How to make your own DIY baby wrap: UK edition, Part 1 (scouring!)

If you spend long enough on certain babywearing Facebook groups, in addition to talk of various wrap brands, you’ll also hear talk of homemade baby wraps. These come in a variety of forms – you can buy woven fabric that is purpose-made for babywearing (such as from Honeycomb Loom in the UK), or you can buy fabric that happens to be suitable for babywearing. One such fabric is osnaburg, which is much-vaunted for its affordability (at least in the US) and wrapping qualities. On the bolt, osnaburg looks quite unlike any purpose-made wrap fabric: it is coarse, thin, and firmly located in the ‘utility’ section of the fabric store. However, it is said to be grippy, breathable, and coming only in one shade – natural off-white, with little brown specks – it is perfect for at-home dye jobs.

Because, obviously, I have neither enough wraps, nor enough things to fill my time with, I decided to make and dye my own wrap using osnaburg fabric. I followed the excellent instructions on the DIY Babywearing Wiki, but since this is maintained by American DIYers, I thought I’d do a UK-specific (and an Accidental Weaver-specific) write-up of the process. Here goes!

  • Step 1: Decide you’d quite like to make a wrap out of this ‘osnaburg’ stuff people keep referring to. Discover that it is not as attractively affordable in the UK as elsewhere, but think, ahah! – we’ll be visiting the Little Weaver’s grandparents in the US soon, so we can go fabric shopping whilst there. Mention this to the Scottish Historian, who points out that a nearby village you regularly drive through, Dairsie, was previously called Osnaburgh. Look it up and discover this is thought to be derived from said village historically weaving osnaburg fabric (which itself derives its name from the town of its origin, Osnabrück in Germany). Reflect on the irony of travelling halfway round the world to buy something once woven ten miles from your front door.

  • Step 2: Fly to America. The Little Weaver catches flu (actual, gosh-darned flu) on the flight over. Transmits it to you. And to the Scottish Historian. And to his parents. And to his 94 year-old grandmother. Spend 10 days of your 14-day stay eating takeaway and mostly being stuck inside. Once he is out of bed, your father-in-law remembers you wanted to visit Hobby Lobby (a big chain fabric store) and insists this be the focus of one of the very few expeditions you all make as a family. Visit Hobby Lobby with Little Weaver, the Scottish Historian, and parents-in-law. Secure enough osnaburg to make a size 7 wrap (and more!). Spot some nice duck cloth, which you’ve read is also good for making wraps, and get that for good measure. By the till, notice some discounted duck fabric and get that too. When you pack to go home, discover that the acquisition of fabric, among other things, means your gear will not fit into the two suitcases you came with. Borrow a third bag from parents-in-law.

  • Step 3: A couple of weeks after getting home, work up the energy to do something with the giant pile of fabric in your spare room. The first thing you need to do is scour the osnaburg. Osnaburg is an unprocessed fabric, which means it’s covered in a lot of gunk. Which leads us to the focus of part 1 of this ‘guide’…

Scouring Osnaburg

  • Step 3a: Gather your equipment. You need Dawn dish-soap and soda ash, which in UK-terms means a bag of soda crystals and some Fairy Liquid. You also need a big plastic tub or box with a lid. Because you live in a small village and refuse to order said plastic box from Amazon (think of how much cardboard they’d package the thing in!), this delays the process by quite a few days.
Photo ID: A bag labelled ‘soda crystals’ and a bottle labelled ‘Fairy’ resting on top of a bundled pile of natural-coloured fabric.
  • Step 3b: You have a box! Manage to get contact-napping baby to sleep and roll away rather than falling asleep yourself. Get the kettle boiling and heat up a large saucepan on the hob.

  • Step 3c: Weigh the osnaburg. This means weighing yourself and then picking up the osnaburg and figuring the difference. Remind yourself that whilst the figure on the scales is currently fairly pleasing, you mustn’t maintain your current rate of chocolate consumption once baby stops breastfeeding. The purpose of weighing the osnaburg is to know how much washing soda and Fairy liquid to put in later.

  • Step 3d: Mention to the Scottish Historian that you need a sticky thing of some description to stir the osnaburg in the hot water. He offers to go break up a chair for you (you currently have an excess of chairs awaiting pickup by a charity shop). You say this is wasteful. He offers to go saw off a bit of the Christmas tree currently awaiting pickup in the compost bin. Point out that this might snag the fabric. He vanishes to the shed, and comes back with a chair leg left over from the last chair he broke up for stirring paint with. This leg is un-painty and he has sanded the ends so they don’t snag the fabric. This is high romance with a seven-month old.
Photo ID: A foot-long wooden stick, flared in the middle, sits on top of a clear plastic box. Condensation can be seen dripping on the inside and, faintly, the part-soaked osnaburg.
  • Step 3e: Start pouring the hot water on the osnaburg, refilling kettle and saucepan and adding more and more by batches (putting the lid onto your 64L Really Useful box in between to keep the heat in). Despite the whole weighing-the-fabric business at step c, just chuck a load of washing soda and Fairy liquid in and say “that looks like it’ll be enough!”

  • Step 3f: Little Weaver wakes up from nap in a terrible, I-am-a-teething-seven-month-old rage. Put her in a wrap on your back to continue working on making a wrap. Mentally acknowledge that this is slightly silly. Finish pouring water over the fabric until it is fully immersed. Chuck in a bit more washing soda and Fairy for good measure. Stir it with your patented Stirry Stick. Set a timer for an hour.

  • Step 3g: Make dinner whilst avoiding the box full of hot water in the middle of your kitchen. Someone thinking ahead more would have put the box not in the middle of the kitchen. You are not this person.

  • Step 3h: After dinner, the timer goes off. Take this as an excuse to abandon the Scottish Historian to the unenviable task of cleaning up the Little Weaver post-meal. Realise this won’t work since the box is filled with approximately 30 litres of water and you cannot lift it by yourself. Enlist his help. Transfer soaking wet wrap to washing machine and put on rinse cycle (which in a UK front-loader takes 45 minutes, rather than the 5-10 minutes of mother-in-law’s top loader, which you developed great affection for during the Flu Holiday). Empty really disgusting water down utility room sink. Wipe down sink thoroughly because the cats sleep in there and they are so not above licking the disgusting osnaburg residue.

Photo ID: Osnaburg fabric peeking out of really disgusting, pale-tea-coloured water. The colour is solely from all of the gunk removed during the scouring process.
  • Step 3i: Do an extra rinse cycle because it turns out that my free-and-easy behaviour with the Fairy liquid bottle resulted in a lot of bubbles.

  • Step 3j: Once the rinses are complete, put the wrap up to dry. You don’t have a tumble drier and you live in Scotland and its winter, so the wrap is hung up in an elaborate fashion in the living room with a (constantly-supervised!) electric heater underneath it.
Photo ID: A long stretch of natty-coloured fabric is hung up to dry on a fairly eldritch combination of clothes horses, and clothes hangers hanging from a a curtain rail. A tidyish (for once) living room can be seen behind.

And so, I now have a scoured length of osnaburg which, once it is dry, I will be able to cut to size and hem. To be continued (once I get myself organised with thread and other useful things like that) in part two…!

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