Sewing a Ring Sling with the Original Maya Wrap Shoulder
These directions will take you step-by-step through sewing an original-shoulder Maya Wrap sling. This sling uses an accordion fold (like a paper fan) when securing the rings. There are many different ways to sew a ring sling shoulder; if you search for "sew a ring sling", you'll find many other ways to do so. This method tends to be most comfortable for those with pointed, narrow shoulders, or who wish to wear the sling with the rings very high, which can be helpful if you have a very small frame.
Please note: Not all fabrics are suitable for a safe, comfortable ring sling. Please download and read the separate "Rings and Fabric FAQ" before purchasing rings and fabric for your sling.
You will need a pair of appropriate rings (see FAQ) and good thread.
Gutermann or Coats All-Purpose polyester are recommended. Store brands tend to be weaker, break more easily, and are harder on your machine to sew with. Cotton or vintage thread is not appropriate, as they also tend to be quite weak.
How much fabric to buy:
- Plan to purchase between 2 and 2.5 yards of fabric. Two yards is sufficient if you are petite; two and a quarter if you're average-sized; and two and a half if you are plus-sized.
- The only real difference between sizes will be the length of the sling's tail (the fabric that is passed through the rings and which hangs down in front).
- A short sling -- one that is waist- to hip-length, rather than lower hip, mid-thigh, or knee-length -- is still safe as long as the tail is at least 12" long.
- A too-long sling can be hemmed to length, or the tail can be tucked into the body of the sling or wrapped around the rings; or you can fold up the bottom to make pockets.
Once you have bought an appropriate fabric, wash and dry it in the same way you will wash and dry after the sling is made.
- If you sew before washing, the fabric may shrink more than you expect it to, leaving you with a shorter sling than you wanted.
- Washing also removes many chemical agents that are routinely applied to fabrics to prevent mildew, damage by insects, or wrinkling while the fabric is stored.
- If you plan to machine wash and dry your sling, do so before sewing.
- If you plan to always hang the sling to dry, you may hang the fabric to dry after its first wash, but you might find that it doesn't soften up as much as it would if machine-dried, which can be unpleasant to wear or sew
Cutting for length and width:
Length: You need not cut the fabric to its final length before hemming. If you have purchased 2 1/2 yards, you may wish to leave it at that length until after you've sewn in the rings; that way, you can try on the sling and decide how long you want it to be, rather than trying to guess the length you might prefer before sewing.
Width: Most slings on the market fall between 26-32" wide, after washing and hemming. Generally speaking, the thinner the material is, the wider you may wish to cut; a heavier material will still be supportive and comfortable at 26" wide (and will be easier to adjust if it's a little narrower), while a lighter fabric requires more width for comfort and support.
- If your fabric is cotton and has a plain weave (that is, the yarn is just over/under in a simple square pattern), you should be able to make a snip and tear to length and width.
- Twill weaves (a more complex pattern, like that seen in denim and twill) may be harder to tear, although it's still worth a try if you have a little extra length. Often, they will rip more cleanly across the width than along the length.
- Linen is a strong fiber and difficult to tear, although linen/cotton blends will usually tear more easily.
- For linen and twill, if your fabric is 56" wide or more, you can fold it in half lengthwise (so it's 2 1/2 yards long by about 28-30" wide when folded) and just cut along the fold; or you can usually follow one of the threads along the length and use that as a guide.
- You can also fold the fabric across the width several times (so it's 60" wide by a much shorter length) and use a rotary cutter to cut the center, but you may find this results in a zig-zag cut unless you're very carful.
- It can be easier to start with a striped fabric, as the stripes will provide you with a nice cutting line and a guide when sewing.
You will be hemming the two long sides of the fabric. If you have already cut your fabric to length, hem one of the short sides, too. You can sew either so that the hem is on the "right" side of the fabric (shown below), or on the "wrong" side. If it's on the "wrong" side, be aware that a narrower hem can cut into your baby's legs. The hems will also be more visible in the tail of the sling if you do them on the "wrong" side. If your fabric doesn't have an obvious right or wrong side, you can do them either way. For a quick indicator of which edge is which when you're wearing the sling, you can do one hem on the right side and one on the wrong side, too.
- If you have a wide enough hemming foot -- 1 cm or 1/2" -- you can use the hemming foot to hem quickly.
- However, most machines either don't come with a hemming foot or, if they do, it's quite narrow, and a narrow hem is difficult to do with sling-appropriate fabrics and also can be quite uncomfortable to wear, as it tends to dig into your skin or the baby's legs.
