I don't know how I would've made it through the baby years with all three of my kids without using a baby carrier of some sort. I used the non-adjustable, pouch sling with Sebastian, the linen ring sling with Ruby, and both a jersey fabric wrap carrier and backpack-style carrier with Smith. Each type of sling had its benefits, but my personal favorite was the ring sling because I felt like it could compliment my wardrobe while also being incredibly practical. Plus, it was super easy to throw into the wash on a weekly basis!
Since two of the gals here at A Beautiful Mess will be welcoming sweet little girls into their lives this year, it only felt appropriate to share a ring sling DIY—complete with natural dyeing instructions to achieve that perfect blush hue. Think of it as a way to be more resourceful in regards to your guacamole habit. There are worse things to be addicted to, right? The texture and drape of the linen paired with the beautiful blush hue you get from this dye method make you feel more like you're wearing a pretty scarf than a piece of baby gear.
You can easily make your own ring sling for a fraction of the cost of purchasing one online as long as you own a sewing machine and know how to use it. If you've never used a ring sling before, be sure to read through and follow instructions on baby wearing safety before attempting to use your sling. This type of sling can be used with newborns through toddlerhood to help promote strong bonds and provide comfort to both mom and baby.
Ring Sling Supplies:
-2 to 2.5 yards of 100% linen in white. A size small would need 2 yards while a size large would need 2.5. I suggest adding an extra 18" for each size up. You'll have a little excess, but as your baby grows, you'll need it. A linen/cotton blend will not dye as evenly as 100% linen, so be sure you're getting 100%.
–one pair of large aluminum rings in your color of choice. I shared the bronze in the supply photo but used the gold in the finished linen sling.
–heavy duty machine needle (these are the strongest for standard machines because folded linen is tough)
-color coordinating thread
-iron and ironing board
-binder clips or straight pins
-8-10 avocado pits. Save the avocado peels for dyeing another variation of pink!
-10 qt. stainless steel stock pot. Once you've used this to dye, it is no longer food safe. So keep it designated as a dye pot. I have found some great pots at second hand stores for a fraction of the cost of something new. Copper pots will affect the chemistry of your dye experience, so stick with aluminum.
-tongs or a wooden dowel to stir your pot and adjust your linen in the pot
-knife for cutting avocados
–pH neutral detergent
Many plants require a mordant so the dye will bond with the fabric, but avocados are one of the plants that have a natural mordant so you can skip that step. You can find out more about mordants and how they affect colors in this post on natural dyeing.
Prepare your linen fabric by washing it in hot water with a pH neutral detergent. This process, called scouring, will remove most of the chemicals or oils left on the linen so it will be able to absorb the dye more readily. The more often you wash your linen, the softer it will get, so I put mine through a full wash (hot water) and dry cycle (on medium heat to pre-shrink it) once, and then washed it in the washer again right before I was ready to dye. You can also pre-soak your washed linen in a large bowl or pot overnight before you are ready to dye. Making sure your fabric is thoroughly saturated means the fibers will be primed to absorb the dye evenly.
Fill your pot more than half way with filtered water (if possible) so that your linen will be able to move freely and set it to medium-high heat on your stovetop. Add your whole, clean avocado pits. Set your skins aside to wash and freeze if you're interested in achieving another fun shade of warm pink. Let your dye pot get to a simmering point, but don't let it boil or it'll dull the color. The longer you leave it in the pot at a simmering point, the deeper the color you'll achieve.
Dip a scrap piece of linen in the pot to get an idea of the color. Once you're satisfied with your hue, add your pre-soaked and damp fabric to the dye pot. If you need to add more water to cover the top, you can, but this may slightly dilute the color. Leave your fabric in the dye pot for a minimum of 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure it's evenly colored. If you wish for a darker color, leave it in overnight or a few days. It won't go all cranberry on you, but it will likely achieve a darker shade than the one in our example.
Rinse your linen in warm water in a pH neutral soap again, run it through the dryer or line dry, and then iron it to prepare it for sewing.
SEWING YOUR SLING
Fold one of the long sides of your linen in 1/4" and iron flat. I fold mine over as I am ironing so I usually don't use straight pins or binding clips, but if that feels more manageable, you may want to try that. Then fold that same edge over again about 1/2" and iron the entire length again. You'll want to add binder clips or straight pins along the length of your double-folded hem until you start sewing to keep things in place. Repeat this same process on the opposite long edge.
Starting at one end of your double-folded edge, back-stitch and then stitch down the entire length on the inside fold as shown. Remove your clips as you go. Back-stitch again when you get to the other end. Repeat this process on the opposite edge.
Fold your linen in half length-wise so that the two long-edged hems are resting next to each other, not on top of each other. This is going to keep your thicknesses from getting so thick that your needle can't handle things. If you're right-handed, your two hems should meet on the right side. If you're left-handed, your two hems should meet on the left side. Place a binder clip in the center (mine is just a little off center. SO CONFUSING). Then place another binder clip about 1" in from each side.
Imagine things in thirds. Fold your left side in so that it covers the center third and then fold it back halfway. Then fold your right side in so that it covers the center third and then fold it back halfway.
Stitch across the short edge of your folds about 1/8" from the edge. You'll want to start and finish with a back-stitch. I also decided to add a zig-zag stitch between my stitch line and the edge of the fabric to keep my linen from fraying (not shown).
Add your two rings and fold your fabric down to the place where your binder clips were and re-clip things. Mine are just visual placeholders here because my real rings didn't come in the mail until the morning of our photo shoot! I unstitched these and added in the real ones just in time.
Carefully stitch three rows of stitching near the edge of your fold to secure your rings. You need to back-stitch at the start and end of each row. This will ensure your rings will stay in place and keep your baby safe.
Once you're finished, trim your loose threads and try it out! Just place your sling over your dominant shoulder so that it's just at the top of your chest. Then thread your other end up through both rings, separate the rings, and thread your ends back through the bottom ring. You can then follow directions here for safely wearing your baby. As always, take great caution to make sure your baby is safely inserted into your sling according to safety guidelines.
Ring slings are great for keeping a fussy baby close while still being able to get light house work done or to free up room in your grocery cart when you're out shopping. As a modest gal, I also regularly used mine to nurse in public since there was plenty of extra fabric to help me feel comfortable. It also made it much easier to get the whole family out of the house without hauling around a big stroller!
If you're not in need of a ring sling, you can easily use this same tutorial to dye linen and sew a cute top or make dip-dyed cloth napkins to make mealtimes more fun. Interested in learning the basics of sewing so you can make more projects like this? Check out our self-paced e-Course, Sew With Us, and get started! –Rachel