Sunday, April 26, 2015

Stretchy Wrap Carriers

All my stretchy wraps (one with my gift label shown)
After about a year's hiatus from the blog, I'm back! This past year has been a little different for me in terms of sewing. I started off making lots of baby gifts for one of my best friends, who had a baby in July. Then, I made lots of things in preparation for my own baby, born in December! I'm sure I'll be back to making adult clothing soon enough, but there will be plenty of baby items interspersed as well in my upcoming posts, starting with wrap carriers :)

Bonding, cuddling, and having two free hands - perfect. Moby wraps are the most popular brand, but there are many others. I decided to make my own.

My tags

Newborn snuggles
Skin to skin with Daddy
Babywearing in my nursing-friendly quick dress, cross-posted here!

Stretchy carriers are typically made of some sort of jersey knit. Jersey knits vary in weight, though. Some fabric retailers simply list "lightweight" or "heavyweight," while others list the weight per square yard of fabric. To decide what was right for this project, I did some research on the leading brands of stretchy wrap carriers.
Deciding the fabric type, weight, and size. 

Before I outline my findings about the commercial stretchy wraps out there, I wanted to let you know my favorite! My favorite fabric is actually a lighter weight jersey fabric without any extra spandex, like Girl Charlee's exclusive 7.5-8.0 oz jersey with 30% stretch. I prefer the fabric with extra spandex built in for breastfeeding while babywearing, but they tend to sag over time.

Moby wraps are 18 feet long x 23 inches wide (source). They're slightly tapered at the end (the ends of the wrap where you tie it together are narrower than the middle). The originals weigh 2 lbs, and the medium weight variety (Moderns) weighs 1.75 lbs. (source). That means the original fabric weighs ~8.7-9.2 oz/sq. yard and the medium-weight variety weighs ~7.6-8.1 oz/sq. yard, depending on the amount of tapering. Another source lists the weight as 136 g/linear m (if that measurement means anything to you) and emphasizes that Moby wraps only stretch width-wise, not lengthwise.

Boba wraps have slightly different dimensions (16.5 feet x 19 inches, source). More importantly, Boba wraps have a bit of additional stretch in them (they are 95% cotton/5% spandex, source). The general consensus of wrap aficionados is that this spandex makes a big difference. This allows for two-way stretch, which makes it much easier to get the hang of wrapping! Additionally, the other source I referenced indicates that Boba wraps are only 92 g/linear m. This is only ~70% as heavy as the Moby wrap, so I extended my range toward the lower end and tried to look for knits with a small amount of spandex for some four-way stretch.

Therefore, I started looking for jersey knit from 7.0-9.5 oz/sq. yard, which is typically listed as medium weight (or light-medium weight for the lower end). Based on my initial digging, I thought the perfect fabric would be 8.0-8.5 oz made from a 95% cotton/5% spandex blend. I later found that I preferred a lighter weight with less stretch.

For dimensions, I aimed for something closer to the Boba wrap, mainly because fabric is typically 58-60" wide (allowing for three wraps out of one cut of fabric) and because 16.5 feet seemed long enough based on a test wrapping performed by my husband, who is bigger than I am (my Curious George stuffed animal was the "baby" for this test). I ordered 6 yards of fabric and used ~20" at the end to make infinity scarf-nursing covers, leaving behind 16.3 ft for the wrap.

Where to order fabric

My favorite source of knits is Girl Charlee. They have some great stuff! I bought one fabric on clearance that seemed perfect. It was a cotton/spandex jersey in the 8.0-8.5 oz/sq. yard weight range. I'm very sad that it's no longer in stock! Another fabric I bought on clearance was much lighter, and I actually love it for a wrap. After these first attempts, I went ahead and looked for other fabric that met my search criteria.

On Girl Charlee, all the cotton-spandex blends are listed under the "cotton lycra" category. I've heard that lycra blends curl much more than spandex, which makes them annoying to work with, but the concept is the same - lycra adds some stretch. Girl Charlee's stock sometimes changes, so there's no guarantee that any given fabric will still be there down the road, but my favorite "Girl Charlee exclusives" tend to stick around even if the colors and designs change.

Interlock or double knits also stretch two ways and tend to be a little thicker, but some of them would work really well for this project. 

Of course, you can always check out other sources of fabric, including One fabric I really DISLIKE is from Joann Fabrics - it's the Sew Classic Knit Interlock Fabric Solid. I've used this fabric for other things (a shirt, the waistband of my Disney Princess Half Marathon costume), and it stretches out sooooooo much and never shrinks back (it has very low elasticity). Just skip it!

Making the wrap
This is really easy. You just cut your fabric into strips ~20" wide (fabric that is 60" wide makes three wraps!), tapering the ends. I used this guide for tapering: fold the wrap in half lengthwise. The width at the very end should be 4-5" (2-2.5" when folded). Then just cut in a line until you reach 25" from the end, where the fabric should be the full width (~20" or 10" when folded).

However, that same guide says that you can simply order half the amount of fabric and sew two pieces together in the middle to make it 5-6 yard long. DON'T DO THIS! Every other site I've read says that this isn't safe because the seam is weaker than the rest of the fabric. I won't tattle if you do this, but I wouldn't recommend it.

Now, finish the edges however you might choose. The simplest option is to leave the edges unfinished. Knit fabric won't fray. However, I was making these as baby shower gifts, and I couldn't justify giving someone a cut piece of fabric with no sewing. I tried using an overlock stitch around the outside (would've been much faster with a serger, but I don't have one) as well as folding the edge over and stitching with a twin needle threaded with three different colors. 

Wearing the wrap (or how to instruct the gift recipient)
For tips on how to wear a stretchy wrap, check out or hundreds of other sites. For safety purposes, never use a stretchy (jersey) wrap on your back - here's why, and never face the baby forward. It is possible to carry the baby on your side, however, which allows the baby to look out if he or she prefers!

There is some dissension in the medical field about whether facing baby forward or using certain structured carriers like the Baby Bjorn are related to hip dysplasia, but I choose to err on the side of caution since I have a family history of hip dysplasia. There is obviously no risk to avoiding these types of carriers, so why stack the odds against you? Though there is no clear evidence suggesting a link between certain carries/carriers and hip dysplasia, there is SOLID evidence that forcing a baby's legs straight (through tight swaddling) causes the problem. The baby's legs are in a similar position if he/she faces forward in a stretchy wrap or faces either direction in certain structured carriers, though this situation is somewhat distinct because the legs aren't restricted.

I also made some gauze wraps, which fall into the woven wrap category. Woven wraps are a little more difficult to get used to, but they allow for back carries, and if you're really confident there are also safe ways to do a forward facing carry with a woven wrap (woven fabrics hold their shape better, so it's possible to spread the baby's legs enough). That post will be coming out separately.

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