Keep them close

Reviews and information about babywearing, slings, wraps and carriers for keeping your baby close and content


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Review: Wompat

That’s not a spelling error, they are called Wompats, not wombats. And no, they’re not Australian, they’re actually made in Finland!

A Wompat is a soft structured carrier, similar to an Ergo or Tula, but handmade in Finland, partly using Girasol woven wraps, Vanamo wraps or Marimekko designer fabric.

I had never tried a Wompat before, though one of my fellow babywearing pals has raved about them for years. So, recently, with my babywearing days coming to a rapid end, I thought I would buy one in a pre-school size as my last hurrah babywearing purchase.

I bought a pre-school size predominantly for my 4.5 year old son. We have a toddler Tula, that he still just about fits in, but I am hoping we might be able to do a few bushwalks now we have a pre-school sized carrier as well – my husband and I can carry one child each when their little legs get tired. And, I’ve never owned a Girasol, and they are really quite beautiful wraps, so it is nice to finally have one, albeit in carrier form, before the end of my babywearing journey.

Wompat carrier

My son, 4.5 years, in our pre-school Wompat

I will try to explain here about how purchasing a Wompat works. Bear with me, as it’s a little bit complicated. They come in four sizes: baby (up to 18 months), medium (1 to 3 years), toddler (2 to 4 years), and pre-school (3 to 5 years). You can order a custom wompat from www.wearababy.com in the size you want, the fabric you want and the waist size and shoulder length you want. While mostly made as semi-wrap conversions (just the panel is made from wrap), you can also order half-wrap conversions (panel and waist and shoulders are made from wrap, with a cotton inside layer). Or you can buy an in stock Wompat from authorised distributors. In Australia, the distributors are Woven Wraps Australia, Nurture Nest and KAAS Kids. I bought my pre-school size Wompat with Girasol Earthy Rainbow wrap and black cotton twill straps and waistband from Woven Wraps Australia.

Pre-school Wompat in Girasol Earthy Rainbow

Pre-school Wompat in Girasol Earthy Rainbow

So, here’s my thoughts on the Wompat.

Pros

  • Comes in pre-school size (there aren’t a huge amount of options in this category)
  • Uses gorgeous Girasol wraps
  • Can order custom carrier to suit your preferences
  • Has a seriously cute pixie hood
  • Has a soft, squishy waist band. While it can be a personal preference, squishy can feel good. As comparison, the Tula has quite a firm waist band (which I also like)
  • Has dual adjust buckles and perfect fit adjusters, allowing for a good, tight fit
  • At around AUS$270 for an in stock carrier, it is a fair bit cheaper than a semi-wrap conversion Tula at the current exchange rate (August 2015).

Cons

  • Webbing and buckles aren’t as high quality as a Tula or Ergo
  • Shoulders aren’t super-padded. Again, this is personal preference, but compared with my Tula, it is a noticeable difference in padding.

I’m looking forward to a few bushwalks in this carrier over the coming months. It fits my son nicely to the knee, and is going to soften up quickly to  be a very comfortable carrier.

wompat

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Custom conversions

The start of 2015 brings a much-anticipated new converter of custom babywearing carriers to the local Sydney market, by the name of Eridani, which has inspired me to write about custom conversions and how you can go about getting yourself one.

In case you’re not sure what I’m talking about, a custom conversion is where someone takes a woven wrap and converts it into a carrier like a mei tai, half buckle (buckle waist/wrap straps) or a full buckle (like a soft structured carrier) – there are also other carriers like reverse half buckles and ring tais, but I wont confuse you with that just yet!

And why would you want such a conversion? Well, it means you can get a one of a kind carrier just for you, you can get your absolute favourite wrap made into a carrier, and there is often a range of sizing and dimensions to choose from that you don’t get in an off the shelf carrier, which is great if you want to keep carrying your toddler or pre-schooler long after they’ve grown out of your Ergo or Manduca, or if your older child has special needs.

So where can you find one? That is the million-dollar question, as getting your hands on a custom carrier can be quite hard work – many of the converters have waiting lists, and some sell their slots by random draw, making your chances of nabbing one even harder. This is why the addition of Eridani to the market place is most welcome!

Here’s a bit of a run down on who you might like to consider for custom conversions, first in Australia, and then some overseas options.

