So you got a brand new woven wrap, and you’re wondering why all the ones you tried from the lending library and your friends’ bags are all soft and blankety, and yours feels like a set of stiff curtains pulled fresh from a plastic bag. Yep, your wrap needs some breaking in.
There are a lot of factors that work together to determine how soft your wrap is out of the box, including the fiber and type of weave. Most silk, bamboo, tencel, and even wool blends won’t require this type of breaking in. But if you have a new or newer wrap in cotton, linen, or hemp, there’s a good chance it hasn’t reached its full potential as far as wrapping qualities. There aren’t a lot of shortcuts to breaking in a wrap, but you can have some fun while you’re working at it! Fabric generally responds well to two things as far as breaking in: friction and/or heat. Try any of the tips below, and your new wrap will reach the coveted “soft and floppy” wrap status in no time.
1. Braid It.
And unbraid it. And braid it again. Repeat repeat repeat. This works because the fabric is being moved and passed over itself, so it doesn’t do much good to just braid it once and leave it. The next time you sit down with your favorite audio book or tv show, set your hands to braiding. Each time you braid it, pull on both ends to give it a stretch before unbraiding. Here’s a quick video demo if you need it:
2. Weave it.
This is a similar idea to braiding. If you have a stair railing or crib with rails, weave your wrap in between the rails for the length of it. But don’t just leave it there! Again you need the friction of the fabric moving across itself or another surface to help soften it. So put a kid on each end of the wrap and have them pull it back and forth through the rails! Or weave it in, then pull that end all the way through the rails, weave again… you get the idea. **Always inspect any surface over which the wrap will be moving!! The idea is to soften the fabric, not put a bunch of snags in it. Look for nails, splinters, any irregularities that could catch on the wrap, and also be aware that some paints and wood stains could transfer to your wrap.**
3. Wash it.
Washing can soften up a wrap very quickly, and any wrap that arrives new in “loom state” should be washed before wearing anyway to set the weave. **PLEASE** know about the fiber content of your wrap and consult the manufacturer’s or weaver’s instructions before washing. Most cotton, linen, and hemp wraps should be fine in the gentle cycle in your machine. Other fibers like wool, bamboo, and silk require hand washing. Always choose a liquid detergent with no optical brighteners, or gentle detergents specifically for delicate fibers like silk and wool. Babywearing 102 has a great list of general washing instructions for the most common fibers here: Babywearing 102 Washing and Care by Fiber
4. Dry it.
A tumble in the dryer, especially if you throw in a few wool dryer balls or some tennis balls in a sock, can be great for softening a wrap, **IF** your fiber can be dried! This is definitely off limits for wool, but some fibers like hemp and linen really benefit from some heat. Even a no-heat tumble can do a lot of good for wraps that can’t take high heat but aren’t too delicate. Again, know your fiber.
5. Iron it.
By this point you know what I’m going to say, right? Know your fiber! Those heat-loving yarns like linen and hemp? Tumble dry until damp, then steam iron and they will look and feel amazing. But that same heat and steam can totally ruin more delicate fibers. And there are a lot of newer fibers hitting the wrap market like repreve and tencel – research your wrap fibers before using any extreme heat or steam.
6. Cuddle it.
Just let your new wrap replace your favorite blanket. Curl up with it to watch a movie, lay it over your toddler for naptime, even wrap up in it at night!
7. Drag It.
No, do not drag it around on the floor or in the dirt. I’m talking about dragging with a knot or a pair of sling rings. You can get a pair of sling rings online or (for our St. Louis locals), at Amber Sky or Parenting Resources for about $6. And after your wrap is broken in, the rings are great for fancy finishes and tying off carries with a short wrap! Thread one end through the sling rings, and just pull the wrap through the rings, holding some tension in the rings so they drag over the surface of the fabric. Repeat from one end to the other and back and forth and back and forth. This definitely qualifies as your arm workout for the day. It takes a bit of effort, but has a high return; it’s probably one of the fastest ways to break in a new wrap. Here’s a video demo for you:
If you don’t have a pair of sling rings, you can also use one tail of your wrap to tie a slip knot, and drag the length of the wrap through the knot. This video shows dragging a wrap with a knot:
8. Swing it.
Turn your wrap into a hammock to get some stretch and movement on it! You can use a table or tie it inside of a sturdy crib, toddler bed, or bunk bed.
We have a set of columns in our entry way that are great for typing up a hammock, although I did use an old piece of fabric (sans kid) for a bit to test out whether the old wood stain was color fast or not.
Here’s an ingenious use of sling rings used to tie a hemp blend wrap up as a seat hammock on the swing set!
Obviously, use appropriate caution here. Tie with a secure double knot and low to the floor, ground or bed surface so your toddler or preschooler doesn’t fall out and get hurt. Also be aware that you do not want to tie your wrap up in a weight-bearing situation like this and leave it for days at a time; the points of the knot or wrap surface taking the most pressure can become permanently creased or take some thread shifting if it is left in the same position for too long. And again inspect any surface your wrap is tied around for anything that can snag it or any paint or stain that might transfer.
9. Wear it.
This probably only works for shorter and/or thinner wraps, but throw it on as a shawl or a scarf! The more you touch it, move it, and drape it, the faster your wrap will get broken in.
10. Wrap it. This is the obvious one. Even if your wrap is a little stiffer than you like to start out with, simply wrapping with it is one of the best ways to get it broken in. Try some new carries. Wrap your big kid for fun. Practice some fancy finishes. You have a new wrap – use it!!
And a bonus, for anyone who is too sleep deprived to put any effort into breaking in a new wrap: close it up in a clean bag and leave it in a hot car for a couple weeks. Or lend it to a friend and let them enjoy it and do all the hard work for you.
Please remember to use common sense and appropriate caution when trying out any of the above tips. A woven wrap can be a serious investment for many of us, and it would be heartbreaking to set out to get it soft and lovely and instead end up causing inadvertent damage. Know your fiber, avoid snags, and enjoy your wrap!