Baby-Related Crafts

Adding padding and/or a colorful shoulder accent to an unpadded sling

This is more of a setting down of ideas than anything else -- the idea came to me during a discussion on the BabyWearer about making slipcovers for mei tais and I thought it would be good to put this down on "paper" while I have the chance.

Finished sleeve -- click to enlarge the idea here is to make sort of a sleeve that would go above the rings and surround the shoulder area of the sling -- sort of a neglected area in terms of decoration! If you had a wide sling (say, one that was made with a ga thered shoulder) and wanted to make it consistently narrower without taking out your stitching, or you had a sling that was folded differently and wanted to add some (removable) shoulder padding, this would be a solution. An unpadded shoulder accent could be made with two different fabrics, to be reversible, so that you could have multiple looks with a very quick sewing job. This would also hide a messy sewing job, and make the entire sling reversible, since it would cover up the shoulder stitching. And Rachel from the Babywearer mentions that it could keep the baby from bumping her head on the rings -- I hadn't even thought of that, but if you made it wide enough at the base to cover the rings, it might also make the sling look more "streamlined" as well as being a head protector.



Measuring shoulder spread -- click to enlargeFirst, figure out how wide you want the shoulder to be. If you're retrofitting a ga thered sling to be narrower, try scrunching the fabric around the rings until it's as wide as you like (this is best while you're wearing it), and then measure, both right at the ring end (which will likely be between 2-3", depending on the size of the rings you have) and about 10" above the rings (this measurement depends on your personal preference -- it may be anywhere between 8-12", I would say -- but I will use 10" for consistency). If you are adding padding to a folded-shoulder unpadded sling, measure the actual width of the fabric at the rings and again about 10" above. Sample patternYou will probably want to fan the sling fabric out as wide as you prefer it when you're wearing it. Keep in mind that the narrow end ( the ring end of the sleeve) will have to go over your rings, unless you slide it on from the tail up to the shoulder.

Next, draw up a quick paper pattern using those measurements. Basically, you'll be making a trapezoid with a narrow side as wide as the fabric at the rings, and a wider side 10" from the rings. Add about 1/2" on each side for hems and seam allowances -- more if you prefer a wider hem and/or seam allowance in your sewing.

If you are just making a shoulder accent or a ga thered shoulder container (lol!), all you need to do is cut your fabric and sew. I would hem the top and bottom (short and long) edges before sewing the pieces together, because it's tricky to hem stuff when the edges aren't the same length. So hem those edges, then sew the two pieces right-sides-together, turn right side out, and you're pretty much done.

If you find that the sleeve moves around on the shoulder, you could make a sort of strap that holds it at the ring end (i.e. sew a tab to the bottom piece, and fasten it to the top part as you see fit -- a decorative button would be cute, or a matching/contrasting snap, or a piece of Velcro™ if you want to hide the fastening) and either make a buttonhole or just hand-tack the wider end into place on the sling fabric.

If you are adding padding, cut three pieces of the fabric and one or two of the padding -- the padding should be cut to the size of your pattern *without* seam allowances, so that it can be easily encased in the fabric. Sew the short and long sides of the underpieces (which will encase the padding) together, then slide your padding material inside, so that it's centered within the underpieces. I would then baste the two open sides, to keep the padding from moving around as you sew the padding/underpieces to the top. Then proceed as above -- the raw edges of your underpieces will be on the inside of the finished accent after you've sewn them to the fashion fabric, which will be on top.

You could also make it reversible and padded, if you made the padding section sort of free-floating: for this one, I would just add a layer of fashion fabric to the sandwich so that you had the padding underpieces (with padding inside, as above), one fashion fabric, right side up, and the other fashion fabric, right side down (so that the two fashion fabrics were right sides together on top of the padding). Then, when you sew the edges together and turn it right-side-out, you'll have three layers: fashion fabric, padding section, fashion fabric. To use it, you'd just make sure the padding went underneath the sling shoulder whichever way you put it on. The following directions are for a padded, reversible shoulder sleeve -- the other versions should be easier to figure out :)

Pieces to cut for a reversible, padded shoulder sleeve:

Two fashion fabric, two padding underpieces, one or two pieces of padding (I used scrap fleece)



Hemmed fashion fabric top piece Hem the top and bottom edges of the fashion fabric pieces (here, a striped dupioni silk - not shown is the plain dupioni I have on the underside). I have also added a small tab at the top for the snap I will later apply.
Fleece padding inside underpieces Shown here is the padding inside the underpieces that surround it. I sewed the top and bottom edges of the underpieces together, then centered the padding inside.
Fabric sandwich -- click to enlarge Here's the sandwich of material. The padding/underpiece part is on the bottom, followed by one of the fashion fabric pieces, right-side-up, and the second fashion fabric piece, right-side down. Pin both sides before sewing, unless your fabric doens't move around much (silk surely does!).
Sewn stack -- click to enlarge the sides are sewn together here -- the top and bottom should remain open. I have sewn the left and right sides, and then serged the edges to avoid fraying. If you don't have a serger, you can go over any raw edges with a zigzag stitch, or sew the stack in the opposite order (with the fashion fabrics' wrong sides together) and make a French seam before turning the stack right sides out.
Finished piece, open -- click to enlarge This is what the "inside" of the sleeve looks like. You can see that the padding is completely encased in fabric -- you could skip this step, but I like the look of it, encased -- and the sleeve can be put on the sling with the padding towards either fashion fabric, making it fully reversible.
Finished and on the sling! Click to enlarge Here's what it looks like on a sling -- I've used the tabs to keep the sleeve in place on the shoulder, although it could use some tacking where the sleeve ends behind my shoulder, to keep it from moving around. I'm not sure what the best way to do that is, without permanently or semi-permanently attaching the sleeve to the sling. However, once it's on, it stays in place pretty well with the weight of a child (mine wasn't cooperating for a photo session, alas...).

Pattern caveats:

If you would like to make sleeves like this to sell, I ask that you email me before you proceed. I will be happy to work with you in developing the idea, but I've put it here on "paper" to put my stamp on it. Of course, it is entirely possible that others have independently discovered this, and will in the future as well, but if you're reading these directions and want to do it, I'm sure you can guess what is the right thing to do ;)

Reader Suggestions -slash- Been there, Done That:

Joslin from the BabyWearer has made these before, and this was her method:

the one sleeve I found is 6 inches wide and 4 inches high (when flat-12 1/2 inches before sewing it into a circle) with fleece inside. I am guessing this is the one I liked because the others are gone! Here's how I did it (like making a short strap):

Just to add-I am a little mama- My neck to shoulder measurement is only 5 inches! So, if you are larger take this into account and make yours wider. I placed this on very close to the rings so it kept the ga thers close together, but the fabric could go over my shoulder and the "sleeve" kept the fabric from sliding way down my arm.


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