Carry My Cariad

Wraps, slings and cwtched-up things


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Heavenly heavyweights

File of firespiral woven wraps

It is often believed that you need to move on to heavier wraps as your child grows bigger, or at least switch to ones boosted by stronger fibres like linen or hemp. It is certainly true that carrying a child over 20lb in a thin cotton wrap can be an uncomfortable experience. But as D has grown bigger I have found 100% cotton can still be viable, provided I use a multi-layer carry and my tightening is on point.

Firespiral slings offer a particularly pleasant all-cotton experience, because they are woven from wonderfully soft and fluffy combed cotton. When matched with their signature loose weave, their wraps mould to you like a bandage, allowing every last bit of slack to be worked out. FiSpi wraps have always tended towards the thinner end of the scale, and they are legendary for their light, flexible linen blends.

I have written before about my love of linen, and I am a huge fan of Firespiral wraps. I have yet to meet one that, in the flesh, I didn’t fall a bit in love with. Often they don’t overwhelm you through a computer screen, but once you touch that supple soft fabric and see the designs wrapped and tied in place, everything makes sense. They are slings with immense charisma that inspire an almost cult-like following amongst their customers. However much other companies tempt with pretty designs and clever marketing, none will ever wrap quite as beautifully as a Firespiral.

Close up of Sylvan Birch Trees weave

Sylvan Obsidian Birch Trees

Just prior to the European Babywearing Conference FiSpi announced they were due to release a series of heavier wraps, still using their fluffy combed cotton warp but with much thicker three-ply linen running through the weft.Ellie Harwood babywearing Firespiral sylvan birch trees

First up was Sylvan Obsidian Birch Trees, weighing in at a fairly robust 380gsm. This wrap features a weft made from a combination of combed cotton intertwined with beautiful thick linen threads. I holidayed one for a week and was surprised by its fluidity and easy glide. I took it for a 3 mile walk on a very hot day and didn’t find it heavy or oppressive in the least. Although I certainly noticed the difference in weight, it still possessed some of the Firespiral floppiness I have come to love.

Scrap of Firespiral Prism showing weft threads

This frayed scrap of Prism shows the triple-spun linen threads used in the weft

The positive experience wrapping with Sylvan made Prism seem like a very tempting proposition. Like Sylvan, Obsidian Prism Starmap (to give it its pedigree name) features a 3-ply linen weft on a soft combed cotton warp. It is insanely heavy – over 500gsm. The only other wrap I’m aware of that clocks up this kind of density is Pavo Klee, which I reviewed last year. Klee is also a work of beauty, and just plain hard work too. His weight comes from an extremely complex double weave, producing multiple layers of fine yarns. I wondered whether Prism, woven using conventional jacquard techniques, and gaining its density from the fibres themselves, would wrap more forgivingly.

The linen used here is a glorious technicolour trio of hot pink, yellow and turquoise green. Together they unite against the almost-black warp to create the most specDSC_2485tacular spiral galaxies, comets and star trails. Like fireworks bursting against the night sky, the overall effect if a joyous riot of zingy colours that reflect the beauty and magic of deep space. In short, it’s beautiful.

Most Firespiral wraps have no right or wrong sides. In fact, most are hemmed with flipped rails so you can easily wear them either way. But Prism most definitely has a better face. Whilst the ‘right’ warp face is simply gorgeous, the ‘wrong’ weft face is crazy and slightly giddying to the eyes. It reminds me of the strobing you get when someone accidentally wears a stripy shirt on TV. It’s actually quite disorientating looking at it for more than a few seconds. Allowing a peek of it here or there mightn’t be a bad thing, but I couldn’t see myself throwing it on either way as I would my seafoam or starmap.

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Right face

Prism is also a beast. A big, thick, rug-like, almost unmanageble beast, at least when it arrived in loom state. I picked one up at the European Babywearing Conference, (consensually) squandering the entire savings of our community sling group on one wrap. Excited to have my hands on one of these rare and amazing slings, I took it out to admire in the lecture I was attending that afternoon. “What is that?” enquired the lady sitting next to me. “Blackout blinds?” I could sense she was only half joking.

