All About Woven Wraps

Have you heard other babywearing moms speaking what sounds like a secret, foreign language with words like “Ruck” and “Gira” and “Kokadi” and “Double Hammock” and “Rebozo” and the like and wondered what in the world they were talking about? Or what about all those abbreviations – DH, TIF, FWCC, TAS, RuckTUB, CCCB – do they make your head spin? Babywearing is already a world of its own, but just the vocabulary associated with woven wraps can be a bit intimidating, for sure!

But Tucson Babywearers has some good news for you!! In this post, we are going to try and help eliminate some of the mystery of the woven wrap world so that you no longer feel like you are in over your head, and hope that in the process, you discover the beauty of woven wraps!

What is a woven wrap?
A woven wrap is called WOVEN because it is made on a weaving loom (some by hand by skilled weavers, and some by a machine managed by a skilled worker). In the most basic sense, it is a long piece of cloth used to secure your baby to your body. The continuous length of fabric offers moldability and support unlike any other baby carrier out there, and is non- (or very slightly) stretchy so that a single layer is able to carry as much weight as you can hold! The techniques used to wrap are what give the baby stability and security, so we advise that utmost caution be used when practicing and wearing a woven wrap (or any baby carrier, for that matter!).

What are woven wraps made of?
The fabric that a woven wrap is made from is not the kind of fabric you can buy at a fabric store, nor is it something that you can DIY (unless you happen to own a loom…and if you do, can we come over and check it out?!). It is a “woven” fabric, and depending on the manufacturer, can range from a loose to tight weave, a weave with diagonal give to no stretch at all, a “grippy” to “slick” weave; most of the differences stem from the content of the fibers being used.

Many woven wraps are 100% cotton (Girasol, Dolcino, and BB Slen brands are pretty much exclusively all-cotton weaves). Many other woven wrap brands (Didymos, Kokadi, Oscha, Natibaby, etc) include “blends” in addition to the all-cotton weaves: cotton/linen, cotton/hemp, cotton/bamboo, cotton/wool, cotton/silk, cotton/cashmere…and even some triple blends (ie. cotton/wool/silk)!

What are the “parts” of a woven wrap?
A woven wrap has a center (usually shown with a marker or tag) so that you can line your wrap up to your baby and/or your body as needed for each carry that you will be tying. Wraps also have two long hemmed sides, or edges, called “rails.” These rails are referred to as the TOP rail or the BOTTOM rail (depending on how you are holding your wrap, and they are interchangeable!). Beginners often like wraps that have two different colored rails – as are commonly found in striped or “rainbow” wraps, although some more solid-color wraps will have a unique way to distinguish between the two rails by color, as well. Differently colored top and bottom rails helps new wrappers easily identify what needs to go where!

Another important part of woven wraps are the “tails” – the short hemmed ends of the wrap. These will be the parts that hang down once you have tied everything off. Each brand of woven wrap has its own unique taper on the tail – some feature a deep, severe taper (18”), some are a simple diagonal cut of 6-8”, and some even have a blunt, straight edge. Some wraps even finish with fringe in the “tails”.

Note: when measuring your own woven wrap, or buying a woven wrap from someone else, be sure that identify (or ask) whether the measurement includes the taper or fringe. Wraps are typically measured straight down the middle, lengthwise.

Speaking of Measurements….
Sizing is oftentimes one of the most confusing aspects of woven wraps for those entering the “wrapping” world. It certainly doesn’t help that woven wraps have two ways of sizing (a number and a corresponding measurement in meters). Yes, meters! If you are anything like me, you will constantly be switching back and forth between tabs to check the conversion from meters to feet and inches!

To help you make sense of the sizing, below is a list of the standard woven wrap lengths in regular sizes, metric sizing, as well as US measurements.

size 2 = 2.7 meters = 8.86 feet = 102.36 inches
size 3 = 3.1 meters = 10.17 feet = 122.05 inches
size 4 = 3.6 meters = 11.81 feet = 141.73 inches
size 5 = 4.2 meters = 13.78 feet = 165 inches
size 6 = 4.6 meters = 15.09 feet = 181.10 inches
size 7 = 5.2 meters = 17.06 feet = 204.72 inches
size 8 = 5.60 meters = 18.37 feet = 220.47 inches

Ok…now what size do I need??
You will want to choose your wrap size based on what you want to do with it! The beauty of woven wraps is that there are so very many choices of how to wear your baby: front carrier, hip carries, back carries, newborn carries, even tandem carries…and all the variations each of those options offer!

Your size (height, frame) will make a difference, too. On average, most average size women can do most all carries with a size 6 (4.6 meter) woven wrap – this is referred to as your “base” size. If you are plus sized, pregnant, or have an unusually large bustline, you may consider going up a size. If you are more petite or have a narrower frame, a size 5 may be your ideal base size.

As babywearers become more proficient in wrapping with a woven, many find that they can accomplish variations of their “go-to” carries with the next size (or two!) down from their base size. “Shorty” wraps (size 2 or 3) become popular for those that become more and more comfortable in their wrapping – due to less fabric, they are more portable, don’t drag on the ground when tying in a parking lot, can be quick and easy, and can be used with several different carries (especially back carries).

How to “wrap” with a woven wrap…
Woven wraps have the highest learning curve of all babywearing carriers. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible, but it does require patience, some dexterity, and the ability to follow a series of directions from start to finish. Remember, you are wrapping your baby in that beautiful fabric, so you want it to be just right!

