Vatanai Opportunity Heartbeat Review

20190415_153148Only the second Vatanai wrap I have ever tried, what struck me most about Opportunity Heartbeat is that it is completely and utterly different to Gaia Labrinth.

Heartbeat is a proper heavy weight wool blend, – 47% Egyptian Cotton, 46% Merino Superwash Wool and 7% tencel – with what Vatanai call a “tri-weave”.  Which means rather than the standard 1 warp and 1 weft that most woven wraps have, this has 1 warp and 2 wefts.  This tri-weave is what makes this wrap a heavy weight wrap; coming in at 366 gsm.  It also enables absolute exquisite detailing on the intricate looping pattern that changes down the width of the wrap and apparently represents how both parent and babies heartbeat changes as you wrap your baby.   This wrap actually reminds me of Liora Rae’s Bloom prototype which I tried a couple of years ago – which had a similar weave structure and exquisite detailing.  Just like Bloom, Heartbeat’s tri-weave lends this wrap a distinct “waffley” feel, that gives this wrap a feeling of lightness and cushioning combined with the robustness and support of such a thick wrap.

20190411_191642As you might expect the thickness of this wrap means it is really well suited to carrying toddlers and older children.  It absolutely shines in a single layer back carry – even with my 22kg 6 year old!  Likewise it’s plenty strong enough on the front or the back with my growing toddler, and supports her weight effortlessly.   It probably would not be my pick with a young baby, I think I would find both the thickness and the 70cm width a bit all encompassing with a young baby… but if you’re looking for a so called “toddler worthy” wrap… Heartbeat would certainly fit the bill.

Particularly, if you’re looking for something that’s strong but not overly rigid. What’s really quite special about Opportunity is that it has loads of diagonal stretch.  This diagonal stretch means despite the thickness this wrap has the ability to flex as you move, comfortably fitting and molding you and your little ones body.

20190410_135122Colours wise this wrap is a lovely deep red against a very soft grey.  It makes for a beautiful colour combination, although not really my colours.  This, the overall weight and thickness of this wrap (it weighs over 1.2kg in a size 6!!) combined with my general fear of washing wool are probably all reasons why this wrap isn’t really something I personally would go for.  And certainly hasn’t stolen my heart the way the beautiful green of Gaia Labrinth has.

However, if you are looking for a toddler worthy, thick wrap that still has beautiful stretch and moldability this wrap would make an really fab choice.

-Madeleine

 

 

 

Advertisements

Vatanai Gaia Labrinth Review

IMG_20190329_152953This wrap is unlike anything I’ve ever tried before!

It’s absolutely stunningly beautiful.  I’ve had the good fortune to try a good number of stunning wraps before, but where this one is different is the slubs. Slubs arise when the threads used to make the wrap is of uneven thickness … leading to some big fat bits that stick out of the wrap.  While I’ve owned wraps with the odd slub here and there before, Gaia Labrinth has these absolutely huge fluffy, textural Tussah Silk slubs.

These slubs make this wrap look and feel like a really luxiourious soft blanket.  Almost like a natural wool blanket… but with the lightness and strength that comes with silk.  This wrap is 34% Tussah Silk and 66% cotton, and it has distinct sides.  The cotton side that is smooth and the silk side that is slubby and textural.  As you might expect this side has loads of grip, while the cotton side is less grippy and more able to slide into place.  It’s a really clever mix because the slidy cotton side means that this wrap is nice and easy to tighten (you don’t feel like your having a wrestling match with friction generated by too much grip), but the silk side means that the wrap has enough grip that it stays exactly where it is put and doesn’t slip or slide or get saggy with time.

Measuring at 290gsm technically this wrap is thick, but it honestly doesn’t feel thick.  In hand it feels more like a medium weight wrap … more like 250gsm.  And certainly not hot – the silk makes this wrap really breathable and not at all hot and cloying like I’d expect from a thicker wrap.  Dimensions wise this tester is a size 6, weighing 920g and measuring at 493cm and 64cm wide.  Which is pretty long for a size 6 but relatively narrow.  I am quite finickity around width and most my wraps are around 68-70cm and I tend to find anything over about 72cm too wide and anything under about 63cm too narrow for my tastes.  But actually at 64cm this wrap was plenty wide enough to get a supportive carry with Rachel and actually the narrowness means the wrap is a little easier to deal with so on balance I quite liked it.

