Saturday, 13 April 2013

Woven Wrap Primer

By Jessi Mahon Mirault
Photo by Jenna Sparks Bradbury

Welcome to the overwhelming but rewarding world of woven wraps! 

Woven wraps are a similar to stretchy wraps in function, but offer so much more – specifically, a) support, allowing for longer wearing; b) the ability to safely wear your littles on your back; and c) a higher weight maximum, allowing for wearing well into…well, your kid may want out to go to his/her prom but a woven wrap would still be supporting him/her until that time!

This doc is meant as a bit of a generalized primer for those interested in exploring woven wraps, and represents solely the opinions of its author(s). It can be easy to be sucked in to wrap collecting and churning, and need to try every different size, blend, brand, weave, and colour, but this is by no means inevitable and you’re just as much of a wrapper if you have one tried-and-true wrap that lasts you all the way through your babywearing days. Similarly, wraps aren’t for everyone – they’re just one fun option as we endeavour to find ways to keep our babies close (and our hands free!).

So, let’s move on to: carries, sizes, blends, and brands.

Here are some of the most popular carries, all of which are fully YouTube-able.

Front Wrap Cross Carry (FWCC): The first carry many learn, it’s similar to the Pocket Wrap Cross Carry used in stretchy wraps except that the horizontal pass is on the inside rather than the outside. It’s a very comfortable multi-layer front carry, and requires a long (5/6/7) wrap. Variations include Semi-FWCC (a one-shouldered front or hip carry), Half-FWCC (a two-shouldered carry tied-at-shoulder), and Short-FWCC/FWCC-tied-under-bum (a great option when using a shorter wrap).

Front Cross Carry (FCC): Similar to FWCC but without the horizontal pass. Some people prefer it, some prefer FWCC. FCC is cooler for summer, but also doesn’t support babies who tend to lean back as well as FWCC. It can be done with a slightly shorter wrap than FWCC, usually a 5/6.

Kangaroo Carry: Kangaroo is a single-layer front carry with a shoulder flip, often tied-under-bum (TUB). It can be a difficult carry to learn, but is very comfortable and cool for summer (fewer layers than FWCC or FCC). It requires a mid-length (3/4) wrap.

Rucksack Tied in Front Carry: A Rucksack Tied in Front Carry (or RTIF) is a great first back carry. It’s single-layered and has cross passes, which go over one leg and under the other, adding
security and safety. It requires a mid-length (3/4) wrap. Variations include a Ruck Tied Under Bum (RUB) and Ruck Ried Tibetan (RTT).

Double Hammock Carry: A double-hammock (DH) is arguably the most popular back carry, and is the one where it looks like the mama is wearing a tube top. It’s a multi-layer carry, and its secret is that the chest pass (the “tube top” pass) is supposed to support the bulk of the weight so that the shoulder straps don’t have to. There’s definitely a learning curve to this carry, but it’s well worth the effort for longer-term wearing. It requires a bit more length than FWCC, typically a 6/7. Variations include DH-tied under bum (DH-TUB), DH-tied at shoulder (DH-TAS), DH tied Tibetan (DH-TT) and DH-rebozo (DH-R).

Rebozo: A rebozo carry is essentially a ringless ring sling – it’s a single-layered, one-shouldered hip carry using a short wrap, typically a size 2, tied with a slipknot. It’s good for quick ups-and-downs or with a small infant, but can get uncomfortable with a larger wrappee for any length of time.

Wrap companies vary in how they size their wraps. Most companies use metric sizes indicating the length of the wrap (e.g., “3.6m”), while others use sizes 1, 2, 3…8. Here is a breakdown of the most commonly-used sizes, between 2.6m/size 2 and 5.2m/size 7.

2.6m/size 2: Although size 1 wraps do exist, the smallest size sold by most companies is 2.6m(sometimes 2.7m) or a size 2. For the majority of people, this wrap can be used for rebozo and RUB carries, as well as some less-common carries like RRRR. Petite mamas may be able to do a couple of additional carries with this size. It is a size mainly used for quick up-and-downs or very small babies as any carries done with this size lack the necessary support for longer-term wearing.

3.2m/size 3: This is a somewhat unpopular size, but mamas who love their size 3s REALLY love them! Didymos and Oscha (more later) are the main manufacturers that sell size 3 wraps. They offer a bit more versatility than size 2s, but still not as much as size 4s. Some people can kangaroo carry in them, many can DH-R or RTIF, but for many it just results in longer tails for rebozo and RUB carries.

3.6m/size 4: This is a very popular size for shorter-term wearing, as it is long enough to enable great versatility while being short enough to not to require multi-layered carries (which can take more time) and to not have to worry as much about tails dragging on the ground while
wrapping away from home. Popular carries with a 4 include RTIF, Kangaroo, FWCC-TUB, Semi-FWCC, Half-FWCC, DH-TAS, DH-TUB, and many others.

4.2m/size 5: Size 5 is awkward for some as an in-between size; however, petite mamas find this to be the perfect size for multi-layer carries, while fluffier mamas or those with older wrappees find 5s to be a bit more forgiving when size 4s just don’t offer enough length.

4.6m/size 6: For most average-sized mamas, size 6 is considered “base size”, or the size needed to comfortably FWCC without excessive tails or tying in the tapers. Because of this, size 6 is an extremely popular size; it is often recommended as the best size for people who only want one wrap, and it is very versatile, allowing such multi-layer carries as FWCC, DH, DRS2S, BWCC, and others.

