Twin cities snuggle up to quilt season

As temperatures drop with each passing day, people throng quilt markets to gear up for the season


Zulfiqar Baig October 27, 2019
A shopkeeper arranges cotton filled quilts at his shop in Islamabad. PHOTO: APP

ISLAMABAD: Given Pakistan’s native hot weather, which often leaves a bad taste in people’s mouth because of aggravating factors like power outages and extensive heatwaves, winter makes the populace breathe a sigh of relief.

Even though Pakistanis generally consider winter to be far more pleasant than summers, preparation for the season is necessary and people consider it worthwhile to invest in blankets and quilts to get through the season in the warmest and cosiest fashion.

Like every year, quilters across Rawalpindi and Islamabad have started preparing thick, good-quality quilts and blankets to keep people warm and comfortable. Although there is a variety of ‘modern,’ polyester comforters available in the market – which are cheaper, lighter and more compact – customers still prefer the traditional, handmade razai or cotton comforters.

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With temperatures dropping further with each passing day, the demand and sale of handmade quilts and blankets have increased across the twin cities.

According to details, instead of buying blankets and quilts anew, many people also go to quilters to refurbish their existing ones by using a new cover and stuffing in more cotton. Whereas a new cotton-filled blanket or quilt can cost a minimum of Rs1,200 to Rs4,000, families can easily renew their old quilts for as low as Rs400.

Speaking to The Express Tribune, a professional quilter named Javed Khan, who has been associated with the profession for more than 40 years, said that apart from preparing quilts in his shop, he also seeks help from home-based women quilters to manage the workload during winter.

Providing further details, he said that there are three categories of cotton that manufactures of quilts and mattresses use and they range from Rs70 to Rs100.

According to quilters Umer Mehmood, Kamran and Azhar Abbas, with the trend of refurbishing quilts and blankets, the sale and purchase of quilts have considerably gone down. Apart from Rawalpindi and Islamabad, quilts and blankets are sold in large quantities in Murree, Haripur, Mansehra, Skardu, Gilgit and Azad Kashmir where sales have also been affected.

They added that with the current government policies and the rising inflation, quilters are facing losses instead of making the most of the winter season like the past.

Shahbaz Ali Gohar, who is associated with the business of bed-sheets and quilts, said that amid the new tax system, life has become very difficult for the community of quilters whose incomes are already unstable because of the seasonal nature of the business.

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“Everything is exceeding the purchasing power of people,” he lamented. “In the past, we used to receive orders for quilts and blankets many months before the arrival of winter but now the situation has drastically changed. Consequently, sustaining this small-scale business has become a challenge for us.”

Another quilter named Rizwan Iqbal said that another factor that has affected sales is the availability of cheaper and better-quality Chinese blankets in the market. On the positive side, however, growing competition has pushed local quilters to provide the best quilts and blankets available in the market.

“By putting in hard work and dedication, we are trying our best to survive the cut-throat market competition,” he said. “At the same time, we want customers to feel as warm and cosy as possible so that they return to our shops in future too.”

Published in The Express Tribune, October 27th, 2019.

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