20190329_155949We used this wrap in front wrap cross carry, kangaroo and double hammock.  It was a delight in the front carries.  I tend to avoid carrying Rachel on my front if I can as she is getting so heavy now – but the silk in this wrap lends loads of strength and so I was really comfortably carrying her on the front during our sleepy walks.  It was great on the back too – although the grippyness did mean I had to work a little harder on getting my double hammock chest pass nice and snug… but then the pro was once in place it stayed exactly where I put it for a lovely supportive wrap job.

All in all I loved this and wouldn’t hestiate to recommend Vatanai as a brand making truly lovely wraps.

-Madeleine

Woven FAQ – Knots! Part 2 – Slip Knots and Ring Finishes

In Part 1 I covered the most common knot used to tie a woven or stretchy wrap – the Double knot (Flat Reef or Granny).  While the double knot is very secure its not adjustable – if you want to adjust your wrap (maybe to feed, or maybe to alter slightly as baby falls asleep or wakes up) then you might want to an adjustable knot.  There are two – the Slip Knot and a Ring Finish.

 

The Slip Knot

As it’s name suggests the Slip Knot is adjustable – allowing you to loosen and tighten the wrap through the knot as needed while still holding very securely.   This knot is made by one end staying dead straight (the passive end – this is the one that will “slip”) while the other end (active) is used to tie 2 looped knots around the straight end.

The interesting thing to note that there are actually a staggering 8 ways to tie this knot!  Depending on the direction of each of your two looped knots and which end you use as the passive.  The important thing to realise is that all 8 variations are “correct”, secure and are slip knots.  I say this as someone who spent literally about a month watching and rewatching videos to learn how to tie a slip knot, trying desperately to follow and remember the method and which way to go next without ever understanding how the knot worked.  I am convinced I repeated untied perfectly serviceable slip knots just because they didn’t look exactly like the one in the video!

IMG_20181124_105306_204IMG_20181124_105306_203

This is because to get the classic shape you so often see on videos and instruction manuals you need to tie the second loop in the opposite direction to the first.  This is not something most of us do easily… so if it doesn’t come easily to you, don’t fret!  Just tie that second loop the same way as the first and you’ll still get a perfectly functional secure slip knot.

 

The Ring Finish

Technically not a knot at all, the ring finish simply uses a ring to fasten the two ends of the wrap.  The advantages of using a ring instead of a knot are:

  • it requires less length – so a good option if you don’t have much wrap left to make a knot with
  • it’s adjustable – both ends can be adjusted through the ring by pulling on the fabric either side of the ring
  • its pretty!  And looks fancy!

The disadvantage, however is as both sides do adjust by pulling depending on the width of your ring and how “grippy” verses “slippery” your wrap is you might find the ring finish might loosen off with time so you you might need re-adjust from time to time.  Although, if you do find this happening its worth simply switching to a smaller ring diameter.

img_20181127_201206.jpg

To create you simply pull a loop of fabric though the ring, then thread the other end through the gap created by the loop and the ring together and then pull to tighten up … trapping it between the ring and the first end.  The only part to be mindful over is the ring you use.  I always advise people purchase rings made for this purpose – rings that are safe for babies to chew on and safe to hold weight with no weak points, no weld and no sharp bits.  Sling rings come in 3 sizes – small, medium and large, and generally a medium ring is perfect for most wraps.  If you have a particularly thin or thick wrap you might need small or large rings respectively.

Happy Knotting!

