Newsflash: I like baby wraps. I also like science, and I like clever, clean aesthetics. All this would make you think that when I bumped into Cari Slings at MommyCon, I ran off into the sunset clutching Double Helix.
I did fall in love with Double Helix. But not because it’s science-y, though my house is full of fossils and my four-year-old can explain Linnean classification (ask him). I didn’t love Double Helix because of the design either, though it’s clean and modern and sleek – Ikea but without the negative connotation. Nope. I just-shy-of-abducted Double Helix because I petted it, and it’s one of the softest and smooshiest wraps of all time.
No, seriously. I grope a lot of wraps. I touched Double Helix. Then I petted it. Slowly. With feeling. Gently, and then firmly. And I asked, “Is this brand-new?!” Because virgins shouldn’t feel that floppy, people. For real.
So I got one to take home, which meant I had to pay to check another bag, damn you US Air, but oh it was worth it. Because I threw that Double Helix in the wash, let it tumble dry, took it out and oh yeah, baby. Someone turned on the Barry White and I slipped that wrap over my shoulders, and –
Okay, at some point the sexual metaphors get creepy. Anyway, Double Helix’s smooshy hand-feel and lovely drape didn’t disappoint. It’s almost fluffy, with a memory-foam cush to the shoulders. The design lends it great diagonal stretch, which gives a tight, moldable carry – and help redeem the suckiest of wrap jobs.
And it’s soft. Like, super-soft, and what’s more, it’s even softer on the off side. Since the off side sits against the baby, I like it to feel better than the right side. I know, I’m stupidly particular. But Double Helix manages it. That means Sunny gets cuddled in unicorn fluff and happiness. Win.
I found Double Helix easy to tighten and easy to wear; I kept Sunny up for more than two hours without a problem. Moreover: Sunny asked for it. This is the first wrap he ever said “wrap” for. That ought to count for something, as should him picking it over everything I set it against. So I can officially call Double Helix baby-endorsed and approved.
I also used it to awkwardly kangaroo the becoming-enormous Baby Bear, who insists on front wraps only, please. A lesser wrap would have killed my back, sagged, dug, or otherwise failed to the herculean task. Did Double Helix magically create the Most Comfortable Carry of All Time from a sloppy-ass kangaroo of a wailing almost-three-year-old? No. But it did feel a hell of a lot better than most anything else would have.
If Double Helix reminds me of anything, it’s Tekhni’s smooshy repreve blends, but without the extra warmth of the repreve. It’s cool as a thicker all-cotton blend can be. I wouldn’t hike in it during the middle of the summer, but at that point, I’m down to mystic or a mei tai, anyway.
It’s soft enough for squishes. It can take your toddler. Plus, if your husband is colorblind like mine, you can torment him for hours by asking if it’s blue or green. I wasn’t a big fan of Cari Sling’s earlier designs, but Double Helix means I’ll have to take a second look, even if that means wearing tiger stripes.
It gets better. Cari Slings is not only American, they’re also based in North Carolina (the Raleigh area, to be specific), and carry on the long tradition of textile production in the South. All their products are made in the US, with one of the mills local to them. I have a serious soft spot for the Southern textile belt, the towns and people it supports, and the labor battles they’ve fought in the past. So any business that builds up that hard-hit sector of America deserves a shout-out.
And these aren’t inaccessible, expensive wraps (which I own and love, so don’t go hatin’). Double Helix retails at $140 for a size 3 (prices go up in $10 increments per size). Totally within the affordable category. If you needed one wrap from birth to preschool, Double Helix could do it, with cush, and some stretch, and mostly soft enough you might want to steal it for cuddling on your own. No euphemism intended.
I make a lot of jokes about wraps made of sustainable unicorn (after all, we all like to think that No Unicorns Were Harmed in the Making of This Carrier). But this is the first time I’ve ever seen a wrap made for the unicorns themselves. Seriously, if the United States of Unicornia had a flag, the flag would be this wrap, and that flag would be awesome, because Vaquero Wovens‘s Grad Stars rocks my horn off.
