Carry My Cariad

Wraps, slings and cwtched-up things

West of the 4th woven wrap

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Modern fibres woven with age-old artistry

w4w logo

West 4th logo

Last month I was lucky to have an exquisite West of the 4th handwoven wrap visit for a brief stay. This earthy-toned flax/Tencel/cotton blend offered a unique wrapping experience, characterised by lightness, fluidity and glide, backed up by the wonderful supportiveness of the flax fibres.

West of the 4th wraps are woven in Canada, the creation of Nancy Warwaruk. Nancy was previously the head weaver at Uppymama, but in 2014 she and her husband Corwyn set up West of the 4th Weaving. They produce a range of textile products from their studio in Erskine, Alberta. As well as baby wraps they make tea towels, bags, scarves and shawls, woven in a palette of beautiful natural shades.

Plain weave close up

Close up of the plain weave

This wrap is a size large – approximately a 6, although I measured it at around 5m using a soft tape. It is finished with blunt ends, which may account for a little of the extra length. It is woven from a unique flax and Tencel blend weft, on a soft cotton warp. This is the first wrap in the world to feature this new flax, which W4W claim is the softest on the market.  The harvested flax fibres are put through an additional process where they are digested by enzymes, breaking them down further than conventional flax or linen. Finally, the super-soft flax fibres are blended with Tencel to create a shimmery and incredibly strong yarn. Tencel is known – perhaps oxymoronically – as a natural man-made fibre, produced from cellulose extracted by processing wood-pulp. Tencel fibres are eco-friendly, soft, absorbent, very strong whether wet or dry, and resistant to wrinkles.

DSC_2638Straight from the box, and barely worn, the wrap is silky soft to touch. There is literally no breaking in needed. It feels light and very fluid in hand. It drapes easily and doesn’t have a trace of crunch or crinkle. I love linen wraps but will admit the initial crispiness and perma-creasing are sometimes downsides to the blend. The pairing of super-soft flax with Tencel has produced a wrap with all the glories of good linen, but immediately wearable and completely wrinkle free.

W4W wraps come in a variety of colourways inspired by nature. This flax/Tencel blend is woven in their ‘signature’ colourway, with layers of warm earthy reds, oranges and ecrus.DSC_2616 The graduation of colours is spectacular when wrapped into place.  There is no clash, just perfect compliment. It looks great with denim and is simple enough to sit alongside patterned clothes without looking busy.

This W4W wraps very differently to a machine woven jacquard wrap. The plain weave has less diagonal stretch than most machine woven wraps, and gains more of it’s grip from the texture of the fibres rather than the patterns woven into the cloth.  It is soft and floppy, which makes it very easy to handle, especially when tying knots and layering passes .

Double hammock poppins finish

Double hammock poppins finish

I started with a ruck, and found the fabric just fell into place. The wrap is nice and wide, so creating a good seat is no issue, even with a toddler. It is much longer than most wraps I use, but the fabric is so easy to manipulate I don’t mind chucking it over my shoulders and threading long tails through knots. It tightens with no effort at all, and working out slack is a doddle. What surprised me was how easily the passes just flopped and moulded into place, which left little tightening to be done.

Ellie Harwood w4w wrap

Great support in a single layer

The fibre blend makes it plenty strong enough to wear my 2 year old in a single-layer kangaroo. It is breathable and easy-to-wear even on a hot summer’s day. It remains airy even when the passes are layered in a double hammock or back wrap cross carry. The sleekness in its heart means it easily folds on itself when sandwiching shoulders or creating fancy finishes. There is very little bulk, but that doesn’t mean you compromise on comfort. The thick threads of the yarn create delicious cush, even when hasty wrapping means the fabric gets a bit bunched on your shoulders.IMG_20150718_175715

It’s fair to say both D and I grew very very fond of the W4W wrap while it visited us. She chose it every time we decided to carry, and even took to snuggling and cuddling it when I had taken it off. I am still pining for it a little.

W4W wraps are certainly priced at the higher end of the wrap market, with ring slings from £190 and a long wrap such as this retailing at around £305.

D took to snuggling the wrap when she wasn't wrapped up in it

D took to snuggling the wrap when she wasn’t wrapped up in it

However, when you consider the hours put in by the weavers, each warp and weft thread lovingly placed by hand, plus the elegant design, and the provenance of the raw materials used, it is completely reasonable.

There are many high end machine woven wraps that cost twice as much as a W4W, and whilst they are also beautiful and comfortable, they don’t have the sheer effort of the human weaver running through them.

IMG_20150721_215206This wrap has now headed off on a huge tour of Europe, visiting families across the continent for the rest of the year. Who knows how it will have changed by the time it has been worn by so many people? Flax is a hardy fibre, and so, it seems, is Tencel. I didn’t feel it was prone to pulling or snagging; the tension was perfectly even throughout all the threads. It will be interesting to see how much softer it will become. I am sure that most of the hosts will fall a little in love and sigh as they send it on.

