Sakura Bloom Theory Ring Sling: Next-Level Cush
Posted on June 16 2016
Sakura Bloom’s newest release is Theory – a bamboo and linen blend ring sling. I’ve owned every one of Sakura Bloom’s linen ring slings (current and discontinued), and a couple silks. I will use them as reference for comparing to Theory.
Fresh out of the box, Theory was silky smooth and soft.
I almost considered not washing it, since it was so delightfully soft. However, it had a strong smell of something…. Bamboo fiber? Factory? Into a cold wash it went, in my top-loader old-fashioned agitator machine, with a baby sock around the rings and a bit of liquid detergent. Then I hung it in our steamy hot garage to dry. That took nearly two full days (twice as long as any other carrier I own), presumably because of the thick fabric. When finally dry, I steam ironed on both sides.
New, unwashed, unused:
Weight: 1 lb 8 oz (24oz)
After cold wash in washing machine: 70” long, 24.5” wide. It lost 2” in length and ½” in width during washing.
After a bunch of use but no further washes: 71” long, 24.5” wide . Gained back 1” of length during use.
The Sakura slings I’ve owned have varied in length, whether new or used, ranging from 72” to 75”. They have also varied in width from 24” to 28”. They are supposed to be “one size” but clearly have some variation.
Some Sakura fans use their slings and don’t wash them, for fear of shrinkage or the silks losing “sheen.” I’m a bit of a clean freak, and wash my carriers as often as they seem dirty. I wash new carriers, to remove factory texture and smell. I wash secondhand carriers, to sanitize from prior owners. I would rather have a clean sling than one or two inches of extra length, if that’s what it comes down to.
The thickness of Theory made it feel shorter than usual. It’s only four inches shorter than my Chambray sling. However, my husband has worn Chambray, and he couldn’t get Theory on with any tail to speak of. On me, Theory hits around my hip. My other Sakura slings fall more mid-thigh, or so it seems. I don’t mind the shorter length, as it stays out of my way better.
HEAVY. Sakura silk slings weigh around 11 oz. At 24 oz, Theory is more than twice as heavy as silk. The Sakura linens I’ve owned weigh in at: Pure 9 oz, Classic 12 oz to 14 oz, Chambray 16 oz, Simple 21.5 oz. This makes Theory possibly the heaviest Sakura Bloom ring sling (I haven’t weighed cashmere or luxe silk).
THICK. Thicker than Simple Linen (discontinued double-layer linen), which is the thickest Sakura I’ve tried up to this point. Thicker than most wrap conversion ring slings I’ve tried.
SOFT. As buttery soft as a fully broken-in Chambray, and so much softer than any silk or linen not fully broken in. Rub-on-your-face, cuddle with, pet-worthy soft.
CUSHY. This might be the new sling to define “marshmallow” on the shoulder. All that heavy thickness is a squishy, squashy, delicious shoulder cush. For anyone who thinks ring slings are “diggy” or painful on the shoulder, look no further. Of course, baby’s weight is resting on one shoulder, so shoulder discomfort can be expected at some point with a heavy baby, simply due to the carrier’s natural structure. A different carrier type such as mei tai or buckle will distribute weight to both the wearer’s shoulders and hips. But today we stick with apples-to-apples and compare Theory to other ring slings, not the universe of available carriers.
GRIP vs SLIDE
Babywearing fabrics may be described as having “grip” or “glide.” Grip would be a fabric with more friction, which sticks as it moves across itself or other fabrics. Glide would be less friction, with fabric that slips easily across itself. With a ring sling, we can add how “stuck fast” the fabric is in the rings (grip / more friction), or how easily it slips through (glide / less friction). Either grip or glide can be desirable, depending on the situation.
Sakura Bloom Chambray has the most “glide” of Sakuras I’ve tried. Some people feel Chambray has too much glide - is slippery and loosens over time, as the fabric verrrrrrry slowly slips through the rings (not enough where baby is going to fall out; enough to notice a little discomfort over time, caused by a too-loose sling, requiring re-tightening). I didn’t personally have this issue with a 22 lb toddler.