Grad Stars is so awesome, in fact, that my co-VBE has bogarted it for all of International Babywearing Week and keeps telling me to push this review back. She’s named it “That Lisa Frank Wrap” because she hates the design – blasphemy! call down the unicorn fury! – but loves the way it feels, even with her two-year-old chunker. It’s super hot property here at BWI Wherever I Live, in fact, and everyone wants to play with it. Calm your horns, though, uni-people. Everyone else thinks it’s gorg.
We struggled, though, with how to describe its particular brand of awesome. And Grad Stars is awesome. It has a touch of bounce, a touch of slip. It’s not smooshy on the shoulders like memory foam, but it’s not solid or ropey. It’s mildly cushy. It’s not too thick, not too thin. It gives a fairly moldable carry without a bunch of diagonal stretch or bounce.
And it’s weirdly, magically impossible to overtighten. We tried. But even when we pulled and wrapped and wrestled … we never could get Grad Stars tight enough to dig or hurt. The unicorns must have dumped some extra pixie dust on it or something. Because I swear, we tried.
At first wrap, it didn’t do much for us – in the sense that no quality stood out immediately. It’s pretty. It’s a wrap. But then we tested it: with fat toddlers (perfect wraps jobs that didn’t dig). With squishes (not super duper soft, but should get there with some use). With bowling ball babes (he fell asleep; I retightened; he slept for two hours). Its width made it shine for big kids.
Plus the owner has the good taste to run a local business in PA and support the babywearing groups there (win). And she also weaves her wraps in the US. We always knew the unicorns were American, right?
The verdict: If you love the pattern, this wrap’s for you. And if you need some all-around magical unicorn in your life, stalk for some Stars. I wasn’t in love with the off side, because yellow makes me look jaundiced, so I wouldn’t wear it in carries that require flips. Other mamas had no issue with the color, though, so as the unicorns say, degustibus non est disputandum.*
*Didn’t know unicorns speak Latin, did you? Also, the owner of Vaquero Wovens is not a unicorn, though her wraps are awesome and you should try one.
You’re too poor to churn wraps. Or you don’t want to waste the time purchasing, or you want to share the love with friends, or you know you’ll never ever ever get your grubby paws on the highly-sought-after, legacy-only, unicorn-mane-and-elf-toehair wrap. So you turn to temp trades.
Temporary trades can be an awesome way to try carriers and make friends in the babywearing community. They usually go really well. Mamas accumulate feedback without churning, and try carriers without shelling out mucho moola.
Lately, there have been a lot of issues with trades going, well, not quite as planned. Just as FSOT has its own etiquette, so does temporary trading. Here’s some helpful hints to make sure your trade ends happily for everyone.
Act like you’re selling. Go over your carrier for flaws, stains, marks, or demon possession. Warn your tradee about them, both so you don’t blame her for them, and so she doesn’t freak out when she finds them.
Discuss all allergies, sensitivities, pets, smoking, and ill vapors. I have a German Shepherd, and I warn everyone about it: any person or item entering my house is immediately coated in a fine layer of long black and white hairs. These are nearly impossible to remove. If you or your baby is sensitive to fragrance or scent, allergic to cats, or opposed to anything that’s lived in a house with a Wiccan, let your tradee know up front.
Agree on terms. Make sure everyone knows how long the trade will last, if it might become permanent, etc.
Decide if tradees should wash, and if so, how. This isn’t an issue, usually, for cotton; it can get sticky with wool or a blend prone to thread-shifting.
Make sure everyone understands shipping etiquette. Basics go like this: always ship priority with tracking. Your carrier is double-bagged in Tyvek (which is better than plastic bags because they don’t rip) or ziplock, and then often mailed in a box, though some mamas get away with just the double-layered Tyvek. Use legal names for addresses.
Discuss insurance. The United States Postal Service will only reimburse you for the amount you can prove you paid. So don’t bother insuring for market value if you bought at retail, and you’ll need proof of your purchase to get money back. Agree on an amount to insure for, and if the wrap is lost, how you’ll handle that.
Consider PayPal backed trades. In a PayPal backed trade, mamas pay each other for the cost of the carriers, and then refund each other. This assures no one runs off with your carrier. Remember: this is the internet, not your neighborhood. It’s easy to scam people.
