Babywearing in Found Fabric: A PSA

Sunnybaby in That Wrap

Sunnybaby in That Wrap

Let me preface this: I’m a huge believer in DIY wraps. I have made my own wraps out of tablecloths and plain osnaberg I bought at the fabric store. I have used vintage fabric as a rebozo, and I’ve chopped and hemmed gauze wraps. Moreover, babywearing is an inherently safe activity; it’s no riskier than using a stroller or carrier and may in fact be safer.

However, something that happened this week reminded me that we need to be careful about the found fabric we use for carriers.

Found fabric is as legitimate a way to babywear as a purpose-woven wrap. I hesitate to write this post for fear of turning mamas off DIY, taking away what can be the most accessible way to wear your baby – or, for some mamas, the only way to wear. Women have used found pieces of cloth to babywear since the dawn of time. So please, do not misread this. I fully support using whatever cloth you’ve got at hand; I’m not a purpose-woven snob; I DIY myself.

But we need to check our fabric often – and, perhaps, with loose-weave or vintage cloth, with every.single.wear.

About a year ago, I found some rocking gauze tapestry at our local hippie store. I bought the large size, cut it in two, and hemmed. I fringed one of the shorties and kept the other to lend. I’ve used my fringed shorty in rotation of a large stash for a year now with no issues. Generally, because Sunnybaby leg-straightens on my back, I use shorties as rebozos.

Slipknots – technically, the rebozo knot I use and teach is a bowline – put a lot of stress on fabric, especially if you tie them tightly, often, and in the same spot. Because this shorty was printed, I usually made my knot in the same place to keep the fabric right-side up. The gauze was loose; the fabric not the highest quality, and the print on top of it added further processing.

Oh no!

Oh no!

All these things, while not bad in themselves, clearly added up. Last week, when I was tightening Sunnybaby up in his usual rebozo, I heard a telltale rip.

I took him out and inspected the carrier. Sure enough, just around the knot, I found a weakened spot, about two inches long, where the fabric had torn clean  through.

That rebozo got ditched quick.

The moral of the story? Check your fabric, especially if it’s older or loosely woven. Look for things like:

  • places where the fabric shows signs of thinning
  • areas of especially fuzzy threads, especially along straight across the weave (i.e., wear in a row of warp or weft threads)
  • broken threads – while one doesn’t make a carrier unsafe, it merits attention, particularly if near an area that shows a lot of fuzziness
  • play special attention to stressed areas: places where a rebozo’s knotted regularly, for example.
  • tug and twist the fabric to check the fabric’s integrity. Then inspect again. While some mamas will say that this places unnecessary stress on a carrier, I’d argue that I’d rather subject that carrier to stress and have it rip in my hands, or find places where it’s weakened, and know my baby is safe. It may limit a carrier’s useful lifespan, however.

While you should make it a point to check all your carriers,  go over DIYs and found fabric regularly – or even with every use. Unlike purpose wovens, these aren’t tested for weight-bearing capacity and repeated stress. I’ll be sure to test my wraps regularly after this.

Luckily, the wrap ripped when I was tying, had a hand on Sunnybaby, and in such a way that he didn’t fall. This wasn’t what I would call a Catastrophic Wrap Failure. No babies were harmed in the making of this post.  But still. Check your damn wraps, people. I know I will.

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