I’ve been mulling over this review for a few weeks as I know it needs to be critical and I will do my best, but in the face of what is probably my most equally enjoyed sling (McQueen is the other), it’s going to be difficult. This review is two-fold, taking in the Linuschka but also the matching Mama Twofish fiddle necklace.
This comes at a time when I am feeling distinctly jaded. Jaded by the cyclicity of the weeks, worn down by an out of sorts Smallest who is waking up at all hours and….feeling a little agnostic towards the wrap world. In short it’s taking a lot to get me remotely excited by anything new. I don’t know why, it’s not as if there aren’t any innovations in terms of blends. I suspect it is the sheer speed and volume of releases at the moment, and in a market that is shifting, where second hand wraps sit for weeks at well below retail, I am cautious in committing my cash for fabric. Sitting alongside this is a low level hum of anxiety that has been constant for a couple of years. It ebbs and flows depending on circumstances but at the moment I wade through a treacle-like weight of too many indecisions. It means I sit on my hands more for tempting purchases otherwise my mouth might gape open in a yawning hunger for some reviving but short lived indulgence. Wraps are a dangerous product when you feel like comfort spending.
I had been sitting on a stalk free pass (SFP) for Linuschka for ages. We’re talking months and months. In part because nothing had kicked me in the emotional gut and the occasions when it did I had no spare spondulix. I craved for a release that spoke to me at the right time because the only Linuschka I have ever had – Bolero Beaujolais – was the classiest tussah silk and I regretted selling it.
Linuschka is a German brand, fronted by the quietly charismatic Oxana, that specialises in high quality yarns combined with artistic designs that are woven in teeny tiny releases. I don’t know how she does it. The Valentine’s Day period saw a rash of releases and one in particular that I espied from the preview video had me PMing Oxana about calling in my SFP.
Owls Llama is the first time I have come into contact with the classic Owls design. Artipoppe has its Argus, Solnce its Genesis, Sling Studio its Falling Feathers and Linuschka has these slightly irate looking owls whooshing their wings in a continuous swirling design. I say irate because that’s how they appeared to me from afar before receiving llama but I can now see that they’re dramatic creatures, caught mid take off, and don’t seem touchy at all.
What had sold Llama to me was the RIOT of colour; it nourished my soul just looking at it, never mind handling it. It is made with a blend of 40% organic cotton, 30% satsuma and yellow shaded shaggy soft, woolly tussah silk and 30% very fine multi-coloured (aqua, teal, pink, purple, blue) Japanese bourette silk. I have never tried Japanese silk despite it being all the rage in the wrap world; mostly because it’s usually beyond my realm of affordability but it suddenly felt accessible. The wrap weighs approximately 300g m/sq.
I bought the owls as a ring sling. I had requested one that I could back carry with as Oxana makes them to order and I like the utility of being able to front and back carry with a ring sling. Offered as a size 6 or a ring sling, I understand there are four Llama ring slings out there and that’s it. How does she do it?
What arrived absolutely surpassed my expectations – it was unctuously soft straight from the fancy dust bag and I couldn’t believe it was in loom state. The texture married both the outstanding tussah that Oxana uses and a dry and very, very pretty bourette. Together it felt like someone had reached into the crowds at Holi, grasped a cloud of hurled powders mid-air and embedded them into a wrap. It also measured a staggering 270cm to the rings so it is essentially a size 2 wrap with rings. This marked brand new territory for me and I wasn’t sure, measuring a humble 155cm tall, whether this ring sling and I would get on.
Introducing Mama TwoFish
At the same time as Owls Llama shipping, I was contacted about reviewing a fiddle necklace for Susie at Mama TwoFish. Fiddle necklaces are designed to be worn by mothers as a diversionary aid for fiddly fingers during breastfeeding. They’re usually made from very tactile beads that are threaded onto strong cord. The furthest I have gone down the route of jewellery like this is the mama metal necklace that I wear a lot at the weekends when I’m off work duty. I had noticed fiddle necklaces but wondered if they were a little too, well, babyish; jewellery designed solely for the child. Jewellery is a very integral part of my identity and I often refer to my work jewellery as being part of my daily armour. You can usually gauge how I am by noting how spiked my rings are. Tricky meeting? I’ll surely be wearing the most severe Shaun Leane in my arsenal.
My interest was piqued and I went to look at Susie’s work and recognised it immediately. Susie creates a signature shape of beads that cross into a loop that is both easily grasped by small hands but modern in its appearance. Susie began Mama TwoFish by chance when she saw a fiddle necklace and knew she could improve on it. Having come from a non-practical job to motherhood, she describes the process of fiddling with colours and threading beads to be immensely soothing. I can definitely relate to that; mental sustenance for me comes from creating things.
Smallest is a very fiddly breastfed child; when she’s not running her fingers up and down my silk dressing gown or stroking my skin she’s often pulling at my jewellery, buttons or such like. Aged two she’s down to a couple of feeds a day and seems in no hurry to break this nurturing bond. I fought hard to establish breastfeeding with her. The veil of postnatal depression had come down just as we realised Smallest had a posterior tongue tie that took two hospital visits to resolve. So her continued enthusiasm is fine by me as I figure, like her elder sister did this age, she’ll one day turn around, shake her head and ask for a glass of milk. But until then comfort and physical/mental sustenance is still found at chest level.
Susie asked me what wrap I’d like to match the beads to – this is her other USP – so I perused her Facebook page and Instagram feed (links below) to see her past work and wondered how Owls Llama might work. Susie has a real eye for colours so I sent her close up shots that Oxana had published of the Owls to see what she thought. She told me it took her a few goes – the multi-coloured Japanese bourette is complex – but she thought she had cracked it.
