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Brand Review: A Custom Handwoven with Erizo Baby Slings

My current wrap stash is a mix of machine and handwoven wraps. While I've been quite content with the wrapping qualities of my machine wovens, the unique artistry of handwovens has drawn me in; they are as much textile art as functional carrier, and some have beautiful stories and meanings behind them. Last summer I started toying with the idea of my own custom woven and began researching which weaver might be a good fit for bringing my ideas to life. I knew I wanted a lot of control over my design, good communication throughout the process, quality I could count on, and flexibility with my meterage commitment. (I wasn't pregnant at the time, and wanted to be able to buy as much or as little wrap as made sense when my slot came up.) Additionally, cost/value and accessibility was important--I didn't want to play crazy games to land a spot or pay a ton of money up front for a wrap I wouldn't actually possess for months.  Erizo checked off my points one by one, and in September 2015 I began collecting inspiration images and made my deposit for a March 2016 slot. 

Erizo is a small, family run business based in Alberta, Canada. (This is good news for US buyers with our dollar so strong.) Janelle is the "face" of Erizo, as she handles all the social media interactions and back-and-forth with clients, photographs the weft testing, and designs the mock-ups that become the blueprints for beaming, but the Erizo team currently includes Janelle's husband Scott, father Jim, and seamstresses Celine and Kristen as well. More info on the Erizo team and their roles can be found in the files of the Facebook chatter group, Erizo Baby Slings Chatter.

Janelle contacted me at the beginning of January 2016 to begin the design process.  I sent her a number of images I'd found on Pinterest that contained the colors I wanted and that connected well with the verses that served as inspiration for my warp and gave it its name, the children's hymn All Things Bright and Beautiful by Cecil Alexander. This hymn also provided the titles for a series of books my husband and I enjoyed while I was pregnant with little miss Buttercup.


All things bright and beautiful, 
All creatures great and small, 
All things wise and wonderful, 
The Lord God made them all. 
Each little flower that opens, 
Each little bird that sings, 
He made their glowing colours, 
He made their tiny wings. 
The purple headed mountain, 
The river running by, 
The sunset and the morning, 
That brightens up the sky;− 
The cold wind in the winter, 
The pleasant summer sun, 
The ripe fruits in the garden,− 
He made them every one: 
The tall trees in the greenwood, 
The meadows where we play, 
The rushes by the water, 
We gather every day;− 
He gave us eyes to see them, 
And lips that we might tell, 
How great is God Almighty, 
Who has made all things well.

I love the contrasts in this hymn, and the theme that all God does is good.  This is something I want my children to know and experience deeply.  Life is full of both trials and joy, and the former makes the latter sweeter.  For those looking and longing to be with Christ, this side of eternity will always have sorrow mixed with gladness--cold wind and pleasant sun--but God is sovereign, and he is good and trustworthy.

After some back and forth refining the colors (I was very particular. No pastels! No warm colors! This shade of pink, not that one...you get the idea. Janelle was very patient.), Janelle created this collage containing the inspiration pictures I had sent and the resulting design. 


See the ripe fruits? The flowers and birds with glowing colors?  The greenwood?  :)

This collage then went live on the chatter group and website, and was officially open for sister spots.  "Sisters" buy a piece of the warp and are able to choose their own weft colors, weave, fibers, and accents.  All Things Bright and Beautiful sold out, and though I'm not sure how many meters were actually woven, I know about 100m were planned. An unexpected blessing of this process was hearing stories of how the design and its inspiration connected with the ladies that bought sister spots--truly "sisters" is an apt word for these connections!

Wikipedia has this helpful illustration of what warp and weft actually mean:



On March 2nd, right on schedule, I got my first glimpse of my warp on the beam in preparation for weaving.



A few days later, weaving began with weft testing. Janelle posted over 40 pictures of the options available. I had requested a number of them, and she also tested others that went well with the warp.  Erizo weaves with 8/2 Maurice Brassard cotton and cottolin, which is a 60-40 cotton-linen mix that adds strength, support, and solidity to a wrap.




Thus began the most stressful and nerve-wracking part of the process for me.  As I mentioned before, I am particular about color. I wanted vibrant, glowy wraps that were true to my original design, and not being able to see them in person before making a choice was hard! As you can see, weft has a huge impact on the look of the wrap, particularly with pebble weave. In the end, I chose a 5m Noir cottolin plain weave piece and a 3.4m Royal cotton pebble piece.