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Wrong face

I took Prism home and duly bathed it, setting the weave and hopefully beginning a process of breaking in. A day’s drying and a steam iron later, I had a go at wrapping with it. My first observation was how short it wrapped. Although I’d bought a size 3, it definitey behaved like a 2. Also, I couldn’t tie a knot in it. Literally, not at all. I have puny hands thanks to carpel tunnel, and Prism was just too big and thick and unyielding to pull it tight behind my back.

The next day I gave it another steam iron. This time it flopped a little more, and I managed to wrangle a ruck tied on the tippy tails in front. I decided that I would give it a proper test, a half mile walk to the shop, most of which was either going down or coming up a very steep hill. On a hot day. Laden with shopping bags and a toddler on my back. Think the babywearing equivalent of a monk in his hair shirt, but with less grace.

Ellie Harwood babywearing Firespiral Prism starmap

Shoulder pleats

Prism proved plenty supportive, and the galaxies certainly glimmered and flashed in the sunshine. Surpisingly, I didn’t boil. The linen, and the air between the fibres, allow a certain amount of breathability. D bounced excitedly on my back pointing out pigeons, which seemed to stretch it out a bit and I found I had a little more length to tie off with when I prepared for the trek home. I still found it very hard to tighten at all, and needed to pleat the shoulders up into little mountains in order to get them to stay on.

Halfway up the hill she popped her seat, due to my lame tightening, and helped a little by the slippiness of the combed cotton warp face. Although the weft has some grip, the striking feature of the wrap is its silky fluidity, and combined with the weight of itself, the passes do seem to slide away from each other quite easily.

I had Prism for 3 weeks before it needed to start travelling around the members of Cwtch-Up Pontypridd. I washed it and wore it, slept with it under my bedsheet and travelled with it folded on the driver’s seat of my car. Slowly but surely it became more pliable, a little easier to tighten. The initial frustration of being unable to even tighten or knot it was forgotten.

Ellie Harwood babywearing ruck with a ring

Ruck with a ring

I realised that there was no hope of using my typical carries with this wrap. Anything knotless is great. Using a ring helped too, although even a size large was only just big enough to squeeze both passes through. It never got to the point of wrapping like a true size 3, and I even dug out my tape measure to check we hadn’t been short-changed in the length department. But it measures 320cm, as a 3 should, although it is narrower than a typical FiSpi, at only 68cm wide.

Ellie Harwood rebozo slipknot

Rebozo back carry with a huge slipknot

In the end, the carry that worked best was a simple rebozo, tied with a HUGE slipknot. Despite its heft, the slippy fabric worked easily through the knot, and it is absolutely bombproof as a single layer carry, even with a bigger child.

Prism has now started out on a 3 month holiday, visiting families around south Wales. I imagine many will be frustrated with its unpliability, some will be enamoured with its beauty, and a couple will love it so much they won’t want to send it on.

As a huge fan of Firespiral wraps, I am glad to have tried this rare and lovely wrap. I don’t know whether it would be possible to recreate the tricolour effect using much finer yarns, to imitate the look of Prism whilst bringing the weight within a more practical range. I do think there’s a natural upper weight limit for woven wraps, beyond which it just gets a bit silly. Sylvan works wonderfully, but as things creep over 400gsm it becomes increasingly impractical for most the standard Western carrying styles many of us use. It has been fun to be pushed out of my wrapping comfort zone though, to learn new ways of approaching familiar carries, and to revel in creating a candy cane chest belt thicker than an anchor’s chain.

Candy cane chest belt

World’s biggest CCB

Yaro La Vita


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Budget babywearing at its best

I spend a lot of time helping people to start using slings, and particularly love it when someone wants to learn to wrap. However, many people in our community are living on tight budgets, and woven wraps rarely come cheap. I definitely didn’t want to spend more than £50 when I was new to babywearing, which left me with limited options at the time.