Take care of your borrowed carrier. Don’t toss it on the floor of your car, or give your toddler a popsicle in it, or wear it berry-picking. If you do stain/pull/disfigure the wrap, decide beforehand how that’ll be handled. Will the damager pay the difference in market value? Will the trade become permanent then?
Mail back on time. No, seriously. Don’t mess around. Mail at the agreed-upon time, in the agreed-upon manner. Give the person you’re mailing to a tracking number, and if that person is different than the owner, be sure the owner gets the tracking number as well.
Leave the appropriate feedback. Agree where feedback will be left beforehand, adhering to the rules of that feedback group. High-end trades would go into the High-End feedback group; Everyday Babywearing trades would go into Babywearing on a Budget feedback. The Babywearing Swap only allows feedback from transactions that occurred on its site.
Most of all, be honest. Check everyone’s feedback before the trade happens. Be truthful about any damage the carrier sustains under your care. And if you’re the type that abuses your carriers, don’t temp trade with someone who babies theirs, unless you’re prepared to change your habits and do the same.
Anything to add here? How do you make sure to have a good temp trade situation?
My hair frizzed in all directions. When I finally mustered the gumption to shave my legs, I left a tell-tale gash more conspicuous than stubble. My boobs kept growing; I couldn’t find a bra and couldn’t decide if I should bother to wear one. My peers spent their time snarking about boys, snarking about each other, and endlessly dissecting the sex they weren’t having. Everyone hated me. Everyone was judging me. I regularly hid in the bathroom.
This is seventh grade. This is also new motherhood. The baby books don’t tell that having a child is basically like starting middle school, only with a squalling human appendage and better musical tastes (Sorry, Tiffany. Band of Horses rocks).
Your body changes in new and disturbing ways. The internet tells me that during puberty, your hips and thighs grow rounder; your breasts grow – sometimes one more quickly than the other; and you begin to sweat more profusely. This also describes a post-baby body. The only difference: I didn’t leak milk all over my Catholic school uniform.
Everyone’s talking about sex, and no one’s having any. In 7th grade, we were too scared to make out. Postpartum, my husband and I hesitate to wash our underwear in the same load. But that didn’t stop my girlfriends and I from talking. How will it work? Will it fit? Will he be grossed out when he sees me naked? Do my girl parts look weird now? Is everyone else having sex but me?
You have to have a clique. You can’t lone-wolf it through junior high. Neither can you manage mommyhood alone: You have to pick a clan. You’ve got the jocks (the moms who miss McKynzy’s first steps for Pilates), the cheerleaders (lots of monograms and seersucker, bottle-not-breast), the hippies (replace an adolescent obsession over “animal rights” with a sanctimommy case of “lactivism”), the Jesus freaks (people who swear by scheduled feedings and To Train Up a Child), the geeks (baby TARDIS tees), and the party girls (look for Facebook statuses like “Mommy needs a drink!” and “It’s wine o’clock!”). Yep, they’re all horrible, broad stereotypes. And they’re your new best friends.
Hormones make you crazy. The only person with the crazy highs and abyssmal lows of a middle school girl? A postpartum mommy. One minute, everything’s perfect. The next, you’re sobbing in the bathroom because you remembered that Sarah McLachlan SPCA commerical (not saw. Remembered.). A guy’s innocent question can throw you into a sulk for days, only “Why aren’t you going to the dance?” has become “When are you due?” Eternal emnity, dude. Eternal.
There’s crazy girl drama. Explaining mommy drama makes an otherwise reasonable adult sound like a teenybopper, except now kids, not boys, are the center of competition. Brittany said Alyssa’s kid’s the spawn of Satan, because he bit Stephanie’s son on the playground, but Stephanie didn’t care and she hates Alyssa anyway, except that time Alyssa’s daughter fed her son red dye 40 and he didn’t sleep for three days. Brittany was pissed about that. That chick you made a “sisters” necklace with (probably from Origami Owl)? You’ll hate her in a year.
You get hit up for bullshit fundraisers. In middle school, everyone hounded you to buy overpriced wrapping paper, or doughnuts, or poinsettas, because they just had to win that pizza party prize. Now every other mama’s hawking Mary Kay or 31 Gifts or DoTerra or those creepy in-home vibrator party things. You will be bombarded with the tiered marketing schemes stay-at-home-mamas embrace to make some cash on the side. Do not succumb. Even if you really, really want that Pampered Chef pizza stone.
