Quilts & their smooth comeback

Quilts & their smooth comeback

Quilts & their smooth comeback
Hindu mythology says that silk purifies our body and soul. Perhaps why silk has been an integral part of our rituals. According to feng shui, silk generates positive energy. Now, silk quilts are quite popular.

A silk quilt is nothing but a bed cover, a sandwich of silk and two layers of non-silk fabric. The eri silk and mulberry silk are best suited for the production of quilts because of their thermal qualities. Silk is known to have mesmerised the entire world since time immemorial, thanks to its softness, sheen and affinity to colours.

In India, the most luxurious hamsatulikatalpams (mattresses made of swan quills), used exclusively by the royal families, were legendary. Rajasthani quilts are known for vibrant colours and designs. Kaudi in north Karnataka are made by women in their spare time. Some quilts are decorated with zari work, embroidery or colourful patchs. Though the origin of quilts is muddled, one common idea is that in Europe they were the successors of woollen petticoats!

The types and designs of quilts vary depending on the era, season, occasion and events. In the colonial era, whole-cloth quilts were prepared using cotton, wool or silk. During the Victorian era, young women decorated these quilts with 99 exquisite buttons. They believed that the 100th button would be brought by their would-be husbands. Some belief, eh?

During the early 19th century, some companies wrapped cigarettes in silk ribbons on which they printed the company’s name. Further, some even printed silk panels, made small silk-crafted pictures or silk flannels. And those who were creative enough used these to make quilts, tablecloths, pillow covers etc.

Quilt as an end product means a soft experience for the users, but its making is laborious. Take for example the eri quilts (eri silk is known as endi or errandi in India, according to Wikipedia). They are made either by stuffing lots of eri silk or by using sheets of the silk.

In the former type, silk cocoons are boiled and degummed in an alkaline solution to make eri cakes (mass). These cakes are opened and passed through the fillet machines or ambar charkha. First the coarse and then the fine fillet machine produces sleeves of silk. The sleeves are cut at desired length and arranged in a criss-cross manner and rolled out uniformly. This material is used as the stuffing for quilts. Then an attractive satin or cotton fabric is used as a cover to sew them together.

The price depends on the quality of cloth used for the covering, the quantity of eri silk used, and the designs.

Quilts made of long sheets of eri silk are produced mainly in Nagaland. Around 2,5000 matured eri worms (almost ready to spin the cocoons) are released on a smoother surface inside a rectangular bamboo frame. Silkworms ooze out silk uniformly to form a sheet. A satin, silk or polyester fabric is used to cover these sheets of silk and stitched artistically. An average of two silk sheets are used to make one quilt.

The current trends has seen that mulberry silk quilts are rising in popularity. One manufacturing unit that produces these quilts is in Madhya Pradesh. Quilt-making for Poonam Gupta, proprietor, Penguin Creations, is much more than a profession. A lawyer-turned-designer, she has worked before (for two years) as a production manager in Shri Venkateshwar Silk Industries — a silk reeling unit in Katangi, Madhya Pradesh.

In fact, her husband, Atul Gupta, is the owner of this sole reeling unit. With his support she initiated the idea of converting the waste cocoons into value-added products. And that is how the concept of mulberry silk quilt took its roots in Madhya Pradesh.

After studying various types of quilt-making, she founded Penguin Creations in 2007, inspired by Yama Tani, a marketing advisor. Just two of her products are silk quilts/duvets and silk scarves that protect the wearer from UV rays! All her products are handmade, hand-embroidered and eco-friendly.

Poonam Gupta assures that the cozy duvets are dust-proof. They are antifungal, antibacterial and keep the molds at bay as no chemicals are used while making yarn and fabrics. These duvets are also provided with pockets to place aromatherapy sachets for better sleep.

She feels these silk duvets are good for skin as they soothe the nerves. A known social worker today, she has provided employment to many women.

Another method of quilt-making popular in China is the use of cocoons by hands directly. Here, six people stand around a rectangular table and stretch the specially softened cocoon evenly to form layers of silk sheets, which are placed one on top of another to obtain the desired quilt thickness. Then a fine silk or satin covering makes the quilt a material to own.

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