I remember my anticipation and anxiety over sewing my first baby carrier. In reality it truly is a larger scale project and it will be holding the weight of a child, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t do it.
If you’re about to undertake your first carrier project– here is a list of tips especially for you.
Don’t expect perfection
We’re not machines, we’re humans. To this day I still make mistakes when I sew carriers. I’ll forget to lay my underarm straps down, or I’ll end up entombing a pencil inside of the carrier [this has happened more than I’d like to admit]. My point is this: the more you make the carriers, the better you’ll become. You’ll find your own rythm and way of doing things and you’ll certainly take some time off of the clock.
First carriers take the longest
I touched on this in the last point but I think it’s important to reiterate. If you’ve ever sewn a time intensive project and then made the same thing again, I’m sure that you’ve noticed that everything goes much more smoothly and faster the second time around. It’s like muscle memory.
Don’t use crazy expensive fabrics for the first run
This is especially applicable because I know a lot of people are ancy to create wrap conversions [for those of you unfamiliar with wrap conversions, they are jacquard or handwoven baby wraps that are cut and repurposed as the fabric for a structured carrier]. It’s totally possible that your first carrier will look great, but I just wouldn’t recommend using the really good stuff until you’ve done a trial run.
Get formally acquainted with your machine
If you haven’t read up on your manual lately, this would be a good time to go over it. Check out the 10 Things I Wish I Would Have Learned When I Started Sewing post for some extra handy tips. But to sum that post up, make sure that you’ve wound the bobbin correctly, inserted it properly and in the correct orientation, and that the top thread is seated in the tension discs along the upper thread path. Those are common mistakes that can be a major cause for headaches.
Seam allowances matter!
When I started sewing I would improvise a lot and occasionally ignore a pattern’s seam allowance. I was fortunate to not have any major blunders because of that, but with these carrier patterns it is really important to stick to the seam allowance.
Compress, compress, compress
When sewing through the strap foam it is really important to compress the foam. Some people will use an object like a pencil or clips to keep the foam compressed. I feel more comfortable using my hands but sew very slowly to avoid catching any fingers when they are near the presser foot.
Read through the instructions first!
I can’t stress this part enough. It isn’t important to understand everything but it will help you to get a better idea of what’s going on. Some of the steps won’t make much sense until you have the materials in front of you and that’s okay. You’ll save yourself a bunch of questions by reading through the instructions first.
Celebrate the small wins
The assembly process is broken down into sections. Feel free to give yourself a pat on the back when you make it through one and then be prepared to hear your baby waking up from nap time. I couldn’t help myself, but seriously, this is one of the most gratifying sewing projects ever in my opinion. It’s exciting to see things coming together.
Be prepared to troubleshoot
There are a few thick sections which may require some people to troubleshoot machine issues. Some of the common problems that pop up are skipped stitches, thread nesting [aka “thread barf”– not my term hah!], breaking thread, or machine jamming. I wrote a post on thread nesting here. When sewing through the thicker parts, try increasing your upper thread tension and increasing your stitch length. Also, always make sure that the presser foot is DOWN. It’s easy for it to get bumped into the up position when sewing in thicker sections; though you may not notice until you end up with a wad of thread coming out from the underside of your project. Those few tips will make a huge difference.
Don’t underestimate the power of a fresh needle of the appropriate type and size
I probably say this too much but seriously, change out your needle for a new denim needle. Here is a great post by Superior Threads on the various needle types. If you notice that your machine seems to be hitting anything or stopping– change needles immediately to avoid damage.
Use a marking utensil for perfect x-boxes
Occasionally I’ll get asked how my x-boxes turn out so nicely. I’ve gotten good at “eyeballing” things, but if I’m making a carrier for a friend I’ll take the time to mark my paths to ensure that everything looks nice and neat.
That sums up my advice as you begin your first carrier. Feel free to ask questions in the exclusive groups along the way if you get stuck or you can always email me too (firstname.lastname@example.org). Happy sewing!
Have any tips I should add? Leave them in the comments for me!