Friday, April 16, 2010

The making of 100 Mei Tais.

I was planning on making a special carrier to mark the 100th one I've made...however,I recently realized I surpased that number some time ago and decided to dedicate this weeks post to the "history" of the Natural Mother Mei Tai, and to give credit to all the Mama's who have contributed to where the carrier is today.

I began making Mei Tais around 5 years ago when my daughter Mya was born. I was intregued by the idea of baby wearing and was immediately drawn to the Asian inspired carrier called a Mei Tai. To have a comfortable carrier to carry my child hands free felt like freedom. I was instantly in Love. So off fabric shopping I went. What a learning experience! I used cotton for the entire carrier, it was so stretchy, was constantly sagging and therefore I was always re adjusting. And yet I wore it with pride. Everywhere. It was still better than anything else I'd tried..

Eventually after some more misses, I finally found a base that was supportive enough, yet soft and lightweight. I played around with the design, inserted panels in the front and padding in the straps and worked with some suggestions to narrow the body panel, Here's Ang's first carrier (Thanks Ang!)

At this point I continued to make and test the square bodied Mei Tai, experimenting with different padding and panel options. I didn't photograph these carriers, but I do have to thank Meghan (you know who you are) who used one as her intro to babywearing and ultimately became a huge cheerleader in the evolution of the NMMT.

Around this point we were blessed to be expecting our fifth child, and I was determined to really work the carrier and tweek it from personal experience. One morning in Dec, I woke to a snowstorm and the urge to sew. I used some fabric I'd been hoarding, creating my first full panelled body, I also redrafted the square body to have a curved headreast and I lined it with quilt batting for warmth and support. Here is the result, which I used until Madeline was almost 2. I still love this carrier, so many memories :). Madeline (2months) and Daddy:

While I thought I'd hit the baby wearing jackpot, I continued sewing Mei Tais for friends and was getting feedback that suggested another design change was in order. The wide nature of the carrier was making it uncomfy on tiny legs and I had more than one parent ask me to narrow the leg area on the body. I also realized that the headrest was more of a headflop and was on the hunt for more supportive materials to make it soft but supportive. An accidental purchase proved to be the answer I was looking for and another generation of the NMMT was born. Thanks to Karen H. (love ya) for using and abusing my newest experiment ;).

Jess and Karen's carriers:

As you can see, we're close to where the carrier is today! There are a few more minor changes, Lynette who requested I tack the straps, inspired the external stablizing stitching in the triangular pattern, making the carrier even more supportive:

Debora and Angela, baby wearing experts who extensively tested the carrier and recommended some comfort tweeks, thanks to Debora, who requested better padding in the straps and Angela who suggestested that more waist structure would make a snugger fit:

Meghan, (second time around) who asked for a hood:

And Virgina who asked for a pocket:

And to the countless Mamas who have snuggled their babies in a Natural Mother Mei Tai, endless thanks. While it's not perfect, I'm mightly blessed to be able to create a baby carrier that can change how you parent. And where are we headed? Who knows ;)...there are buckles and snaps, tapered straps, tucked in hoods, anywhere fabric, a needle, some thread and thought could take me.

Carry your baby the Natural way!