inches and the length is variable depending where you want the tail to sit. I am 5 foot tall, usually fit a small/medium so I opted to make this sample to be 75 inches in length.
Step 2: Cutting the fabric and hemming both of the long sides
The fabric usually comes 45 inches wide. Leave a 1 inch hem allowance on both edges, so you will be cutting it at 32 inches to make a final 30 inch width. To hem, fold the edge 1/2 inch, iron to crease, then fold it another 1/2 inch again, iron to crease, making this a 1 inch hem, and then run the sewing machine straight down to finish it off. You can just use your regular normal thread for this.
I decided to sew a double stitch for the hem for decorative reasons. Here is a shot of the front and back.
Step 3: Making the shoulder with pleats
There are several ways to make the shoulder. You can do absolutely nothing and just slip it through the ring, but that just looks ugly. You can have pleats, at which there are a multitude of different variety pleat patterns for your sewing pleasure. A really good website that showcases how to make these pleats are again at Sleeping Baby Productions specifically here and here and here. For my tutorial, I’m going to be simple and just do the pleats like everyone else has which are the Overlapping Pleats. This is what it looks like as a cross section.
Since the inner diameter of my Rings are 2.5 inches, I want to have about 7-8 pleats. I tried doing some math, but it didn’t work and had to retry it 17 a few times to get the pleat widths to be similar. So in the end, I followed the shoulder pleat tutorial below at Sleeping Baby Productions and made each width about 1 inch, and pinched every 4 inches.
In the end, this is what your pleats should look like. This is the GOOD SIDE of the fabric.
Baste it in two places like Jan did, about 6 inches apart.
With the raw unfinished edge shown, make a fold like you would for a hem, iron it for a crease but do not sew yet. You will sew it closed in Step 4 after threading it through the rings.
Step 4: Threading the sling through the two rings and then sewing it closed
This is where you want to make sure you are using the good sturdy polyester thread. Pull the sling through the 2 rings and fold over (your ironed crease should be there from that raw edge) and pin the pleats into place. I will admit this part had me in tears because it involved several instances of the seam ripper, a bleeding finger due to said seam ripper and blood ending up on the fabric. The reason for all the crying was really because I found that if I sewed it straight through on the BACK side (since that is only logical because I can actually see what was going on), I couldn’t actually see what was happening on the FRONT side, which is the part you want to make beautiful. So eventually, when I sewed it closed, the FRONT side ended up being in a hot mess with the pleats all screwed up because I couldn’t see it as I went along.
So to fix it, I ripped out what I did, re-pinned it and sewed it closed on the FRONT side of the fabric, going slowly and flipping it over from time to time to make sure the BACK side was still good and I was following the lines ok. It also makes a huge difference that you sew in the direction that the pleats are falling down. Image below is the BACK side.
In the end, it turned out really nice, I sewed 4 lines to make it sturdy.
Step 5: Hem the bottom tail – but on the BACK SIDE!
I left this step for last because that way, I could try the sling on first (I used my son’s stuffed animal to simulate a baby for size) to see the desired length for the tail. I ended up cutting about 8 inches off so that the tail rested right above my knee.
Now to hem it, I did it on the BACK SIDE. If you refer to my first diagram at the very top of this post with the nice looking lady, you will see that when the tail hangs against your body, it’s actually the BACK side of the fabric. So rather than hemming it like properly to the RIGHT side, I hemmed it on the BACK side, because that is the side that is facing the world.
Last step is to add your label if you have one, then iron the entire sling one more time. Which was a waste of time because linen wrinkles as soon as you walk away.
You can do a variety of different designs to your Ring Sling, such as reversible, or add in different fabric patters at the tail end, or at the shoulder, or using a contrasting thread colour. The sky is the limit. Enjoy your Baby Ring Sling and don’t forget, use common sense when babywearing! Always make sure your baby’s breathing airways are open. For newborns, it is always good to have them upright against your chest. There are hundreds of videos on YouTube that demonstrates safe babywearing. To see how to wear a ring sling, click here.
Here’s the finished product. Yes, I know, the only thing missing is the baby!
And I also made another one with Tencel Fabric. This fabric has an excellent drape feel and smoothness to it. However, this fabric was much harder to sew with and not as “crisp” as the linen.
Below is a picture of our new baby in ring sling!