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

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Kingston, Refurbing and the next few months here at Sheen Slings

It’s all change over the next few months here at Sheen Slings!

Firstly we are adding a new location – Kingston!  From May onwards the Children’s Centre are kindly giving me a monthly slot to come and run a Sling Library session.  Exact dates and times to follow, but there will be 1 session a month going forward.  And I couldn’t be more excited!  This is something I have wanted to do for a long time,… I have so many clients coming from Kingston, Surbiton, Hampton, Esher and further and I know that this is an area in need of a Sling Library, and now with Rachel almost at nursery age and with a great venue on board it has finally been possible.

Secondly, we are extending and refurbishing our home.  Well our downstairs specificly.  We’ve been planning this, thinking about it, slowly making it a reality since we bought this house 3 years ago.  I am equal parts terrified and can not wait for it all to start come April.  But it has impacts for Sheen Slings.  For the last 3 years I’ve run the majority of my Sling Library sessions from my home – and this has been fab, its allowed me to continue running the Library while pregnant, then with a very young baby through to a crazy running everywhere toddler.  For the next few months at least while the work is carried out I can’t continue to run these sessions from home.  Too much dust, noise and too little space!  So the last session at my home for a while will be Tuesday 19th March.  But fear not… Sling Library Drop In sessions will continue – I already run a monthly session at the Barnes Children’s Centre (67b Lower Richmond Road, Mortlake, SW14) on a Friday at 9.30-10.45see full dates and details here.   And as above there will be a new monthly session in Kingston going forward too!  The timing feels right to move these sessions away from my home and into the Childrens Centres, alongside other support for new parents.

Private consults will continue as normal, I can still come to clients homes and clients are still welcome to come to my home too – I will just ensure I arrange these at times when the builders aren’t making too much rackett (and/or mainly at weekends).   And likewise I am still very open to organising bespoke workshops so if you have a small group, who are all interested in learning more get in touch and I can come to you!

-Madeleine

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Why I don’t recommend the Baby K’Tan

Probably seems a little harsh to say about a pretty decent, ergonomic, simple carrier aimed at newborns but I don’t generally recommend the Baby K’Tan for one simple reason – It’s sized.  It does not adjust to fit different sized parents, instead you need to buy the correct size to fit you.  There are a few problems with this:

  1. Unless you and your partner are exactly the same size it’s unlikely you can both use this carrier.  You’d have to buy two – one for you and one for them.  Likewise it might not be possible to share this carrier with anyone else who might carry your baby – grannies, granddads, aunts, nannies etc.  
  2. While this can be a great carrier if you do have the right size for you, many people find they fall between sizes.  Or outside the sizing.  K’Tan actually make a total of 6 sizes, however, at the time of writing this only 3 of these seem to be readily available in the UK.  Small, Medium and Large which apparently correspond to dress sizes 8-10, 12-14 and 16-18 respectively.  But in practise many people who follow this guide still find they end up with a carrier that is slightly too small or slightly too big and as a result can not use the carrier at all. 
  3. If your size changes significantly you may find the carrier no longer fits you.  This might sound unlikely but it’s very common to gain or lose weight quite a bit of weight in the months after birth.  Women’s bodies change loads in the postpartum period and men may find their body shape changes too with the new routine (my marathon running husband put about 8-10 kilos on in the months after the birth of each of our children until sleep and routine settled down enough for him to get back to running as much as he was pre-birth).  
  4. As baby’s size changes you might need to buy a new carrier or find that they no longer fit.  In theory, because the K’Tan is made of stretchy fabric, baby’s size shouldn’t matter.  Bigger children should simply stretch the carrier out more so that the same size carrier that fits the adult should worth whether carrying a newborn or a 1 year old.  However, in practise this is not the case at all – the material just isn’t that stretchy at all and many parents report baby no longer fitting without sizing up.

ktanUltimately, all these problems are solved by having a carrier that is adjustable rather than sized.  

I mean don’t get me wrong, if this carrier does fit you well – if you do have the right size, you don’t lose or gain lots of weight, your partner is the same size as you and your baby doesn’t grow too much (!) this is a really nice carrier.  It gives a lovely snuggly fit that’s perfect for the newborn period and it’s really simple to use.

