Behind the scenes: The making of your carrier

Interested in seeing just what goes into making your baby carrier?  Monkey Mei Tai will never be a company that rattles out 20+ carriers a month, and hopefully this page will help to explain why: because quality takes time.

For a more detailed look at the safety of our carriers, please see the ‘Safety‘ page.

Step 1. The Wash

The making of a Monkey Mei Tai

Sometimes a wrap arrives straight from the manufacturer, or sometimes a customer doesn’t have the time or space to wash, dry, and iron 5 metres of fabric.  So some wraps have a wash at our house!  Line drying leaves them crisp and easy to work with.

Step 2.  The Admin

The making of a Monkey Mei Tai

All order forms and customer details are transferred to an electronic database and carrier details are also noted in detail in a record book.  This ensures nothing is left to chance (or memory!).  Once in the book, details are double-checked before the scissors come anywhere near the fabric.  Monkey Mei Tai takes data protection seriously – the database contains details of every customer and every baby carrier they have ordered, after all!  This is encrypted, and information is never released to anyone, nor is it used to spam customers with marketing emails.  It is kept for legal records only, and is backed up in multiple secure locations.

Step 3.  The Chop!

The making of a Monkey Mei Tai

Now comes the scariest bit!  The old mantra ‘measure twice, cut once’ just doesn’t cut it for us at MMT, so here it’s ‘measure thrice, cut once’ instead.  I do everything I can to minimise mistakes, and measuring everything at least 3 times is just another thing I do to try to ensure everything runs smoothly.

I also take extra care with patterned wraps to ensure the body panel has the pattern positioned properly.  This often takes a lot of jiggling, but I want the end product to properly reflect the beauty of the wrap, so it’s an important step.  The same professionally-cut templates are used for every carrier, to ensure continuity of shape and size.  As a result, custom panel sizes incur an extra charge – a new pattern template has to be created for each and every one.

Step 4.  The Workload

The making of a Monkey Mei Tai

I generally work on 4-8 baby carriers at once.  I have found this to be the best balance between the efficiency of the ‘production line’ system, and the low customer wait time of the ‘one at a time’ system.  After cutting each piece from each wrap, I’m often left with a mountain of beautiful fabrics!

Step 5.  The Overlocker

The making of a Monkey Mei Tai

The next step is trimming stray threads, and preventing fraying by overlocking.  The shoulder straps are created by splitting a wrap along its length, leaving two raw edges.  These are overlocked minimise fraying in every possible way; it’s a time-consuming task that many manufacturers omit, but an extra detail in which I pride myself.

Step 6.  The Hems

The making of a Monkey Mei Tai

Hemming the straps is done manually.  I  experimented with various rolled hem attachments but found them unsuitable due to the unique diagonal ‘give’ of most wrap fabrics.  After a lot of experimentation during the early days, I decided that the old fashioned method of turning by hand worked the best!

Step 7. The Straps

The making of a Monkey Mei Tai

Next come the straps!  Most customers choose our trademark Infinity straps for their baby carrier; the fabric folding around padding to provide a comfortable shoulder, before flaring further down the strap to support under the child’s bottom.  The wrap is stitched in several places and padding is secured to prevent any shifting during washing.

Step 8. The Artwork

The making of a Monkey Mei Tai

If a customer requests artwork on their baby carrier, this is when it’s done.  All artwork is done in-house by me (Helen), and is fully hand-directed – no automatic embroidery machines here!  The first step is the sketch.  This is possibly my poorest skill, but I get there in the end.  Once the piece is sketched, it is ‘sketched’ in thread onto the fabric, and stitched, using free-motion embroidery, also known as ‘thread painting’.  Once finished, the design is pressed on the reverse to remove creases and minimise wrinkling.  Some customers want very little say in this process, but most like to be consulted on the minutiae.  This is, of course, no problem, and I’ll check with you several times to ensure we are both on the same page on every little detail.

Step 9.  The Extras

The making of a Monkey Mei Tai

Hoods and waist straps are made next.  These are pressed and set aside for the next step – the piecing together of the carrier itself.

Step 10.  The Main Event

The making of a Monkey Mei Tai

Now the carrier is ready to be pieced together.  Straps and hoods are sandwiched between body panels and secured using what often feels like several thousand straight pins.  A guide line is measured and marked to help avoid wonky stitching, and the first securing line of stitching is made in quality branded thread.

Step 11.  The Check

The making of a Monkey Mei Tai

After the first line of stitching, the carrier is turned right-side out to check for any asymmetry, wavering stitching lines, or other visual imperfections, and restitched if necessary.  This is especially important for baby carriers with vertical stripes on one side and horizontal on the reverse, as getting hoods and straps to sit in the right place is often quite tricky.  Another time consuming step that, while not necessary in the construction of a carrier, adds that extra touch of reassurance that I’m making the best possible product that I can.  But it doesn’t stay that way.  Once I’m satisfied that everything’s as it should be, it is turned inside-out again for the next step.

