Now that I have gotten in some practice with a mei tai for Wallace and a podaegi for my friend, it was time to tackle the onbuhimo for myself! I had purchased fabric for it a few weeks ago but needed to work up to it and decide on what features I wanted. I had never seen one in person or tried it on so it was all a stab in the dark if I would love it as much as I thought.
An onbuhimo is a Japanese carrier that is similar to the mei tai but instead of waist straps there are loops or rings. It is best for high back carries with children who can sit independently. It can also be used for front carries. For little babies you have to be especially careful to give them extra support by wrapping the straps around them.
There are a ton of variations and possible features. Here is what I chose:
– fabric loops
– padded to wrap straps
– rectangular panel with no darts
– slight curve at the top
– legs-out padding
– two layer bottom weight panel
– tapered strap ends
I read a lot of tutorials and grilled a few people who have already made one to figure out mine. Here are a few great links to check out including information on fabric type, different straps than I did, and three layer body panels (that hides the x boxes as well as makes it suitable for other outer fabrics).
Fine and Faire
Crafty Cin Cin
– 2-3yds of bottom weight fabric, wash it first (I had 2yds, 60in wide of dark blue twill and 3/4yds, 60in wide of the print)
– fleece scraps, felted wool sweater, or batting
– matching thread, a decent all purpose polyester
– jean needle
– paper scissors, fabric scissors, and a rotary cutter
– cutting mat
– iron and ironing board
– measuring tape and yard stick
– sewing machine
– parchment paper or something else big like that, computer paper
– pen, fabric marker or a colored pencil (I used white)
Height: 22.25in (a little smaller seam allowances would make them a little bigger)
Loops: H-3.75in W- 4in Sunk-4im
Straps: L-65in W-3.5 & 9.75in Sunk-3.75in
My son is 27 months and wears mostly 18 month size clothes now. It doesn’t have to go perfectly knee to knee but it shouldn’t be so wide that it keeps the child from bend their legs. I do not know if the body panel can be cinched for smaller babies like some carriers can be. The tutorials I linked have other measurements and measuring a carrier you have on hand can help determine what size will work for you. Remember that there are 1/2-3/4in seam allowances. I ended up with bigger seam allowances than I had wanted because I had my needle to the left… oops!
Pattern and Construction
It might be best to position all of your pieces out on the fabric before cutting. That way you can rearrange if needed and avoid any flaws in the fabric. I will walk through how I cut and put together each section then attached it all.
These are generally 3-4in high and wide after folding and attaching. There are 3-4in sunk into the body for anchoring. I used a piece of 8.5x11in computer paper as my guide and then extended them out to 16in long.
I folded them in half with right sides together and sewed. I pressed the seam open, turned it right side out with the seam on a flat side and pressed again. Fold in half and that is it!
I had planned to do the neat padded to wrap straps in the Crafty Cin Cin link but I cut my loop pieces from the wrong spot. I had to go with the width I had in my longest spot of fabric and that was 11.25in for each strap. I measured these right on my fabric and marked it using a white colored pencil. I made them the length of my fabric, which was 70″ after shrinking, and measured right up to the selvedge so that I could use it as my straight edge.
I decided that even though my fabric was 11.25in wide I wanted the padded part of my straps to be only 3.75in wide. With right sides together, I did lots of measuring and marking on the fabric. The dotted lines going down are where I was sewing and the two lines going across are my sinking line and the end of my padding line.
Once I had that sewn from the edge to the end of padding mark, I opened the seam and ironed it. Do not turn it right side out yet.
Next I did a rolled hem on each raw edge of the straps with lots of hot iron and pins. I sewed just past my end of padding lines. Remember that most fabric have a right and wrong side. I folded the hems in towards the wrong side so they don’t show on the right side. Once that is done, turn the strap right side out.
I decided on 10in padding made from 3 layers of fleece. I cut a pattern piece from computer paper, then stacked, pinned, cut, and sewed around the edges of each stack of 3. I used a long stitch, 3.5 on my ancient Brother, to baste the fleece together.
I slid the fleece into my strap and pulled it right to 3.75in from the edge. I pinned it in place and fussed with it to make it lay flat. I put my needle to the left and sewed twice along the edge of the fleece at 3.75in from the edge of my fabric. Next, I marked two lines along the length of my strap padding and sewed using a big stitch again. Final step was to sew twice along the other edge of the padding to keep it in place. This gives a nice pleat to the hemmed edges of the strap.
I hemmed the tail ends of the straps after getting to try it on. If your straps are nice and long, a tapered tail is helpful in getting the strap through the fabric loop. I lined up my tails and made sure they were even, pinning them in place right sides together. Then I measured 5in on one side and used a ruler to draw a line and my rotary cutter to cut it.
Unpin and do rolled hems on both. I had to cut a little bit off the pointy corner and fold it in. I also had to hand crank over that spot.
Body Panel (2)
I used the shape of the parchment paper to help me draw my pattern. I used the full width of 18in and made the height 20in. I then measure 3.5in up from the center of the top line and drew a curve down to each side. I folded it in half and cut the curve so that both sides matched.
I put my two fabrics right sides together, pinned and cut.
When you sew around the edge, mark for your openings for your two straps and two loops and don’t sew them closed. I also left about a 6in opening at the bottom to make turning easy.
Clip the top curved edge and then turn it right side out and press.
Slide your loops and straps in and pin them in place. I fussed with this step to get each strap and loop exactly where I wanted and lying flat with the seams of the body panel.
It is time for the X boxes!
You can make this easier by drawing with a fabric marker and ruler where to sew. You want to go over each side and X 3 times. Go slow, lift the foot to turn, put it back down, and hand crank if you need to. If it starts to mess up. Cut your threads, seam rip anything that came out wrong, and rethread your machine before starting again.
When those are all in place, top stitch evwrthing but the bottom (unless you aren’t doing legs-out padding, then you can top stitch all of it). I went over it again with an iron before top stitching.
I tried it on at this point to see how high I needed the padding to go. I’m not convinced it is necessary but it seemed like a nice touch.
To do the padding, I cut 2 strips of fleece 2in by 16in and folded them in half, basting them together. Three layers would also work. Or, use polyfil and stuff it after sewing the outline. Put it in and pin it in place. Take a minute to get it lying flat with the seams then sew around the top and side.
Press the bottom opening again, take a deep breath, and topstitch it closed.
Please feel free to comment here or send me an email and my blog title at gmail with any questions.