Monday, January 26, 2015

Diva Essenza- champagne wraps on a beer budget ;)

Please note: in light of subsequent events I would not recommend the purchase of a Diva Milano wrap.

Diva Milano's 'budget' line, the Essenza range, is just as gorgeous as the Milano slings. Having a few Divas already in my stash (the linen blends are particularly marvellous in summer, and their width is VERY toddler-friendly), I knew I'd love the aesthetic of the wraps I was sent to test. 

Fresh from the air mail satchel, this all-cotton woven felt like cardboard, and it went straight in the wash before I even attempted a carry. It was much less crunchy after one wash, but I still wasn't keen, so I twisted it up into a distorted knot and left it around the stair bannister for a couple days to relax the fibres a little. 

At 250gsm, this is a medium weight wrap in the Diva range; and with a 12kg 2.5yo, that's absolutely ok. Our first DH was a little challenging, working with a pattern that had lifted and textured nicely in the wash and you can see my passes are not the tidiest! HOWEVER, this sloppy job got us through an hour grocery run with no pain and  quite a lot of excitable child-bouncing (I may have mentioned sushi...)

I left Diva in the car for a couple of days (hoping some heat would beat the crunch out of it) and grabbed it out again for a quick and dirty ruck on a post office trip. 

Oh yes. Muuuuuch better. Passes still hold like velcro, but much easier to tighten and gather up strand by strand, and our single layered ruck was
fine and dandy. 

If you want a wrap that is newborn-ready straight from the box, this is not the best wrap to save in its packaging. Get it out, wash, iron, love on it and break it in, and you will have something really lovely that will accommodate your child right through to toddler days. 

I can see that this is going to get fluffier, cushier and more forgiving with more wear, and with the Diva aesthetic, this is a very atractive wrap with which to dress up the most boring of mumiforms. It may be the beer-budget line, but definitely caters to champagne tastes, with an accommodating width, nice cush and not too much bounce. 

Please note that I have not been paid to write this review. Any and all opinions expressed are my own. 

Wrapamore's Muslin ring sling - review and giveaway!

Wrapamore is a pair of UK mamas making affordable, simple and lovely ring slings - now, before you read on, please remember that 'muslin' is a little different in the UK and Australia, and I promise that these are perfectly suitable, safe and comfortable for their intended purpose (Wrapamore suggests babies to toddlers 3.5 - 15kgs, and at the top end of that range we were very comfortable!)

Lucie Mann (British Association Of Babywearing Instructors registered & fully insured BabyWearing Consultant) and Victoria Herbert (qualified with Slingababy school of babywearing as a consultant) have done a superb job of putting an inexpensive, well-made and user-friendly sling on the market.

Made of two layers of very light and breathable woven cotton (with a single seam, so still easy to adjust), Wrapamore's muslin is a grippy sling that adjusts well through industry-standard aluminium rings.
New users will need to take care to keep their rails well distinguished, but if you feel around for the seam or notice that you have the long rail threaded on top, for example, you'll be fine.

You can see that with my newborn demo doll (4.5kgs) I've used the sling with a flip in the back, which helps to keep baby high and tight without a lot of adjusting, and I wore Demi for around an hour just to prove to myself that there was no slipping, bunching, or sagging. 

I've got to comment on the instruction booklet, simply because it was SO comprehensive and easy to follow. Including TICKS and step-by-step points, with a photo for each, and a really clear and concise explanation of each step. Is it crazy to say I would nearly buy this sling for a new wearer JUST based on the instructions enclosed?

While I quite like wearing with a flip in the back for a small baby, it wasn't SO great with my 2.5yo, and I found that unthreading the RS and wearing it the usual way was a much more comfortable approach. You can see below how suitable this is to warm weather - through two layers you can faintly see Audrey's pink tee and dark leggings :)

Verdict: The only thing that could make this better is a contrasting rail, and if you purchase a dyed sling from Wrapamore or add a custom dye job then that's a done deal. Given that there is a seam down one side of the sling it's not HARD to tell top from bottom, you just need to be a little observant. 

After a couple washes I'm really looking forward to loaning this to a mum with a new baby, as it's very soft, light and totally newborn-friendly. I wouldn't buy it if you only have a three-year-old, but hey, who REALLY wants to carry their big kid in a ring sling for long anyway? 
Moreover the price (27.50 GBP, which is currently about $54 AUD or $42USD) makes these a bargain option and ideal for a baby shower gift. They're about to add international post for 10GPB or if you're in Australia you can buy direct from Gold Dust Baby ;) 
 I'm very glad to be giving one of these away and stoked to see a quality bargain option on the market. 

