Prepare for Winter with a Warm, Snuggly Jaipuri Razai 

Jaipuri Razai

My husband came in the house a few weeks ago and declared rather matter-of-factly that we were going to India at the end a January.  The daughter of a long-time business associate of his was getting married and we had been invited to the wedding.  I know the family too and they are wonderful people, so I was delighted to attend.

If you've never been to an Indian wedding and have the chance to do so, you should definitely go.  The Indians take weddings pretty seriously and they are usually three-day (or longer) affairs that involve hundreds, sometimes thousands, of guests from the extended family and friends as well as marching bands, grooms riding live elephants, henna “tattoos” for the ladies and many other customs and rituals that are hard to describe.

Knowing that we were going to be in northern India during the winter and always interested in furthering my knowledge of sewing and textiles whenever I have the opportunity to travel, I set about doing some research on what was the specialty of the region and I discovered the wonderful tradition of the Jaipuri razai –which are locally-produced quilts made using thick cotton batting.  They resemble American comforters and some European duvets and are loosely quilted so that they can be disassembled annually to card and re-fluff the cotton.

This style of quilt originates from the Indian state of Rajasthan and a city called Jaipur which is home to fantastical, almost fairytale, castles and villas as you can see below.  I love the romanticism of it all and I can't wait to see first-hand how these wonderful quilts are made.  I think it's always fun to link a textile with a place, especially one so beautiful and picturesque as Jaipur.  I know many readers share my passion for new and exotic textiles, so I thought I'd share my research with you all.

Prepare for Winter with a Warm, Snuggly Jaipuri Razai

The Indian state of Rajasthan has given us a gift to face winter with – a warm, snuggly, lightweight quilt called a “Jaipuri razai.”   Soft as a cloud, light as air, warm as toast, this very comfortable handmade comforter inspires all manner of similes to describe it.  Although the name seems exotically foreign to Anglophones, the translation is fairly straightforward.  “Jaipuri” means “coming from Jaipur,” the capital city of Rajasthan, and “razai” simply means “quilt.”  Jaipuri razais are available online and in stores in the United States and are often available as fair trade comforters.

Jaipuri Razai

A jaipuri razai is special both for its artisanry and for its functionality.  First, in handmaking these beautiful quilts, razai artisans use the traditional textile-making skills of cotton carding, cotton voile-making and quilting.  Cotton carding is the process of preparing cotton to use as cotton fill in a quilt.  A worker uses two carders.  The carders are convex paddles covered with small, fine teeth.  The worker charges the carders by placing cotton fibers onto one of the carders.  Then the worker gently draws the other carder across the face of the first one several times, changing position of the carders from horizontal to vertical.  In the process of carding, the cotton dross is exposed and removed.  “Dross” is simply waste material.  Removing the dross leaves soft, fine, delicate cotton fibers.  In a typical Jaipuri razai, the worker starts with a kilogram (2.2 pounds) of cotton and works at carding it for a full week.  After fully carding the cotton, the worker is left with a mere 100 grams (approximately 3.5 ounces) of cotton to use to fill the comforter.  The lighter and fluffier the cotton fill, the warmer and cozier the quilt will be.

Jaipuri Razai

Once the fill is prepared, the artisans go on to make the quilts.  It is important to layer the cotton evenly throughout the quilt.  This is another characteristic of the handmade quilt that gives it its warmth.  The shell of the Jaipuri razai is usually a high-quality soft cotton voile.  Cotton voile is a lightweight, gauzy cotton fabric with a soft, smooth surface.   The softness of the voile adds to the very snuggly, cozy nature of the Jaipuri razai.  Sometimes the quilter uses a velvet covering instead of cotton voile.

After being filled, the quilt is stitched together.  Of course, in times gone by, the quilt-makers did all the stitching with a hand-held needle.  Modernly, however, quilt-makers use a sewing machine to stitch the sides of the quilt together.  The machine-stitched sides increase the durability of the quilt.  Quilters then use a running stitch on the interior of the quilt panels to hold the fill in place and add to the beauty of the quilt.  All this work, from the carding to the filling to the quilting, is typically done by artisans whose families have been practicing these skills for generations.

Jaipuri Razai

The functionality of the Jaipuri razai is as important as the artisanry that goes into making it.  Although a Jaipuri razai is handmade, soft and snuggly, one should not get the impression that it is delicate.  These quilts are, in fact, quite durable.  This is not surprising when one considers the history and geography of the region that the Jaipuri razai originated in.  Rajasthan is located in northwestern India.  Bordering on Pakistan, Rajasthan encompasses the Aravalli Mountain Range and the Thar (Great Indian) Desert.  Throughout Rajasthan, the terrain is inhospitable and the weather can get bitterly cold, especially at night.  Traditionally, Rajasthanis were often on the move.  Shepherds, traders, soldiers and warriors, itinerant bards, and others traveling by camel caravan were in need of a covering to carry with them that would keep them warm in the cold desert nights and yet be easy to carry.  So the Jaipuri razai by necessity had to be as long-lasting and convenient to carry as it was warm and comfortable to use.  It is as functional in a modern household as it is out in the Indian desert.  Of course, these quilts are perfect for use as bed comforters.  But they can just as easily be packed up and sent off to a college dorm room, folded away for use as needed in a guest room or stored in a chest to bring out when lounging on the couch.

