Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Why you should make your own Soft Structured Baby Carrier

   I did it! I did it! So ever since I got hooked on the Solly wrap for wearing Andrew as a newborn, I've become obsessed with all the other methods of carrying as well. I stumbled upon the most GORGEOUS rainbow colored Tula carrier and decided I must have one like it...until I saw the price tag. Yeesh. Now although my hubby is great at not depriving me saying no to the things I want, I couldn't justify a nearly $300 price tag (for this specialty one anyways) or even $180 for the standard ones since I'm a total newb when it comes to this whole baby wearing thing and still have a lot to learn (joining a baby wearing group on Facebook has helped a ton though!) But, I do know I want to continue to wear him since he likes to be held and well heck, I like to hold him. My housework and first born don't like it as much as I do however so a carrier seems to be a nice compromise and the best solution.
Aaaah! I covet!
  Obviously if you're a reader of my blog you've learned that once I get a sewing project in my head, I will stop at nothing until I see it come to fruition. It becomes an obsession and it's all I can think about. I literally scoured the internet to learn all I could about the SSCs (soft structured carriers) to see what I wanted and didn't want. I mainly wanted something easy on and off since it takes a while to get my wrap on and him situated in it and if he's crying hysterically, it feels like a lifetime. From my search I've learned this is what I wanted in a carrier:

  1. Padded/comfy straps.
  2. At least one pocket to carry my phone at the bare minimum.
  3. Padded leg openings and head rest.
  4. A removable hood with "reach ties" and a place to store it when not in use.
  5. A chest strap to keep the straps in place since I don't have broad shoulders.
  6. D-ring on the shoulder strap to hang toys from if needed.
  7. A light colored/breathable hood that wouldn't attract the sun when wearing.
  8. And of course, choose my own fabric pattern.
    Sounds reasonable right?? I thought so. I found a lot of the carriers have most of my requirements but not all of them and then I got to thinking "why don't I just try making it myself and then I can completely customize it to my liking??" Well then it was a challenge so I was totally game! I searched everywhere to find measurements of the Tula and then happened across a free pattern for a generic carrier. Score! It even had instructions but there weren't any pictures, and after I read through it once I realized I may just have to use the pattern and try to figure it out myself because it was like reading it in Swahili for as much as I understood it. At this point I was pretty confident I could make it on my own, but then it dawned on me that being a carrier, there would be stress points that would need extra reinforcements, or "X boxes" as they're called, that not owning a carrier currently, wouldn't know where to put them. Bummer. Lucky for me though, I found a couple of blogs where women had used this free pattern/instructions and gave their tips on constructing it. One even did a step by step picture tutorial! I thought I had died and gone to heaven! If you have any interest in making your own carrier check out her post, she links to the free pattern in it as well.  

   Now that I had my tutorial and pattern handy, I ransacked searched my entire house for supplies so that I wouldn't have to buy a ton of stuff, jacking up my DIY budget. I found the hardware (buckles, webbing, and D-rings) from a couple of sturdy backpacks my hubby gets from all the conferences he attends. They were just collecting dust so I took them. I at least asked his permission this time before cutting into them. (He quickly learned after we got married that his stuff was my stuff and therefore fair game to confiscate for crafting purposes.) My aunt had recently de-stashed her fabric collection and asked if I wanted it. Never one to turn down free fabric, I took it off her hands. Well I was pleasantly surprised to find 3 different canvas/duck fabrics that met the criteria for a strong carrier fabric. (That right there saved me about $15 in fabric I didn't have to buy. Thanks Aunt Dee Dee! Muuuuah!) I had the adorable whale fabric that I got on clearance at Joannes for under a $1 a while ago. I made the hood and the inner part of the carrier that sits against baby's back out of a mesh fabric (like basketball shorts) that again I had in my stash that I got on clearance ages ago. So the only thing I didn't have and needed to buy was the high density foam ($2.50) for the straps and a camping mat ($17, waaaah! That was the only bummer. But I'll keep the remainder of the mat for when Aaron takes Eli camping at Oshkosh for the Air show next year so not a total loss.) It helped that I had all the remainder supplies onhand so I was able to make a customized carrier for under $20. But I can see why the handmade carriers are so expensive with all the supplies needed and the time it takes to make just one!

    Here are more pics of all the details:
The hood attaches by snap under the top part of the strap on each side which you can't see in the picture, and then the hood "reach straps" snap near the toy clip.


  Since I'm now obsessed with it, I had to make some necessary accessories like "chew pads" (I like this name better than "drool pads" as they are called on Etsy.)

The underside is towel material for extra absorbency. These go for $15-25 on Etsy. I knew I'd need these since Andrew currently SOAKS the sides of my wrap when he's in it.

And a carrying case since I found I had this thing less than 24hrs and it was just strewn about wherever I felt like leaving it. Not to mention how much room it took in my oversized diaper bag when I took it to my mom's house. 

Yeesh!


Problem solved:
I added a little decorative strip in my carrier fabric because my math failed me and I was a half inch off  I think it adds a lil' sum'in sum'in ;)

While I was at it, why not add a decorative whale in my whale fabric? Ha ha. Is it just me or are whales going to be the new thing?? Well I'm starting it.... Here goes!

Hello little whale :)

 
Ahh, SO much better. Now I have plenty of room to stuff it to the max add a few more items.

  They sell these little "stuff bags" all over Etsy. The first one I saw was over $40! Then the cheapest I saw was around $25. Still over priced at that if you ask me. If I haven't convinced you all to take up sewing yet, not only for all the money you can save making stuff yourself, but for the sheer fun of it, then I don't know what it will take!

   So to recap why I made it myself: 
  • Carrier: $180-$300 (for the one I was eye-balling)
  • Chew pads: $15-25
  • Carrying case: $25-40
  • Hood reach straps $5-30............=$225-$395
My cost: Less than $20 **Happy dance**

Now the million dollar question: Does it work???? YES! Super comfy and it even held my-too-big-for-it-35lb-3-year-old.



Cheesing for the camera. I have NO intentions of carrying this kid. As you can see, he's heavy and I had to lean forward so I wouldn't feel like I was going to topple over!

Andrew is still too young/little for it yet although he's really close to fitting in it comfortably, so here is a picture of my sister wearing it with my handsome nephew Liam in it:

I took this picture before I finished the chest strap. Now the straps stay in place nicely.

Thanks Liam for humoring me, even though it meant you had to remain stationary for me to take my pictures and miss out on precious play time. Ha ha. The face says it all!

The hood.
     
   Overall, I'm very pleased with how it turned out. Unfortunately before anyone asks, I am not willing to make any to SELL simply for liability reasons. I've promised myself I won't sue me if a buckle breaks and my child ends up hanging by his ankle or something;) But in all seriousness, this IS a sue-happy generation and I have no intention of flirting with disaster. The handmade carrier sellers have to meet strict safety guidelines and to make one here or there for the random person interested, wouldn't be worth it for me to go through that verification process. I am however about to start selling other stuff I make (more about that later) so stick around because I would be willing to make carrier accessories if the demand is there.

   So do you think you'd make one?? Time to dust off that machine and get crack-a-lackin'! There are SO many tutorials out there for just about anything you could want to make. Plus if there is an unfamiliar technique needed for a certain tutorial, there are tutorials out there for that. And if you aren't a stranger, just ask me if you have questions! I'd love to help.

  Thats all for now. Thanks for reading.
  Toodles!
  -Linds



















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