Please note that I have not been paid to write this review. Any and all opinions expressed are my own. 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

What's the best way to break in my wrap?

Wash it.
Most new wraps arrive to you in loom state. That's a fancy way of saying you need to wash them to tighten the weave and set it before wrapping, otherwise you risk thread shifting and other nasties. 
Check the care instructions, as different blends prefer different treatment. 
Wool particularly requires hand washing, as agitating the fibres may cause felting and then your wrap is no longer safe to be used as a baby carrier. 

Choose a gentle detergent- (a) liquid and (b)no optical brighteners. Soap nuts are great. No fabric softeners, thanks. 

Drape over your line or a clotheshorse. 

Not COMPULSORY, but a really good idea. Very textured wraps will benefit from a once-over and even a relatively smooth jacquard likes a good press. Linen requires ironing to avoid permacreasing in rails. 

Some wraps are going to be just fine to throw on about now. Actually, all of them are. If you have an all-cotton Kokadi, girasol, Didymos, Yaro, Fidella, silver lining, oscha, little frog... you're probably good to go. If you feel your wrap is still a bit crunchy or you have a more supportive blend (linen/hemp can be a little beastly!), you might want to do a little more work before you toss baby up and start yanking on bits. 

I like to loop and twist. I put the middle round the banister/table leg/bedframe, hold ends and twist until wrap is knitted up on itself. Leave for a bit, shake out and twist other way. You're just loosening the fibres, so don't go too crazy. 

If you have a couple sling rings, run your wrap through - great for toning the arms...

Braid and belt. Basically, braid your wrap up and then whack vigorously against floor. if you have floorboards, make sure there aren't any sharp bits that might snag. GREAT anger management strategy, not good if you have nervous pets. My pug is not a fan. 

Sit on it. I generally do this in the car, because I'm short. I like the extra elevation. Also, the hot car really likes helping me with hemp and linen softening. 

Iron it again. 
I'm not a fan of ironing, so I'll skip this and go straight to hammocking. 

Hammocking is brilliant after braiding and belting. Because you're a little fatigued by now, and a nap is a good idea for everyone. Multiple hammocks are the best kind. 

You can make a child size hammock under your dining table, between two supports (oh THAT's what porches are for!) or from a ceiling beam. Knot securely and supervise kids, please.

Use it. 
Wraps get smooshier and better with love. Enjoy. 


Thursday, January 1, 2015

Baby wearing on a budget - torso carrying and the humble towel.

If you have a towel that you can wrap your body in with a decent overlap at the front (20-40cms is ideal) then you have a baby carrier. Do I sound insane?

Baby wearing doesn't have to be expensive. Baby wearing doesn't require webbed harnesses and 18 metres of purpose-woven unicorn hair and hours of your time stalking etsy and refreshing your computer obsessively. If you want to invest in any/all of those things, knock yourself out. I do and have done and it's fun. If you want to wear your baby right now without leaving the house, go find a towel.

A simple torso carry is easy to execute over your bed and fairly hard to get wrong. I spent a couple weeks just putting my (4mo) baby up on my back before I tried to wrap her, so by the time I felt ready to have her back there I was confident I could position her well and have her down in ten seconds if anything went awry.

So: ideally your baby has good head control. If you're not hugely experienced, you may even want to wait until they can sit independently. I won't recommend you do this with your two-week-old unless babywearing is a cultural practice you've seen, experienced and been taught over a lengthy period of time. If, like me, you're a city girl who's "natural" style of child care is a pram, take it slow.

A torso carry with a young baby has their arms in the carrier and the child supported to the nape of their neck. There is no space between wearer's spine and baby's tummy, and baby is sitting in the curve of wearer's lower back. Friction holds the carry secure and you can always lean over and retighten the top or bottom as you feel necessary.

An older child (who can sit independently) may want their arms out and this is fine - position the top rail high under their armpits to limit them leaning back and support them as much as possible. A sleeping child can always be rewrapped with their arms in and more support.

But what about TICKS? Well, baby is upright, tight, face visible, airways clear... and NOT kissable - I get around this by using my my phone to take selfies to check baby's happy (if they're quiet) or using a hand mirror/window/car window/random reflective surface to check in on position.

Carrier: a towel. (You can also use a selendang, khanga/kitenge, half a woven tablecloth...)
Cost: nil. (Selendangs about $12 on ebay, khanga/kitenge $10-$40, tablecloth about the same)
Baby needs: good head control, sitting independently or close to if you're not a confident wrapper.

There are a couple tutorials I put on youtube here and here if you're feeling inspired and want to give torso carrying a shot :)