A couple of days later a pretty little package appeared containing the necklace and cracked it she had. The necklace is a vibrant echo of the Owls that culminates in a large, smooth, orange bead which reflects the orange tussah. The beads are threaded onto super strong silky thread that is easily adjusted so you can wear the necklace at a variety of lengths. I loved the necklace and immediately got the light box out to photograph it up against the Owls which had fortunately arrived a couple of days earlier. You can see how well she matched it.
I wore it that evening to see what Smallest thought of it. Sat cross legged on the floor with her in my lap whilst reading a book to my eldest she immediately grasped the necklace at the loop, turning the orange bead around as she nursed, her eyes locked onto it. We tested the necklace over the next few days as I honeymooned the Owls. When Smallest wasn’t fiddling with it I wore it super short with the beads on my breast bone. I didn’t feel they were babyish at all, in fact I loved how vibrant and modern they looked as a simple piece of jewellery, fiddling hands or not.
It was over that weekend I realised how much I fiddle with my jewellery. I fiddle constantly, when I am distracted, anxious, to help me concentrate or just, well because it’s a habit. My fingers absentmindedly twisted the beads and spun the largest orange bead around so I wondered how well the necklace would function as a work piece. I happened to have bought a closely matching cardigan recently and wore it into the office with the beads. As I sat at my desk I spun the bead and looked out of the huge window trying to make sense of a lecture I was writing. It seems fiddle beads are most definitely as much for the mother as the child.
It’s a shame I only “got” fiddle beads as Smallest reaches near the end of her breastfeeding journey because I get them now. I really do. A great part of that is the quality and classiness of Susie’s work. I really rated her thoughtful approach to creating this necklace and her enthusiasm for getting it just so. I’m not alone in my opinion of her. When I posted photos of me feeding Smallest as she fiddled with the necklace whilst in Owls Llama someone replied that they had three of Susie’s necklaces, made to match beautiful wraps, of course.
Working with Owls Llama
You would think I wouldn’t have much to write here as well, a ring sling is a ring sling. You thread it through the rings, pull it tight and off you go. Ring slings are fabulous for their ease and simplicity, and whilst there is a knack to getting the rings placed just so and ensuring you pre-tighten in a way that achieves a good seat, well that’s about it. OK, so what if you have a ring sling in your hands that reaches way past your feet and travels along the ground for a good length further? It gets interesting.
Having impatiently washed, dried and ironed the owls – all the while stroking it against my face – I readied myself to do my first carry. My major interest was how it would work for back carries and to check it was still usable in a normal ring sling position. I discuss that below.
Essentially Oxana has somehow managed to balance two dry silks in an airy weave that means it is a cinch to work with. I did not struggle getting it through the rings or making sure it wasn’t bunched up. Despite the shaggy texture of the tussah the fabric eased through the rings and held fast. Using it for multipass carries I have not tussled with the second pass; yes I have lifted the fabric away from my body because tussah+bourette=grip – but we aren’t talking super-glue stick. In short Llama feels like a wrap that has lived with me for years because it has a floppiness that I have only felt with 2/3/4th hand wraps.
A mere ring sling has enabled me to carry in the following ways:
- On the front/side in a usual ring sling carry
- In a simple ruck
- A reinforced torso sling carry
- Short back cross carry
I’m still thinking about what else I can try it in because the sheer versatility of having a size 2 ring sling without the need to have the length to tie off is still making my brain boggle a bit. The first carry I tried was the reinforced torso sling carry as it’s so pretty and gives truly excellent support, as good as a double hammock, in a short length of fabric. It’s also become my go to carry with Llama because I like the way it finishes – the angle of the rings means there is no additional pressure being put on the shoulder stitching which can be a risk when using ring slings for back carries. I’m still practising getting it tight enough and the last time I carried Smallest this way I had begun to nail it, and it felt good.
Llama in action achieves the feeling of being your favourite old jumper – soft and cushy. I never thought silk could be like this and I kept checking that the weave didn’t contain any hidden wool. This cushiness means that a simple ring sling carry feels both solid and gentle, a carry that I could easily do, and have done, for a couple of hours straight. We visited the Northern Sling Exhibition and for the first time at these events, Smallest stayed put, chilled out in Llama whilst she fiddled with the beaded necklace and my back was happy. I deal with the extraordinary length of the tail by looping it around the rings and this works well. The floppiness of Llama’s soft texture means it drapes nicely without looking absurd.
I was stunned when I attempted the short back cross carry as it is another multilayer that offers great support though I need to try again to get the crosses higher up her back. My other go to is a simple ruck and have learned a better way of doing it so that I don’t end up with awkwardly placed rings and it is easier to thread through. You can see the tutorial here which is well paced so you can see exactly what she is doing – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P6d3UTXR-ko. Essentially you’re using the end with the rings to pass under the legs and this results in threading and pulling up towards you which is much, much simpler.
It’s rare to come across a design, blend, length and weight in a wrap that is just perfect yet Llama is. It lived up to the feast for the eyes that I saw in that preview video and the texture is so enjoyable, so interesting to handle. Having a ring sling this long has been a game changer for me in terms of daily wrapping because it offers ultimately useful, and beautiful, versatility.
I also want to point out the customer care that I received from Oxana which I felt to be outstanding. She handles herself well, manages a personalised service that absolutely surpassed my request, and produces stunning wraps. So there we go, two exceptional customer service and quality experiences in one post. Thank you Susie and Oxana.
Mama TwoFish has a Facebook and Instagram page where you can see her custom pieces and contact her to arrange your own wrap matching necklace. She also has an Etsy shop if you just need something right now!
Linuschka releases information about forthcoming wraps on the Facebook page. These are sold through draws. You can also find some past releases and accessories on the website. The brand chatter group is also on Facebook.