What are wraps?
Wraps are sometimes referred to as ‘SPOC’, or Simple Pieces of Cloth, as this is essentially what they are. Your average wrap is a piece of cloth, 28 inches wide by 3 – 5.6 yards long. There are two main types of wrap:
I.e. the Moby, Boba/Sleepy Wrap, the Baby K’Tan, etc.
These are made from jersey-like material and have lengthways stretch. They are wonderfully snuggly for newborns, but the stretch makes them unsuitable for babies over 18 lbs. (The manufacturers sometimes state babies above this weight may be carried, but mothers tend to notice sag and begin to find the stretchy wrap uncomfortable around this weight). They are also unsuitable for back carries. They have a gentler learning curve for beginners than a woven wrap, as the stretch and length of the wrap allows for slightly sloppier wrapping.
Can I make my own stretchy wrap?
YES! You’ll need 6-7 yards of jersey material, which you can cut lengthways to give you two wraps.
Woven wraps are designed to have only diagonal stretch, making them extremely strong and far more suitable for older babies and toddlers. They are typically cotton, or cotton mixed with linen, hemp, silk, bamboo or wool. Occasionally 100% linen or linen/bamboo mixes may be found. Woven wraps are the most versatile carriers; babies can be carried on the front, back or hip in a woven, in many different types of carry. Due to their versatility, however, they have quite a steep learning curve.
Can I make my own woven?
Yes and no. Most material found in a fabric store is not strong enough to support a heavy baby or toddler. However, one very cheap way of obtaining a wrap is to use Osnaburg or gauze. Osnaburg/gauze is actually highly recommended for summer, as it is breathable and light. However, osnaburg/gauze is not a true woven; many people find it gets uncomfortable and diggy on the shoulders with a heavy baby, and they also find it grippy and difficult to wrap with. If you dislike osnaburg/gauze, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you are going to dislike woven wraps.
There are further instructions for making a woven wrap here.
Note: The length of the fabric you purchase should match the length of the wrap you desire. Don’t take two shorter pieces of fabric to sew together width-ways; this seam weakens the wrap and makes it very likely to tear.
Why are wovens so expensive?
There are two reasons for this. The first is that any high-quality material is relatively expensive. If you were to buy jacquard material from a fabric store, you might expect to pay $20 a yard. An average woven wrap is 5 yards, so for a DIY wrap you could easily spend $100 on fabric alone. The second is that many of the companies selling woven wraps source their materials from and/or weave their wraps in Europe. Didymos, for example, refuses to buy raw cotton from India, as they fear corruption even in ‘fair-trade’ companies. Some wraps are handwoven; Girasol has just a very few highly-skilled workers hand-weaving wraps in Guatemala, meaning that the wrap you preordered can take several months to materialise. Other companies purchase their material from local small businesses, meaning that supplies are limited, driving demand and prices up.
However, woven wraps also retain their value well. Some wraps, if they become hard to find, may even be sold for above-retail prices. Vatanai Pamir, for example, originally retailed for around $200, but now sells used for over $800. (After seeing the demand, Vatanai began to auction brand-new Pamirs on eBay; they regularly sell for over $1,000 these days). Other well-known highly-sought after wraps include: Didymos Rosenholz, Didymos Yew, Didymos 2007 edition Pfau, most Oschas, most Heartiness wraps, and many rarer Natibaby designs. Most woven wraps do not sell used for higher than retail, but at the very least you will be able to make most of your money back if the wrap is in good condition. A wrap in good used condition typically sells for $5-10 below retail.
How do I choose a wrap?
Rule number one: Choose one you like the look of!
If you like the look of a wrap, you are more likely to want to wrap with it!
Choosing a wrap depends on many different factors; the weather where you live, the age of your baby, how much patience you have. In general, thin cotton, linen or hemp wraps are good for summer. All-cotton or a bamboo mix is likely to be softest for a newborn. Wool mixes can be deliciously soft and lovely and warm in winter, but can be difficult to care for. Silk is tough and insulating. Thicker wraps are often better for toddlers and more comfortable on the shoulders. Thin wraps can be easier to wrap with as they leave smaller knots, but they also require a tighter wrap job than a thicker wrap. For a first wrap I’d recommend an all-cotton or cotton/linen blend.
What’s ‘breaking in’ a wrap and how do I do it?
When you receive a brand-new wrap, it may feel stiff, rough and decidedly unsuitable for use against your baby’s soft skin! It may also be tough to wrap with. However, these beasts of a wrap, once broken in, can become soft, floppy and quite a delight to wrap your baby in! Many people prefer to buy used to skip the breaking-in process, but if you need to break in a wrap:
- Use it!
- Wash it! Tumble-dry on the no-heat setting with dryer balls.
- Iron it.
- Sit on it, or sleep with it.
- Run it through Sling Rings.
- Braid and unbraid it repeatedly. How to braid a wrap is shown here.
How do I use a wrap?
For babies aged 0-6 months, unless you are already a very experienced wrapper, you will want to keep the baby on your front. Longer wraps used in a multi-layer carry can help make your baby feel more secure, although shorter wraps may also be used with young babies. For beginners I recommend the Front Wrap Cross Carry (FWCC). A good tutorial is here.
What size of wrap do I require?
There are two schools of thought with regards to beginning to learn to wrap. The first school says, start with your ‘base size’ (long) wrap. A long wrap enables you to practice the widest variety of carries, and multiple-layer carries also tend to be more secure and more forgiving of a sloppy wrap job. The second school says, start with a ‘shorty’. A short wrap forces you to learn how to wrap carefully, and having a little less fabric to deal with can be less overwhelming. Wraps come in sizes 2 – 8.
The sizes used by Didymos – according to their site - are:
Size 2 – 2.7 m
Size 3 – 3.2 m
Size 4 – 3.7 m
Size 5 – 4.2 m
Size 6 – 4.7 m
Size 7 – 5.2 m
Size 8 – 5.7 m
Many other companies follow these size guidelines, although often a size 4 is considered to be 3.6 m and a size 6 is considered to be 4.6 m (Girasol, for example, uses these two sizes, and I believe Natibaby does, too). Personally I believe if you can wrap with a Didymos size 6, you can also wrap with another company’s size 6. Vatanai wraps are sold in lengths of half-metres; for example, 4 m, 4.5 m, 5 m. As Vatanais have long tapers, you can comfortably wrap with the size that’s a little shorter than your usual base size. If, for example, your base size is a size 5, you should be able to do all the carries you’d normally do with a size 5 with a Vatanai 4 m wrap.
Wrap sizes are based on your shirt size, not your height. You may also wish to take the size of your baby into account; wrapping a toddler you are going to require more fabric than with a newborn. If in doubt, size up!
Slender (size 0 – size 6/8) = base size is a size 5; a size 2 is a good shorty.
Average (size 6/8 – 12/14) = base size is a size 6; a size 2/3 is a good shorty.
Above-average (size 12/14+) = base size is a size 7; a size 3 is a good shorty.
Didymos’s size/carry table errs on the side of caution; for example, they claim a size 12 would require a size 8 to do a double hammock, but I am a size 12 and can wrap a double hammock in a size 6. Often there are variations to carries that permit you to use a shorter wrap. For example, if I tie a double hammock at the shoulder instead of around the waist, I can wrap a double hammock in a size 5. And back carries that use ruck straps do not wrap around the chest, so you may find you are able to do a back carry with ruck straps in a size 2 or 3 even if you are a very large dress size.