But those are massive ifs, and the simple fact is there is another carrier on the market that does all the same things, that offers the same carrying position, offers the same ease of use, the same softness AND is adjustable.  And really that is why I don’t recommend the Baby K’Tan – why spend £50 on a Baby K’Tan when you can buy the Close Caboo and have all the pros without the massive cons for £55?

– Madeleine

Review of the Kaya Babywearing Baby Carrier from Nomad Children

New to the UK, KAYA are a Bulgarian based brand whose gorgeous carriers are being brought to the UK by London based Babywearing shop Nomad Children.  Their range includes woven wraps, ring slings, full buckle carriers, meh dai and stretchy wraps.

Here I review their full buckle carrier, which is made from their beautifully soft woven wrap material.  The soft material and adjustability of this carrier means that it is soft and moulds beautifully around your child to give them a great fit.

To see it in action and hear my full thoughts, please watch the video below!

 

 

Vital facts about this carrier:

  • Adjusts in both width and height to allow the carrier to a perfect fit for babies from 8/10 weeks or so all the way through to toddlerhood.
  • Waistband is wide and relatively well padded at the sides (unpadded at the centre) and is worn apron style which means it can be worn quite high and good for those with relatively shorter torsos.
  • Wide and firmly padded shoulder straps, which are designed to be worn in “ruck sack style”.  theoretically it is possible to cross the straps over parents back but in reality this is challenging.
  • Offers two carrying positions – front carry and back carry.  Back carry is relatively low compared to some other carriers.
  • Has a detachable hood which attaches via poppers.

-Madeleine

FAQ – How is the Sling Library Funded?

The simple answer is it isn’t, the library doesn’t received any external funding to run.  Instead the idea is that it pays for itself through the rentals and donations.

It’s taken a while, but for the most part the Sling Library sessions do now just about manage to pay for themselves in a sustainable way.  By this I mean it earns enough to cover on going insurance costs and of course for the slings and carriers themselves.  Interestingly, the library alone does not earn enough to pay for my training or my time.  In an ideal world it would, but in reality I’ve found the balance between keeping both the sessions and the hire fees at a accessable and affordable level has meant that these costs are simply not covered by the library.  And so I simply choose to donate the time these sessions and the resulting admin takes.

I think this might be a real suprise to many library users reading this.  I am often asked (particularly during busy sessions) why I don’t simply run more sessions.  Or if I could start this weeks session 20 minutes earlier because someone has x commitment, or if they can arrive as the session is finishing because they have y commitment.  And while I would love to run more sessions, and run longer sessions and would love to help everyone find the right sling and become completely confident using it….  I have to balance this with the needs of my family and what I can sustainably manage to offer while not charging for my time.  I have balance my desire to keep the sessions and hire fees affordable and how much time I can afford to donate for free without negatively impacting on my family.  For now this balance has been acheived at 3-4 sessions a month – or at least when the sessions stick to time and don’t run over!

Sessions running over is something I continually struggle with!  If I sometimes seem impatient with questions and requests when its already 20, or 30 minutes after the end of the session time please forgive me.  Please understand that my frustration is not at you but my own internal struggle to between wanting to help and wanting to answer ALL the questions and my guilt that I haven’t made lunch for my daughter yet, and I need to pick my son up in 2 hours and I promised I’d fix that thing for him before he got back and I’m now worried I won’t get time and I am starting to feel that frustration that something that I do to satisfy my need to volunteer and help is now taking more of my time and resources than I can afford to give.  I know that I need to get better at drawing these sessions to a close.  It’s hard when someone is front of you asking for help to say no, but in reality these sessions can only remain affordable and accessable if I can keep them to time and if those who do need more help (and can afford to) take the private consultation or workshop route instead.  Particularly as it is private consultations, workshops and sale of slings that pay for my training costs, for my time and plug any gaps in finance that the Library side has.  Again these don’t make huge amounts, but they do keep it all going and make it possible!