I wanted some special middle marker and tail accents on the plain weave piece.  I sent the following to Janelle along with my weft choices on March 9th:


And on March 14th, Janelle sent me some sneak peeks of my wraps on the loom!  Here's that color blocked middle marker with Noir on either side:


And here's the Royal pebble piece with Cerise pinstriping on the tails:


A few days later, once the first batch of wraps came off the loom, more pictures were previewed in the chatter group.  My final invoice paid, I began watching for my wraps to arrive.


In person: instant love!

 

The plain weave in particular is so true to my original design and contains all my favorite colors.


Here's that middle marker wrapped in a double hammock.



Tail accents and a baby bump!


Indoor shots with Taiwanese carry.



Can't forget the cushy pebble weave piece!



So why two pieces, and how do they compare?  To conclude my review, I offer my thoughts on the question everyone faces when buying a wrap from Erizo: plain or pebble?


Let's start with how they're similar. These are both thin, wide, airy wraps in the grand scheme of things. They are soft and moldable straight from the box and both feel like they've been loved on for years--not in a worn out way, but I have a plain weave piece from another weaver that isn't as soft as this, even though I'm the second owner and the previous owner used it a long time before me. So. Both impressively floppy out of the box. They're both stretchy (though pebble less so), so if you're used to dense, rock-solid wraps without much give at all, that will be an adjustment. You really must tighten strand by strand to get all the stretch out if you want your carry to stay put without sag. This is true of all of the thinner handwovens I've tried and not a bad thing, just something you may need to amend your wrapping style for. I'm wrapping an active 28lb. nearly-3-year-old, who likes arms in, then out, then in, then in my hair, so I imagine you might not have to be quite so precise if you're wrapping a newborn/infant. You can see that their knots are pretty close in size, with pebble's ever so slightly bulkier.
Now for differences. Plain is smoother and a little stretchier than pebble. My piece is cottolin, and the linen does add some support and substance compared to an all-cotton plain weave piece I have from another weaver, really very nice. It's more tightly woven and if you're the type that seems to snag your wraps on your wedding rings and everything else (like me), plain is much less likely to catch. The thing I love about plain is that it is really truest to the original design and warp. I prefer the look of plain weave.
Pebble has a gauzy, floaty quality about it. Although I know it isn't according to gsm (Erizo plain weave  is 240-260, pebble 280-300), it feels lighter in hand. The weave adds texture, loft, and cush, as well as a little grip. I didn't really have any trouble spreading passes in a multi-layer back carry with pebble, which is something others have reported. I've been wrapping (and back wrapping) for several years and have had some rather beastly wraps in that time, and this isn't one. So yes, pebble does have more grip than plain, but it isn't anything scary in my opinion, especially if this is not going to be your first wrap. Even then, grip can be nice for locking things in place. You can see SO much light through both of these weaves, but the spaces are bigger in pebble, it's really amazing. I think it will perform well in the heat because there's just so much room for airflow. The weft dramatically changes the look of pebble, so pick a weft color you really love on its own. Royal's glowy blue was an easy pick for me.

 

I feel these backlit photos (pebble on top, plain underneath) are very telling of the differences in these weaves.

I really like the lengths I decided on. I know I would not prefer plain weave in a ruck or as a shorty because I always like wraps with a little more cush and grip for that, which pebble has. I also really like the way pebble molds around me and my kiddo. I would definitely recommend plain weave in a mid or base (or longer) size, and pebble as a shorty, ring sling, or mid-length. Not that they wouldn't operate just fine in sizes outside of that, but for my preferences, that's how their qualities line up.
Overall, I couldn't be more pleased with my Erizo custom experience.  My pieces are flawlessly woven and finished.  Having a custom is a luxury for me and was no small investment, so I'm grateful that it was a smooth and pleasant process from start to finish. Every weaver conducts this process a little differently but Janelle made it easy. I know she works tirelessly to maintain good communication and perfect results.

Would I recommend that your very first (or even second or third) wrap be a custom handwoven? Probably not, unless you have unlimited funds. As approachable as Erizo makes the custom and semi-custom process, I found knowing my likes and dislikes as they pertain to lengths and wrapping qualities extremely valuable in making choices I knew I'd be happy with in the end.  Handwoven stretch and grip is not necessarily the easiest to learn how to wrap with, and these Erizos are wider than average wraps at around 30". But if you've had a chance to experiment with different wraps a bit, enough to know whether you like thick or thin, grippy or glidey, dense or airy, solid or stretchy, then you'll be well equipped to design a sure favorite.

Totally new to wovens?  I've written Woven Wrap 101 with you in mind and hope you find it helpful in making sense of all this! :)

Many thanks to Janelle for giving me permission to use her mockup, beam, and loom shots in this review.  All other photos are mine, please do not save or share outside the context of this blog post without permission. :)

As a special bonus, you can see a VIDEO of this whole process too.




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