Baby Origami, DIY Style: Tablecloths

In some Asian country, a dude at Mahogany scratches his head: those 60×120 peacock tablecloths sold out – again – in a matter of hours. And a bunch of other jacquard tablecloths, of similar lengths, have moved quick – way quicker than usual – to a bunch of people who’ve also looked at … cloth diapers and organic baby food? What the hell?

The wrappers found pfaux pfau in stock again. And sold it out – again. You might get lucky enough to score the red and orange version. But the blue and gray? That bouncy, cushy, fluffy goodness fetches double on the resale market between stockings. A mama I won’t name, because she’d kill me, once paid sixty bucks for one, and amazon restocked again the next day. True story. The wrap was worth it, though. Pfaux Pfau’s highly sought after, just as much as any purpose-woven wrap, since mamas on The Babywearer.com discovered it a year and a half ago. I’ll never buy another purpose-woven shorty again ever. I can score one (two! – they split!) off amazon for 49.99 USD and free shipping. That’s 25 dollars a wrap, less if you hem and sell the other half. It rocks rebozo and rucksack carries. Some mamas have even sewn these into TCMT (tablecloth mei tais) and ring slings, which fetch as much as purpose-woven conversions.

a mahogany stash - red/orange pfaux pfau, blue/gray pfaux pfau, lotus. Note that the colors are radically different from those on amazon - mahogany's pics are notoriously discolored.

a mahogany stash – red/orange pfaux pfau, blue/gray pfaux pfau, lotus. Note that the colors are radically different from those on amazon – mahogany’s pics are notoriously discolored.

Tablecloth stalking’s the easiest way to expand your wrap stash. They’re cheap, and you never know where you’ll find one – Marshall’s? Target? Etsy? eBay? The hunt’s half the fun. I also believe that every mama should know how to tie a rebozo – an easy front, hip, or back carry traditionally used in Latin America. You can also use a short wrap as a no-sew ring sling, a rucksack TUB (tied under bum),  or a reinforced rear rebozo rucksack (RRRR). Poke around Facebook groups some, and you can find fancy sling ring carries, including a double hammock, suitable for a size 2 wrap.

Picking Your Tablecloth – Er, Wrap

Any tablecloth works, in a pinch – you can babywear with just about anything, and people do. If you’re lazy, to score a serviceable tablecloth wrap with solid resale value – you don’t need both halves – buy a Mahogany Tablecloth on amazon. I have four: both pfaux pfau, damask scroll, and lotus. All make great wraps; since they have brand recognition, they move quickly on the swap. But when you decide to branch out, it’s best to follow a few guidelines, which work for repurposing just about any fabric, from tablecloths to tapestries.   

Use natural fabrics. Cotton and linen wrap best, either 100% of each or a blend. Tablecloths are notorious for sneaking in polyester, synthetic ickiness that’ll make you hot and sweaty (not in a good way – get your mind out of gutter. You have children, for Pete’s sake). If it’s unlabeled, it’s polyester. And check for yuck add-ins like stain resistance. You don’t want baby chewing on whatever carcinogenic petrochemicals Dow’s invented to stop red wine stains. Target’s tablecloths are notoriously poly-blends, though you can find cotton if you look. 

Another no-name amazon find. This is a good example of a damask pattern.

Another no-name amazon find. This is a good example of a damask pattern.

Use jacquard or damask fabric, not a print. Jacquards and damasks have the pattern woven into them – i.e., the threads are actually different colors, and the pattern on one side is the reverse of the other. A printed pattern will have a white or solid-colored wrong side. Prints are lower quality than jacquards or damasks, and don’t tend to hold up as well. Mostly, they look funky when wrapped. Marshall’s and TJ Maxx sell a lot of prints.

And they aren’t tablecloths, but they’re cheap and awesome – you can score wool rebozos if you look carefully. Make sure it’s thick enough to use, though, and free of poly blends – remember, you want your weave loose enough for light to pass through, but not sheer. In the past, mamas have gotten lucky checking El Jorongo for super-cheap, well-made rebozos.

 Finally, get enough length – your tablecloth needs to be at least 120 inches long. Post-shrinkage, this ends up being somewhere between a Didymos size 2 and 3 – long enough for even dads to rebozo a babe, and for the vast majority of mamas to manage a ruck TUB. I’ve found 140 inch+ tablecloths in antique stores. 