Of course, Jaipuri razais are available for sale in small, family-owned shops in Jaipur.  But fortunately for all of us, we can find them in the United States, too.  Many times, Jaipuri razais are available as fair trade comforters and can be purchased online or in stores that carry fair trade items.  By purchasing a Jaipuri razai as a fair trade comforter, you not only enhance your home decor and get a warm, comforting bed covering, but, as for all your fair trade purchases, you also provide a living wage for a traditional Indian artisan working to rise above poverty, support a participatory work environment with humane working conditions and ensure environmental sustainability.

Since they are made of 100% cotton, Jaipuri razais are an excellent choice for those allergic to, or just don't like, down or feathers.  They are also well suited for people who don't like the look, feel or idea of polyester.  Anyone who dislikes having a heavy cover over them while they sleep should consider a Jaipuri razai.

There are many benefits to the Jaipuri razai, that Rajasthani gift to those of us facing winter.  And, just think . . . These benefits can easily be yours.

Summary:  The Indian state of Rajasthan has given us a gift to face winter with – a warm, snuggly, lightweight quilt called a “Jaipuri razai.”   Soft as a cloud, light as air, warm as toast, a Jaipuri razai is special both for its artisanry and for its functionality.  In handmaking these beautiful quilts, the artisans use the traditional textile-making skills of cotton carding, cotton voile-making, and quilting.

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28 Responses to Prepare for Winter with a Warm, Snuggly Jaipuri Razai 

  1. Pingback: Hats, gloves and scarves to sew for winter - So Sew Easy

  2. Kimberly says:

    Mayra, your posts are always so informative and interesting! I love that you research these things and prepare your information like a presentation, complete with graphics and links. I feel like I learn something new every time I read one of your presentations. Thank you for taking the time to do these posts (and all your posts, especially the video tutorials which I know are labor intensive!), they are all greatly appreciated!

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      HI Kimberly, thank you so much for your comment, you made my day :), I do work at least 14 hours a day. Sometimes more, so is so noice to see when people enjoy the articles.

  3. Nikhat says:

    What an interesting and detailed post great work .

  4. Hilary says:

    I attended an Indian wedding in New Delhi back in 2015. It was a wonderful experience. For the actual wedding itself, they seem to do things in the opposite order from here in the States – everyone gathers and eats delicious food, and then the ceremony takes place. I didn’t quite believe them when they said the ceremony would start at around 1:00 AM and take three hours, but that’s really what happened.

    We had the opportunity to travel around a bit before the wedding and went to Jaipur. It is known for its textile industry so it was wonderful to get to see some of the factories where they were making rugs and hand embroidering and beading fabric for clothing. We didn’t buy a razai but did purchase fabric that they turned into a duvet cover for us. My husband had a suit and two shirts custom made and I had two shirts and two salwar kameez made. It was an amazing trip.

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      Boy! you went all out! Thanks for sharing. Sounds like you had a great time! What did you wear for the wedding?

  5. Penny Cole says:

    This is fascinating and as a quilter I would love to make one. I have a wool fleece bat at home which would make a perfect filling and I think I will give it a go.

  6. Linda L. says:

    How would you card and re-fluff the filling every year? Are there people here who do that or is it something you can do yourself? And what would it cost?

  7. Ishka McNulty says:

    Thanks for the information on how these are made, very interesting; and I enjoyed the video. They are found in many places in India. I have several. In Calcutta (Kolkata) one can take a sari in to the makers and they will make one from the sari. I bought mine in New Delhi.
    Yes Indian weddings are quite an experience!!!

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      thank you for your comment Ishka. If you have time please answer some of the questions that the readers have. Sadly I do not know the answers yet!

  8. I have seen these quilts often in places selling imported goods (places like World Market, etc) and hadn’t thought much about their background. Silly of me since I am an avid sewist myself. I will be spreading these links as much as I can…If you are into Native American arts, follow the links to the video about the Hopi ladies who quilt..I value mine as much if not more than the other Native crafts in my collections!

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      Thank you Harriet, I will have a look. I am into anything with needle and thread, specially those passed on from generation to generation. i will have a look at the Hopi ladies. When the time comes will you be willing to share some of your pictures with the readers? Let me know.

  9. LGerald says:

    Informative & interesting thank you!

  10. Pamela McCandless says:

    I would like to get one at some point. Then I have to find someone to fluff/card it each year.

  11. LINDA FISHER says:

    Have fun in India, the weddings are quite the event. The quilts are stunning!

  12. Myrna King says:

    Fascinating post. All new information to me and it, of course, makes me want to buy one. Thank you for all the work you put into getting this information.

  13. Uriel Hansen says:

    So many ideas so little time!

  14. Margie says:

    What a beautiful quilt!!
    How long does this take from start to finish?
    Wondering what it was they rubbed on their heads?
    Very intriguing. Thank you for sharing this!

  15. Sam says:

    So interesting to see, and such a beautiful useful product. Do the workers end up with damaged lungs from inhaling all the fibres, I wonder?

  16. Så lærerikt dette var. Jeg har aldri hørt om disse dynene før. Tusen takk for at du lærte meg om dette.

  17. Gail Bargerstock says:

    I think that all of the work going into this “from scratch” would make the quilt intensely personal. If I made one, how could I ever part with it?

  18. Marty says:

    Never heard of these prior to your post: fascinating!

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