- Some people prefer to fold the hem over once, iron, then fold and iron again.
- If you would rather not iron, you can just fold as you sew; this is the quickest method aside from a wide hemming foot, although it can take some practice.
- A straight stitch will be the fastest to sew, and you can adjust the stitch length so that it's fairly long. On a machine where the stitch length goes from 0 to 5, you can go to 4 or even 5. This is a long stitch, but since the hem is not weight-bearing, you don't need to use a very short stitch length. A long stitch is also a lot easier to remove if you make a mistake and need to take it out.
- You may choose to use a decorative stitch on the hems, but keep in mind that the more dense the stitch is, the longer it will take to sew, and the less pliable the hem will be.
Making the folds:
- To figure out the width of the folds, measure the width of your fabric and divide by 6.
- If you use an even number, when the sling is worn with the shoulder cap unfolded (the most comfortable method), the rails will end up on opposite sides.
- If the rails are both on the same side when the shoulder cap is unfolded (which is what happens if you have an odd number of folds), it's harder to spread out the fabric on your back and can also put undue stress on the last pleat, which can lead to tearing at the stitching after you've worn the sling for a while. However, if you wish to use the sling without the shoulder cap unfolded -- this would be appropriate if you don't want the fabric to spread out on your shoulder at all, although this is not particularly comfortable for most wearers -- you would want an odd number of folds, so you would divide the width by 5 or 7.
Folding will be just like making a quick paper fan, where the folds stack up on top of each other.
The fabric shown below is 30" wide after hemming, so the folds will be 5" wide.
Start with your fabric right-side up (if applicable). Measure from the edge to your fold width and mark.
Fold the fabric up by your fold width (5" in this case).
Pinch the fabric at the edge and fold under.
Until all the fabric is in a stack that's 5" wide. The wrong sides of the fabric will be showing on top and underneath.
Baste the cut (or torn) edge about 1/2" from the edge. This stitching will be on the underside when the sling is worn, and not seen.
If you have a serger, serge the cut edge. If not, use a wide zig-zag stitch along the edge, to keep the fabric from fraying when it's washed.
When a Maya Wrap original shoulder sling is worn, one of the folds shown above is unfolded for wearing. The side you choose to open out will depend on which shoulder you will wear it on. If you are right-handed and usually carry a baby on your left hip, you will likely wear the sling mostly on your right shoulder. If you are left-handed, you would usually wear on your left shoulder. This is not always the case, though, so give it some thought.
If you will be primarily wearing on your right shoulder, the shoulder cap will be made with the open edge to the right (shown un-basted below):
If you will be primarily wearing on your left shoulder, the shoulder cap will be made with the open edge to the left (again, shown un-basted):
Once you have decided which edge will make the shoulder cap (left shoulder shown below), measure about 6" from the cut edge and mark.
Sew a basting stitch across the width. This will hold the folds in place while you sew in the rings. It's easiest to remove a basting stitch if you use a very long stitch length, and also reduce the upper thread tension. (This is usually done by turning a knob just above the needle. It's often marked from 0 to 9. Normal tension is between 4-5; if you reduce it to 1-2, you will be able to pull out the bobbin thread after the rings are sewn in for a neater finished appearance.) You can often follow the threads in the fabric to make a straight line; if you don't think you'll be able to so, use a piece of paper as a straight edge and mark the line with chalk.
Finished basting stitch:
Now you will stitch in the rings. Flip the folded fabric over, so you're sewing on the wrong side. Line up the zig-zagged edge with the basting stitches to get a straight line. Remember to reverse the sewing direction (backtack) at the start and finish of the stitching line, to keep the stitches from coming out with use.
Sew slowly and be careful not to catch the shoulder cap in the stitching.
Here's the completed first line of stitching on the right side of the fabric, with the basting stitches removed. Note the slightly thicker backtacked stitches at the left and right.
Sew another line of stitching about 1/2" from the first, and another between them. You will want at least two, but preferably three, lines of stitching for safety. The center line can be a decorative stitch if you prefer. Use the sides of your presser foot to space the stitching lines.
Three lines of stitching shown. You can see the unfolded shoulder cap to the left -- this would be a left-shoulder sling.
When the sling is threaded correctly, the shoulder cap is unfolded, and the "wrong" side of the fabric shows in the tail.
This is what the sling will look like when worn. Having an even number of folds ensures that the top rail unfolds evenly across your back.
This file gives tips on how to thread a sling with the original Maya Wrap shoulder.