You become an inveterate mall rat. 12 year olds stalk Claire’s Boutique and Hot Topic for whatever neon crap corporate America’s peddling this week (fedoras? Hello Kitty thongs? Feather earrings?). Postpartum mamas move a few stores down – to eye the new Gymboree line. Both groups cruise the mall to meet friends, ogle the unaffordable, snarf soft pretzels, and generally beat the boredom inherent in both middle school and new mommyhood (you can only watch the baby roll over so many times before insanity sets in). The groups pass each other when middle schoolers tramp into the Gap to try on size 0000 jeans, and the mommies hazily drift back to cruise the Baby Gap clearance rack.
A fervent conviction of your own rightness is matched only by your crippling sense of insecurity. No one’s more right than a tween who knows Justin Bieber is so much hotter than whoever is the anti-Justin Bieber, and no one’s more wrong than a fellow mommy who chooses disposables instead of cloth (or co-sleeping instead of cry-it-out, or bottle instead of breast). At the same time, both middle schoolers and mommies spend their days wracked with self doubt. Yes, a 12 year old’s thinking no boy will ever like her, and a new mama’s worrying only years of therapy will undo her crappy parenting. But it’s still crippling, existential, and miserable self-doubt she’ll laugh at in five years. Mostly.
Parents just don’t understand. In seventh grade, your mom was wrong about everything: your music, your friends, your hair, your curfew, and especially that black miniskirt you desperately wanted. She will never be as utterly and completely wrong again – until you pop out a baby of your own. Then, suddenly, your loving mother morphs into that same overbearing, idiotic monster you fought in junior high. Every single thing she suggests is wrong, from baby names to baby food to sleeping arrangements to do not even attempt to talk about circumcision.
And the worst part? Boys totally don’t get it (mostly). 12 year old boys are too busy thinking about boobs to worry over the latest girl drama. 32 year old daddies are too busy thinking about boobs to worry over the latest mommy drama (Okay, not true: Dads worry about much more important things, like paying for college and parenting and mommies and whether they’ll ever, ever have sex again. Men are equal partners in parenting. Seriously. But they still worry about boobs a lot). Expect that your man won’t keep your mommy friends straight. Your Gymboree purchases will confuse him. Your weeping fits will confound him. He’ll find you inexplicable and wonderful and terrifying.
And he’ll still want to bang you. Just like middle school.
If you only want one baby carrier, buy a mei tai. Yes, woven wraps will always have my heart, because I’m a fabric geek, and I love textiles, and I had a blanky as a little kid and I think those things are somehow related. But mei tais are quicker. They’re less intimidating. They share easily between different-sized caregivers, and can still provide the tight carries and easy nursing you can get from a wrap.
But still. I love wovens. I’ve used mei tais; I like mei tais; but I’m a woven wrapper at heart. So this beautiful blue ginkgo Didytai Birdie’s Room sent me sat for a while. In fact, my babywearing BFF tried it first. She sent me pics of her husband using it. “THIS IS SO AWESOME!!!!!” she said (I’m paraphrasing here. She’s not into the all-caps thing). Uh-huh, I said. You just love blue gingkos, lady.
I waited a while longer, and then figured I might as well get it over with. So when Sunny needed to go up, I broke out the Didytai. Tied the waist, pinned the top straps, put him in, tightened – dare I say it! – spread cross passes, and tied.
OMG. I was wearing a wrap. Except not.
This is not your mama’s old school mei tai. This is a wrapper’s mei tai. Okay, yes, it’s made by Didymos, so that should be obvious. But this gave me a tight, snuggled carry I expect from a woven. Unlike many mei tais, I didn’t have to bounce and fuss to get Sunny deep into the carrier. I think it’s the curved bottom: it gives babe a naturally deeper seat to settle into.
The bottom also adjust for smaller babies. Sunny, at 20 lbs and 10 months, needed a wee bit of cinching. It would adjust down easily for a newborn, or up for a big toddler (more on that later).
