Thursday, December 13, 2012

Table Cloth Mei Tai (TCMT)

Man has it been a long time or what!? Sorry about that. My baby started walking and then we found out we were pregnant so now I have two babies! Never thought we would be the "two under two" people but yea... that happened. Anyway, as if babywearing weren't a big enough part of my life with one child it is 100% essential with 2 babies! How do people function without babywearing? I find myself in a panic when I am without a wrap or carrier of some sort. I have always been a wrap girl but right before little miss #2 was born I tried my hand at a ring sling and running on the high of success there I dove head first into a Mei Tai (MT). And the cheapest place I found the material I needed happened to be a tablecloth on the sale rack at Target. Cost me $12 and proved to be worth its weight in gold after baby number 2 came along this past April! I wore my little newbie in my ring sling up front and my "big girl" on my back in our mei tai and we never skipped a beat! Everyone keeps asking how I make them (and I have made several now) so here I go. Back into the blog writing world! I would love to say that I will get regular and keep writing but with 2 (not so under 2 anymore because we just celebrated our first baby girl's birthday!) it is hard to pee let alone sit and type after crafting! Anyway, here it goes!

You will need a table cloth here is the one used in this tutorial! Or you can just get fabric from your local fabric store. To figure out how much fabric you will need breakdown all the pieces and do the math. Here is my breakdown.
Body - about 20in by about 15-20in (need 3 pieces, two pretty ones and one heavy duty twill)
Shoulder Straps - 80in long by 15in wide
Waist Straps - 40in long by 15 wide.
Hood - 10in by 10-15in (I like a longer hood because I use the hood cords to scrunch it up and look pretty when not in use

The 84in by 60in table cloth is usually more than enough. If you are feeling ambitious you can always make some coordinating suck pads or a small bag to put on the waist strap. Or, extra brownie points for making a mini MT for your toddler to match you! If you are going to use a table cloth get 100% cotton... avoid all polyester! Its just too slippery and it wont be supportive or safe. If you are buying just fabric if it is 55-60in on the bolt you will need about 2.5 yards. Linen would make a great MT. If you have some really cute but not so sturdy fabric (like quilters cotton, there are always cute prints here but it is terrible for babywearing!) you want for the body that if ok too, just be sure that your straps and center panel are of good quality and medium-heavy weight.

I like to cut out and hem my straps first because this takes the longest and I like for it to be over as soon as possible. Pretty simple step. Keep in mind that about 4in of your straps will be inside the body of the MT so if you want 80in long straps, cut them 84in long. Same with the waist, add 4in to account for the straps being sewn to the body. You can make your straps as wide or thin (within reason... I'd say no less than 5in and no more than 20in) as you like. Keep in mind generally the wider the strap, the more evenly you can distribute the weight of your child. I like 15in. When I am using the 84in by 60in table cloths I like to cut out three 15in wide 84in (the full length of the table cloth) strips. I cut one of those three strips in half and use that for the waist straps. After all your straps are cut out do a simple rolled hem all around. You can press this if you are a sloppy seamstress or you can just roll as you go. I roll as I sew. I use my finger as my gauge. I fold the fabric once about to my first knuckle, then I fold that over one more time to completely seal in that unfinished edge (see the post on making a woven baby wrap)

after all your straps are hemmed, pleat them or gather them however you like, press, and pin or tape them to have them ready to sew to the body

There are many different options and designs you can go with for the body. Only you will know what kind of design and shape is right for you and your baby. I suggest using newspaper to make a "pattern" for your body pieces. Cut out a couple and see what you like best. The one in this tutorial is a curved body with a wider base, skinny middle, wide shoulder. This can make your mei tai last through infanthood to toddlerhood because you can roll the waist to make it shorter and also have the bottom of the body less wide or, leave it unrolled body is tall and wide where you need it. I use my own babies to measure to help make my pattern. You can do this by holding baby on you in the position that they will be sitting in the carrier. You can also wrap them on you and measure that way. Measure from one knee to middle of the butt-middle of the butt to other knee. Then measure from under their butt up to their neck. Keeping in mind for the height in this pattern you will want to add 4-5inches for the waist strap.

I like to draw/put notes all over my newspaper pattern so I remember what I am doing or if I have any extras I plan to add.

fold your fabric and your pattern in half and cut, keeping in mind you can always cut something smaller but can't go the other way so cut big just in case!
You should have 3 pieces for your body, 2 pretty ones and one heavy duty canvas/twill. You can/should shorten your canvas/twill at the shoulder and waist openings so at the end you won't have a hard time folding in the pretty panels to
After your body pieces are cut out you can see what kind of hood you want to make depending on what is left of your material. The possibilities are endless and if you are extra crafty you can even put a cute applique on your hood! Then there are the hood tethers and how you plan to tether them to the straps... again endless possibilities here. I went kinda basic and chose to add snaps to snap the tethers to the shoulders when the hood is up. you could also choose to just not have a hood. I made this MT reversible so I had to take that into consideration when making this MT.

When the time comes to put everything together it really takes no time at all! Pin your shoulder straps and waist straps in their respectable positions on the canvas body piece and get going! You are going to stitch an "x box" and go over each line of said "x box" four (yes, really FOUR) times. For each strap.

