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Blanket or Duvet?

June 24, 2016

The Great Battle Between the Blanket and the Duvet

There are two very distinct camps when it comes to bedding choices. Blankets or duvets. Very rarely do you find a blanket lover who also loves a duvet, or vice versa. While they both perform the same function, and that is provide warmth in bed, they are very different.

Let’s look at the blanket first. As we know, a blanket is a large piece of woven cloth used for warmth, mostly on beds. It is believed that the origin of the blanket dates back to the early Neolithic age, where the earliest examples of weaving were those of hemp cloths that were used as blankets for burial. It was only during the Medieval Age in Europe that weaving became commonplace, and blanket production became prevalent. Wool was the predominant fibre used on the looms traditionally because of its warmth, breathability and natural fire retardant properties. Blankets were only a luxury item for use by the richer classes, but were produced by serfs and cottage industries throughout Europe. Blankets were, and still are today, used with sheets. It is usual practice to have a bed sheet between yourself and the blanket as wool was often scratchy and not comfortable directly on the skin.

Sue Prichard a textiles curator at the Victoria & Albert Museum says “blankets acquire a patina of age, the older they get, becoming more and more comfortable. Traditionally the bed and bedding were the most important and expensive furniture in a person’s home. This is why blankets and sheets were handed down through the generations.”

Blankets are still used today in many households. Although considered to be somewhat old fashioned, there are devotees of blankets who wouldn’t dream of drifting off under a duvet. Blankets are also used by the military and in hospitals. In fact, those who are fans of blankets make their beds with ‘hospital corners’. Blankets take much more effort when it comes to bed making, and while they do offer warmth, there is a certain lack of comfort. There is nothing better than snuggling under a fluffy duvet on a cold winter’s night.

The origins of the duvet dates back to the Vikings, who used eiderdown filled sheets that were sown up and used for warmth. The thermal insulating properties of this type of bedding was ideally suited to the very cold climates of Scandinavia. By the 16th century duvets had spread across Europe and were a sign of wealth and status. There are several historic references to duvets, including that of Hans Christian Andersen’s Princess and the Pea, who slept on a bed of ten eiderdown duvets. Duvets were traditionally filled with down feathers, and while still made like that today, they are also made using a variety of other fillers including silk, wool and synthetic fibres.

There is a school of thought that believes that duvets are messy looking - they leave a ‘lumpy landscape’, where blankets are neat and tidy. This might be true, but duvets today are associated with comfort, warmth and a feeling of snuggliness. Duvets are so closely associated with that feeling of escape and cosiness that the term ‘duvet day’, which was coined in the 1990s, is now used in the everyday vernacular. It is a day of indulgence under the covers, away from the big bad world.

There is no denying that duvets are much more modern and comforting, but the old blanket guard is still very much alive and kicking. Browse our bedding section on our website.

Image Source: Flickr

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