The other question I often get around funding is about the slings and carriers themselves.  Many people assume that the brands simply give me these carriers, but in reality this is extremely rare.  Most I have bought.  A small number I’ve received in exchange for working at a show or product testing and a similarly small number I’ve been very kindly gifted by the brands or distributors directly.  But the vast majorty I’ve paid for.  Fortunately, most I’ve been able to buy at discounted rate – as many brands recognise the importance of Sling Libraries in allowing potential customers to try before they buy.  With new carriers being released all the time this is of course an ongoing process!! Hire fees and donations from the Sling Library sessions are constantly used on purchasing new carriers to keep collection upto date and meet demand for more popular carriers.

So how can you help the Sling Library Survive and Thrive?  Amazingly, there are several things you can do to help the Sling Library without spending any money at all:

  1. Tell you friends!  Whether you’ve been to a sling library or not, telling your friends, a new parent or expectant parent can make a huge difference.  Personal recommendations are always more powerful than any paid adverstising and often people have never heard of a sling library or are not sure how one might help them but are delighted to discover they exist once someone tells them about it.
  2. Write us a review on Google or Facebook.  Reviews and recommendations on social media help people find us.
  3. Comment on our posts on Facebook and Instagram, maybe even consider sharing a post occasionally.  The more comments and shares a posts gets the more that people get to see that post and other similar posts.  Simply liking a post no longer helps it get a wide distribution – so the best way you can help any small business or Sling Library is to comment on their posts as this helps Facebook know to show more people this post!  Its sad but true but most of my posts are show to only half, often a lot less than half of those who like my page let alone anyone new.  But those posts that do get comments go out to far far more people and can really help get the message out to as many new parents as possible.

 

-Madeleine

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New Sling Library Dates for the New Year

Wishing you all a huge Happy New Year from Sheen Slings!  I hope 2019 brings you and your family new adventures and plenty of joy!

Sling Library will be back from January the 8th and we have four sessions this month!  The dates and times of these sessions and those for the next few months are below.  In addition to the sessions, I’ll be running consults again from the 2nd of January and I have space for a few workshops over the next few months.  I often schedule these as demand allows so if you’re at all interested in a workshop do drop me a message so I can start scheduling accordingly.  I have also been increasing the range of slings that are available to purchase from Sheen Slings directly.  Increasing this range further and making it even easier to purchase your ideal carrier is definitely on my goal list for 2019!

Upcoming Sling Library dates:

  • Tuesday 8th Jan, 11am-1pm @Madeleine’s (79 Lower Richmond Rd, SW14 7HU)
  • Friday 18th January, 9.30-10.45am @The Barnes Children’s Centre (67b Lower Richmond Road, SW14)
  • Tuesday 22nd Jan, 11am-1pm @Madeleine’s (79 Lower Richmond Rd, SW14 7HU)
  • Saturday 26th Jan, 10am-12pm @Madeleine’s (79 Lower Richmond Rd, SW14 7HU)
  • Tuesday 5th Feb, 11am-1pm @Madeleine’s (79 Lower Richmond Rd, SW14 7HU)
  • Friday 15th February, 9.30-10.45am @The Barnes Children’s Centre (67b Lower Richmond Road, SW14)
  • Tuesday 19th Feb, 11am-1pm @Madeleine’s (79 Lower Richmond Rd, SW14 7HU)
  • Saturday 23rd Feb, 10am-12pm @Madeleine’s (79 Lower Richmond Rd, SW14 7HU)
  • Tuesday 5th March, 11am-1pm @Madeleine’s (79 Lower Richmond Rd, SW14 7HU)
  • Friday 15th March, 9.30-10.45am @The Barnes Children’s Centre (67b Lower Richmond Road, SW14)
  • Tuesday 19th March, 11am-1pm @Madeleine’s (79 Lower Richmond Rd, SW14 7HU)
  • Saturday 30th March, 10am-12pm @Madeleine’s (79 Lower Richmond Rd, SW14 7HU)
  • Tuesday 2nd April, 11am-1pm @Madeleine’s (79 Lower Richmond Rd, SW14 7HU)
  • Tuesday 16th April, 11am-1pm @Madeleine’s (79 Lower Richmond Rd, SW14 7HU)
  • Saturday 27th April, 10am-12pm @Madeleine’s (79 Lower Richmond Rd, SW14 7HU)

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!

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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.

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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