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How To Buy a Woven Wrap

ellaroo; woven wrap; babywearing
Baby Eleanor in Ellaroo LaRae – a very thin all-cotton and one of my favorites for a summer newborn.

Woven wraps are definitely far more high profile and more readily available in greater variety than they were even five years ago when I started babywearing.  The question “how do I choose my first woven wrap?” pops up frequently.   And with good reason!  With so many brands, so many blends, so many styles, it can be truly overwhelming to figure out what’s what.  So I thought I’d throw in my two cents on what to look for and why when selecting your first woven wrap!

Buy an all-cotton, thin-medium weight wrap that’s in your price range and that you think is beautiful!

That’s the short answer 🙂  For more details, keep reading!

Cost

The #1 rule in choosing the right woven wrap (or any baby carrier) is to be wise with your dollars.  While it is often true that the cheapest available carrier isn’t going to be “as nice” as a more expensive brand (in terms of materials, etc.), the same doesn’t quite hold true for woven wraps.  Some wrap companies do use higher quality materials (say organic cotton vs. conventionally grown) which means a higher price point.  Some companies use US based mills (or European based mills) which means their operating costs are higher than those who say manufacture in India – so their product is likely to run higher.   Certainly if those things are important to you, vote with your dollars!

But don’t be fooled into thinking “higher price tag” = “better wrap.”  It’s just not always the case. There are very good “bargain” wraps (Colimacon & Cie Miel et Malice wraps spring to mind as a good example) that wrap just as well as wraps with a much higher price tag.  In fact, you may end up like me and actually prefer the wrapping qualities of a less expensive brand.  Now of course if you have the cash and fall in love with wrap X – go for it 🙂

There’s a HUGE second hand market for woven wraps, which like the wrap market in general has evolved a lot in recent years.  It’s gotten a bit harder to “flip” a wrap (that is sell quickly for nearly what you paid) than it used to be; however, you can still get a 50-75% return on your wrap on the second hand market fairly easily.  Consider a $150 wrap that you use for a few years – even if you sell for $50, that’s not bad given the use you got out of it!  See below for more tips on navigating the second hand market.

If even the less expensive wovens or buying used are more than you are up for paying, fear not!  There are great DIY options.  Osnaburg is the most popular DIY “woven” wrap choice.  You will want to be cautious and avoid picking up any old fabric at the fabric store.  One reason wovens run more than the typical fabric store yardage is that the weaving/production process for making that type of fabric (with the right sort of give that makes for a good wrap) costs more (and you aren’t likely to find that type of fabric for less than a woven would cost).  For more information on DIYing, check out my DIY guide.

Zara; babywearing; woven wrap
A smaller Callum in Zara Fresh – again all cotton and a thinner-medium weight.

 

Brand

When new wrappers ask the “what should I buy” question, inevitably they get “oh, you must have brand X” or “brand Y for sure!”  We all have our favorites.  And if you get into trying out different wraps (“churning” in wrap speak) you may fall in love with some favorites too.  But here’s the real scoop – if you’ve never wrapped, you don’t know what you like.  And if you were to only want ONE wrap in your life (and that’s totally ok!), and if that wrap were an all cotton thin-medium weight wrap, you’d likely be totally happy and never give a second thought to brand X, Y, Z.

So again, go with what’s in your budget and what you like the look of.  Don’t get caught up in the “it” brand of the moment as somehow being better than the brand no one is hyping.  There are lots of lovely wraps that get very little chatter and I can’t think of a single major brand I wouldn’t recommend (please see my note on my wrap page as to why I don’t list EVERY brand out there).

Material

So I’ve told you to get an all cotton wrap.  But Sally and Mary Sue insist that you for sure want linen/hemp/unicorn hair because your baby is hot/heavy/a toddler.  Blends are great.  I have blends.  And it is true that you – if you decide to try many wraps – may decide that blend X is totally your favorite.  But if you are just starting out or just aren’t sure, all cotton is the way to go.  Why?  It’s easy to care for (requires no special washing); takes a beating and keeps on ticking; handles spit, poop, pee with grace; and it’s easier to learn to wrap with.

