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Woven Wrap 101



Double Hammock with a half-knot chest belt in a size 7 Hoppediz Timbuktu

This will be an attempt to answer the most frequently asked questions I've personally received and seen asked in the Facebook babywearing groups I've helped to admin. :)

Woven Wrap 101



Woven vs. Knit: What is a woven wrap and how does it differ from a stretchy wrap?

A woven wrap is a woven length of fabric used to carry a baby.  They are typically between 25-31" wide and between 102-220" inches long, depending on size (more on that later).  They have diagonal give (stretch on the bias), but generally no stretch along the width or length. They are safe for single and multi-layer carries (referring to how many times the fabric passes over the baby) on front, back and hip.

Stretchy wraps (Moby, Boba, Solly, Sleepy, Happy, etc.) are made of knit fabric. Knits are manufactured to stretch in multiple directions.  Most stretchy wraps are between 196-216" long and 20-22" wide.  They are sold in "one size fits all" lengths.  They are safe only for multi-layer carries on front and hip.  Moby refers to the multiple passes as the "X" and "seat belt." 

This page has an excellent illustration of how woven and knit fabrics are fundamentally different.

This video demonstrates how an older and determined child can make a back carry in a stretchy wrap very dangerous by leaning.  This is why back carries in stretchy wraps are not recommended, and why I'll BEG AND PLEAD with you not to use your Moby or other stretchy wrap for back carries.  Yes, there are videos on YouTube showing you how.  That doesn't make it safe.  Stretchy wraps are great carriers--affordable, readily available, comfy, and cozy--but please respect their limitations and use them as directed.  (See current Moby Wrap instructions here, Boba Wrap instructions here. Most manufacturers provide directions on their websites.) 


A cross twill weave

Why are woven wraps so expensive?/ Why would you spend so much on a piece of fabric?

I must first refer you to the excellent Babywearing 102 tumblr post on The Economics of Babywearing. If you've ever made a purchase of a substantial amount of fabric, you know that good quality cloth isn't cheap.  Curtains? Jacquard tablecloths? A nice pair of jeans?  When you start pricing these things wraps start looking very reasonable.  Many wraps use organic yarns, are produced under fair trade conditions, and undergo costly testing.  If you add in hand weaving, custom designs, and exotic fibers (looking at you, baby camel hair), the price climbs higher, but there are many good options under $125.

Sometimes when discussing fashion, people talk about the "cost per wear" factor.  I think this applies well to wraps. Consider that for my third child, wraps took the place of strollers (single and double), the baby swing, shopping cart covers, etc. Though we already had one, you could skip the easily outgrown infant seat (planning to wear or carry to and from the car) and use one convertible car seat that accommodates the child from infancy until it's time for a booster seat, and have the funds you need for a wrap.

Easy access to sweet baby feetsies is a nice perk of wearing :)

What do the sizes mean?

Americans, embrace the metric system, because the woven world speaks in meters. Typically, sizes 2-3 are considered shorties, 4 a mid-length, and 5-7+ base sizes or long wraps.  8's and 9's are rare, but they are out there and can be great if you want to tandem carry two children at once or if you are plus size and need a larger base. 

size 2 = 2.7 meters = 8.86 feet = 102.36 inches

size 3 =  3.1 meters = 10.17 feet = 122.05 inches

size 4 =  3.6 meters = 11.81 feet  = 141.73 inches

size 5 =  4.2 meters = 13.78 feet = 165 inches

size 6 =  4.6 meters = 15.09 feet = 181.10 inches

size 7 =  5.2 meters = 17.06 feet = 204.72 inches

size 8 = 5.60 meters = 18.37 feet = 220.47 inches


Robin's Hip Carry with a ring in a size 4 Didymos Ornament Karabik with linen

 

How do I know what size to get?

Most people buy a base size wrap to start.  Your base is determined by the size you can do Front Wrap Cross Carry (FWCC) in and tie behind you, and is usually a size 5 if you are petite, a 6 if average, and a 7 if plus.  Overall build matters more than height.  Your base can increase as your child grows if you are on the upper end of your range, but 6 is a good size for most people. I use a 6 as my base. (Which means that for me, 7 is base+1 and 5 is base-1.)  


FWCC with flipped shoulders in a size 6 Didymos Double Face Emerald

If you're not sure what size to get, it might be helpful to see how different lengths work for different body types.  Wrap Your Baby has a collection of photos that illustrate that very well.

What fiber blend should I buy?

An all cotton wrap is a great place to start.  I throw my 100% cotton wraps in the washer and dryer and love their easy care.  You can find a huge variety of cotton wraps and there's bound to be one (or many) with the right mix of looks, breathability, and support for you.  I've also liked linen, hemp, and wool blends.  There are advantages and disadvantages to every fiber and it's hard to make general statements about different blends because there are always wraps that don't fit the mold. 

