If you have followed my blog for any length of time on Social Media… you may already know by now that I am a HUGE fan of the Soul Tai. This linen Wrap Style Mei Tai was created by Soul Slings – a newer brand hailing from India who is becoming well known for their gorgeous Handwoven Ring Slings. I have had this v.1 tester in my possession since Summer of 2015. Sorry Chinmayie, I am sure you have realized at this point that you are never getting it back. Talk about perma-stash!
It has taken me awhile to write this review, mostly because the supply of these Soul Tai’s has been very limited. The fabric that Soul Slings sources is woven by small family-owned weavers in India, so the production runs have been small, and have quickly sold out. With MSRP around $87 direct from Soul Slings, no wonder these things are flying off the shelves. Though they are offering cotton Ikat version, the one I have been in possession of is a Linen/Chambray model – a perfect hot weather toddler Mei Tai.
Last summer we took the Soul Tai with us to Tokyo where I was teaching a seminar on Woven Wraps for Tokyo Babywearing Laboratory. It was August, and Japan was HOT. It was about 100 degrees, with like 90% humidity. We didn’t bring a stroller (totally impractical in such a crowded city where we were reliant on public transit) and the unbearable heat made our 3 year old… well… a bit unbearable herself. My partner and I ended up having to tote around 30 lbs of sweaty toddler on our backs for most of the trip. It made for the perfect conditions for testing out this linen Soul Tai.
Generally speaking, Wrap Style Mei Tai’s are my go-to these days for wearing my big kid. The ease of obtaining a secure and well-adjusted carry is a plus, as is the ability to spread the straps. I use those spread straps not only for providing leg support for my toddler whose legs have long ago grown past the width of the panel, but I also can spread them across my body for optimal weight distribution. This Soul Tai offered me all those benefits, and more. The shoulder straps are lightly padded in the center of the padded-to-wrap strap, giving you the ability to spread the shoulder in either direction. The linen was supportive for my big kid, and I did not experience the fabric digging into my shoulders, a problem often associated with linen carriers. To have that kind of support yet still be so very light and airy, was something much appreciated in the heat we were experiencing. The thin and lightweight fabric also made for a really compact carrier when I folded it down when not in use. The Soul Tai does not have a padded waist, which contributes to its’ lack of bulk – which proved to be incredibly useful when we were pressed for space in our bags throughout the day.
The panel height is 16.5” which is kinda right in the middle of most of the other major brands, but it was completely adequate to support my 3 foot toddler. The width of the panel is 15” across, which is actually the narrowest of all the other Mei Tai’s sold here in the states, but I barely even missed the width because of the wrap straps. The hood on the version I have was narrow and almost useless… but they have since improved upon the hood greatly. It is adjustable now with draw strings, and much wider than the one that was on the tester I had. Because of the pliability and thinness of the fabric, it is easy to modify this carrier to be used with a smaller baby without it feeling too bulky or like they are swimming in fabric. I think this carrier is an awesome buy for someone who is budget conscious and wants to really get a lot of use out of their carrier. I also am very likely to recommend this to anyone looking for a great carrier for hot weather climates, or someone planning to take a trip to a warmer region of the world. These fabrics feel so rich and beautiful, and the price is astoundingly accessible, it is no wonder you hear me singing the praises of this Soul Tai again and again.
One small note about linen… it can take some breaking in. The tester I have now feels so buttery, it is soft and floppy and amazing. It is easy to forget how scratchy and harsh the fabric was when I first started using it. After a wash and air tumble, and a couple runs with the Iron on the Steam setting, this Mei Tai was well on the way to broken in. The padding in the straps also starts out a little stiff, but the more wear it gets, along with any effort put into breaking it in – will pay off in the end. Linen is one of my favorite fabrics for toddler support, but it doesn’t exactly come “ready to wear” usually.
Soul Slings is one of those brands that feels good to support. The owners Chinmayie and Ravindra are babywearing and breastfeeding advocates, who feel strongly about supporting the local artisan weavers in their community who have been creating these gorgeous textiles for generations. All of the weavers are part of government run cooperative societies, ensuring that their work is fair-trade certified and that ideal work situations are maintained. As they have explained to me, their “team is composed almost entirely of working mothers from nearby areas, some of them either single or the sole wage-earner in their families”. They have actively taken part in promoting self suffieciency for the women they employ, with initiatives that promote health insurance, financial planning, and education of their children. Chinmayie often visits the weavers herself to make sure work standards are being maintained. Soul Slings began because they really wanted to make beautiful baby carriers at a price point that everyone could be comfortable with, while also supporting local industry. They believe deeply in the benefits and practice of Babywearing, and hope their affordable carriers will bring more people to want to reap the benefits that come with wearing your babies. I feel that they have been incredibly successful in this endeavor. It is so great to watch this brand grow! They currently have Woven Wraps, Ring Slings, and Mei Tai’s in their collection, with a Soft Structured Carrier coming soon. They even have some U.S. Distributors now! Follow them on Facebook to find out more about their upcoming releases.