Ring Sling Sewing Pattern & Tutorial
Updated: Mar 22
By the time we found out that we were pregnant with our third child, our rainbow baby Bard, we had already purged most of our baby gear. Even though we knew that we wanted more children before we got pregnant with him, we decided that we wouldn't be needing a crib, the swing, the bouncer, or the play yard-- all the big stuff. We donated our stroller too-- it had just been taking up space in the trunk of the the car, unused. I found that I really enjoyed baby wearing and rarely used those items with our first two-- my girls were always wrapped to me. When thinking about what we might need the third time around, there wasn't much that came to mind. I opted instead to look into other ways to carry this new baby around with me, and for something special that could be just his. Being a big Tolkien fan, and having already decided on our son's name (Bard is named after the bowman who slays the dragon in 'The Hobbit'), I found the perfect ring sling with Smaug woven in Jaccard made by the Scottish company Osha as a part of their Middle Earth line- a love affair with ring slings was born!
An avid sewer, I have since learned to make them myself. A handmade ring sling is my go-to gift for expectant mothers. I personally have found them to be the easiest way to babywear newborns as I didn't have to worry about manipulating the yards and yards of fabric of a wrap or hassle with all the straps, buckles, and accessories of a more structured carrier. They were much simpler and easier for me to throw on when out doing errands with my older children-- and they could be quite stylish as well. In my opinion, the ring sling is the perfect starter carrier for new parent's considering baby wearing.
In this tutorial, I will demonstrating two methods of construction: a gathered shoulder and a pleated shoulder. While the gathered shoulder would be easier for the novice sewist, the pleated shoulder is far more comfortable to wear as it offers more padding and support.
Your choice of fabrics can vary for the season-- think lighter weight, breathable fabrics for those summer babies, and heavier, warmer fabrics for little ones born in the winter. Linen or 100% Cotton Twill, would be perfect for warmer weather. A thick woven jacquard, or even a heavy-knit, cotton-rich jersey with minimal stretch would be suitable for winter.
The weight of the baby should also be considered when choosing fabric for your sling. Densely woven fabrics such as jacquard, dupioni silk, or denim are very durable and are strong enough to support a bigger baby or even a toddler. Look specifically for fabrics that have a nubby or grippy texture to help the fabric of the sling stay in place.
A higher quality fabric will better guarantee the safety of the baby!
While you can definitely go the big box route (I get those coupons in the mail too), my favorite local store to purchase silk fabrics for ring slings is Interior Alternatives. They are situated off of 896, just north of Rt. 40 in Newark, Delaware. They have an overwhelming selection of home fabrics, including dupioni silk, at very reasonable, outlet prices and they offer rotating monthly discounts on various products. The fabric I will be using to make the green/gold silk jacquard ring sling with the pleated shoulder was purchased at Interior Alternatives for $15/yard. While this might seem steep, you have to consider the fact that the ring slings I make are only around 75-85 inches long. This means that they take just 2.5 yards of fabric. Since most woven fabric is sold in 50-60 inch widths, and the ring sling only needs to be 25-30 inches wide, you can simply cut the fabric in half and have enough for two-- one for you and one for a friend-- or two for gifts! Even if you were to purchase your fabric at $15/yard like me, each sling is only going to cost you around $25 total to make (this is including the fabric, rings, and thread).
My favorite place to purchase linen fabric is fabric-store.com. For the ochre linen ring sling with a gathered shoulder, I will be using fabric-store mid-weight linen in their premier wash for the added softness and minimal shrinkage it provides. Trust me-- for the price, the quality of their linen is awesome! You will not find better at the big box fabric stores.
Another option, and the most economical and environmentally conscience one, would be to thrift your fabric. I love using thrifted table cloths, curtains, and bed sheets for sewing projects. Just make sure that the fabric of these items is in good condition with no holes, tears, threadbare, or worn spots. I will be making a ring sling with a vintage linen table cloth as an example of how cute thrifted fabrics can be used for ring slings.
No matter the fiber content of your chosen sling fabric, I suggest using durable polyester thread. Guttermann is my preferred brand.
The rings used in ring slings should be proprietary, meaning they are made specifically for the purpose of baby wearing. The rings I used for these projects were purchased off Etsy, but you can find 3" solid Aluminum Rings on Amazon and the website Slingrings.com as well. They come in all kinds of cool anodized colours.
A Note on Ring Sling Safety:
Always keep baby close enough to kiss!
Your Baby's nose and mouth should always be visible.
The fabric of sling should be capped over your shoulder
The rings should be at your collar bone.
You baby's bottom should always be bellow their knees (in the M position).