If you want to learn more about some of the different fibers used for wraps, check out:

Cotton
Linen
Hemp
Silk
Wool
Repreve

Didymos Mystic Petrol OS with 30% hemp

What carries can I do with size x, y, or z and how do I learn them?

YouTube is a wrapper's best friend. Hands on education is always preferable, but if you don't have a babywearing group near you (check here and here), you'll need to spend some time on YouTube. Wrapping Rachel, Babywearing Faith, and Wrap You in Love are worth bookmarking, and you can check the "Favorite Resouces" tab of this blog for more. 

Learning a few front and hip carries before progressing to back carries is a good idea.  I always recommend starting with Front Wrap Cross Carry, or FWCC, followed by Kangaroo.  Wrapping on your front will help you master basic wrapping skills--seat making, strand by strand tightening, and spreading passes--in a place where you can easily see and reach.  Practice in front of a mirror, over a soft surface or with a spotter if you can. (If you're coming from a stretchy wrap, you'll notice FWCC is an inside out version of Moby's Hug Hold, so this front carry is absolutely fine to try with a stretchy wrap.)

Here are a few other lists of wrap carries by size:

Amy Wraps Babies

Wrap Your Baby - What Size Woven Wrap For Which Wrap Carries?

WearingWiki - Carries Using Woven Wraps

There are 5 pass types that make up all carries.  Learning what they are and what they're used for (pros/cons of each) will help make sense of wrapping, so I also recommend a quick read through this  Wrap Pass Glossary.

Wondering when you can put your baby on your back in a wrap?  I appreciate this slightly-snarky answer.  In short, it depends on your baby's age and your experience level.  If you are brand new to wrapping, no matter what your child's age is, I'd recommend becoming proficient in a few front and hip carries first.  I began front wrapping my third child a few days after she was born, wrapped daily, and by the time she was 4-6 months old, felt ready to begin attempting back carries.  I would say they really clicked for us around 9 months though, several months of practice later.  Like any skill, it takes some time to master, and the learning curve is different for everyone.  Most people find it easier to wrap a toddler than a floppy newborn (at almost 3, my daughter now complies with requests to "lie still" and "hang on to my neck," so nice!), so you may progress more or less quickly depending on how old and compliant your child is.



Checking the seat in a woven wrap--at this point in our wrapping journey, she still enjoyed trying to sit straight up on me while I was wrapping her--!

Tell me about tapers, middle markers, and rails.

A middle marker is a small tag, design, or mark at the center of a woven wrap on the rail(s), which are the long edges.  This helps you find where to start your carries.  In the picture below, there's a tiny stork tag marking the center of this Hoppediz Oslo.  Hoppediz wraps have a tail pocket at the taper point on one end, but that's not common. 



Differentiated rails (rails in different colors) are helpful for learning because when you're wrapping you can easily see which side of your wrap is up, but they're not a necessity.  The wrap below has one light blue rail and one dark green rail (with the stork middle marker). 



Not all wraps have tapers, but those that do vary quite a bit.  Tapers are mostly for looks; they do make for smaller knots but deep tapers detract from the usable length of the wrap in my opinion, and I prefer wraps without much of a taper.

Here's an example of a nearly blunt and a steep taper.  These are on the ends, the short sides, of wraps.  You can also see the differentiated rails on the top wrap, a Dolcino Jamaica. 




Where do I buy a wrap? / What's this swap I keep hearing about?

There are lots of retailers for woven wraps and I linked a bunch under the "Favorite Resources" tab if you'd like to buy new.  A lot of b/s/t (buy/sell/trade) of used wraps happens on Facebook and community swaps.  To participate you must read the rules and create a feedback link--with thousands of members rule following is pretty strictly and necessarily enforced.  Paying for goods/services through PayPal and keeping good records helps protect both buyers and sellers. 

The Babywearing Swap
The Babywearing on a Budget Swap (everything under $100)

Fluff mail!  When you buy new, some Tekhni wraps arrive bundled in beautiful scarves.

Where can I browse all the wraps that are out there?

Slingofest.com allows you to browse by color, weight, weave, brand, and fiber blend. It's not everything, but it covers many brands.


We call a wrap's ability to do this "sleepy dust"

How do I break in a new wrap?

Some woven wraps are ready to go from first wash, but others will need some work to get soft and floppy.  Use and lots of it is the best way to break in a wrap, but you can do other things to break down the fibers a bit and soften them up.  You can braid, knot drag, sleep on it, sit on it, steam iron it (if fiber content allows), run it through sling rings or crib rails, or let your big kids use it as an under-table hammock.  Repeated washing is not a good way to break in a wrap. Think of your jeans--a wash tightens them back up and makes them stiff!  Same with wraps.