I was intrigued by Yaro wraps as soon as I saw La Vita, being reviewed by the awesome Hedwych, aka Wrap You In Love. The striking leaf design and pretty colours really appealed to my sense of taste, and the prices seemed too good to be true. At the time, you couldn’t buy them in the UK so I ordered one from Slingomama in the Netherlands. I think I paid around 36Euro plus shipping for a size 2 red and white linen blend.

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Red and white linen blend La Vita

 Red isn’t my colour, but I really loved the look of the wrap, and it was the only La Vita available to buy at the time. I certainly didn’t regret that decision, because it proved to be a lightweight, wide, shimmery, stretchy and comfortable wrap. I used it extensively as a no-sew ringsling and rebozo throughout last summer. The linen was a little stiff at first but softened up very quickly when run through rings and steam ironed.

When I had my big de-stash last year it stayed, because even though it wasn’t my favourite colour or my favourite size, it was just a really good wrap. I only let it go to raise funds to buy a woolly FireSpiral, in a colour and size that worked better for me.

But I missed having a Yaro in my stash. I needed an affordable size 7 wrap to take to consultations, and found a UK retailer, Pour La Bebe, offering a new range of colours and blends at very affordable prices. I ordered a yellow and black La Vita for just £62.

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This wrap is a little narrower than my previous Yaro – it measures 73cm rather than 76cm. It is still definitely in the wider wrap category though – my Oscha Okinami Sia is just 65cm and most Woven Wings measure between 59 and 63cm. This extra width is very useful when wrapping an older child, especially one who likes to be arms-in. D has always been determined to have her arms out the top of the wrap, but recently has decided she likes arms-in when she’s feeling sleepy. This means I have to ensure there’s enough wrap for her to nestle down in if the mood take takes her. This Yaro is wide enough to provide a nice deep seat with plenty left over for a snug, supportive wrap right up to the nape of her neck.

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Comparing the width against a FireSpiral Glacier Frost Seafoam (70cm) and Oscha Okinami Sia (65cm)

The wrap was very soft straight from new, more so than the linen/cotton blend I owned before. Even though I would never advise it, I couldn’t resist a quick up to try it out before washing. Even brand new, it was easy to mould, tighten and tie off.

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Wrapped really well straight from the bag

The La Vita pattern has a wonderful three-dimensional texture, allowing the wrap to glide when you’re tightening, and grip once it’s in place. The yellow-black colourway really works with this design. The black tempers the yellow, creating a subtle golden colour, which looks really classy – it definitely has the appearance of a wrap worth a lot more than it actually cost.IMG_20150502_074908

 It’s not a heavyweight wrap, and once washed and ironed, it became seriously floppy and easy to use. I think it would be an ideal wrap for a new wrapper with a smaller baby because it breaks in with no effort and would make for delightfully soft single-layer carries with a little squish.

 My base size is a 5 so initially I stuck to a double hammock when back carrying, to avoid falling over the tails. In a double layer carry like this, the wrap is perfectly supportive for my nearly 2 year old. It has a serious amount of diagonal stretch, which takes a little playing around with to get a properly tightened finish. However, it glides so well it is possible to get a really snug chest pass and the stretch allows a tiny amount of bounce and movement, which makes it even more comfortable.

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I took the wrap out for a few walks to really see how it held up carrying an older child. Even in FWCC with bunched passes I was surprised how weightless D felt. The extra width of the wrap means it can be sandwiched on your shoulders, to create a really deep, cushy and supportive wrap-job.

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Still very supportive in a FWCC

 The design looks lovely on both sides and works really well with carries that show them both off. I used the extra length to add reinforcing passes to a few of my favourite carries, and experiment with some fancy finishes that used the two sides to best effect.

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All-in-all, this is an incredible wrap for the price. You’d be hard pressed to find something that breaks in so easily, wraps so effortlessly and looks so stylish for under £100. Yaro wraps are really starting to make a name for themselves, and deservedly so. New releases tend to sell out quite quickly and sadly some are already being re-sold for significantly more than the original retail price. But they seem keen to keep on reweaving popular designs and releasing new blends, colourways and patterns all the time. I’ve been impressed with the feel and quality of their woolly wraps, and am very much looking forward to giving the new silk and hemp blends a try soon. As long as there’s a plentiful supply of new wraps coming out they’ll hopefully remain a great choice for people looking to start wrapping on a smaller budget.

