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Ring Sling Shoulder Style Comparison

Ring slings are one of my favorite types of carriers. Compact, easy to put on and take off, simple and elegant, breathable...I could go on.  I love them for squishy newborns and short ups with toddlers, and for many months now my diaper bag has never been without one. Ring slings come in lots of different shoulder styles, so this post will not be exhaustive in its coverage, but my aim is to compare a few popular ones. How a shoulder is sewn determines how far you can spread it, and not all body types will find the same styles comfortable, so it's helpful to understand the choices. All of the slings featured in this post are wrap conversion ring slings, meaning they began as woven wraps, and were chopped and sewn into slings either by the wrap manufacturer or by an independent seamstress/converter, like Jan of Sleeping Baby Productions (SBP). Not sure what a woven wrap is?  Check out the Woven Wrap 101 tab at the top of this blog.

Here are a few things to consider when deciding which style to try, though experiences and preferences will certainly vary and these things are NOT law:
  • Generally speaking, wearers with narrow or sloping shoulders will find that pleated or hybrid styles work best for them. Petite wearers may also prefer these styles.
  • Wearers with broad or square shoulders (I put myself in this category) may prefer gathered styles, and/or may be able to use a greater variety of styles comfortably. 
  • I prefer shoulder styles with more structure (pleated, hybrid) for a squish because it feels like less fabric happening near my newborn's face, and less structured styles (gathered, floating) for carrying a toddler because I can spread the shoulder wiiiiiiide for better weight distribution.  
In the picture at the top of this post I have the slings arranged from narrowest to widest, left to right.

Box pleat

Box pleat (shown with newborn-sized demo doll)

Sleeping Baby Productions - Pleated

Sleeping Baby Productions - Pleated

Sleeping Baby Productions - Retro Pleat

Sleeping Baby Productions - Retro Pleat

The SBP Retro Pleat design has fewer, wider pleats than the regular SBP pleated and spreads farther on the shoulder.  One of my favorites.

Hybrid (done by Petit Piccadilly, similar to Eesti)

Hybrid (done by Petit Piccadilly, similar to Eesti)

Hybrid styles have pleats on the edges to take up some of the width, but are gathered in the middle.  A nice compromise. Has a similar spread on the shoulder to the SBP Retro Pleat.

Floating gathered (done by Sunshine Moose)

A lot of high end/handwoven conversions are done in a floating gathered style.  A floating gathered shoulder is sewn farther back from the rings than a regular gathered, about 11-12" vs. 5-6".  This allows you to spread or scrunch the fabric as desired, and also creates an extra layer, which gives you a little padding.  When I've converted my own wraps, I've sewn floating gathered shoulders.  It's my favorite style for all but the teeniest of squishes.

Floating gathered shown scrunched up with newborn-sized demo doll. I don't actually wear it like this, though.

Floating gathered shown fully spread with real live toddler :)

Gathered shoulder

Gathered shoulder

Gathered shoulders are simple--the fabric is fed through the rings and sewn.  If you are not sure whether you'd enjoy a ring sling, you can try it out with a no-sew version that feels very much like a gathered style.  Purchase a set of large aluminum sling rings from and thread your wrap through as shown in this video.  

A no-sew shoulder with my Turkish Towel piece before conversion

Interested in DIY-ing a sewn sling?  Check the DIY Babywearing tab for tutorial links and my own completed projects.

Need some help using your ring sling?  This video is AMAZING and made them click for me:


and this is a great one for using and nursing with a newborn.


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