So hemp gingko went to Target. And, of course, Sunny needed to nurse, because he’s a boob monster. I got wrap snuggles – and when he needed to nurse, I just loosened the knot and lowered him. Mei tais are really one of the easiest carriers for a newbie to nurse in, and this Didytai wasn’t an exception. The wrap straps held Sunny more closely and securely (spread passes!) while he was down low as well.
But what really made me fall in love with this carrier: the angle of the top straps. I like to back carry; I don’t love ruck straps (though the DIdytai gave me enough length to tie tibetan). The way the top straps attach to the carrier means I can, instead, cross the straps on my chest, spread the passes, and still not choke myself. This move concentrates all the baby’s weight in the center of my chest. Giant kids feel lightweight.
And I know they do, because we tested, both with my 30 lb four-year-old and my BWing BFF’s 50-lb 5 year old.
We had to widen the carrier all the way, use the wrap straps to hold their legs in knee-to-knee crosspasses, and put the sleep hood up to help create a higher back. But it worked. Both kids felt lovely and said the carrier was comfortable (and no, they couldn’t fling themselves out backwards; they tried at our request). My son said, when prodded, that the straps dug in on his legs a bit; hemp gingkos is really thin. This really is a carrier that can work from a small newbie on up to a largish toddler (around 30 lbs comfortably). In a pinch, I’d use it for a larger kid, but I wouldn’t make it my primary preschool carrier.
Some mamas complained that there wasn’t a stiffer canvas inside to the body, which would give the carrier more shape. I loved it: it made the mei tai feel that much more like a wrap.
Basically: buy a Didytai. It wears like a wrap with the ease of a mei tai. [ <---- feel free to steal that quote, Didy. I don't mind. ] I occasionally got some muffin top, but the wrap straps spread to hide it, and it was more uncomfortable than anything.
The only issue with buying a Didytai? Its feel will depend on the wrap used to make it. So while I adored the construction, some versions will be hotter than others, or thicker than others, etc. Liscas will be squisher; jacquards will glide better. This was super cool for the summer, but it’s a limited edition and rather hard to find. Damn you, Didy! Another ISO to track down!
And this thing will only get squisher and softer. The carrier I didn’t want to use is now the one I hate to give away – good news for you!
Want to win this Didytai for your lending library? Like Birdie’s Room and Manic Pixie Dream Mama on Facebook, then follow the instructions. We’ll choose a winner September 30th. Good luck!
Poe Wovens is back with its much-lauded Eaton Hill Collection: handwovens from the eponymous Vermont textile mill, which specializes in the reproduction of colonial-era fabric and dyes. The wraps, then, build on traditional patterns and colors popular during those eras. It’s history and buying local and resurrecting lost arts and supporting artists and resurrecting textile belts, O beautiful for spacious skies and sweet land of liberty of the people by the people for the people. ‘Murica.
Yes, these wraps are handwovens, but they’re handwoven in a mill. Individual weavers on individual looms weave the wraps in a group. Sort of a collective, like Cloth of Kin or what Uppy has become, except in a mill. Clear as mud, right? Go with it.
Poe sent me Norwich, their first handwoven effort. It’s a twill weave, on the hefty side at 330 g^m, and … handwoven. What I mean by that is it feels like lots of similar twill handwovens. Thicker, some bounce, some stretch, a bit moldable, though you need to wrestle it into place as it’s got a bit of grip.
As a thick wrap, it’s going to have some degree of cush. But I find Norwich not as forgiving as my other super-thick-magic-carpet wraps (hello, Barbara’s Weave and Wear). The knot’s smaller than a Barb, whose twill weave knots up to a monstrosity bigger than my ten month old’s skull, but that doesn’t matter much, since Norwich is a single-knotter. It didn’t make pressure points, but it didn’t feel like memory foam, either. If you’re into sloppy wrapping a screaming toddler, I’d look elsewhere.
The thickness means it wraps short (as does the lack of tapers), so order one size up. I could barely eke out a double hammock with my 4 year old, and I use a base 5 (this is a 6). He did give this his stamp of approval, though.
This would shine as a ruck wrap for a toddler, though I don’t love super thick wraps for those jobs. It’s soft enough for a squishy, but honestly, I liked it as a long wrap for midweight kids.