Danu woven wrap


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For the Love of Linen

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Many aspects of slings are a matter of personal taste, especially when it comes to the different fibres used to weave a wrap. Some blends are definitely marmite, and perhaps linen more so than most. I feel it gets an unfair reputation in some circles, as too tough to carry small babies, prone to digging or lacking the mouldability of other blends.

First up, I’ll put it out there. I am a lover of linen. I like its strength, the way it lends backbone to even very light wraps, the way it breathes so you never feel too hot even in a multi-layered carry. I like the way it breaks down to incredible smooshy loveliness if you work long enough to soften it up. And I love the way it lets a wrap emit light, bringing a shimmery dimension to the weave, detailing the intricacies of the warp and weft as they intersect. Linen was the first fabric humans ever produced, and archaeologists have discovered flax fibre remnants dating back at least 36000 years. It is a beautiful plant with many uses, and because of this its production processes tend to be more environmentally sustainable than cotton.

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Flax flowers

Being a linen aficionado, it was great to read that a new wrap company were starting to produce wraps using Irish linen. Danu slings, based in Newry in Northern Ireland, launched in 2014 with the stunning Sky Songs wrap. Sky Songs is woven with linen made from locally produced Irish flax. Linen really is the national cloth of Ireland, and has been produced for centuries in both the north and south of the Isle.  Owner Maebh has said that she wants Danu to become known as the company for linen wraps, reviving a heritage that has been slowly declining since the start of the 20th century.  Early reviews suggested Danu wraps were medium-to-heavyweight, and while utterly beastly new from the box, quickly broke down to being sumptuous and blankety soft. I actively enjoy breaking in wraps, so I must admit this tempted me even more.

A lovely member of our Cwtch-Up sling group was treated to a Danu wrap for Christmas. Knowing their rep for having a long breaking-in period, she asked if anyone would be willing to have a go at softening it up before it was wrapped in paper and put under the Christmas tree.

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I was so pleased to have a chance to try a Danu in real life. I was the second person to have the wrap on its short holiday, so it was already significantly softer than I expected. The first thing I noticed was the wonderful interplay between the colours of the warp and weft threads in the design. The White Stag looked pretty on Danu’s website, but in real life it was simply stunning. The purple and teal cotton contrasting against white linen threads created an almost tapestry-like effect; close up the flecks of purple added a three-dimensional effect to the trees and deer adorning the wrap. From a distance the colours blended to appear a fresh sky-blue colour, delicately contrasting with the creamy backdrop. The reverse side shows the deer and trees in the creamy white linen, with the backdrop appearing a vivid blue-mauve from a distance.

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The White Stag – Caspian is part of Danu’s Narnia series, based on the novels of local author C.S. Lewis. The stag depicted on the wrap features in several of the Narnia chronicles as a mythical beast, rarely glimpsed, who will grant the wishes of anyone who captures him. The wrap design features intricate drawings of the stag running about amongst a variety of native trees. 02_04_01The artwork is drawn in a naïve style that has echoes of early European cave art – similar creatures adorn the walls of the famous Chauvet cave complex in southern France, the Cave of Forgotten Dreams in Werner Herzog’s extraordinary film of the same name. The stag as a symbol of wild nature is a recurring motif throughout Celtic art and literature right to the present day.

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This wrap felt heavy in hand, but its GSM is just 270g, placing it more in the midweight range. Even barely used, it was able to glide quite comfortably as I wrapped. It still had a tendency to stand proudly by itself if it wasn’t wrapped very tight, but each use helped draw it closer to its natural state of cushiony loveliness. I also braided it over and over, ran it through rings and steam ironed it twice. I knew that another wash, some time with a hot iron and a week of wear would have it pretty much done.