Eridani: Eridani is based in Sydney, and has just started taking orders for full buckles, half buckles and mei tais. She has been doing ring slings for a while, and her attention to detail is amazing – I’ve had her make me a few ring slings in the last 12 months, and the quality is second to none, I wouldn’t go anywhere else. Her initial slots were snapped up, but stay tuned to her Facebook page for information on when she will be releasing more slots.

half buckle carrier

A handcrafted wrap conversion half buckle by Eridani

Maddimoo: Maddimoo is based in Perth, and has been one of the favourite convertors in the Australian market for a few years, generally offering her slots via random draw once a month. She is currently on maternity leave, but if you’re not in the market right now, she’s worth checking out in the future.

BelloBorn: Based in Bellingen, NSW, Heidi makes a full range of custom conversions including less well known carriers like reverse half buckles (tie waist, buckle shoulder straps) and ring tais (ring waist and shoulders). Heidi takes orders via a waiting list system and is booked up until August 2015 at this stage.

Sweetness: Sweetness makes mei tais, half and reverse half buckles, and full buckles from northern NSW and offers a variety of sizing options to suit the age of your baby and your size. Her waiting list is currently approximately 4-5 months long.

Chrysalis Tree: Amy is based in Adelaide and makes half buckles and mei tais. I was lucky enough to get a custom half buckle from Chrysalis Tree in 2013, and it is a fabulous carrier. Super comfortable, with fantastic attention to detail. After launching in 2013, Amy’s waiting list was full very quickly, and she has since been on maternity leave and then dealing with some health issues, but she is hopefully getting back to the sewing machine in the near future, so keep an eye on her Facebook page for updates if you have the time to wait.

half buckle carrier

My beloved Chrysalis Tree half buckle, converted from Natibaby Marine Ferns

Hipababy: Hipababy makes mei tais, full buckles, ring slings and podaegis (a baby carrier originally from Korea, with two long shoulder straps and a blanket panel). She releases slots via her Etsy store (fastest fingers) and also by random draw.

Under My Wing: Under My Wing is another recent addition to the market, launching in 2014. She offers mei tais, full buckles and half buckles in two sizes, as well as podaegis and ring slings. She also specialises in big kid carriers, for older children who may still need/want to be carried. Based in Adelaide, she sells slots via random draw on her Facebook page.

Now, if you’re in the USA or Canada, the sad news is that you can’t buy from Australian convertors – restrictions on insurance mean Australian vendors are not allowed to sell to US or Canadian customers (unless they pay exorbitant insurance premiums to have the US and Canada included, which most vendors wouldn’t do).

If you’re in Australia, and want to look further afield for a convertor, here are a few worth looking at overseas.

Bamberoo: Bamberoo is a very popular maker of carriers based in the USA, including canvas and solarveil carriers, as well as wrap conversions. Slots are sold via Etsy and Hyena Cart and sell out extremely quickly; not many Australians are lucky enough to have internet speeds fast enough to compete with US buyers, but it’s still worth a try if you’re up for a challenge!

Bamberoo OC: If your internet is slow or you’re not on the internet when Bamberoo releases slots, Bamberoo OC is a convertor in Europe who makes Bamberoos under licence. Slightly less popular than the US versions, it can be easier to get a slot. Making it even more achievable, Frangipani Baby, a vendor based in the Blue Mountains, NSW, offers Bamberoo OC slots via her website on a regular basis.

Madame Googoo: Based in Poland, Madame Goo Goo makes a range of canvas/fabric carriers as well as wrap conversions. She produces some very unique carriers with designs taken from animation and other eclectic inspirations, and includes options for special details on items like hoods and reach straps.

Obimama: Obimama has been in the market for a while and is known to be one of the best mei tai makers in the business. Based in the US, she offers a range of non-wrap mei tais as well as selling coveted, hard to win slots for custom wrap conversion mei tais. More expensive than most convertors, she offers her conversions in three price points depending on how much customisation you want.

Sling Betty: This UK convertor makes mei tais, half buckles and podaegis, with slots sold via random draw announced on her website, Facebook page and mailing list. With postage and exchange rate it can be a bit expensive to get a carrier made overseas, but Sling Betty’s prices are pretty good, so it may still work out at a reasonable price if you can pick up a slot.

Ocah: Also based in the UK, Ocah is a highly respected brand offering mei tais, full buckles, half buckles, reverse half buckles and podaegis. Slots are sold via random draw, but are more pricey than Sling Betty, so after exchange rate and postage costs they are relatively expensive conversions.

This is not an exhaustive list, and if you have a conversion by a vendor not listed here I’d love to hear what you think and where to find out more! And please keep in mind, this list includes reputable, insured convertors – but anyone with a sewing machine can try to sell you a conversion, so before you hand over your hard earned (and your wrap), make sure to check they have appropriate insurance and see some examples of their work.