Sakura Bloom Silk has the most “grip” of Sakuras I’ve tried. The fabric tends to stick in the rings, never getting loose. For me, this made adjusting through the rings a little harder.
Theory is a bit of an enigma to describe in this fashion. The fabric itself has a nice amount of glide. It’s not what I would call grippy. But. That thickness. The fabric is so thick as to make adjusting through the rings a challenge. If it is loosened and tightened several times, or for several inches, say to loosen for nursing and tighten when done nursing, it may fold over on top of itself within the rings. Once it bunches up, it locks up pretty tight in the rings. There’s no adjusting it until the fabric is loosened and spread across the rings evenly again.
Some other people are saying Theory isn’t hot to wear. Each climate is different, and people adjust to the climate where they reside. In South Texas, we’re having a bit of a sauna for summer. The fibers of linen and bamboo themselves are breathable and moisture-wicking. But Theory is thick. That thickness is noticeably warmer to wear than Sakura’s silk or linen slings.
That said, it’s not unbearable. Our home is set to 80 degrees Farenheit, and it’s humid. Outside, it’s hotter. I don’t sweat wearing Theory in my house. My heavy toddler is no longer comfortable for me in Sakura’s Chambray, which was my go-to until a couple months ago. I’ve tried Sakura silk a couple times, which many people prefer with heavier children, and I was not a fan.
With the cooler linen or silk slings eliminated for me, I’m using Theory this summer in Texas. It’s doable. I couldn’t put Theory on a top-ten picks for summer babywearing. But it’s manageable for someone like myself with cranky shoulders and a heavy, wiggly toddler.
I’m thrilled to see a noticeable pattern in a Sakura sling. I love simple and understated, so I’m generally fine with solid colors. I also enjoy wrap conversion ring slings with elegant, simple patterns. The herringbone weave of Theory couldn’t be more spot-on for style and understated elegance. The pattern is most noticeable with Tern, where the thread colors have higher contrast. The other current Theory colors have less contrast to the two thread colors, so the pattern is not as distinct.
The fabric has a beautiful drape, the opposite of the stiffness of silk. The flow and drape of it are reminiscent of a broken-in Chambray, but yet truly its own category.
It is thick yet fluid. Sturdy yet floppy.
The weave has a lovely diagonal stretch. Diagonal stretch is a desirable characteristic of woven wrap fabrics. It lends comfort, and shapes better around to the body. Too much diagonal stretch, and a woven fabric seem to sag and feel unsupportive with a heavier child. Too little diagonal stretch, and the pressure on the shoulder increases, with the gathered parts of the shoulder seeming to create pressure points. The amount of diagonal stretch in Theory is pleasing and understated – enough for comfort, strong enough for support.
For some reason, Theory doesn’t really wrinkle. For linen lovers, this is great news! A linen sling looks wrinkly within a couple wears. I’ve given wrinkles to my Theory by leaving it in a heap for hours, but the wrinkles tend to fall out once the sling is hung up again. After a wash and hanging to dry, the wrinkles were mild, and ironed out easily.
TESTING IT OUTI gave Theory a brutal test by taking it to my sister’s graduation ceremony. The gymnasium was packed with a few thousand people, and despite air conditioning, was hot and sticky. The mei tai I brought along was pressing my son’s belly against mine, which is the hottest part of babywearing. He was cranky and tired and not having it. I popped him into Theory, on my hip (MUCH cooler for both of us). We were both still sweaty, but after pacing up and down for a while, and nursing in the ring sling, he finally slept.
For the next THREE HOURS, I wore him in the sling. We were hot, but it was not unbearable.
What was shockingly bearable, was 23 lb of heavy sleeping weight, on my shoulder, for three hours. For a two-hour ceremony in a steamy gym, and another hour walking and taking photos outside in the 90 degree sun, we stayed in Theory with very little adjustment. My shoulder got a bit achy toward the end. After adjusting the gathers of fabric, I was fine for a little longer.
