How do I know what fabric to choose?
Let me start by saying this is the least variety in fabric choices I've had since I first started selling slings, so if you feel overwhelmed now, it could be worse ;)
Here are the factors to consider:
- Budget. If you have a limited budget, my least expensive fabric is French twill. I'm able to get it at a good price, and I like to pass that along to my customers. It's the thinnest fabric I have (but still safe!), so it's cool for hotter climates, although it is fairly tightly-woven, so it won't be as comfortable for long periods with heavier babies. However, for a starter sling, especially if you're not sure you'll want to babywear past a year, I think it's an excellent choice. If it's still outside your financial means, I completely understand -- I started making my own slings because I couldn't afford to buy more than one inexpensive one! I have extensive DIY information if you'd like to make your own, and it's easier than you might think. If you can spend a little more, my pricing is competitive enough that it probably doesn't make much of a difference, and you can make your choice based on other criteria.
- Climate. Aside from budget, this is the other major consideration. French twill is relatively lightweight, but the darker colors can be warmer in the sun, as all dark colors will be. It's a fine all-around fabric for any season, if you're staying out of the sun. Linen is my favorite for hot and humid conditions; it's been used for centuries as the go-to fiber for hot places. It breathes well and wicks away moisture, helping to keep you and your baby a little cooler, although babywearing at all will tend to warm you up just from the close contact. The stretch twills are on the thicker side, and I wouldn't recommend them for heat or humidity. They are best in fall through spring or at higher latitudes. The organic fabrics are a similar weight to the linen. Being cotton, they don't wick as well as linen does, but are suited for general use and tend to be fine in heat or cold. Dolcino WCRS are about the same weight as the organics, but woven a little more losely, and are similarly fine for hot or cold weather. The Bijou WCRS are heavier, but the material is very breathable and comfortable.
- Your baby's size/weight. Some fabrics are inherently more supportive than others because of the way they're woven. Generally speaking, a fabric is most comfortable for babywearing if it has a relatively low thread count (high thread counts are great for sheets, but bad for slings!), and if the threads are on the thicker side. Purpose-woven wraps, like Dolcino, Didymos, Girasol, etc. tend to have thick threads that are more widely-spaced, which gives them an elasticity (though not stretch) that makes them comfortable and supportive. The French twill is wonderful for newborns and smaller babies; it does have a higher thread count than the other fabrics I have on hand, but that's not really a consideration until you get to about 18-20lbs. Linen is more supportive, partially because of the fiber, and works well to at least 28lbs, although you may need to limit carry times if you are just buying a sling at that weight and not using it from birth. The stretch twill is surprisingly supportive (the stretch is really quite minimal), and along with the organic cottons, is my favorite for bigger babies and toddlers.
I don't sell anything I wouldn't personally wear or recommend, so in that respect, I don't think you can go wrong. I research the properties of the fabrics I choose carefully, and am confident in their safety and longevity. (Of course, slings are just fabric, and there's no magic in them -- they will eventually wear out, and the more they're used and washed, the faster they'll wear out. They are also not colorfast against sun damage -- that takes chemical treatments that I would not want next to my baby's skin -- or bleach, so if you're out in the sun, expect some fading.)