Firespiral Slings - how two mums embraced attachment parenting
- Credit: Katrina Shepherd Photography
Lockdown was boom time for two Lancashire mums who saw a surge in interest in the baby carriers they produce.
The Coronavirus pandemic meant many of us had to work from home which isn’t always ideal but for those with young children, the situation can be even more difficult. Partly because of this, Firespiral, a baby sling company based in Bolton, saw orders rocket during lockdown, with slings being posted across Europe, North America and Asia.
Firespiral was started in 2012 by Tamsin Coxhill, an architect and Jen Topping, an art psychologist. The two mums, with six children between them, met at a baby group.
‘We were both carrying our youngest in slings and, as we talked, we realised we were both firm believers in baby wearing,’ says Tamsin, who is orignially from Morecambe.
‘It chimes brilliantly with current theories about attachment parenting – babies love to hear a heartbeat and it settles them far faster than putting them in a Moses basket and trying to persuade them to sleep or even resorting to a pacifier and, believe me, that’s the voice of experience,’ she adds.
Tamsin also runs the Morecambe Baby Sling Library and had often wondered why many slings were just plain dreary.
‘We would sit at each other’s kitchen tables and doodle designs that were inspired by Lancashire, by its myths and atmosphere, she says. ‘One design reflected the ancient formation of Winter Hill, as well as incorporating the lights from its modern transmitter; another was modelled on the natural colours of the bronze village above Turton and of the people that lived there and, as I live by the sea, naturally one design showed the various blues of the tide as it crashed and receded.’
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But it wasn’t just the atmosphere of Lancashire that inspired the two mums: they also realised they were living in a county which had once led the world in weaving and set about finding a weaving shed that could make their designs a reality.
After an initial disappointment they found a weaving firm at Burnley that had just taken delivery of a Jacquard Loom and were looking for commissions.
‘We went along and it was perfect: we were hugely impressed with their knowledge and they loved our designs and so we began,’ says Tamsin, who, with Jen, hemmed every single sling although, as orders grew, local seamstresses now help with this.
Today, Firespiral is known or its high-quality cloth and gorgeous designs.
‘Fans of our slings run Facegroup groups all over the world: the UK one has almost 9000 members and it’s a real community, with people sharing their pictures and stories. We have pictures of family walks, days out or just people relaxing with slings at home. Our slings can carry children up to four-years-old, although we do recommend that older children are carried on the back,’ says Tamsin who points out that carrying children in this way is actually good for core strength.
‘We’ve used our slings while at business meetings and have even used them to breastfeed in that situation, as slings mean it can be done discreetly. That’s why more parents ordered slings through lockdown. It means babies can be held quietly while the parent works or even takes part in Zoom meetings. It’s not just mums who wear them. They’re great for dads too: it gives them the chance to bond with baby,’ Tamsin adds.
Firespiral has been able to meet demand as they ordered their last batch of material in December and it was delivered just before lockdown.
Several clients collect Firespiral slings, with one client in Singapore even having a special room kitted out in which to store and display them.
‘That looks great but most people designate shelves or hang them from a coat hanger: they’re five metres long,’ says Tamsin. ‘They are heirloom items, so many people save them for another family member or a friend but others convert them into shawls, quilts or even skirts. But the great thing is everyone shares their ideas.’
Can everyone tie them at first go though?
‘It doesn’t take long to learn – a bit like tying a shoelace! We have videos that show how to do it and, of course, if anyone rings, they will always come through to either Jen or me and we’re happy to go through it. Once learned though, never forgotten!’