Make a Mei Tai Carrier with Interchangeable Panels
Make a mei tai carrier with this step by step sewing tutorial. This type of baby carrier makes a great DIY sewing project because it is comprised of only straight lines and straight line sewing. You are basically sewing rectangles to rectangles, nothing fancy!
I always drooled over carriers with funky fabrics but I could never let myself order them, instead ordering something simple and plain that would coordinate better with my wardrobe. Changeable panels are your chance to get crazy with your mei tai carrier and are ideal for the fashion conscious mama on a budget! These instructions are for sewing a mei tai carrier with an interchangeable inner panel, which means you can make hundreds of panels for hundreds of completely different looks.
Mei Tai Carrier Instructions:
Fabric such as cotton canvas, cotton duck, hemp canvas, twill, denim and other cotton upholstery fabrics are sturdy options for your mei tai carrier. The removable panels can be any fabric you like.
The dimensions I used are perfect for me and may not work for you as they are on the small side of the spectrum. When in doubt, fold fabric to the rough dimensions and hold it to your body before cutting so you can see the approximate size and adjust accordingly. I use 2 rectangles 15" x 16.5" for body and front frame and 3 rectangles 10" x 75" for the straps and belt.
1) Strap & Belt Edges
Turn edges in, one half inch down the full length of all three 10" x 75" pieces and then fold them in half and iron. This results in 4.5" wide straps and belt with no raw edges showing.
2) Tapered Ends
If you want tapered ends to your straps (this it purely for looks and totally optional) you can use a quilting ruler to mark your desired angle. No quilting ruler? Just eyeball it and draw with a ruler. Fold in and press with your iron.
3) Strap Padding
Strap padding choices can be foam, cotton batting, wool, polyfill or even several layers of fleece. Just make sure it is washable. I start my padding 4 inches from the end of the strap and sew about 14 inches of padding. I don't put padding in the body of my mei tai carrier because I live where it is HOT and want them to be as thin and airy as possible. Lay in your padding and pin the strap edges together.
4) Sew Straps
Sew the edges of the full length of your straps, including the tapered ends. Sew a line right down the center of your shoulder padding to keep your padding from shifting. You can sew along the other edge of the strap if you like, but this is optional.
5) Draw Frame Window
Measure 3.5 inches from the outer edge of my body rectangle and mark with a chalk and connect to draw a rectangle. This will be the window where the decorative panels are shown. Then mark the center line and then use a quilting ruler to mark 45 degree angles from each corner.
6) Cut Window & Add Vecro
Cut along the "X" and then fold over and press with a hot iron. Sew one side of your hook & loop tape to the folded over pieces. This way you don't have to sew all the way through your carrier and the velcro stitches won't be shown from the front. The folded over pieces will get sewn to the edges later or you can put a few stitches around the outer edges now to keep them in place.
7) Turn edges & Sew Inner Window
Sew the inner window and then turn and press the outer .5" of the top frame.
8) Attach Straps
First, press the outer .5" all the way around your mei tai carrier body rectangle with a hot iron. Sew on each strap at your desired angle. I personally prefer about a 45 degree angle, but preferences vary. Be sure to sew some sort of criss-cross "X" or zig zag shape to create a very secure connection.
9) Add Frame Top
Now lay on your frame top and pin all the way around and sew all the way around the outer edge of your carrier.
10) Sew Body to Waist
Find the center of your waist band and open up the two layers that you earlier pressed with the iron. Insert the bottom body of the carrier into the waist strap layers and sew. Again, make certain that you are sewing a very
secure attachment. Then continue to sew down the full edges of the waist strap.
11) Sew Velcro Panels
Now the FUN begins! Measure the distance between your velcro and add about two inches top and bottom and cut out your panel rectangles. Press the edges down with an iron and stitch along the edges. You could also just leave these flat and zigzag stitch the edges. Sew your hook and loop tape to the right side of your decorative panel. Then...go make a million more decorative panels because it is incredibly rewarding to have one carrier with so many different options!
These are the Same Carrier:
(bear with me, I went a little overboard and couldn't stop making panels)
As you can see, it looks like I have a huge collection of carriers, but really I just have one! My husband will wear a few of the prints or will just wear it black with no panel inside. I love having all the options for cheap...can you imagine the cost of buying these as separate carriers?
Disclaimer: as with all the tutorials on MakeBabyStuff.com's site, you are responsible for the safety of your own child, we offer tutorials but you use them at your own risk. Please check your carriers frequently for any wear and tear and use common sense. Thanks!
More Mei Tai Sewing Resources:
Basic Mei Tai
- From Jan Andrea. Also check out her many sewing tutorials for carriers, she is the queen of DIY carriers!
Mae's Instructions - for her interchangeable panel mei tai. No, I'm not the only one who has thought of velcro panel mei tais...thrifty minds think alike!