Country’s ‘lone’ woollen blanket weaver looks for successor
The only known artisan who still makes hand-woven blankets with pure sheep wool in the country is Abdul Khaleq from Nayagola area of Chapainawabganj town.
Khaleq inherited the craft from his parents, with origins in India's Bihar. His grandfather Fazlur Rahman's family, along with about 25 other families, emigrated from Bihar during the partition of the subcontinent in the late forties.
The blankets Khaleq, now 63, makes are really warm and comfortable, but not as heavy or thick as one would expect. The natural woollen blankets woven in Khaleq's handloom are safe for the environment and being sold in prominent stores not just in the country, but also across the globe.
Khaleq collects wool for each and every blanket from household sheep raised all over the district and he processes the wool in his own workshop by himself.
Orders had always been abundant since he started to learn the craft from his father at the young age of ten. But lately, the orders for new blankets have started to exceed his capacity due to his old age, Khaleq said.
His daughter is married off and the two sons took on different professions for a living.
Since he does not have any of his successors to pass on the craft to, he would gladly train someone outside the family on how to extract wool from sheep, the techniques to process the wool with natural colouring and weave blankets on handloom with the wool, Khaleq also said.
The work is quite demanding physically, but it literally pays off travelling to different places to trim sheep for wool as the owners pay more or less Tk 50 to trim each sheep.
From extraction of wool to the completion of the weaving on handloom, it takes him about eight to nine days to finish a blanket and each blanket usually sells for a price range of around Tk 2,500 to Tk 4,000, depending on size, type and pattern.
After buying from him, many people are also exporting the blankets overseas, Khaleq said proudly.