-Madeleine

Woven FAQ – Knots! Part 1 – the Secure Double Knot

Knots are undoubtly the biggest thing that worries people new to or considering using woven wraps.  I frequently hear “I am not very good at knots”, “I am not sure I trust myself to tie it properly” or even “what if the knot becomes undone”.  And I remember thinking exactly the same first time I saw someone wrap.  I thought, gosh no… I never could figure out knots while in the Girl Guides and I am not going to be able to figure it out now on the minimal sleep of a new parent.

But actually its really not that complicated.  It’s not like in Girl Guides or Boy Scouts where someone is going to sneak up behind you and go OH NO, that’s not a Bowman’s Hitch thats a Sheeps Head or some nonsense.  Honestly, I’ve got no idea what either of those knots are and nor do I care.  When it comes to learning to use a woven or a stretchy wrap you really only need to know one knot – A Secure Double Knot.

Yep you heard that right – a double knot Literally any secure double knot …. i.e. tie a bog standand single knot and then tie it again.  And your done.  It’s secure, its going nowhere, its as safe as houses.  And I mean this… when I do get a parent who is worried about a knot spontenously untying during use, I challenge them to try… tie a knot then wiggle it… pull on one end unevenly, jump around … etc.  Do whatever you like to it, so long as you’ve tied 2 knots its going nowhere unless you actually, purposefully untie it.  And the more you wiggle, jump up and down and so forth all that happens is the knot gets tighter and more secure!

There are 4 ways to tie double knot – and depending which you use you will either get a Granny Knot or a Flat Reef Knot.  Both are equally secure so it really doesn’t matter which you use.  The Granny knot is easier to tie because you do the same motion twice – right over left x2 or left over right x2.  So intutively its easier to do!  The advantage of the Flat Reef knot is simply that it is flatter so sits more comfortably against your body than the Granny knot (particularly if you sit down!).  If you want to try a Flat Reef Knot simply remember that you need to go the other way on the second knot … i.e. tie the first knot as you would usually and then go the way that doesn’t feel natural to you on the second… and Viola! You have a Flat Reef Knot!  But if somehow all your attempts at Flat Reef Knots end in Granny’s … don’t fret, it really doesn’t matter… you wrap job will be just as secure and just as cosy for you and baby!

-Madeleine

Didymos Lisca Achat Review

20161215_110028This was the second wrap I ever bought and is still one of my absolute favourites.  I adore this wrap.  It’s just perfection.  I’ve used this with both my children and its proved itself to be absolutely perfect for tiny tiny newborns and heavy older toddlers/preschoolers alike.

What sets Lisca’s apart from other wraps is their loose herringbone weave – it gives these wraps a ususually large amount of diagonal stretch.  This diagonal stretch allows the wrap to really mold around you… to move and flex with you and your baby.  This is absolutely wonderful with a newborn as it gives a similar ultra softness and snugness of a stretchy wrap combined with all the pros of a woven wrap.

 

 

IMG_9533But this diagonal stretch sometimes worries people in terms of longevity – some worry that it won’t be supportive enough for an older baby or toddler.  But I don’t find this to be the case at all.  And I guess it depends on your definition of supportive.  Some of the wraps that are described as “toddler worthy” are very rigid! They are supportive in a cast iron, never yielding, toddler prison sense!  Didymos Lisca weaves are not supportive in that way – instead they are supportive in the same way a tubular grip style bandage is … shaping its self to you, giving you optimum support where you need it while still moving with your body.  Before I bought this wrap I had often heard the term “wraps like a bandage” and didn’t really understand it, but Didymos Lisca weaves really do wrap like and offer support akin to a super soft bandage.

20180616_114236Although I do think it helps that I have this wrap in a long size.  Mine is a size 7 (which is a base +1 for me).  This wrap absolutely shines in a multilayer carry.  It’s relatively thin (215 gsm), with a fairly loose/airy weave so even in warmer weather its not too hot to wear in a multilayer carry and it’s those layers that really contribute to that feeling of support when it comes to wearing a fast asleep toddler!  And to that feeling of security with a brand new newborn!  It is worth noting that you get thick and thin Lisca’s, and while the thicker Lisca’s may well work well as a midlength or a shortie, I’d always choose a long length for a thin Lisca.

