Most baby and toddler swings on the market are either plastic or expensive, and I knew I could easily make my own after eyeballing a few of the fabric and wood options I found online. This type of swing is both fun and safe for babies that are strong enough to sit up on their own, and all materials used are built to hold up to 180 pounds. There’s no way a 180-pound human might fit comfortably in this swing, but I know it’ll hold Smith safely well into his second or third year. Bodhi, the darling child above, is almost two and was quite comfortable. It’s a great outdoor option when attached to a tree limb or hooked to a deck beam, but it also helps keep little ones entertained when the weather isn’t so nice.
-two 1″ x 48″ oak or poplar dowel rods
-at least 22 ft. of braided 3/16″ rope that holds up to 192 lbs.
-one 2″ welded steel ring that holds up to 200 lbs.
-one 80mm steel carabiner that holds up to 280 lbs.
-2 yards of duck cloth, upholstery-weight fabric, or canvas. If you use a print that has a specific direction you may need more.
-1/2 yard of batting
-decorative wooden beads found at a chain craft store
-heavy duty ceiling hook (optional)
-sewing machine and thread in coordinating color
-power drill with 3/8″ drill bit
-hand saw or circular saw
-canvas weight sewing needle
-sandpaper in 150 and 100 grit
-lighter for melting rope ends
-iron and ironing board
Step One: Cut two 36″ x 12″ pieces (seat), two 12″ x 11″ pieces (back), and two 6 1/2″ x 11″ pieces (front) from your canvas. Then cut one 12″ x 11″ piece from your batting for the back as well as one 6 1/2″ x 11″ piece for the front. This is for extra padding against the front and back pieces of dowel. If you’d really like to go for it, add batting to the large seating piece as well. For each panel, place your batting down first, then one of your two pieces with the right side facing up, then finally the last piece with the right side facing down. Pin together and move on to the next panel until you’ve done all three.
Step Two: Starting about 1″ from one corner, stitch all the way around the edge of your front panel, stopping about 4″ from where you started. You’ll need the opening to help you turn it right side out.Once you’ve turned it right side out, poke your corners out with a pencil to retain your rectangular shape. Finally, iron flat and stitch all the way around. Repeat with the back panel, but not the seat panel.
Step Four: Fold the back panel on to the seat panel so that the edges are flush, and pin. Then place the front panel on to the seat panel with one of the short edges flush against the seat panel edge. It’s hard to see with this pattern, but the two panels will overlap. They are only pinned along the edges where they meet the seat panel though.
Step Five: Place your second seat panel on top of everything and line up the edges. Pin around the edges. Starting about 3″ from the corner of one short end, stitch all the way around until you get a hand’s width from where you started. Remove all the pins. Just like in step two, turn right side out and poke your corners out with a pencil. Remove pins that held the front and back panel in place.
Step Seven: Cut your poplar or oak dowels into four lengths of 15″. Measure 1 1/2″ in from each end and make a mark. Drill a hole over each mark. Sand with 150 and then 100 grit sand paper, and then wipe with a damp cloth.
Step Eight: Fold each end of each panel inside so that a rod will fit snugly. While holding in place, remove the rod and pin. Stitch two lines across as shown to create your rod pocket. Remove pins.
Step Ten: It should look like this. Pat yourself on the back; you’re almost done!
Step Twelve: Pull both lengths of rope through your welded steel ring, and find the middle. Tie a knot. Clip your steel ring onto your carabiner.
Step Thirteen: The two dowels that slide through the seat panel will rest on top of the two dowels that make up the front and back panels. Thread beads (if you prefer) to your rope ends before you slide them through your dowels. This can add another layer of interest for babies and give them something smooth to hold on to. Thread one rope down through the seat panel dowel and then down into the front panel dowel, and tie a loose knot. Repeat with the rest of the corners. Once you’ve got your seat level, tighten your knots and trim up any ends that are uneven. However, be sure to leave a little bit of a tail in each knot so things don’t become undone easily. You may have to melt cut ends again.
Attach your swing to a heavy duty hook that has been screwed into a beam, or clip it onto another sturdy rope that has been tied around a tree trunk. Be sure to test your swing with a few strong tugs, a sack of potatoes, etc. before letting your eager toddler have a seat. Also note that this swing is intended for gently pushing and not the traditional playground under dog.
To keep your swing looking its best, you may not want to leave it outside in extended bad weather. Otherwise, wipe with a damp cloth to spot clean. The dowel rods have been left untreated, but a great non-toxic option for finishing the wood would be beeswax. If your child isn’t quite filling out the swing, you can always add a folded blanket or small pillow behind him to help prop him up.
As I was making this, I imagined how fun it would be to make one out of plain canvas and then hand stamp black polka dots or x’s all over the finished seat. Then I’d paint the ends of the dowels in non-toxic neon colors and add colorful beads. Who says baby boys can’t enjoy a little neon, too! –Rachel
Note: As mentioned above, please be sure to only use materials that are more than strong enough to support your child, and test your swing before placing a child inside. Rachel Denbow and A Beautiful Mess are not responsible for any loss or harm sustained whilst your child is using this swing. Make this DIY at your own risk, and never leave your child unattended whilst in use.
Credits // Author: Rachel Denbow. Photography: Rachel Denbow. Photos edited with Billie from the Signature Collection.