Just Keep Slinging are the exclusive UK retailer for W4W wraps, and the lovely proprietor Henrietta does a huge amount of work promoting babywearing in the Severn and Wye region. I am looking forward to visit one of her meets and trying another very soon.


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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.


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.


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

Ellie Harwood babywearing Danu salley gardens spring

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An old song, resung

DSC_1506 I’ve had a very pretty Danu wrap to stay for a few weeks, a travelling tester in the Salley Gardens design. It’s a size 6 cotton and linen blend, and quite a thick wrap, weighing in at 280gsm. The colourway is called Spring, and is a vivid combination of teal and black cotton, contrasted with creamy white linen. The linen makes up 48% of the wrap, and means in hand it feels weighty and silky, with that unmistakeable lovely linen gloss. DSC_1910 I immediately fell for the colour because it’s the same as my favourite Danu, Cloths of Heaven Aisling. COH is one of my all-time favourite wraps, and absolute never-leaving permastash. I wear Aisling a lot and know just how good Danu linen can feel if it is fully broken in. I’ve also tried quite a few Danu slings in a much less supple state, the toughest being Sky Songs Midnight, which was incredibly beastly – unsurprising as it weighs in at over 300gsm.


Salley Gardens and Aisling hanging out

Salley Gardens is named for the WB Yeats poem ‘Down by the Salley Gardens’, which is in turn a retelling of a traditional Irish folk song Yeats once heard sung by a woman in Sligo. The poem itself has taken on many new forms since he published it – it is now one of the most recorded songs in the Irish folk song repertoire, and has been set to music by several eminent composers including John Ireland and Benjamin Britten

And now the poem is retold once more, as a beautiful piece of cloth. The design of Salley Gardens is quite simple, and lacks some of the figurative representation many Danu wraps do. Instead of animals or trees, it has a sketch-like geometric pattern, resembling petals or leaves. Although I don’t generally go for shapes on wraps, I must admit that Salley Gardens looks really good when worn. The scale of the design is just right, so it doesn’t look too busy, and the end result is a very classy wear, especially in the amazing teal colourway.


Braided, in natural light

I was pretty early on in the tester route, meaning the wrap was only partly broken in when it reach me. It was also freshly laundered and a little bit crispy as a result. I spent an evening braiding and passing it through rings, and then put it on my car seat and drove around sitting on it for a day. This took the crispy edge off and allowed me to start really wrapping with it. I never got it to properly flop before sending it on, but it was definitely a lot softer by the time my fortnight was up. Like other Danus, Salley Gardens is a seriously strong wrap. It easily carries my 2 year old daughter in a single layer with no sagging or digging at all. While tightening is a bit of a workout, once you’ve got the passes tight it holds rock solid and shines in knotless carries where gravity and the wrap’s grippiness hold everything in place. Simple carries like a ruck tied Tibetan with spread chest passes worked brilliantly well.


Knotless ruck, tied Tibetan

I struggled a bit more with a double hammock, because the wrap didn’t have the suppleness needed to fully tighten the chest pass and get a nice smooth second pass over D’s back. To be fair, this is something I struggle with in a lot of wraps, due to my hourglass shape and T-rex arms. I had to wrestle quite hard to get a nice saltwater finish but freshwater sat much more easily, although both were a bit bulky due to the wrap’s weight. I did find that carrying D a bit lower than I normally would helped add some more tension to the double hammock chest-pass, but overall I found myself back carrying in a ruck a lot of the time.


Slightly flappy top rail

On the front, FWCC worked well, but kangaroo was a headache as I struggled to flip the shoulders and tighten them effectively. The top rail was still flappy after a good ten minutes of wriggling and fussing, by which time D had had more than enough and needed to get down. It really shone in a robins hip carry though, the thickness of the wrap resting very comfortably on the shoulders, and the main pass was more than supportive enough in a single layer.


FWCC felt great, even with a toddler

Overall, I’d say this wrap isn’t really one for very little babies, or people who don’t enjoy breaking in wraps. If you like long-wrap carries with many passes and fancy finishes you may able find this wrap a bit too heavyweight for a very sleek finish. It is, however, ideal if you are carrying an older baby or toddler, and want something that will stand up to longer carries. If you are prepared to wear the wrap regularly it will undoubtedly break down to floppy, glidey loveliness in time. I’m sure it would also make an incredibly supportive ring sling. If you’ve ever heard linen can be diggy or uncomfortable on the shoulders, you really need to try a decent thick Danu before you judge. I’ve yet to meet one I haven’t liked, and Salley Gardens certainly stands up to its peers in the Danu catalogue.

Danu woven wrap


For the Love of Linen


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.


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.

photo 2-3~2

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.

photo 3-2~2photo 1-1

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.


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!

photo 1-2

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.

photo 1-3~2

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 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

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