The design looked wonderful when wrapped, especially the dots along each rail, which are a hallmark of most Danu designs. imageThe pattern size and repeat is just right – not too large and not too small. It manages to be intricate without being busy – even in a fancy finish like Double Hammock Saltwater there is enough space between the motifs to create an uncluttered effect. I felt I could wear this with patterned or printed clothes without appearing completely demented – something I do occasionally fall foul of with other heavily patterned wraps!

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This wrap didn’t disappoint in terms of the support it offered – it was magnificent in a simple ruck and provided three hours of weightless front carrying during one particularly long Christmas shopping trip. And it also made an amazing backdrop for D’s Christmas photos, especially when she was dressed in her own little reindeer outfit.

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I only had the White Stag stay for four days before it went home to its rightful owner. It’s fair to say I fell in love with Danu from this brief vacation. For such a small company, they have an absolutely crazy release rate. Every other week Maebh lists new designs and colourways, and they now have five collections featuring a huge range of motifs.photo 4-1~2 A lot of the wraps are connected to the literary heritage of the region, including the Brontes and WB Yeats. I was born in Ireland and have an enduring love affair with the poets of the Isle, so I am keeping a close eye on the next releases in the Yeats collection. Seamus Heaney is pretty much my favourite writer of all time, and I can only dream of the ways his poetry could inspire a wrap. As a writer who continually unearthed the history of Northern Ireland and wove it so deftly into lines about the present, I’m sure Danu would do an amazing job of translating Seamus’ genius into a beautiful piece of textile art.

You can buy Danu wraps at www.danuworld.com

Huge thanks to Kristina for letting me borrow her wrap and review it here x

Woven wrap Joy and Joe Luceo Non Uro


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I shine, not burn

It’s always a gamble, buying a wrap before it’s even been woven. Generally I like to have a good look and feel of the material before committing to a purchase I may not love. But I was instantly smitten by the design of the Luceo Non Uro wrap. I love wraps with a nature theme, and this wrap features a beautiful hand drawn stag’s head, it’s antlers intertwined with flowers and leaves. Tiny birds nest on the uppermost branches. The name means ‘I Shine, Not Burn’, which is the motto of the MacKenzie clan, who have a stag’s head as their family crest. The design certainly feels slightly Celtic, very much something wild and green and close to nature.

Joy and Joe, the wrap’s manufacturer, had a public vote to decide the colourways the wrap should be woven in. Unfortunately my first choice, an amazing teal colour, didn’t win. But the wrap was offered for pre-order in two beautiful shades of green, so I opted for the subtle sage and started saving up.

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Pre-order teaser shots from Joy and Joe

The wrap didn’t arrive for another three months, although J&J kept the anticipation up with some photos of the prototypes in action. Although they’re not yet a big name in the woven wrap world, Joy &Joe’s awesome Shiver Me paisley design is very well thought of, and the initial reviews of this wrap were very complimentary too. It came with a really cool tote bag, wrapped in tissue and ribbon and topped with a little paper bag containing an English breakfast teabag and an oaty biscuit. A really nice touch, which I quickly put to good use

I was really pleased with how the wrap looked straight out of the packet. It’s a 75/25 cotton and linen blend, and it had that familiar linen glossiness to it. It also had the familiar linen crunchiness too, and was a bit beastly to tie off in the first ruck I attempted.

The stag’s head is really well defined whichever side you choose to wrap, so it’s great for carries like kangaroo or Robin’s hip carry, which show off both sides of the wrap. One side is very shiny and smooth, and the other a little more grippy, with an embroidered feel. It would also make an awesome wrap conversion, either to a ring sling or a buckled carrier.

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LNU in natural light

Unfortunately the design is not justified with the middle marker on my wrap, so I have struggled to wrap it in a way that shows off the full magnificence of the antlers. It still looks nice, as these action photos show, but I haven’t yet cracked getting the deer’s face fully justified. If I do succeed in getting it near the middle of D’s back, I then end up with lop-sided tails, or a knot at the hip instead of directly behind me.

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Not quite justified

Nonetheless, it’s still a very comfortable, strong, sturdy wrap which carries my toddler without any sagging at all. An evening of braiding, plus a cool wash and steam iron, have softened it up considerably. The sateen weave also means it has retained its beautiful shine, which can sometimes dull as linen is broken in.

