I made a whale meh dai over 9 years ago. It was one of my favourites, made from a Didymos Eisblau which is a gorgeous cotton, wool and silk blend.
Now that my youngest child is 10 it seemed a shame to have it lying around unused and why buy new fabric to make a bag when there is lovely fabric that could be repurposed? I made a bag for my sisters birthday a few years ago (it was the first bag I made) and she was very happy with it so I decided to make another for myself. The pattern I used is the Shine on Sling Bag by Little Moo Designs. The bag has a ring closure on the strap and a zipper pocket inside.
This is the first time I have made a bag with wrap fabric and the fabric is quite thick so next time I think I'll change some of the interfacing as it made the seams quite bulky. I lined it in some dark blue starry fabric. I had to piece the feature pocket as there wasn't enough fabric in the hood to fit, but I quite like the effect. I also had to add some extra fabric for the other crossover front pocket as there wasn't quite enough fabric in the carrier. Overall I am quite pleased with it. It's sturdy and the shoulder strap is quite cushy so will be great for carrying my library books. I'm glad this carrier has a new lease of life (which is white I love about upcycling).
This carrier has gone on lost of adventures with us including to Anakie fairy park and strawberry picking!
And now it will accompany me on new adventures as a bag.
There are severeal carrier styles available. Which one is right for you?
A meh dai has four long straps and a rectangular shaped body panel. This carrier style was inspired by traditional Chinese baby carriers. It is a very versatile carrier and can be worn on front, back, and even on your hip.
A meh dai is is supportive for long periods of carrying. This carrier style will fit a fairly large age range so it's great if you have both a baby and a toddler. The relatively unstructured nature of the fabric panel means it is easy to modify through small adjustments. This carrier style is also great for sharing between different sized wearers.
The shoulder straps can be tied in different ways to vary how weight is distrubuted on your shoulders and you can wear the waistband at your waist or at the top of your hip bones (where ever is most comfortable for you). You also can spread the shoulder straps over baby's bum for added support if desired. There are severeal different shoulder strap styles to choose from. Your can read about the different styles here.
Most meh dais are reversible so you can potentially get two different looks in one.
Meh dais have good airflow due to open the open sides so can be a good summer option.
To adjust your meh dai for a perfect fit you can roll the botton to make the carrier shorter or make it narrower by cinching the botton with a ribbon. Built in adjustments (an optional extra) make this even more convenient. The sides of the panel cinch down with a drawstring and the waist is sewn in a channel making it easy to cinch. There is a velcro closure to make sure the panel stays in the right spot when fully extended and when not in use the velcro is covered by a piece of fleece so it won't pull on you carrier or clothing. The waistband is quilted which offers great support without being bulky. The waist can be be worn apron or non apron style (see this article for more information).
Meh dai's do take a little longer to put on than a full buckle carrier but not by much. You will get very quick at putting your baby in with a bit of practice.
Wraps vary in thickness so some wrap conversion meh dais can be somewhat bulky to carry around if the wrap it's made from is quite thick, but this is easily solved by bringing a bag if you have and up and down toddler, or you can tie the carrier up into a handy bundle with carry handle (see this article for instructions).
Some people are concerned that long strap tails are at risk of getting dirty in muddy weather. However I found I could almost always find somewhere dry to tie the carrier on (and if not they are easy to wash). Alternatively there are clever solutions like tucking the tails into your pockets or braiding the staps to shorten them (or even partly pre tying your carrier). You can find some more tips here.
A meh dai is easy to learn to use and while it's fun to explore fancy finishes with your straps you don't need to do this to enjoy your carrier. The basic carries are quick to tie and comfortable
A small advantage of the meh dai over the half buckle that it is a little quicker and easier to roll the waist to shorten the carrier (with a half buckle you have to take the buckles off and rethread them to do this otherwise they will be upside down). Your can also tie your waist straps though the shoulder straps for a waist free high back carry.
A half buckle is a hybrid baby carrier that combines the ease of a buckle carrier with the comfort and versatility of a wrap. It is the same basic design as the meh dai but with a buckle instead of a tie waist.
A half buckle can be used in the same ways as a meh dai and feels very similar to wear. The advantages are that it is a bit quicker to take off (and you will never accidentally untie the waist straps instead of the shoulder straps!) and the buckle can help you tie the waist a bit more firmly, which is useful when you prefer your waistband to sit at a particular spot. It is also slightly less bulky without the long fabric waist straps.
The Hipababy full buckle is fairly unstructed and not bulky so feels similar to the comfort of a meh dai to wear. Full buckles are very easy to use, just pop baby in and go!
A full buckle is the quickest carrier to put on so is great for an toddler who is up and down a lot. It aslo folds up small enough to be convenient to carry around in your bag just in case.
Full buckles fit a fairly wide age range (especially with built in height and width adjustments added) although not quite as flexible in sizing as a meh dai/ half buckle. The waist can be be worn apron or non apron style (just remove the buckles and reverse them). Full buckles are reversible for two different looks but if you add fit adjusters to your shoulder straps that is no longer the case. Fit adjusters are a small length of webbing with a slider which cinches the shoulder straps shorter which can be quite useful when sharing between differen sized wearers.