The fabric should be tight across baby's back.
2.5 yards of fabric
Pair of 3" or larger solid Aluminum Rings (specifically made for baby wearing ring slings)
Scissors (to cut the yardage in half)
Fabric Pen or any tool for marking that will wash out (Gathered version)
Needle and thicker, contrasting Thread for Basting or Masking Tape (for Pleated Version)
Gathered Ring Sling
Prewash and dry the fabric the way you plan on maintaining your sling in the future. When fabric with a raw edge is prepped this way, it will fray. Don't worry, you can just clips those loose threads before sewing.
Cut your fabric down the middle so that you have two rectangular pieces of fabric that are 2.5 yards long by about 25-30 inches wide. One of these halves will be used for the ring sling, the other can be used for another ring sling or a different project. For the safety of the baby, ring slings should only be made with a 2.5 yards of CONTINUOUS piece of fabric. This means that you shouldn't piece the needed 80"X30" rectangle of fabric together with smaller cuts of fabric. You wouldn't want these seams to pull apart while wearing your baby!
Starting with a long side, fold the raw edge over a 1/4" and iron. Fold another 1/4" to encase the raw edge of the fabric in the folds. Iron and Pin. I have heard it said that 10% of sewing is actually sitting down at the machine sewing-- the rest is planning, cutting, and pinning and ironing. This step is important for tidy work so don't skip it! Repeat for the rest of the sides of the rectangle.
To sew a finished hem around the edges of your sling, start at one corner, backstitch, and sew a 1/4" hem down one of the long sides, pivot and continue down a short side, pivot, then complete the last long side. At this point you should have 2 long sides and one short side hemmed. Backstitch.
Measure 15 inches down from the end that is not sewn. Draw a straight line all the way across the fabric with your fabric pen.
Pull both Aluminum Rings through the end of the sling that is not hemmed. Be careful not to twist the fabric while pulling it through.
Carefully line up the unsewn short edge of the ring sling with the line you just drew with the fabric pen. Pin well to keep the fabric in place. If you need to unpin the folded edge that you pinned in step 3 and re-pin that is fine!
Sew over both layers of fabric, as close to the hemmed edge as possible. Back stitch at the beginning and end. Sew another line 1/4" above that. Back stitch at the beginning and end. Sew one more line 1/4" above that (for a total of 3 lines). Back stitch at the beginning and end. These additional lines of of stitching add extra strength to your sling.
Your done! Enjoy yourself or gift with love!
Pleated Ring Sling
*Complete steps 1 thru 4 of the Gathered Ring Sling directions.
5. Now for making those pesky pleats. Okay, so to be completely honest, I am not super confident in my pleating skills, but as you will see, my end result looks pretty decent-- with only a touch of handmade charm.
To start, lay out the unfinished end of your hemmed rectangle so that the long edges are running left to right and the short end that you will be pleating is on your right. Make sure you have pins handy-- you will be needing lots! You can use a cutting mat, ruler, length tape with inch markings, or your eyeballs (my preferred method) to evenly space your pleats. the measurements I have given can be adjusted for you preferred size of pleat.
Be Aware: The side of your fabric that is up will be the outward facing side of your sling (this is the pretty side). If your fabric has a "right" and a "wrong" side, you should begin working the pleats on your fabric's "right" side.
Start by folding the bottom finished edge up about 1.5".
Then pinch both layers of fabric along the finished edge and flip both layers back under the body of the fabric. Pin the pleat in place near the raw edge.
Now pinch the fabric 3" above the bottom edge.
Repeat this process-- pinching the fabric 3" above the newest pleat and and pulling it down to make another pleat above the previous one, always pinning your work in place.
6. The next step is basting your pinned pleats in place. I started my basting by using the zig zag stitch on my machine to sew across the raw edge of my pleats-- the idea was to minimize the fraying and help hold this edge in place as I hand-stitched two rows of oversized stitches with my contrasting basting thread. I made sure to catch each of the pleats as I stitched so that everything was held securely in place for the next step.
7. Now slip the pleated end through both of your 3" Aluminum rings. Fold the pleated end down (the wrong sides of your fabric should be together!) and pin in place. I tucked my end in so that the zig-zag stitching wouldn't be visible on the reversed side of the sling. Make sure that the pretty side you have been working your pleats on is facing out on the part you just folded.
8. Now flip the ring sling over to the right, or outward facing "pretty" side, and run no less than three lines of stitching, back stitching at the beginning and end of each, to secure the end of the sling around the rings. This is a great way to use those decorative stitches on your machine if you are inclined.
Viola you have made a pleated ring sling!