5.2m/size 7: Size 7s are long, but a great option for fluffier mamas, mamas who like long tails or more room for error, BWing dads, tandem-wearing, and carries requiring a LOT of fabric like DH-TT. Size 7s are also safer for those not sure of the size they want, because wraps can always be chopped to suit!

Note on sizes: Vatanai’s sizes run on the ½ metre, so 2.5m, 3.0m, 3.5m, 4.0m, 4.5m, 5.0m, and 5.5m. They wrap essentially like “short [size]”, from 2-7. Someone’s always gotta be different!


Cotton: The vast majority of wraps are cotton – either cotton blended with another fibre in varying percentages, or 100% cotton. Cotton is easy to care for and generally soft and comfortable. Other blends are often more supportive than 100% cotton, and not all 100% cottons are created equal – some are thicker and blanketier (e.g., Girasols), some are thin, silky and moldable (e.g., Vatanais), some are silky but not moldable (e.g., Oschas), some are textured and have a bit of “give” (e.g., Uppymamas).

Linen: Linen is very supportive, and is perhaps the second most-popular fibre after cotton. It is often blended with linen in varying proportions, and is quite easy to care for – machine washable with liquid detergents.

Hemp: Hemp is ‘all the rage’ in the wrapping world at the moment, and more manufacturers are weaving with it. It’s super supportive like linen, as easy to care for, and becomes “marshmallowy” when broken in (unlike linen, which becomes silky).

Silk: Silk is an incredibly strong fibre, and is most often blended with cotton to make wraps. It requires some special care, but silk lovers are adamant that it is not as delicate and difficult to care for as common wisdom would suggest. In the wrapping world there are two main types of silk: mulberry, the “silky” silk, and tussah, a less-refined, “coarser” silk.

Bamboo: Bamboo is a soft and silky fibre that is often blended with cotton or linen. It’s not terrible supportive, but makes a fabulously thin, delicate wrap. It requires some special care.

Cashmere: I don’t know a lot about cashmere wraps, as I believe cashmere and babies should be kept in separate rooms. Some people love their cashmere wraps, though, and I know that they’re pricey, soft, and require special care.

Wool: Wool wraps vary greatly depending on the manufacturer – some are soft with some give (especially if made with alpaca or merino), while some are thicker and scratchy. All require special care, and handwashing with wool wash and laying flat to dry is generally recommended.


Didymos: celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, Didymos is a pioneer in the woven-wrap community. Their wraps are incredibly diverse – although one can describe a Girasol, one must specify a Didymos wrap when interested in reviews because they’re all so different! Has a number of signature patterns/weaves, including indios and fish. They use all popular fibres and make size 3 wraps.

Diva Milano: a relatively new Italian manufacturer (although their headquarters is currently in Russia, I believe). Luxurious and expensive. Thus far they primarily weave with cotton, linen, silk and wool.

Ellevill: a popular Norwegian wrap company, Ellevill has popularized their Zara and Jade patterns, as well as their bamboo Paisley collection. They traditionally wove with 100% cotton and some bamboo blends, but have recently branched out to include linen and silk, and are releasing a wool line this winter.

Girasol: Girasols are 100% cotton and handwoven in Central America. They are reputed to be less supportive than other wraps, but are also beautiful enough that many don’t notice or care. There are various exclusives available through various vendors at various times – it can be very difficult to track down a particular Girasol.

Heartiness: I don’t know much about Hearti except that they’re luxurious and expensive! Will have to do more research.

KoKaDi: KoKaDi is known for their whimsical, childlike patterns and colours. They are a relatively new German business, and many patterns are very highly sought after. You can purchase both direct from KoKaDi (if any wraps are in stock!) or from various North American vendors.

Natibaby: Natibaby is a Polish manufacturer whose wraps are known for being beautiful and dense. They have had some customer services issues in the past but apparently are improving. They were the “hot” company when I started wrapping in summer 2011, but have since passed the torch to Oscha and Uppymama.

Oscha: Oscha is one of the two “it” companies right now (the other being Uppymama, although
KoKaDi is also hot). They’ve been weaving since spring 2011, and have surged in popularity to the point that it’s nearly impossible to get your hands on one. They are based in Scotland, and make both 100% Irish linen wraps as well as jacquards of cotton, linen, and silk blends.

Storchenwiege: Storchenwiege (“Storch”) is a utilitarian German wrap manufacturer. They don’t advertise much, they don’t do limited editions or exclusives. They make the same consistently awesome wraps time and again. So they’re not terribly exciting for churners or collectors, but they’re supportive, strong and lovely, and reliable and inexpensive. Their striped wraps are notoriously tough to break in, and Storch Leos are among my favourite wraps and the ones I always recommend to new wrappers.

Uppymama: Uppymama is a Canadian company based in Red Deer, AB. All wraps are woven by one woman on her farm, and are predominantly 100% cotton although some merino wool and linen blends have been woven in the past. Uppymamas are incredibly popular at the moment, and it’s very difficult to find one so it’s best you not become enamoured of any Uppys!

Vatanai: Vatanai is, I believe, based in the Czech Republic (note to self: check this fact!). Their wraps are 100% cotton, known for being very thin and summer-worthy, and generally require little breaking in. Vatanai is also the company through which Pamirs, the handwoven wraps auctioned on eBay a couple of times a year, are sold.

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