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Robust enough to handle welly walks

We’ve taken it out for a few autumnal walks now, and it’s perfect for jumpers and wellies weather. The tight weave and easy care instructions mean I don’t feel anxious about getting a few twigs on it, even though the colour is quite pale. It certainly goes well with the turning leaves and pale sunshine of these October days.

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Perfect when matched with a big woolly scarf

Long term, I have a feeling I will have this wrap converted into a carrier than can do justice to the art it features. It’s glossy sturdiness would make it perfect for a toddler-worthy ring sling. This autumn it’ll be a great wrap for exploring the woods, but come the new year I think it’ll get a new lease of life matched up with a pair of shiny green rings.

Wool woven wrap


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Wrapping with pure wool

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It was my birthday last week, and there was only one answer when my partner asked what I would like as a gift from him and D. Another sling, of course.

I’d come across Cwtch baby slings when I was searching for a ring sling earlier in the year. The folksy shop featured pure wool ring slings, hand made in Wales. The slings looked stunning but I must admit the wool frightened me a bit.

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I’d seen posters on the sling forums telling horror stories of accidentally felted wraps, or pilling and shrinking from regular wear. I’ve killed more than one cashmere cardie in my time. Could I be trusted with something as expensive and delicate as a woolly sling?

In the end I chose a different ring sling, but the loveliness of the Cwtch slings stayed in my mind. I’ve been reading up on the history of babywearing in Wales, seeking out photos of people in times gone by, cwtching up their babies Welsh-fashion.

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Source: Pinterest

 I love Firespirals, not only for their extraordinary wrapping qualities, but the ethical, local provenance of their slings.  The idea of owning a sling both woven and sewn in Wales really appealed to me. I decided to contact Laura, the lady behind Cwtch baby slings, to find out more about the textiles she uses.

She very kindly sent me a sample of her latest woven material. She’d branched out into wraps as well as ring slings and the fabric she sent me could be sewn into a full wrap if I wished. It wasn’t what I expected – it was light, airy, and had a slight stretch. The colours, a rainbow of shades, were calmed and warmed by an earthy dark brown warp. I was astonished at how reasonably priced they were too – starting at £45 for a size 2. I placed my order for a size three that morning.

Laura sewed the sling and posted it to me within a week, but I had to hand the parcel to Al once it arrived, so he could give it to me on my birthday. It was hard knowing there was a new sling in the house and not being able to get my hands on it.

I open the wrap over breakfast and marvelled at how light it was. Laura had finished it with pointed tapers justified to the centre of the wrap rather than at an angle. I popped D up in a quick ruck. I usually avoid rucks as my daughter is extremely wriggly and a very determined seat popper. The first thing I noticed about this wrap is how strong and grippy it is. Once D’s seat was tucked in and tied off, she was simply unable to push her way out of it. The grippiness also meant it was incredibly supportive. My 18lb toddler simply felt weightless. I’ve would never have thought such a thin wrap could distribute weight so well, with no hint of digginess at all.

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 We spent my birthday down the Gower, walking one of Wales’ most stunning beaches. I carried D in a mixed pass back carry with candy cane chest belt. The size 3 was just long enough to tie off with no tails hanging down. Although it was a sunny day the wind was fresh, and the wool kept us both cosy without needing a jumper. Out in the September sun the beautiful colours of the wool really stood out.

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The climb down to Rhossili is long and steep, and the beach is 3 miles long so we did plenty of walking that afternoon. D continued to feel weightless in the wrap, although I had to pop her up and down so she could collect shells, grub in the sand and practice her walking between cuddles with me. The wrap folds down really small when not in use, so I could easily pop it in my handbag.

In the week since this sling has become my go-to wrap for rucks. It is by far the most supportive and grippy shortie I own. In fact, it has completely cured me of my woolly worries. I am even starting to wonder about the wrapping qualities of things other than sheep’s wool. Alpaca maybe? Baby camel?

You can buy Cwtch Baby Slings via her Folksy site