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While all ring slings are made with the same basic design -- a length of fabric with two rings on one end -- the design of the shoulder can make a big difference for the individual wearer. There are many ways to fold fabric in a ring sling -- for more, check these out -- and each one has its pros and cons for different-sized wearers, although there is no hard-and-fast rule about what fits who better. Two people with nearly identical builds often prefer completely different shoulder styles, so if there's a babywearing group near you, I'd recommend a visit to try a few slings out and see what you like. All ring slings are made to go over one shoulder, not both. If you are looking for a two-shoulder carrier, which will distribute your child's weight over both shoulders, please see my links page for some suggested types.
Top to bottom: (click for larger view)
- Signature pleats
- Retro pleats
- Eesti hybrid
- Floating gathered
Signature SBP Pleats:
Overlapped pleats give even support across the whole shoulder and back, allowing the fabric to spread naturally along carefully stitched lines.
- Easy to put on and go -- structure allows the shoulder to be positioned correctly without fuss
- Pleats keep the fabric narrower at the rings, but spread pressure out evenly across your back, widening as much as you need behind the shoulder
- Works on both left and right shoulders
- Attractive looking -- fantastic with striped fabrics
- Good for: most builds, from pointed to rounded shoulders
- Some wearers find pleats too structured, preferring to overlap fabric more or less than the pleats do
- Can't be scrunched smaller (though wearing the rings higher reduces the amount the fabric spreads out)
- Difficult to sew with thick fabrics
The number of pleats will vary depending on the thickness and width of the materials used. Most slings will have seven or eight pleats. However, for the wearer's comfort, I use a larger number of smaller pleats on thinner fabrics, so the French twill will have 10-11 pleats; while thicker or narrower fabrics -- like Natibaby wraps, which are quite thick; and some older Didymos wraps, which are rather narrow -- will have five or six pleats instead. If you feel strongly about the number of pleats on your sling, please let me know ahead of time so that I can accommodate your wishes.)
Larger pleats give similar support to signature pleats, but with wider spread over the shoulder and back
- "Retro" because it refers to my standard sewing style some 10+ years ago
- Fewer, wider pleats makes the shoulder wider where it leaves the rings, and opens out faster than signature pleats
- May be preferable for plus-sized wearers, as it fits a more rounded shoulder (this was my preference -- I have worn between an XL and 3XL in the last 16 years, and preferred a wider shoulder like this when my kids were babies)
- Also works for petite wearers who like to wear their rings high, as the faster spread allows a high ring while still providing generous support over the back.
- With a heavy fabric, this is often the only pleat I can sew, as it overlaps less than signature pleats.
- Can be overwhelming on narrow or pointed shoulders, spreading too far down the upper arm, especially if rings are worn too low
- As with signature pleats, can't be scrunched smaller.
Small pleats on each side give some structure, while the center gathered section allows flexibility in the fabric width across the shoulder and back
- Good compromise between pleated (above) and gathered -- small pleats at the side take up some of the width, partially controlling how far the fabric spreads out
- Once you find your "sweet spot", comfortable on most body types.
- Gathered section allows the wearer to customize the width
- Can be sewn reversible with thin enough fabrics
- Can take a little longer to put on than pleats -- without arranging it when putting it on, the gathered section allows the fabric to spread far down the upper arm, limiting range of motion and potentially causing discomfort.
- Seam may fall on the top of the wearer's shoulder, which can be uncomfortable with a thicker fabric.
* Karen Hoppis invented this design in 2005, and when she stopped sewing professionally in 2011, allowed me to license the design in the US. Please be advised that other vendors are selling this shoulder style (usually calling it simply "hybrid") without credit to Karen and without paying her for her design. This is not done with her permission.
Simply gathered, with a reversible seam behind the wearer's shoulder. Used by permission of Allison Henderson, formerly Going Uppy slings.
- Provides two layers of fabric across the wearer's shoulder, giving a little more cushion
- Fully adjustible in width, from scrunched tight to spread from neck to upper arm
- Sewn to be fully reversible (see below)
- Can be worn very high on the shoulder -- good for petite wearers
- Takes longer to situate on the wearer's shoulder, less "put on and go" than above styles
- Care needs to be taken that the fabric doesn't spread too far over the wearer's upper arm -- this can be uncomfortable as well as providing a less than ideal seat for the baby (fabric far down the wearer's arm means the seat is usually loose)
- Two layers of a thicker fabric can be much warmer
The tags, sewn at the side of the fold, can be tucked between the layers and hidden, allowing it to be reversible -- this can also be done on Eesti slings, if the fabric is thin enough for me to fold under and sew through the pleated sections. (Many jacquard wraps, particularly linen or hemp blends, but also thicker handwovens, are too thick for me to sew reversible in an Eesti shoulder. Please consult me before requesting it.)
I am often asked to do other shoulder styles on slings, but it's not something I do, both out of respect for the businesses that created them, and because I don't have sufficient practice with other styles to sew them as nicely as I'd like.
Wondering how a sleeping baby sling compares to more expensive brands? Here are a few photographs of basic construction details -- how the rings are sewn in, and the hemmed edges -- so you can see how they differ.