Eli Handmade carriers are manufactured in Šumperk, Czech Republic, by (surprise, surprise) Eli – i.e. Eliška Matějčková who made her first carrier (surprise, surprise) for her own son several years ago. I must admit I intentionally avoided reviewing this brand for some time and I had to summon up courage to do so. The first reason is that I am not really fond of extra-soft waist belts (which I knew was typical of Eli Handmade) and the second reason is that one of the carriers did not get much excited reviews in our local babywearing group a while ago. Why? I cannot really say, to be honest. Maybe it was the choice of the particular tester carrier (as Eliška said helself, it was a trial carrier), maybe the overall dissatisfaction was caused by the first critical reviews and the rest just jumped on the bandwagon. All in all, Eli has a quite large and stable fanbase, so there has to be something about these carriers, don’t you think?
I finally decided to give the carrier a try because of the wrap it is made of. The turquoise prototype of ROAR Ziuuu is beautiful, very pleasant to touch, very soft, pliable and adequately durable (maybe a bit too thin for a wrap conversion, but whatever – it is not that much of a problem) – as I wrote earlier, the first “generation” of ROAR wraps is the closest to my heart and the minimalist Ziuuu is not an exception (moreover, in the turquoise colour I adore!).
The 2in1 model is an adjustable carrier recommended for children from 68 to 98 cm (from approximately 6 months to 3 years). I did not adjust the width of the back panel for Emilka, measuring approximately 85 cm (in fact, there is not much to adjust overall – the cord is only in the middle part of the back panel; therefore I would say that the real minimum size of the wearie would be something around 74 cm). On the other hand, she would still have some space to grow, both in the vertical and horizontal direction. What I want to praise very much about this carrier is the position of the wearie – the cut of the back panel is great and even a big wearie sits in a deep pocket, with her/his legs perfectly supported – A+ for this!
As for the comfort for the wearer, it was not much of a surprise for me. The extra-soft waist belt is really too soft for me, it wrinkles just after looking at it (you can tell at the first sight because the wrap is already permanently wrinkled) and although it is sewn through (the stitches form the word “eli” which is witty and cute, in my opinion), it does not solve much and the waist belt bends instantly. If I had a lighter wearie, the waist belt could probably be comfortable, but with the 11 kg my back was sore after a short walk. The padding of the shoulder straps is also very soft and the wrap is also wrinkled, same as in case of the waist belt. I would prefer if they were padded more and the padding was a bit harder, too. I felt Emilka’s weight on my shoulders after a while quite a lot even with the shoulder straps crossed (I must confess I did not even dare to wear them without crossing). When wearing them crossed, I missed the bidirectional buckles (oh yes, the goddamned tightening of the straps backwards!) and the possibility to detach the chest buckle.
Wearing on the back is a problem of many carriers, usually because it is impossible to position the wearie high enough so that s/he can see over the wearer’s shoulder. Well, I had this problem with Eli, too. But this matter is no real deal breaker for me.
In the end, I want to mention a few details about the construction of the carrier. All thumbs up for the detachable hood and also its simple and functional system of fixation over the wearie’s head. On the other hand, what I really, really lacked on the carrier, was some type of safety device on the buckles of the waist belt and the shoulder straps. Eli explains this on her website and says that the buckles are tested up to enormous weight and if fastened properly, one does not need to worry about safety. Well, that is nice in theory and I really do believe that the buckles are safe on their own, but you know the situation – the kid is tired, peevish, cries; sometimes there is also a similarly grumpy sibling running around you and all you want to do is to put your little one into the carrier to comfort her/him… in such a situation one can easily forget about the “click” sound the buckle should make when fastened properly – therefore, I would be happier if there was at least a simple safety elastic band on the waist belt and the shoulder straps…
All in all – why not? If you like very soft waist belts, Eli could be the right choice for you.