How do I wash my wrap?

Here's wrap care by fiber.  Always follow individual manufacturer recommendations, though.

What is GSM and why does it matter?


g/m2 is a measurement of textile weight.  The formula is total weight in grams/(length in meters x width in meters). Measurements should be taken using a soft tape in hand. Wrap You In Love has a great calculator tool that makes it easy to find your wrap's gsm. Why bother?  Most wrap companies will list a gsm, but the accuracy varies.  Sometimes the measurements are for the wrap in loom state (fresh off the loom, prior to the wash that sets the weave), others for the wrap's finished state.  This measurement gives you some idea of how a wrap will handle, how large its knot and candy cane chest belt will be, and how much work it will take to break it in.  I generally consider <220g/m2 to be a lightweight wrap, 220-290g/m2 a mid-weight wrap, and 290g/m2+ to be a heavyweight wrap.  A good range for a first wrap is between 220-260g/m2, sticking toward the higher end if you're choosing a wrap for a larger baby rather than a newborn.  This measurement isn't the only thing to consider when buying a wrap, but rather one objective data point in subjective descriptions of wrap qualities (WQ). 

This Turkish Towel handwoven had a listed gsm of over 350! It was very thick and cushy and made a huge slipknot.

This Didymos Double Face Emerald was listed at 185g/m2 - a lightweight that worked beautifully for an infant but got diggy on my shoulders with a toddler.  It made a small and tidy candy cane chest belt and knot and was so easy to wrap with.

Speaking of wrap qualities, I do not understand all these terms used to describe wraps.

Grippy, glidey, dry, soapy, sticky...we use some unusual words to describe fabric. Amy Wraps Babies has a great glossary for them. 

What's a legacy wrap?

A legacy wrap is generally understood as one that is "permastash," one you will hang on to forever as a keepsake or/and pass down to the child that was worn in it.  Some people buy a wrap that was released on the child's birthday as a legacy, and some just let a wrap that holds lots of memories and snuggles become the legacy.  This isn't a must have by any means, but it's something you'll see referenced often in babywearing communities and swaps.

Didymos Lisca Fuchsia 5 in a strangleproof ruck

What's a unicorn?

It's a mythological creature, a horse with a horn--but when it comes to carriers people use the word "unicorn" to describe a wrap that they're looking for but can't locate because it's highly sought after (hsa), hard to find (htf), a limited release, hard to afford, etc. It might as well be a unicorn.

Why are some wraps more expensive used than new?

Laws of supply and demand govern wrap prices, so rarer wraps command higher resale prices.  Some people are also willing to pay more for a wrap that's already been broken in, a process that can be tedious.  Always do your research though as sometimes the prices you see on swaps are completely unwarranted, and have been inflated to cover shipping twice over or take advantage of newbies.  (Really though, most babywearers that I've interacted with are sweet as pie.)

What does "wrap conversion" mean? 

A wrap conversion is a woven wrap made into another type of carrier, like a soft structured buckle carrier, mei tai, or ring sling. 

I want to buy one wrap to last from birth through toddler.  What do you recommend? 

Ask ten different wrappers this question and you'll probably get 10 different answers. My simplified advice is to find a midweight wrap you love the look of in your base size with an easy care fiber blend.


Ellevill Gaia Jonas and Gaia Linus

 

I'm on a tight budget but would really like to wrap, what are my options? 

Little Frog, Lenny Lamb, Inda Jani, Ethos, Soul Slings, and Yaro are the cheapest ready made woven wrap options, starting around $55-75 with shipping.  More budget friendly brands are emerging all the time though.  If you have the means to hem a bit, you can also consider DIYing from osnaburg fabric, a jacquard tablecloth, or Colimacon et Cie wrap fabric by the meter .  See the "DIY Babywearing" tab for more info on that.

C&C wrap fabric in black, raspberry, and emerald
A Mahogany brand tablecloth (denim/red Country Rose) from Amazon with red Sling Rings...
I ended up selling this but it was beautiful and very soft and wrap-like, a great DIY material



And that's a wrap! ;)


Taiwanese carry in a size 7 Didymos Lisca Grigio

If I missed anything in this write up, you might find that one of these ladies has covered it:

Choosing a Woven Wrap: Down the Rabbit Hole

Buying Your First Woven Wrap

Wrap Passes, Babywearing Lexicon, Troubleshooting, and more


Comments

  1. Sara, this is excellent and a great resource, well done.

    ReplyDelete

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