But the color. Yes, it’s subjective. Yes, this will appeal to other people. If I left this out, I wouldn’t be honest, and aesthetics are a huge part of wrapping. So here goes: my husband and I spent half an hour sussing out exactly how colorblind he truly is by using Norwich’s pattern. I don’t like green and orange together; I don’t like the subtly different blues and greens together. The 18th century was a lot louder than I thought, y’all. I’d much prefer this wrap in the taper’s white or green wefts.
Since this is a tester, who knows how Norwich will end up. I recommend the other wefts, which will flatter pale people’s complexions more. I can see this wrap looking good on mamas and babes with darker hair or skin tones. But fellow vampires, steer clear.
I’m excited to see what else comes out of the Eaton Hill collection. I’m a sucker for fabric geekery, and a history nerd to boot, so I hope we get some extensive info along with the wraps – the dye process, the 200-year-old loom pics, the historical patterns. This is a departure for Poe. But it’ll help develop their brand as the America-as-Apple-Pie vision ex-Marine Nancy has in mind. Keep on weaving, y’all.
Back in the halcyon days of The Babywearer.com, before the advent of Facebook babywearing, there weren’t many scammers. This isn’t because of some hippie good vibes – there weren’t many babywearers around to scam. But now, the many swap groups on Facebook, the rise of pricey handwovens, and the scattered feedback systems have all combined for some balls-to-the-walls scamming drama. Every week, someone’s selling a carrier they don’t own, opening another fake profile, deleting negative feedback, and generally making admins go gray way before their time. (Show your admins some love, ladies. They have seen some shit. When they get together, they swap stories like ‘Nam vets.)
It’s a swampy, swampy jungle out there. Buyer seriously beware. Here’s how to make sure you’re not fodder for the next scam story.
Check the f&*(ing feedback. No really, check it. Read it. Some groups don’t require feedback to sell; many sellers don’t ask for feedback links when buyers come PMing. Always ask for feedback. Always read the feedback. Not enough feedback to satisfy you? Ask for more in other places – other feedback groups, or thebabywearer.com, or even eBay. A girl’s gotta have something somewhere.
2. Ask questions. Length, width, size, negative vibes, pulls, stains, holes, hems, selvages, weaving flaws, demonic possession, and fiber content. Make sure you know what you’re getting; EUC means different things to different people. Make it clear how the item is to be mailed – i.e., that it’s sent Priority, not sea mail. This has actually happened.
3. Screenshot. The seller shouldn’t delete the listing until the item arrives safely; however, it’s always important to have backup. Especially if you’re buying, take a screencap.
4. invoice it. Add a specific description of what the buyer’s getting. I like “used baby carrier.” If the buyer goes ballistic over the single pull on an indio, Paypal will laugh at her.
5. Pay as “goods or services”, never “sending money to family or friends.” Paying for something as “goods or services” gets you PayPal buyer protection. “Sending money to family and friends” gets you squat. It’s like sending cash via Western Union and hoping the person on the receiving end mails you a baby carrier. Unless you’re sending money to your grandma, it’s goods and services. Sorry, Mom.
6. Insure it. Insurance protects the seller, not the buyer: if your package never arrives, you have (as of last week) 180 days to file a dispute with PayPal. PayPal almost always gets your money back ASAP. The seller then makes a claim via insurance. But be warned: you need to provide proof of purchase or cost. “But this super-limited-unicorn-and-sunshine-wrap sells for 2 Miiiiiiiillion dollars on the swap” won’t get you 2 million dollars. If you bought it for retail, you’ll get back retail. Don’t waste money insuring for more than you can prove you paid.
7. Only mail to the PayPal-specified address. No “oh but send it to my friend”,” or “I’ll be on vacation” or whatever. It’s a recipe for scamming. This is why my PayPal addresses include my mom, my in-laws, my first cousin, and my brother-in-law’s.
Track it. All US priority shipping comes with tracking. Sellers, don’t lose that receipt. Buyers, ask for a tracking number ASAP. Then you’ll both know if the package gets lost in the mail.
Document, document, document. If the package arrives damaged, take pics before opening.
Any issues? Talk to an admin immediately. Don’t wait for two weeks, when it’s clear you got scammed and the scammer’s deletedd her profile. Make sure admins have a heads-up to anything shady.