Another found wrap - this half a tapestry from the local hippie store. It's light gauze; you can see the difference between the right and wrong sides that tell you it's printed. I use it anyway.

Another found wrap – this half a tapestry from the local hippie store. It’s light gauze; you can see the difference between the right and wrong sides that tell you it’s printed. I use it anyway.

Speaking of antique stores, if it’s vintage, do some tug-testing. I’ve scored awesome linen damask in antique shops and my in-laws’ attic. But remember, fabric doesn’t last forever. Make sure your cloth is strong enough to hold a baby. Pull it hard in all directions. Twist it. Wash it and try again. Rebozos are one-layer carries; you don’t have the luxury of several layers of cloth holding baby. I have beautiful vintage fabric rebozos I consider 100% safe. But whether or not your particular fabric is safe – that’s up to you. 

The possibilities are endless. Some mamas have repurposed shower curtains, sheets, and hippie tapestries. As long as it’s natural and thick enough, grope away – and yes, that’s what she said. But you’ll look like a creeper fondling fabric in stores anyway. It’s addictive.

Once you’ve got your fabric, follow the directions on our last DIY Wrapping post to finish it up. At least this one’s a rebozo – the ironing won’t take up an entire episode of Mad Men. Maybe half. Watch Ancient Aliens instead – it’s shorter. Or just give in and watch Toddlers and Tiaras. You know you want to. I won’t tell. I promise.

To Seam or Not to Seam?

And then we come to the big question. It’s the question VBEs (volunteer babywearing educators), DIY queens, the babywearer.com members, and safety mavens all love to fight about. Is it safe to seam a wrap from two pieces of cloth? Or, can you get one long wrap out of two pieces of Pfaux Pfau – can you chop it in half lengthwise and sew those two shorties together to make a longie?*

No. Yes. Maybe.

Many mamas insist that no, seamed wraps aren’t safe, even when overlapped or french-seamed properly. The cloth isn’t designed to absorb stress that way, they say, and a rip in the stitching would deconstruct the whole wrap, which, depending on the carry you’re using and how many layers cover the baby, could be catastrophic. So no seamed wraps!

Other mamas insist that yes, you can seam a wrap safely, if you follow certain precautions. First, you sew a french seam to join the pieces, or overlap them by at least 6 inches and sew a box around the overlap in triplicate. The foundation tute for this method is denimmeitei’s on thebabywearer.com forums (you’ll need to register to find it).

What do I think? I think you need to make your own choice about it. However, I have seamed a wrap, and I find it totally safe. There’s a few reasons for that.

Halloween pfaux pfau, with Yoda and a Stormtrooper.

Halloween pfaux pfau, with Yoda and a Stormtrooper.wrap; in fact, I have the only long pfaux pfau in existence. I decided to go for it, for several reasons:

  • I know how to sew decently – how to pick the correct needle and thread for the job, how to hem, and how to assure the stitches are secure. 
  • I trust the maker of the DIY tute above – enough that I believe she would never recommend something that is unsafe. She carries her babies in seamed wraps on a regular basis; she’s also an incredibly skilled seamstress who’s known around TBW for her awesome DIY advice.
  • I have used a pouch sling in the past. Pouches are by nature seamed, and no one ever freaks out about it. I have found well-fitting pouches safe and comfortable.
  • I only use my seamed wrap in multilayer carries. If that happens to be a back carry, I make sure the carry is offset – i.e., the weight of the baby never rests exclusively on the seamed part, and he is secured by multiple layers of fabric.
  • And finally, I check the stitching every single time I use the wrap. It’s always good policy to check your carriers, but it becomes even more imperative to examine your stitching if you choose to use a seamed wrap.

Would I lend out my seamed wrap? No way. Would I sell seamed wraps? Nuh-uh. But if you feel confident in your abilities, I provided the recommendations and the link to the tute. I’d also add that if you use patterned cloth with an up- and a down-side (as opposed to right and wrong sides), your seam may not match up properly. I neither recommend nor advise against seamed wraps – do your own research and make your own choices. I don’t know if you’re a practiced wrapper or carrying a toddler-beastchild or utterly inept at sewing or going to sue the living shit out of me. So I’m washing my hands here. Got it?

Now go buy a damn tablecloth.

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* We don’t call it a “longie”. It’s one of those weird linguistics quirks, like “babywearing”. Say “size 6 wrap” instead. There, shouldn’t we just say “longie”?

 

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