I used a different color thread so it was easy to show. It doesn't matter what color you use as long as it is a very high quality thread. This is where all your structural integrity is coming from, you don't want to skimp on cheap thread and poor sewing skills here.
Now comes the fun part! On top of this canvas with the straps you will lay one pretty body piece, right side UP, your hood (if you are doing one. I put mine right side down because this MT is reversible and I want the right side of the hood to show when it is up.) then your other pretty body piece right side DOWN. Pin like crazy! And then you will sew on the top and bottom and sides, leaving the strap areas open.
if you are doing a hood and plan on having your MT reversible think about how you want it it be. If you know you only want the hood for show so you will have it down most of the time you may want it to look the same as the main body on the "right" side. If you want it to be the same when the hood is up then lay it so the right side is facing down.

sew only the sides and top and bottom!
Now you are ready to turn your mei tai right side out. This can be tricky at first. Stick your hand in one of the waist holes between the two pretty layers. Pull each strap into the body. Its now a mei tai pillow and you are likely thinking "how the eff am I getting this right side out?!" Just gently and slowly work each strap out of the hole your hand is in and eventually the body out the hole so the whole thing is right side out.
after you have everything turned right side out, fold the edges around the straps inside the body and press then pin.

take your time getting this part tucked in, line every thing up nice and evenly so that your top stitch comes out nice and straight and pretty.
After you have your strap openings folded in, pressed and pinned you are ready to topstitch. This is just closing off those strap openings and giving a finished look. You can use a pretty stitch if you machine has one and you want to. Or just a simple straight stitch is fine too. Take your time! Go slow and retuck if needed so that you only have to go around once and everything is nice and straight and even. When you have gone all the way around you are done! DONE! So grab a baby and have fun!

Say hello to my big girl... where has the time gone? I am about a medium/size 8 and with the 80in shoulder straps I am able to tie this Tibetan style.
Here's new baby in a different table cloth mei tai. If you weren't familiar with these, they work on your front or back.
So side notes: You don't need to use a table cloth obviously! A lot of people like using woven wraps but these are very pricey and you may not want to mess up a $100 or more wrap! (you would need a size 6 or larger wrap) You can add padding to your mei tai if you would like. Some people like padding but I prefer "wrap style". You can also get fancy with your waist and add padding or padding around where the legs go out. Or you can do cute fancy designs with quilting but who has the time! Not me certainly... it has taken me 3 weeks to actually write this! And a lot of that time was spent with a baby on my back or nursing in my lap. So there ya have it! A DIY table cloth MT, custom sized to fit you and your baby! Now you may  be thinking you want to start making and selling these and that's all fine and dandy but before you consider going into the baby carrier making industry here is a link to check out... From the baby carrier industry alliance.

Here is also a couple break downs of how and where to cut your fabric for both a table cloth and a size 6 wrap.

Happy Crafting everyone!


  1. Thank you for posting this! I read it about a hundred times then finally took the plunge. I love mine! Did a test run with my baby tonight. I really appreciated your tutorial! Thank you!

  2. I do have one question: If all the straps are 15" wide, is the body only 15" wide at its widest point? I had to do some finagling to get all the pieces out of my tablecloth (didn't have enough fabric for a hood) but maybe my pattern is just too wide?

    1. I think the key to that is to make the waist straps 10 instead of 15" wide.

      I am THRILLED to find this tutorial and will be making my own soon!!

  3. Oh I love this tutorial! I made my own a couple of months ago and there were a few steps that I had to improvise that you explained so well! I can't wait to make another one as I am soon going to be in the two under two boat too! :) Thanks!!

  4. I googled "TCMT tutorial" and I was skimming through this I thought to myself "I like this a lot more than the last one I made. It looks like Nichole's." And here you are! *forehead slap* Going to be doing the next one your way and passing your tutorial onto a friend. Thanks for posting, Nichole! :)

  5. You are a lifesaver! I bought a table cloth to dye, but I know I suck at wrapping (WCRS fan) so I thought I'd see my other options. Saving this and making it ASAP. Best tutorial I've seen so far. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  6. Thanks for the tutorial! I finally bit the bullet and made one (after spending months being too intimidated to) and it was actually pretty simple. Now, to learn how to actually WEAR the thing.

  7. Is there a tutorial for making the hood and ties?

  8. I just wanted to thank you for this awesome tutorial. I made a mei tai and followed it, but changed up the hood and added an owl applique. Thanks!

  9. I spent months researching how to make a mei tai (comparing patterns, sizes, methods, features, etc.) before coming across your blog and suddenly feeling I had to make one right away!

    Thank you for your clear, concise instructions and pictures. They are fantastic!
    I even make these as gifts now :)

  10. Hi! Thanks for this tutorial! I am excited to try it. Can you share the measurements you used for the body? Being new to mei tais and having not tried one before, I dont know how to do measurements (newbie at stitching too)... so i was thinking of using your own measures for my first project. Thanks!

  11. Is there a tutorial for hood and ties? And what material was tablecloth? (Link no longer works) TIA :)

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