But best of all when it comes to this wrap is the fact that it comes already super soft.  Right out of the box its already outrageously soft and cuddly.  Like a favourite blanket.  No breaking in, just ready to use.  Which will always make this a favourite choice of mine for someone looking to buy a new wrap for a newborn.  It doesn’t hurt that the herringbone weave and subtle colour choices make for a timeless classic look either.

All in all Didymos Lisca Achat is a great all rounder.  It’s easy to use, soft as anything and easy to look after (its 100% cotton so washing machine and tumble dryer safe).  While Achat was a limited edition colourway, Didymos does have other colourways that are very similar and are in their standard collection (i.e. always availible), in particular Burgund, Petrol, Azzuro, Minos, Smeraldo and Obsidian are all pretty similar to Achat, and retail at approximately £100 for a size 6.

– Madeleine

Woven FAQ – Brands

Buying your first woven wrap – deciding what to buy – can often be the most intimating part of wrapping.  There is a startling array of different brands, blends and designs.  It can be terrifying to work out where to start!  ‘Woven FAQ’ is my attempt to answer some of the questions I am asked the most by people buying their 1st wrap, and to cover the most important points to consider.

Next up in the series is:

What brand(s) do you recommend?

In a way this is the hardest question to answer because there are so many great brands out there.  Literally loads, and if I tried to make a complete list I worry it would confuse more people than it would help!  Instead, I have stuck to great brands which are easily accessible.  Easily accessible in that a) its easy to get hold of their wraps in the UK, b) there are always wraps in stock and c) that they are common place enough that your local library or sling meet etc are likely to have an example or two for you to try to get an idea before you buy.  Finally, hopefully, accessible in budget too.

Budget is always the most contentious point!  It can seem like a large outlay for what is essentially a long length of fabric, but when it comes to wraps there is an element of “you get what you pay for”.   There is a clear difference between wraps around the £100 mark and those around the £40-£50 mark in terms of quality and ease of wrapping with.

However, if those prices scare you, there are some real deals to be had on the second hand market.  In fact, while I am the sort of person who normally prefers to buy new… wraps are my one exception.  Generally wraps will last a long time and actually get softer and easier to wrap with with use – this process is called ‘breaking in’.  From new many wraps can be quite stiff and feel a bit like cardboard but soften with washing and wear.  While some people love this breaking in process, I for one am completely lazy.  I’d rather fast forward to the bit where the wrap feels really lovely and is really easy to use and not go through all the hard work of breaking it in myself! For this reason I massively prefer to either buy wraps second hand that have already been broken in for me or to buy new wraps that already come soft and require very little or no breaking in.  If you are buying new, how easy your new wrap will be to break in is definitely something worth considering!

It’s also worth noting that as well as catering to different budgets, different brands have different aesthetics.  So its worth looking at a few to find one that matches up with your personal style.  Because, simply put, if you love it you’ll wear it.  So more than anything, choose something that you really love.

So, below are the brands I recommend as a starting point for someone buying their first wrap.  Prices quoted are that for a basic size 6 cotton wrap.  The price will of course vary depending on what size wrap you are after and expect to pay a little more for thicker weave wraps and/or different fibre blends.  Also note these prices are based on buying new, so if are going for a second hand wrap feel free to use this as a guide to help you judge if your getting a good deal etc!

