Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Get On Base, or What Size Woven Wrap Should I Buy?

from left to right:
Double Hammock Double Rings Base -4, Front Wrap Cross Carry Base size 6, Double Hammock with a Candy Cane Chest Belt Base -1

The world of wrapping is overwhelming to enter for several reasons. Using a woven wrap is a challenging physical skill that takes practice to acquire. Wraps are expensive. Wrappers speak their own language full of arcane acronyms and confusing shorthand, and before you know that language, you feel like an outsider. And it’s difficult to even figure out what wrap to buy in the first place because there are so many variables from blend to brand to color to used vs. new to length. And all of those are tied into the mysterious jargon and secret code besides. I want to help you with that last bit, deciding what size you need and introducing you to the language we use to talk about sizes, but let me say from the outset that this is going to be long. Really long, like a long, long wrap.

Wraps range from size 1 to 10, but 2 through 7 are the most common. A 2 is 2.7 meters long and a 7 is 5.2 meters long. Each size is half a meter longer than the previous one. (Note: some people say a 2 is 2.6 meters and a 7 is 5.1 meters long, and different brands may have their own sizing systems. This standardized system is a good basis for understanding wrap sizes, though.)

I wear size 16 and have a bra size that's only barely in the first half of the alphabet, and I have used wraps in all sizes from 2 to 8. I just can't do the same carries in each of those sizes.

Here's an example. There's a carry (method of tying a wrap around you and your baby) called front wrap cross carry (FWCC) that is often the first carry someone learns when they start wrapping. To do FWCC comfortably, I need a size 7 wrap. Other people, however, can do FWCC comfortably in a 6, a 5, or an 8. 

I can still use size 6, 5, or 8. I just have to do a different carry with them. In a size 6, I might do a carry called double hammock with a candy cane chest belt. In a size 5, I might do a ruck tied Tibetan. This is because some carries have more passes around your body than others, so they use up more length. 

Double Hammock with a Candy Cane Chest Belt, base -2

There are many, many carries that have been named and described and for which you can find tutorials and videos. But you need to know what size wrap to pick up before you start. That's where the base system comes in.

The size you need to comfortably do an FWCC, the carry I mentioned earlier, is called your base size. I don't know why FWCC was the carry picked for this; it's probably just because it's a very common carry. So my base is 7, but someone else might have a base that’s a 5 or an 8. Generally, base sizes start at 5 or so and go up from there.

Ruck with a Candy Cane Chest Belt, Base -3 and Base -4

I can relate the size of other wraps to my base. A 5, for me, is base -2 (because it's literally two numbers smaller than my base). A size 3 is base -4 for me. An 8 is base +1. Using this system, wrappers with different bases can easily recommend carries to each other, knowing that we'll be able to figure out what size wrap to use. If I say “What size do I need for a ruck tied at shoulder?”, someone can answer, “Base -4.” I’ll know to reach for a 3, and you’ll know to reach for whatever size is four less than your base, too.

Most people find that they like some sizes more than others. My favorites are my base and base -3 (which are 7 and 4 for me). If someone whose base is 6 likes base -2 best, that means she has the same favorite size as me—4—but will do different carries in it.

One more thing to know is that your base size can change. Sometimes it will go down when you become a better wrapper and can tighten your wrap jobs better. And often, it will go up when your baby becomes a hulking toddler. You can still use your same wrap, you'll just need to try a different carry.

Angela had a base size size 4 when her son was an infant but it increased to a size 5 as he grew. She can still FWCC in a 4, but as you can see in the last two pictures she is tying on the very tippy tails.  Because of this she prefers her base as a 5 now.  

Many people start out with a wrap in their base size. I did. This is often a good move because there are carries, like FWCC, that use your base size, are relatively easy to learn, and will help you build a good foundation of skills such as seat-making and strand-by-strand tightening (there’s that jargon). But you don't have to start with your base size. If you're a larger wrapper, you can still use a 4 or a 5 or whatever size you want. If you're smaller, you can still try a 7 or an 8. You’ll just need to learn specific carries for that size as it relates to your base.

Traditional Sling Carry, base -5

When you understand this language, you’ll be equipped not only to shop for a wrap, but to talk about wraps and get recommendations for new carries to try, too. Resources such as Wearing Wiki organize carries by what size you’ll need relative to your base size, and you’ll quickly see that any size wrap has something to offer you. Once you wrap your mind around this way of thinking about sizes, you’ll be able to decide what wrap to try based on the carries you’re interested in, and I hope the wrap world will seem just a bit more welcoming.

Written by Jennifer Rae Kinyak, Guest Blogger

Jennifer Rae Kinyak has been wrapping her baby, Elliott, for just shy of two years. She's a member of Land of Enchantment Babywearing in New Mexico and an admin for the Facebook group Base Love, where topics like this are discussed in great warmth and detail. She's working on drawing all 5,000 mammal species, and though the project is on a long hiatus, you can see her progress at

Thank you so much Jennifer for you insightful post!  It is a fantastic resource for all babywearers and we are lucky to have you as a Guest on our blog. 

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