Many blends are sort of love/hate; they change the wrapping qualities of a wrap making them in most cases harder to get a good wrap job with.  Doesn’t mean they are bad; just different.If I were to have a one and only wrap, it would totally totally be all cotton.  It’s just as cool as linen (if you are worried about heat), and it’s just as supportive as hemp or linen (note the preschooler photo – that’s an all cotton C&C).

Colimacon & Cie; babywearing; woven wraps
5 year old Callum in a Colimacon & Cie Miel et Malice – medium weight all cotton “bargain” wrap.

Weight

Hopefully I’ve convinced you to stick with all cotton for your first wrap. Great!  Now on to weight.  There’s a lot of buzz these days about the grams/meter measurement of a weight which tells you something about how “thick” a wrap is.  Some worried about support think “thicker = better.”

Granted I’m not a thick wrap fan in general, but I think trying to learn to wrap with a thick wrap is an exercise in frustration.  One, a thick wrap generally needs quite a lot of breaking in before it’s manageable.  If you want to buy your first wrap, you want to get rolling right away and not spend hours beating a beast into submission (although if you do…go for it!).  More importantly, a thinner wrap teaches you to wrap well.  And…

The key to a supportive carry is a tight, snug wrap job!

I can’t stress the above enough.  If you have a wrap that allows you to get snug passes, to feel where you’ve over-tightened or under-tightened, you are going to get a good wrap job.  You may have heard rumors about wraps getting “diggy” or uncomfortable if they are thin and baby is heavy.  Diggy means you haven’t tightened evenly and that means you need to fix your wrap job – not buy a new wrap!  Learn to wrap well with a thinner wrap and you will be comfortable in anything – true story!

Now, I fully recognize that some people like thicker wraps – maybe they like the weight.  Maybe they like having a wrap forgiving of sloppy wrapping.  Maybe they just like the challenge.  Totally cool.  But if you are buying your first woven, I’m assuming you want to learn to wrap.  And to learn to wrap well, you want a thinner wrap.So, get a thin-medium weight wrap (if you are paying attention to grams/meter, somewhere in the 180-220 range give or take a bit).

Colorway/Design

As for the most important part of the question…this one is easy.  Choose something YOU think is amazing!   Don’t worry about what the resale value will be or what’s popular.  Take some time to browse what’s out there (thebabywearer.com is the place to do this in my opinion) and then go for it!

Buying Used

Buying used can be a great money saver or a way to get the wrap that you fell in love with that’s out of stock everywhere.  A few quick pointers:

  • Check the price of the wrap you are buying used against the new price.  Used doesn’t always = bargain.
  • Be aware that some wraps are being sold at “market” value and not retail – meaning they are currently highly sought after for one reason or another and come with a price tag to match.  This doesn’t mean they are “better” wraps; it means they are currently “hot” collector’s items.
  • Ask questions about the wrap if you have them.  If you have say allergy concerns, ask the seller if she has pets, uses scents, etc.  Often this is included in the listing, but if not, it’s on you to ask.
  • Have realistic expectations.  You are buying a USED item.  That means it may have flaws.  Sellers should disclose major flaws (say lots of pulls or other cosmetic damage) but it is normal for wraps (even new ones) to come with nubs, small pulls, or small broken threads.  If these sorts of things worry you, buy from a vendor with a solid return policy instead of buying used.
  • Check seller feedback.  Reputable swaps will have some feedback system in place.  I highly recommend the FSOT forum on thebabywearer; given the strong community there, shenanigans are far less likely.
  • Always use paypal NOT gifted paypal.  Paypal is great as far as providing buyer protection – but only if you pay as “goods.”  Sellers should include the cost of fees and shipping in their asking price (or be up front about what those prices are in their listing).  Do you part and make sure your paypal address is correct as you and the seller are only protected if that shipping address is used.
  • Communicate with your seller.  Do ask questions.  Do be realistic in your expectations (like don’t expect same day shipping!).  And if you have concerns, be kind and approach the seller.  If you have trouble, swaps do have administrators to assist in mediating.

So there you have it.  You are all set to find the perfect first woven wrap!  If you haven’t already, pop on over to the woven wrap page of my babywearing guide for more information on wrapping (including information on choosing the right size wrap for you) and babywearing in general.  Happy babywearing!

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