We asked Dr Rosie Knowles to review our first Soft Structured Carrier. As a sling consultant and the wonderful woman behind Sheffield Sling Surgery, she has many years of experience carrying her own two children and helping others to carry theirs. Here is what she and the testers from Sheffield Sling Surgery had to say.
Oscha Slings needs no introduction; they are famous around the world for their high quality, beautiful and supportive wraps and ring slings. They pride themselves on their conscientious approach to their business, using only premium cottons and the finest, British & Italian yarns from ethical sources.
Over the last few years they have painstakingly applied this same rigorous attention to detail to developing a range of soft-structured carriers; and sent me their new Coorie ring-tai toddler carrier for review.
“Coorie” is a Scottish word meaning to nestle or snuggle, often followed by the word “doun”. To “coorie doun” is a perfect description of what the testing children did when they tried the carrier out for me; they snuggled down!
What is a Ring-Tai?
The Coorie toddler carrier is made from Oscha wrap fabric, and is designed to be used for children between 25lb and 45lb.
A ring-tai is a mei-tai with a waistband that is secured by two rings – the rings are fixed onto one side of the waistband and the long end of the waistband tie is fed through both rings and then back again, like a belt, and pulled snug.
The Coorie Ring-Tai
Oscha use their highland pleating technique in their ring sling shoulders and have used a similar fold with the Coorie waistband. It is very intricately designed and sewn from a full width of wrap fabric that has been pleated and then secured into place. This folding provides a high degree of mouldability and support without the need for foam padding in the central part of the waistband that attaches to the main back panel. The waistband stretches on the diagonal and is floppy and soft to touch with no rigidity. There is a little bit of gentle padding in the “tongue” of the waistband beneath the rings at the side to ensure no digging, and the full width of the wrap flares out from the other edge of the waistband. This width allows plenty of adjustment of the free half of the waistband, and can be tightened in increments, just like a ring sling, to ensure optimum fit across the wearer’s body. There’s a huge amount of work behind this design that seems so very obvious and simple! The rings are shiny, not matte, and smaller in size than the rings of the ring slings.
How does it feel?
The carrier is visually very appealing, being made with wrap fabric (my tester was made with the Zhuilin Dawn cotton wrap) and many of those who used it commented on how pretty it was.
The waistband is very comfortable indeed! It takes a little getting used to as I haven’t used many ring waists before; I found it easiest to do up on the front and then shift the carrier around to the correct place and then apply the finishing adjustments with one hand while holding the waistband flat against me to ensure a snug fit. It is worth taking a little effort to ensure an excellent fit by tightening in increments. The rings are smaller in size than those on ring slings, which makes the fabric a little harder to thread through than ring slings, but once done it is secure with no slip.
I really appreciated the soft mould-ability of the pleated waistband. As it isn’t padded, it moves much more flexibly and doesn’t fold over in uncomfortable ways or dig in over the iliac crest. In front carries, I liked the feel of the wide soft wrap fabric in my lumbar region rather than a buckle, and in back carries it was lovely to be able to avoid muffin top by spreading the fabric widely! The rings do not dig in at all due to the little padded tongue.
I found it easy to put on for front carries, as the wrap fabric moves and glides nicely into place around my child. The straps weren’t too wide and were able to sit on the centre of my shoulders without riding up into my neck. Normally I prefer wrap straps on soft structured carriers to allow spread on my shoulders but these felt lovely and light and the grip of the wrap helped them to stay put. The padded part of the straps flared out early enough in their length so that I (a size 10-12) could spread them across my side and over baby’s body. In back carries with a small toddler, the padded part of the shoulder wasn’t too long; I was able to spread the fabric over the knee pits nicely. The half width straps are light and easy to manoeuvre, and the knot is quick and simple to make with no stiffness (this is partly due to the softness of the wrap used to make this tester, but all wraps will break in with use!)
Back carries were very comfy, as the waistband works very well. The carrier is quite tall so some smaller toddlers felt they weren’t quite able to get their arms out; but we rectified this by allowing the panel to fold down over the waistband slightly to reduce its height. This also had the effect of reducing the width knee to knee a little (due to the trapezium shape) which meant a better fit for them too!
The soft fabric with the leg padding meant it felt comfy for the children who tried it, many fell asleep; and it fitted a wide range of ages due to the spreadable part of the straps. It feels airy yet strong when it is on, and the spine is well supported. The panel, being double thickness, doesn’t sag, even though it feels light and soft.
The adjustable hood is simple to use in front carries; it only has two length settings. Getting the hood up in back carries is harder! It rolls away easily into a supportive neck cushion if required, the fabric-covered buttons are easy to slip into the buttonholes. The buttons are sewn into the panel and feel secure rather than flimsy, but I’ll watch with interest to see how they hold up with repeated use (so far so good).
A few of my library visitors tried it out and feedback was great, the waistband was a hit, and everyone enjoyed the straps too, even the die-hard wrap-strap fans. People liked the idea of being able to buy a very beautiful ring-tai off the peg; especially considering how very comfortable they found it.
The technical aspects of the Oscha Coorie Toddler
The fitted waistband measures 13.5cm deep by 63cm long (to the end of the rings), and the free waistband is 95 cm long, allowing for a wide range of wearer sizes. The narrowest width is probably about 56cm in circumference (closed to the snuggest) and the widest with enough length (10cm beyond the rings) for easy securing is probably 120cm. I think this could be a little longer; a size 14/16 woman has about 20cm left. For future runs I’d suggest having the option of a longer waist-strap. -Depending on demand, we are happy to develop a longer waist strap in the future.
The body panel is made of two layers of wrap fabric and shaped. There are seams at the base of the panel but these aren’t seat darts as they don’t form a “bucket” like some other carriers, so the panel is flat. There is some soft leg padding. The panel is a trapezium shape, being 47.5 cm wide at the base and narrows to 32 cm at the top between the shoulder straps, with the length of the panel being 41 cm. The hood is adjustable (by runners of fabric at the two sides), it rolls up and can be secured with cute little buttons. It has little poppered loops that feed through corresponding loops on the shoulder straps. – Most models do not have poppers.
The shoulder straps are also carefully pleated with a small amount of padding inside the strap, to add to their cushy feel. The padded section is medium width – 8.5 cm wide and the padded part before the straps flare out into half the width of the wrap is 40 cm. The total length of the straps is about 220 cm.
It has been carefully and thoughtfully handmade with very neat stitching and hemming. There is appropriate sinkage at the shoulders with sturdy stitching visible on the outside, and the panel feels well sunk into the waistband. I have not seen the internal structure of the carrier but it has passed all the relevant safety standards.
Effects of washing
I must admit to a certain trepidation when washing the Coorie; would I need to spend a lot of time rearranging the pleats? I was very pleased to find that everything kept its shape very well; the pleats remained sharply folded and snapped back into perfect placement with simply holding the waistband or straps with a little tension to smooth out any slack.
I and the families who have been trying out this carrier have all thoroughly enjoyed using it. Everyone has found it easy to use, and very comfortable. Even those who love wrap strapped carriers found the straps sat nicely on their shoulders and were more comfy than typical thicker padded straps; this is due to the angling from the body panel and the mould-ability. Everyone loved the waistband, how soft it felt, how little it dug in and how supportive it felt. I am sure this will be a popular option for those who would love to have an Oscha wrap in a soft-structured-carrier format!