Step 12.  The Important Bit

The making of a Monkey Mei Tai

Next its’ over to ‘The Beast’ for is the most important part of any carrier – the structural stitching (yellow).  While all other construction stitches are made with top quality all-purpose thread (seen here in black), these stitches require something rather different.  I use super-strong thread, select stitching techniques, and proper spacing, to secure the straps in place safely.

Step 13.  The Yellow Bit.

The making of a Monkey Mei Tai

All our structural stitching is bright yellow.  Why?  Well, yes, it is a pretty colour, but there is a much more important reason behind our colour choice.  In over 400 baby carriers, there has been exactly one which required yellow thread: a glorious yellow wrap conversion by the name of Zara.  Yellow just isn’t a colour that comes up very often.  Using yellow thread for our internal structural stitching means that I can instantly tell whether a stray thread on an old carrier is decorative, or something we need to look into.  Instant peace of mind for us and the customer.

Step 14.  The Overlocker (again!)

The making of a Monkey Mei Tai

Time to turn the carrier right-side out yet?  Not quite!  First, I have to do everything I can to minimise fraying, so it’s back to the trusty overlocker.  I decided to overlock at this stage (rather than straight after cutting) to help bind the carrier together further, although with particularly tricky fabrics, I’ll usually overlock straight after cutting, and then once more at this stage.  Normally one pass through the machine is enough, but I often like to adopt the ‘belt and braces’ approach and send particularly fray-prone wraps through a second time, just for that little bit of extra reassurance.  As you can see from the photo above, this wrap needed that second pass to secure those stray threads further; it may well have been fine with one pass (left), but why take the chance?

Step 15.  The Snaps

The making of a Monkey Mei Tai

It’s still not time to turn the carrier right-side out!  The innards of each baby carrier will never again see the light of day, so before they are consigned to their shadowy fate, I document them.  Fastidiously.  A minimum of 26 internal quality control photos are taken for each carrier.  I like to record exactly how each carrier looks (inside and out!) before it leaves us, and each photograph is marked with the date, product and customer numbers, and customer name.

Step 16.  The Press

The making of a Monkey Mei Tai

At last we can turn the carrier right-side out!  It’s tempting, at this point, to jump straight into padding and stitching, but I always take the extra time to press the seams flat first.  Not only does it provide a much cleaner look, it also makes neat stitching that little bit easier.  Yet another step which I refuse to skip, in order to provide you with the best end product that I possibly can.

Step 17.  The End

The making of a Monkey Mei Tai

Once the carrier is pressed, it can be padded and stitched closed.  Guide markings are once again added to ensure the neatest possible finish.

Step 18.  The Labels

The making of a Monkey Mei Tai

Remember that unique product number we assign to each carrier?  It’s not just for our own records – every Monkey Mei Tai carrier is given its own tag with its product number, and month / year of manufacture.  I also include our own label (this shows care information, contact information, and safety warnings), and I always attach the wrap’s original care label if it’s provided.

Step 19.  The Photoshoot

The making of a Monkey Mei Tai

Before their final iron, each carrier must have its final external quality control photos taken.  They are then ironed, and photographed on the mannequin for product photos.  I try to take multiple shots, to show as much of the carrier as possible.

Step 20.  The Editing

The making of a Monkey Mei Tai

Once the ‘fancy’ mannequin shots are taken, these are uploaded to a computer and edited to tweak colour balance, and show them off to their best.  They are then uploaded to our website, Facebook page, and a collage is sent to the customer.

Step 21.  The Paperwork

The making of a Monkey Mei Tai

What job doesn’t feature paperwork, I wonder?  Before they are sent out into the world, I write out a contents sheet for each carrier.  This details the fabric composition of each part of the carrier, if any extra layers were added for stability, the padding used, webbing, thread, embroidery etc.  I try to give you as much information as possible so you are aware of the composition of your carrier for future reference.  I also include our contact details, and a full-colour instruction booklet at your request.

Step 22.  The Scraps

The making of a Monkey Mei Tai

If you’ve sent a wrap, I make sure to send every part back – it belongs to you, not me, after all!  Naturally, that includes the scraps.  Only the smallest scraps and stray threads are kept here, and when enough have been collected, they are entered into a textile recycling program to be turned into new fabric or insulation.

Step 23.  The End!

The making of a Monkey Mei Tai

And we’re done!  Your carrier is folded, and packed into a sturdy, two-layer brown paper bag (please recycle!), and then into Royal Mail’s free Special Delivery bags, in order to keep it safe from rain.  MMT doesn’t use multiple fancy, branded plastic bags for two reasons – firstly I don’t like the waste they create, and secondly I don’t want to waste your money on packaging.  Using reusable or recyclable products wherever I can (not to mention free ones) means I can keep our P&P charges as low as possible, whilst doing my bit to stay eco-friendly.