In winter the blankets made from sheep wool which was once famous and in high demand in Bangladesh and also abroad were on the border of extinction as the people involved in making handmade blankets were switching off to other professions.
But why? In 1950, some families migrated to the Nayagola area of Chapainawabganj from the Murshidabad district of West Bengal of India. They started to earn their livelihood by raising sheep and by selling blankets made from their sheep wool. The blankets got extensive popularity for the next 3 to 4 decades because of their authentic quality, warmness, fast color, durability, and softness.
Abdul Khaleque is one of the craftsmen who has been making blankets from sheep’s wool for years. He is a resident of Mominpara of Nayagola area, ChapaiNawabganj District. He learned the process of making blankets from sheep’s wool from his father as a teenager.
Apart from sheep wool blankets, he also manufactures various other products including mufflers, prayer mats, wall mats, etc. from fleece. At one point he traveled around and sold these handmade blankets himself. These hand-made blankets go to different markets and different places in the country.
He has to visit various districts two to three times a year, especially summer season, to collect wool from sheep. Those collected wool are then washed and cleaned. Wool yarn is made through the wooden Charka (hand-operated reeling machines) and a blanket is weaved in a handloom. Can’t do much now due to age.
In a report, Abdul Khaleque appealed to the government for help and said, Earlier he has sold these blankets in many parts of Bangladesh and people come from different shops to buy blankets from him but he cannot fulfill this demand alone.
He lamented that the present generation does not want to learn the art of weaving and fears that the art will disappear after his death. He wants to teach the next generation the process of weaving handmade blankets. By acquiring technical skills in this fleece weaving, many families will be able to find their source of income.
Those who were involved in making this handmade sheep wool blanket are no longer interested because they feel that the demand for this product has decreased in the ever-changing market daily. Blanket makers were not coping with modern fabric makers and market competition.
They further mentioned, it takes 8 to 12 days to texture a blanket but the market price of a blanket is not sufficient to make a profit on their labor and materials. Each blanket is sold at only tk 700 to 800 and occasionally less. As a result, it is now impossible for them to sustain their livelihood by making the blanket at the present market rate. so they left this.
However, some people of the village are wanted to cling to their ancestral occupation and are engaged in making blankets from sheep wool.
Nowadays these blankets have dropped in local markets, but their demand is still seen at some classy markets in Dhaka and Chittagong. BSCIC (Bangladesh Small and Cottage Industries Corporation) expressed its concern to save this traditional process from extinction.
The native industry may be survived if the government, non-government organization, and welfare come forward to train the local craftsmen and gives weaver their capital for the business. The handmade wool blanket has risen as a cottage industry in Bangladesh and with the help of the government to give proper facilities to the artisan of this craft, Bangladesh can export this authentic product worldwide. And it should be saved by the effort of social organization and market demand.