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Arranged in ease of sewing/preparation (IMHO)
Please note: these styles have been used for many years by various sewers, and I'm not claiming credit for coming up with any of them (except the overlapping pleats, which can, of course, be independently derived by others as well).
No folds are made for this method. The fabric is simply pulled through the rings after the following lines are marked, and the edge of the fabric is stitched down between 2-8" from the rings. Jenrose's "MamaBaby" sling uses this method, as does Jamie's "sling me mommy" sling. The further from the rings you sew, the more you'll be able to scrunch up the fabric on your shoulder -- but the more fabric it will take to sew in, if length/cost is a consideration.
You'll want to pin carefully before sewing, and sew slowly, as there will be a lot of fabric coming through the rings, and it tends to make lots of little folds. I don't think I would recommend this with a very thick fabric because the shoulder will tke up a lot of room in the rings, leaving less space for the tail fabric to loop through, (for that, cutting out extra fabric is the way to go), but for light- and medium-weight fabrics, it should be fine. [Link to: Sling Me Mommy pattern]
If you intend to sell slings with a ga thered shoulder design, both Jenrose and Jamie like to be consulted first -- it's just common courtesy.
Folding the fabric in half along the length yields a pouch fold. (No picture of this because it seems pretty unnecessary!) the folded fabric is pulled through the rings and sewn as above. The Baby Space Adjustable Pouch uses this -- the fabric is folded in half, and a pouch seam is sewn in at a specified place along the sling, making a pouch with rings. I don't know if I'd use this without the pouch seam, as it seems to me it would be difficult to open the fabric out to spread across your back. For a similar, though narrower, width that will open out somewhat better, I'd recommend the letter fold (below).
This probably has an actual name, but I don't know what it is. Basically, the fabric is folded in thirds as one might fold a business letter. It will make for a wide shoulder, but not as wide as the fanned or pouch folds. It will cup the shoulder when put through the rings, because it will naturally ga ther a bit more within the rings. Because of the way it's folded, it may be somewhat difficult to spread out over your back.
The Mayawrap site has directions for making a sling like their old design. (If you have looked for ring slings to purchase lately, you'll note that they no longer sell this design of sling on their site. Accordion-pleated slings put stress points on the material where the rings are sewn in, leading to a greater possibility of the fabric tearing, and they are also difficult for many women to get comfortable. The new MayaWrap lightly padded design is much more comfortable, but as it is also a significant innovation in design, they understandably have not published sewing directions for it, and I think it's important to respect that.) The image at right shows some of the folds ( there may be more) with the "shoulder cap" spread out. This style works better on one shoulder than the other; the MayaWrap is designed with the right shoulder in mind. Many of the slings sold as "like Maya" or "Maya-style" on eBay are folded this way (although some omit the shoulder cap, which can make wearing less comfortable, as the sling will tend to migrate towards the wearer's neck). MayaWrap does request that their directions are for home use only -- please keep this in mind if you want to sell slings.
The term "hotdog" comes from the observation that the fabric, when folded in towards the center several times, makes a sort of hotdog-bun shape. The sling's edges end up inside the folds, rather than along the outside of the sling, which can make it difficult to keep in place if you have broad shoulders, but is fine if you have pointed or narrow shoulders. The width of the finished shoulder using this method will depend on the number of times the fabric is folded, and the original width of the first fold. The "sling-a-ma-bob" sling uses this method -- for instructions, please visit there. Cel also has a great photo tutorial, including great shots of sewing the rings in.
(For those of you who have been sewing for a while, this is the same thing as a box pleat.) This simple centerfold (name coined by Tessa of mamasupial.com) will be somewhat wide, but should spread out nicely, and because of its symmetry, will cup the shoulder nicely. The rings should be sewn in so that the pleated parts are underneath. I like this a lot for kids' slings.
Corrine and Tessa use this method in their slings, and were kind enough to share it here. With "floating" rings, the seam to sew the rings in lies between 9-12" from the rings, instead of 2-4". This means that the shoulder stays at the folded width all the way over the shoulder (making this a good method to use with slightly wider folds, like the centerfold, letter fold, or ga thered shoulders), and can allow the fabric to cup the shoulder more securely. It also allows the rings to be worn very high on the shoulder while still capping it comfortably -- high rings are less likely to get in the way of baby's head. Corrine recommends 9" for petite wearers, and 12" for larger wearers, and of course you can play with the distance to determine the best one for you. Photo-illustrated sewing directions are here.
This centerfold has been folded in an accordion once more on each side. This makes the shoulder somewhat narrower, while still allowing it to cup the wearer's shoulder nicely. I would suggest marking the fabric in 10 equal segments (on a 30" wide sling, each segment would therefore be 3" wide) before folding, to insure symmetry and evenness. Or, you can make the folds themselves uneven, or overlap them. Many variations are possible with this style: you can do a symmetrical version of overlapping pleats, or a symmetrical version of the MayaWrap accordion fold, or any number of possibilities in between. The finished width will depend on the number of pleats and their positioning. The rings should be sewn in so that the pleated parts are underneath.
This is my favorite method, but mostly because I've done so many of them and find it comfortable to wear on either shoulder. My directions have much more information about sewing this style.
This is what you get if you combine the accordion fold with overlapping pleats, I think. It could be difficult to fold, but since it's asymmetrical, who would notice? This style tends to favor one shoulder (left or right) over the other, since it is asymmetrical.
There are tons of ways to use pleats when making a sling. I make box pleats when I do a sling with sewn-in pleats. I think sewing them in would be the best method for this sort of fold, as they would be difficult to maintain with pins alone. Variations on this style could involve any number of pleats in any arrangement, but the symmetry is a strong point, as it makes the sling usable on either shoulder and with little adjustment necessary.
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