Yeah, some of this is obsessive and annoying. More annoying? Losing two hundred bucks.
“Traditional carrier” is a problematic term in the babywearing world. We use it to refer, generally, to babywearing methods that predate Didymos and Snugli-type carriers in Europe and the Americas. Excepting the welsh shawl carry, most of these methods are practiced by non-European people of color, usually from the lower economic classes: caregivers who wear as a necessity, not as a researched parenting choice. The terminology becomes sticky; “traditional” can translate to “not white” and “not expensive”. The cultures who developed these carriers may see their widespread use as appropriation rather than admiration, especially when their authority is usurped by so-called babywearing experts from the developed world.
That said: I really, really, really love rebozos.
Babywearing in a rebozo is becoming a lost art in much of Mexico, where women see strollers as the more modern option: rebozos are for poor people. But rebozos will never go away. They’re a scarf, a blanket, a prayer shawl, a baby carrier, a device for pain relief in labor, a burial shroud, and pretty much anything else you can think of. Some people claim even Our Lady of Guadalupe worn one when she appeared to Juan Diego in the 16th century. Basically: rebozos are multi-use, woven pieces of art. Possibly endorsed by the Virgin Mary.
Babywearers tend to call any short wrap a rebozo (it’s also been co-opted as a term for a backwrapping pass, as well as the traditional slipknotted carry). True rebozos are handwoven in the home, and sold in local markets. Their designs vary regionally. Mexican women use them in a one-shouldered, slipknotted carry – babies on the front, and toddlers on the back, though the toddlers are often scooted around to nurse. Generally, like this:
There are lots of rebozo companies out there. However, most of their wares are mass-market, poorly-woven, and almost certainly the product of sweatshop labor (or at least wildly underpaid workers). So it’s great to have Rebozo Wraps, a company selling direct-from-the-source rebozos for fair wages.
Rebozo Wraps started when an American woman asked her mother, a missionary in Mexico, to find her some rebozos. The company snowballed from there, and continues to buy all its wraps from the same family in San Cristobal De Los Casas. They’re crafted in traditional Tsetzal and Tzoltsil designs, and never purchased for bulk discounts – the owners insist on paying the asking price or more.
They retail for only $50. So of course I totally had to get my hands on one.
They sent me a gorgeous blue rebozo, 85% cotton and 15% synthetic, according to the weavers. The length surprised me: I expected a standard 2.7m (Didymos size 2); instead, it measured about 2m (76 inches). Very, very short. When I put up 20 lb Sunny, I had juuuuuust enough fabric to eek out a rebozo carry. The owners recommend using sling rings fora no-sew ring sling.
Complaints? Well, it feels kind of acrylic, and it holds heat. The blend is super soft, and perfect for squishes (as is the length). I’d have loved to have this when Sunny was teeny, rather than now.
But even if it wasn’t perfect for beast baby, I used the heck out of it as a fashion accessory. It goes perfectly with my Minnetonka-hippie aesthetic; it can cover my shoulders in church; I can cuddle it in over-air-conditioned rooms. I’d love it as a scarf and emergency Sunny carrier (or regular carrier if he was smaller). It works like this:
Like a Didy indio, it pulls easily. I found that out the hard way.
Basically: fair trade practices, pretty, soft, and great for squishes. Plus it’s only fifty bucks. Buy one to use for your teeny, and then keep it as a scarf/blanket/Frieda Karlo-esque awesome accessory.
My wardrobe needed this wrap.
And so does yours, because unfortunately for me, this is a giveaway carrier. See Facebook for details, but you know you want this (and yes, I fixed the pull).
Famous for carrying budget handwoven Inda Jani, 5 Minute Recess has done it again: they’re the sole US distributor for Keppeke, a new Belgian brand just hitting stateside. This is typical of 5 Minute Recess, a company committed to making babywearing affordable for all types of caregivers. One more reason they’re extra awesome, along with the handwritten fluff-mail notes – owner Rachel signs the Tyvek packaging. I don’t even think she got the idea from Pinterest. She’s just that nice.