With practice, being able to wrap proficiently becomes a fun (and addicting!) process. But don’t be surprised if your first three or four or ten tries are miserable failures – keep at it, you will get there! Feeling like your arms won’t cooperate and go where you want them to go, or struggling to keep your sweet little infant from wobbling from side to side while you tie this lovely piece of fabric around the two of you are both 100% normal for this learning process. Rails will get twisted, passes will go where you did not intend for them to go, you will get halfway through and then forget what comes next, just take a deep breath, unwrap and start over…or even wait a few hours and try again! I don’t think I have ever met anyone who learned to use a woven wrap perfectly and precisely on the very first try.

Whether you learn better visually (from pictures or videos) or tend to be more hands-on, learn by working side-by-side with someone in person – there are resources for you! Our Pinterest page is full of videos and tutorials for front, hip, and back carries, and our local Facebook Group page is a great place to post pictures to get feedback or troubleshoot any problems you are having. We also hold regular meetups and babywearing demonstration classes so that you can get more hands-on assistance. Just know that babywearers love to help other babywearers figure it all out!

Just a few SAFETY items to keep in mind:
-Back carries MUST NOT be done with a stretchy wrap…woven wraps are the only wrap-style carrier that is safe for use in back carries (due to the stretchy nature of the knit-type wraps, children can arch back and fall out of the carry).

-Be sure to give attention to making a deep and secure “seat” when using a woven wrap in all carry positions. The seat is a critical component of a good, secure carry in a woven wrap.

-When attempting to learn a back carry, be sure to do so over a soft surface (such as a couch or bed), or even sitting or kneeling on the floor until you become proficient at the carry. Having someone to “spot” you and/or having a large mirror nearby to help you see what is going on back there is also helpful.

How do I take care of my woven wrap?
First, don’t be afraid to actually wear your woven wrap! Some wovens may seem too pretty (or expensive) to use everyday, but, in reality, they are quite durable and can stand up to the test of living amongst babies and toddlers and getting twisted and pulled and tied and drug around. The baby may spit up on it, your 3-year-old may decide it makes a VERY pretty napkin, or your husband may decide it makes an excellent changing pad. Don’t worry…the great news is that for most woven wraps, a simple delicate cycle in the washing machine with cold water and a line dry will get your wrap clean and keep it in great condition! Some wraps made of silk, wool, and cashmere will require special care, including handwashing, but are still just as durable as the other woven wrap blends.

With its first wash, due to the woven nature, your wrap may shrink slightly, but the manufacturer sizing should take that into account. It is always recommended that whether you buy a new or used woven wrap, to measure it when it arrives (but keep in mind it may still shrink upon washing!).

How to “break in” a new, woven wrap.
Sometimes, you will buy a woven that looks stunningly beautiful, but when it arrives it truly feels like a horse blanket or window drapery! No worries…these wraps simply need to be “broken in“! Some easy ways to help soften your woven include: braiding, washing, ironing, sleeping on it, sitting on it, or even letting your toddler or older children use it as a hammock or for a gentle game of tug-o-war! Some will let a friend borrow and use it, cuddle with it as a blanket, use it as a picnic table, even a sunshade in the car! Basically, anything that gets it moving to help loosen the fiber. And, before you know it, your wrap will be in the nice, soft, floppy condition you were hoping for! Don’t fret about “injuring” your woven…they were made to endure pulling and load-bearing and scrunching and braiding and twisting and tying and loving. Definitely be sure to avoid sharp things like nails, pet claws, rough/splintery wood, and the like that can snag the fabric, though.

Some important words/phrases relating to woven wraps
Rails: The edge of the wrap that run lengthwise. These are hemmed in a variety of ways including double rolled, flat, or simply using the selvedge edge.
Tails: The ends of the wrap which can be tapered, diagonal, straight, or fringed.
Weave: The way in which the wrap was woven. There are a multitude of weaves such as flat, twill, broken twill, jacquard, and diamond.
Weft: The threads running widthwise on a woven wrap. When the color of the weft is changed, the entire look of the wrap is changed – this is especially noticeable on “rainbow” wraps such as Girasols.
Warp: The threads running lengthwise on a woven wrap. These are the main colors used in the wrap and can be a solid, stripes, or a pattern.
Seat: The part of the wrap where baby’s bottom sits! The bottom rail on the seat should be tucked up through baby’s legs coming up to about waist level, creating an actual pocket, or seat; the fabric of the seat should then extend from “knee-to-knee” to promote proper, ergonomic positioning, keeping baby’s knees higher than his bottom.
“Poppage”: When baby’s bottom loses its “seat” or comes out of the wrap, thus exposing baby’s body without any support and risking safety…giving utmost attention to creating a good seat helps prevent this safety hazard.
Pass: Each time you wrap across baby’s body, it is a pass. Be sure to give attention to keeping your passes taut and tucked smoothly to create the tidiest, most supportive carry possible!
Reinforced: The rails of the wrap cross over baby more than once creating more support.

Some Favorite Beginning Carries to Try
Front Carries:
FWCC = Front Wrap Cross Carry
PWCC = Pocket Wrap Cross Carry
FCC = Front Cross Carry (a pre-tied carry great for quick in/out)
SCC = Short Cross Carry
Kangaroo Carry

Hip Carries:
HCC = Hip Cross Carry
CHCC = Coolest Hip Cross Carry

Back Carries:
Ruck TIF = Rucksack Tied in Front (variation: Tied Tibetan)
BWCC = Back Wrap Cross Carry
SHBC = Secure High Back Carry
DH = Double Hammock

Please be sure to visit our Pinterest page for more information on buying, using, and caring for woven wraps