  • Didymos – £95-120.  Didymos are #1 on my list for a reason – they are a family run business that have been making wraps since 1972 and really know what they’re doing.  Plus they have a staggering range of different weaves and styles.  There’s literally something from everyone.  While that standard stripes are a little harder work to break in, their Jacquard wraps are utterly gorgeous and usually break in and become absolutely lovely really fast.  In particular if your buying for a new baby take a look at their double face range and their Lisca range as these are normally lusciously soft right out of the box.  But really any of their Prima’s, Ada’s or limited edition Jacquard weaves soften up pretty quickly and are mighty fine wraps.
  • Girasol – £70-85.  Girasol are renowned for their beautiful stripey wraps.  Stripes definitely help flatten the learning curve, and in particular Girasol stripes are brilliant because they are beautiful but also their wraps are really easy to care for – easy to wash, not prone to pulls or snags and are absolutely brilliant newborn all the way to preschoolers and beyond because they are thin yet supportive.  All their wraps are handwoven in Guatemala by local artisans, Girasol are big believers in fair trade and have been making wraps since 1981.  While these cotton wraps do usually start of a bit stiff they do go really floppy and soft with a few washes and use.
  • Firespiral ~£150.  British made, mum made… designed and made entirely in the North of England, these wraps are just lovely.  Luxurious, beautiful, and softer than a kitten belly.  Firespiral have the knack of making wraps that can practically wrap themselves!  They are so soft they are lovely for the tiniest of newborns but still strong enough and supportive enough to carry preschoolers and beyond.  Yes they are more expensive than others listed here, and they are a little pull prone, but I do think they really worth it.  Plus if you are totally new to wrapping Firespiral do run their excellent Fledgling scheme aimed at reducing the learning curve and price hurdle of purchasing your first woven.
  • Jacq and Rose ~£140.  Another British, mum made brand.  These wraps are super soft from the get go and so easy to learn with.  They are the ultimate teaching wraps with their contrasting sides and a pattern that helps you easily distinguish the top from the bottom and divides the wraps into thirds.  They are teaching wraps that don’t look like teaching wraps! Just stylish and geometric!  Perfect for beginners and seasoned wrappers alike.

If buying second hand and looking for a bargain I’d also take a look at Hoppediz, Storchenweige, Lenny Lamb and Joy and Joe.  These are all lovely once broken in and not budget busting and while maybe not my first choice from brand new as they can come a little stiffer … they can all be great once broken in.

-Madeleine

 

Girasol Earthy Rainbow Review

IMG_20171003_104159_822Whenever someone is asking me about buying their first woven wrap I always say first and foremost buy something you love.  Yes things like weight and length do make difference, but you also have to love it.  If it’s a design and colour that you love then you’ll wear it loads, you’ll learn new carries as your baby grows and use it in different ways all because you love using it.

I bought this wrap because I love it.  I absolutely adore the colours!  This wrap makes me smile every time I wear it.  I reach for it on grey cloudy days because its cheers me up, I reach for it on sunny days because it looks so cheerful in the sun!  Really anyday, any weather … for me its just perfect!

20161222_132526I bought this wrap while 5 months pregnant with Rachel very much for me, but this has since become a library carrier too.  And a very popular library carrier too because;

  • The stripes make this a very easy wrap to learn with.  The stripes on Earthy Rainbow are just perfect to demo with and perfect for anyone who is new to wrapping because they make it so easy to see what is going on while your getting the hang of tightening.
  • Its really soft.  I bought this second hand and it was already soft, floppy and really well broken in.  I’ve now had it for another 2 years and its just blankety soft, absolutely perfect for putting a brand new baby in (or quite equally a growing toddler)
  • It’s very easy to look after.  It can be machine washed and tumbled dried so no need to worry about baby sick or accidently being dragged through a muddy puddle.  Likewise its a relatively tight weave so its not prone to pulls or broken threads – in fact in 2 years of use its never had a single pull which is frankly amazing in my house! All my other wraps have several. So I can feel free to throw this wrap in my change bag or in the bottom of my cargo bike without panicking about it becoming damaged.
  • It’s not too thick and not too thin. At 215 gsm this is a thin or medium-thin wrap which means it doesn’t feel too much with a brand new baby but equally is strong enough for a growing toddler.
  • Its a size 6, which is many peoples base size and thus the perfect place to start if your trying a wrap for the first time.  As this is a thin/medium-thin wrap I prefer it in a longer size as this means I can do multi-layer carries that are still very comfortable for carrying a growing toddler.  Generally speaking I prefer thicker wraps in shorter sizes and thinner wraps in longer sizes.

-Madeleine