5 Minute Recess is committed to making babywearing sustainable, too. Inda Jani weavers are paid fair wages for their fabric, and Keppeke follows the same model: their wraps are woven, sewn, finished, and washed in Belgium. Keppeke has a serious commitment to supporting the local economy with sustainable manufacturing practices. And a size 6 retails for only $120. Bonus!
So budget-friendly, civic-minded, sustainable, and sold by 5 Minute Recess. These wraps are already winning, people.
I was sent a Keppeke Bollekes, which I assume translates to polka dots or something, in a size 4. The tapers look and wear about standard (i.e. around Didy size), and it comes in the standard European sizing we’ve all learned to mentally convert. (I could make cracks about American mamas and metric systems and the only reason the former knows about the latter, but I’ll refrain from bitching about our pigheaded stupidity in maintaining the imperial British measuring system. Throw off the colonial shackles, America!).
Anyway, I wasn’t thrilled out of the box, for two reasons:
I hate polka dots.
It wasn’t particularly soft.
Let me explain the polka dots: these are big polka dots. At times, one will do a double hammock. Circle-shapes on your boobs run the risk of obscenity (either “Lookit these g-cups!” or “Hey, look, these dots are exactly where my nipples would be.”). Old school mamas call this “shell boob” in honor of the Didymos Nautilus that spawned the phenomenon. So I worried about shell boob.
But I was pleasantly surprised.
The regular pattern prevented the dreaded shell boob. It also created something awesome: that perfect bounce and stretch that comes with a large, repetitive pattern woven in whatever magic Bollekes shares with Poe Woven’s Harlequin weave. It has to be something about the large-scale diagonal pattern on a jacquard weave.
Because Bollekes has bounce. It has stretch. These two things combine to give you a great, tight carry that molds easily and sticks in place. It’s great for beginners and fun for experienced wrappers. It’s more grippy than slippery, so you have to work on the passes, but I really enjoyed it in a kangaroo carry. Seriously, this is my favorite kangaroo wrap ever.
Bollekes is medium-weight, and while it wasn’t my first choice in the blistering heat, I wore it for over an hour at the Farmer’s Market/Latin Festival when the heat index climbed into the 100s. I sweated. Sunny sweated. But he also fell asleep and neither of us died of heat stroke, so I name it a cautious success.
I didn’t find it super cushy, shockingly. I assumed the bounce and stretch would translate to cush, but it didn’t; Bollekes is more solid than floofy. If I screwed up a wrap job, I knew it in the long term, though pressure points weren’t a terrible issue. Bra pressure points bugged me once, and I don’t know if that was an issue of overtightening, weird bra straps layered under a tank top, or a combination of the two. This only did happen once, however, so I’ll name it an anomaly.
My local babywearing group liked it. We all felt the off-side was a little beastly, though, and kept it for an extra two weeks to abuse it. It softened up for us, but the gray side never attained the super-softness of the white.
I liked Bollekes when Sunny fell asleep on my back for an hour, thus turning into a limp bowling ball of twenty pound baby. He felt decent. I adored it in a kangaroo with him, and put Baby Bear up a time or two. While he didn’t stay up for hours, he stayed up long enough to make sure Bollekes is a decent toddler choice in a single-layer carry.
It’s definitely thicker than a Colimacon et Cie, but I wouldn’t call it a thick wrap. Maybe on the thicker side of medium. Beginners may need to wrestle with Bollekes a bit, but as an experienced wrapper, I didn’t feel like I was taking this thing to the mat.
Overall, I liked Bollekes. I got over the dots, though I would have preferred gray over blue and worn it more, but the gray matches with everything. With some abuse, it’ll snuggle a newborn decently and last you up to the toddler years. It’s a great choice for bowling ball babies, what with the stretch and the bounce and the support.
So welcome to the US, Keppeke! As budget wraps go, this is a good one: I like it better than Inda jani’s binni weave for newborn to toddler, and while I adore Tekhni’s Arche and Aplos, they are meant to work in tandem (Arche for babies, Aplos for older kids). So if you’re looking for one wrap to do it all, like C&C, Keppeke is a great choice. The craftmanship is impeccable, and I’m happy to patronize a company that cares about its workers and its manufacturing process. Hoping this sticks around and more mamas find the Keppeke love: I can’t wait to see what else the company has in store.