In four years of babywearing and over 200 carriers, I would never have guessed I could wear a ring sling for three hours. I generally wear ring slings for thirty minutes or less. I get mild shoulder discomfort from a linen sling about thirty minutes in. Theory pretty much had me at “hello” but this sealed the deal.
I’m primarily keeping Theory at home, due to its weight. I keep a lightweight sling in my purse at all times, which I use for short periods of time.
Theory hangs on the inside of my pantry door, where I grab it anytime my toddler claws my ankles (usually while I’m cooking or washing dishes). It gets used many times a day.
WHO NEEDS THEORY?
I’m not so good at telling people whether or not to purchase a certain carrier.
First off, it’s such a personal decision. It’s kind of like telling an online stranger whether or not to buy a certain size or brand of blue jeans – a tough job to do without knowing their body size, taste, style, shape, or personal preferences.
Secondly, I think babywearing is incredible, and Sakura Bloom ring slings are fabulous. If you ask me which Sakura to buy, I am likely to say ALL of them. That said, I will take a little stab at the “whether or not to buy it” question, to help those who need nudging to jump over the fence one direction or the other.
For those who already own Sakura Bloom slings in linen or silk…
It’s summer and it’s hot. If your current Sakura sling is working for you, comfortable on your shoulder, supportive to your baby, not too hot to wear - stick with what is working. All the other Sakura slings I’ve tried have been cooler to wear than Theory, except perhaps the discontinued Simple Linen. (I haven’t tried cashmere or luxe silk).
Hang onto that silk or linen that’s working for you this summer, and save up your pennies to buy Theory in the fall. It’s going to be truly fabulous for fall. Soft, cozy, squishy, deliciously cuddly. If you don’t buy it this summer, you are going to want to buy it this winter. Promise.
For those who don’t own a Sakura Bloom sling…
This is a tougher question, and harder to answer. If your baby weighs less than 20 lb, you will probably be fine with linen or silk. I’d personally recommend Chambray for a new user, as it is soft and supple enough for a tiny newborn, yet sturdy and supportive enough for a toddler. If your baby weighs over 20 lb, you’ll probably want Sakura silk or Theory. If you have tried other ring slings, and feel like the style of carrier would work for you if they were just more comfortable on your shoulder, you need Theory. If you have tried ring slings and none of them worked for you, you should try Theory. If you have sensitive skin, or notice textures bothering you sometimes, get Theory. I have very sensitive skin, and found silk too rough for my taste. I’ve owned some incredibly soft woven wraps, and I demand a soft texture from my carriers. Theory fits the bill, right out of the box.
For those who are curious or like to try out different carriers…
If you want to try Theory, well you should. It’s so unique, so different, so fantastic.
Certain fabrics or brands have similarities. Trying one fabric might be similar to another fabric sold by that same brand. Sakura Classic linen and Chambray linen are sort of like this. They are both 100% linen, have similar textures, and both break in to super soft (Chambray starts out softer though). They have definite differences (single layer or double layer is one of many), but they are still 100% linen slings.
Secondly, 100% linen ring slings by other brands will have similarities to Sakura. There will be definite differences (I’ve tried about six other brands of 100% linen ring sling). Still, regardless of brand, 100% linen will share similarities such as texture, grip, strength, and durability.
Theory isn’t like that. Theory is like nothing else I’ve tried. It doesn’t even resemble bamboo blends of other brands I’ve tried. It’s wildly different and uniquely incredible. Any ring-sling lover needs to give it a chance. Any ring-sling hater might give it a try and find themselves falling in love.
- Joy Crampton
Joy has been married for thirteen years, is a mother of two boys (ages four years and eighteen months) and has been babywearing since her first son was a few days old. She is a professional photographer and blogger in San Antonio, Texas.