Reverse Half Buckle
A reverse half buckle has buckled shoulder straps and a tie waist (or ring waist). Quick to put on and folds up fairly small so is a great carrier to have in your bag just in case. Also great if you don't like the feel of a buckled waistband but want the convenience of buckled shoulder straps. Some people like the look and comfort of spreading the wide waist strap over their stomach.
Pictured below is a revese half buckle with ring waist.
Narrow Blanket Podaegi
The poadegi is a traditional baby carrier used in Korea. The western version has a narrower blanket but can be used in a similar way. Similar carriers are also found across South East Asia (eg the nyia used by the Hmong or the bei bei from China). A podaegi has two long straps which are sewn horizontaly and a long blanket body panel. It is similar in use to a meh dai without the bottom straps and with the added advantage of being able to be used for torso carries.
A podaegi is the most versatile of the carrier styles and one size truly does fit all. Where you tie the straps determines the height of the carrier so your baby will not grow out of the podaegi. You can wear this carrier as a torso carrier or use the straps for shoulder support. There are many ways to tie (you can use any carry that you would in a woven baby wrap as long as it is a carry where baby sits in the centre of the wrap). You can wear your little one on your front, back, or hip. Similar to a woven wrap you don't need a hood but you can add one if you prefer, or a headrest. Podaegis like meh dai's and half buckles are great for sharing between different sized wearers. There are only two straps to deal with so can be very quick to tie on. Fairly compact when folded so easy to carry around.
A ring sling is a long piece of fabric, usually around 2m long with a pair of sling rings sewn in. It is based on traditional tied on shawls or lengths of fabric used as carriers all over the world (for example the rebozo found in Mexico).
Ring slings are great for newborns and small babies as it is very easy to get a customised and snug fit. Ring slings are also great for sharing between different sized wearers. There is a small learning curve to get used to positioning baby and tightening the sling but soon it will feel like second nature. Most ring slings I make are wrap conversions but I also offer linen ring slings. Ring slings made of linen can help to keep your baby cool in summer. Linen is a very strong fibre so the fabric can be thinner than other fabrics typically used for ring slings, but will still hold your baby comfortably and safety. This makes them perfect for hot weather and their lighter weight makes them very easy to adjust for beginners. The only disadvantage is that if you have a heavy toddler you make prefer a thicker double layer linen sling or a wrap conversion for more cushiness on your shoulder. Alternatively using a heavy weight linen instead does make quite a cushy toddler sling but you then lose the advantages of being hot weather friendly somewhat (contact me if you would like that option)
A wrap conversion is made from a woven baby wrap cut to length. If your wrap is a size 5 (4.2m) the wrap can be split into two ring slings (great for sharing with a friend).
Since ring slings are a one shouldered carrier it can be a bit tiring to carrier heavy toddlers for long periods of time but they are great for situations where your toddler is up and down a lot. A ring sling allows your toddler to rest tired legs on a long walk, or get a little bit of connection before going off to play again. They are also great for a quick trip to the shops or for school drop offs and pick ups. I also really liked ring slings for picking my sleeping baby up from their car seat- since they are so quick to put on baby will often just snuggle in a continue their nap.
A ring sling is the easiest carrier to have on hand for when you need it. It folds up small so is easy to just pop in bag.
Handy for breastfeeding on the go and the tail can be used as a cover up or sun shade.
Ring slings are great for nosy babies who aren't old enough for a back carry. A hip carry gives your baby or toddler a good view of the world but they are still able to snuggle in for a bit or rest or sleep if they need to.
Wrap Conversions or Linen?
Woven baby wraps make great ring slings and can be converted into any of the other styles of carriers I make. Woven baby wraps are specifically woven to carry babies so they have just the right amount of give to mold around your baby and are very strong and hardwearing. If your wrap is not long enough I can add in some extra fabric to make up the extra length (depending on your chosen carrier style). Further information about wrap conversions can be found here and if you would like to order your own wrap conversion or custom carrier visit my shop.
What if you are interested in a wrap conversion but don't have a wrap? There are some alternatives to buying a brand new wrap to convert (although that can be a good option if you are love a specific colour or pattern). Used wraps are fine as long as they are in good condition. It is fairly easy to source a second hand wrap as you can often find a good deal on facebook groups or marketplace or on ebay. Another alternative is to use Colimacon & Cie. This is a woven fabric specially made for babywearing produced in France from organic cotton, and comes in a wide range of beautiful colours. I have a small selection in stock but can order in any of the colours. Some wrap companies also produce plain white wraps which can be dyed if prefered.
Linen makes breathable and light carriers and is available in a huge range of colours. Linen is great for summer and packs up small and will also soften beautifully with with wear and washing.
I love to sew. I have five curious and active kids who keep me busy!