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Making a safe sling with 45" wide calico/quilting fabric

Normally, I don't recommend using calico or quilting prints for a sling -- the variety that most people have access to (at JoAnn Fabrics, Hancock fabrics, WalMart, and other chain-store retailers) just isn't very strong, and tends to fade and wear out quickly. But there are a lot of pretty, pretty prints, and if you're making a lot of slings for a personal sling wardrobe or just won't be using it very often, there's little harm in making a safer, double-layer one.

When using thinner 45" fabric (like quilting cottons and other lightweight fabrics), you *can* just fold the fabric in half lengthwise, so that it's 22" wide by 2-2.5 yards long. However, 22" is pretty narrow for a ring sling -- it's fine for positions like tummy-to-tummy and a hip carry with an older baby, but isn't as secure for a cradle hold or particularly a kangaroo carry. The directions below will allow you to use 45" wide fabric and still have a wide, safe sling.

Please don't use this method for slings that you intend to sell, particularly if you're using inexpensive calico. Your customers may want to wear their slings daily and wash them frequently, and cheap calicos just won't hold up to that kind of use. If you don't have insurance or LLC status, you could be in a world of hurt, should an injury occur due to the fabric tearing -- disclaimers do not legally protect you from a lawsuit.

These directions have taken me a significant chunk of time to put together -- they are not just some random freebie. All directions on the site are copyright to Jan Andrea, for personal use only, and are not intended for bulk resale.

Materials needed:

Preparing your fabric:

Prewash! Calicos usually shrink a fair amount, and the less expensive it is, the more it will probably shrink. If you are using a calico print and a coordinating solid, the solid will likely shrink a different amount than the print, particularly if you get a poly/cotton blend, like the "broadcloth" available at stores like JoAnn Fabrics.

After washing, leave your print as-is, 45" wide, with the selvages intact (unless they have puckered during washing, in which case you can cut them off). The coordinating color will be cut to 15-18" wide and as long as your print. If your coordinating fabric is sturdy enough, you can make another, single-layer sling out of the left-over piece, since (assuming it starts at 45" wide as well) you'll have 27-30" of it left over, which is plenty wide for a sling.

Of course, if your coordinating color isn't sturdy, you'll need to line it as well... and the cycle begins! then again, if you buy 4 lengths of coordinating fabrics, you can make 3 slings with this method -- two will have the rails, as below, and the other two will be standard reversible. Using fabrics A, B, C, and D, sling 1 will have 45" wide A with 15" wide B. Sling 2 will have 45" wide C and 15" wide D. Sling three will have 30" wide B and 30" wide D. As long as they're all in the same color family, it'll work out great!

Sewing the layers together:

After your fabric is washed, you'll sew the fabrics along the long edges, right sides together. This will give you a tube of fabric which is 30" wide and 2-2.5 yards long (at right, shown in perspective).

Lay the fabric flat so that you have a 15" stripe in between two 7" print strips (right sides still together). Sew a seam across one short side ( the open side shown at right) -- this will be the bottom edge of your sling. Sew another seam across the other short side, leaving a 4" gap for turning right-side-out somewhere along the edge.

Turn the tube right-side-out through the gap, then topstitch around the whole thing, making sure that the 15" strip stays in the center throughout (pinning and/or ironing will help in that regard).

Finish with your favorite sling shoulder, and you're done! You can wear the sling with either side out -- if you do a clean job of sewing in the rings, it will be reversible.

Threading your sling and babywearing:

I finally got around to adding illustrated directions on threading and wearing your sling. Please check them out! If you have any questions, please email me!


To make a very easy open pocket in a coordinating solid fabric, buy 1/3 yard more coordinating fabric than your print. Hem one edge before you sew as above, then fold that edge up by 10-11", so that the total length of the 15" wide piece is the same as your print. Baste the edges on the coordinating solid, then proceed as above, making sure that the pocket section ends up on the outside -- it will be on the right side of the coordinating solid when you sew them together. The two seams that join the coordinating solid to the print will be the left and right sides of your pocket. To make a slightly more useful pocket (less prone to gaps), I would sew a line of stitching in the middle of the folded section, so that it makes two separate sections, before sewing the 15" piece to the print. If you want to add a hook-and-loop closure, do so before sewing the 15" strip to the print.

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