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  • Wearable Blankets: A Centuries Old Way to Keep Warm

    7 min read

    Wearable Blankets - an innovation that goes back centuries

    Wearable Blankets - an innovation that goes back centuries

    Wearing blankets is as old as the hills, yet "wearable blankets" sound new. Wearable blankets, throws, or wraps all fall into the garment category and come in different styles, designs, and sizes.

    Wearable blankets, throws, or wraps are worn as garments, much like conventional jackets or pullovers. They provide warmth and comfort while allowing for mobility in your home or outdoors.

    In contemporary times, wearable blankets are becoming increasingly popular, with many different styles and materials available to suit various needs and preferences.

    The Mexican poncho and the Basotho blanket are great examples of wearable, wearable, and actual "multi-purpose" wool blankets. Body wraps, and the old English capes are examples of wearable blankets, each styled for ease of use, style, comfort,and, most importantly, warmth

    There are many benefits associated with wearable blankets. Let's take a peek at some of the most significant advantages.

    wearable blanket worn by african woman

    Benefits of wearable blankets

    Picture yourself at home, watching one of your favorite TV shows, and you're neatly tucked under your trusty couch throw.

    A nice hot cup of tea or coffee comes to mind, and you get up but feel the chill, so you wrap yourself in your throw and make your way to the kitchen.

    You're still warm and comfy, but it's awkward moving around. Imagine if you could improve your mobility. Here is what wearable blankets will do for you: 

    • Comfort and warmth: Wearable blankets provide a comfortable and warm cocoon around the body, keeping you cozy and comfortable even in chilly weather.
    • Mobility: Unlike traditional blankets, which can be cumbersome and restrict movement, wearable blankets allow for mobility and freedom of movement, making them ideal for wearing while doing household chores or engaging in outdoor activities.
    • Versatility: Wearable blankets can be worn in various settings and for multiple purposes, making them a versatile addition to any wardrobe.
    • Convenience: With wearable blankets, you don't have to worry about your blanket slipping or falling off your shoulders. They stay in place and provide a hands-free solution to staying warm and comfortable.
    • Easy to Use: Wearable blankets are incredibly easy to use. Simply slip them over your head like the Mexican poncho, wrap them around your body, or pin them at your shoulder, and you're ready to go.
    a woman is sleeping with comfort in blanket by thula tula

    Types of Wearable Blankets

    Many types of wearable blankets are available on the market, each with unique features and benefits. Here are some of the most popular options:

    Hooded Blankets 

    Hooded blankets feature a hood that can be pulled over the head to keep the head and neck warm. They are great for use while lounging on the couch or reading in bed.

    Poncho Blankets 

    Poncho blankets are worn over the head, covering the arms and upper body. They are perfect for outdoor activities such as camping or hiking.

    Poncho blankets, or blanket ponchos, are versatile and cozy clothing typically designed to provide warmth and comfort

    They are made from various materials, such as wool, acrylic, and fleece, and can be found in numerous colors, patterns, and designs.

    The basic structure of a poncho blanket involves a large, rectangular, or square piece of fabric with a hole in the center for the head, allowing it to drape over the body like a cape. 

    Some designs include fringes, buttons, or other embellishments for added style and flair.

    In some cultures, such as those of indigenous peoples of the Andes, ponchos have significant cultural meaning and are worn during traditional ceremonies or celebrations.

    When selecting a poncho blanket, consider the material, size, and intended use, whether for fashion, warmth, or both.

    Additionally, ensure that the poncho blanket you choose aligns with your personal style and preferences, as a wide range of options is available on the market.

    Wrap Blankets 

    Wrap blankets are designed to be wrapped around the body like a shawl. They provide extra warmth and are perfect for use while sitting at a desk or watching TV.

    Snuggle Blankets 

    Snuggle blankets are designed to be worn like a jacket, with sleeves and a front zipper. They provide warmth and comfortwhile allowing for complete freedom of movement.

    Heated Blankets 

    Heated wearable blankets feature built-in heating elements that provide extra warmth during colder months. They are perfect for use while lounging at home or working in a cold office.

    Materials for Wearable Blankets

    Wearable blankets are available in various materials, each with unique properties and benefits. 

    • Fleece: Fleece is a soft, warm, lightweight material perfect for wearable blankets. It is machine-washable and easy to care for.
    • Sherpa: Sherpa is a soft, fluffy material often used in wearable blankets for extra warmth and comfort. It is ideal for use during colder months.
    • Wool: Wool is a natural fiber that is warm, durable, and insulating. It is perfect for use as a wearable blanket for outdoor activities.
    • Cotton: Cotton is a lightweight, breathable material that is perfect for use in wearable blankets during the warmer months.
    • Microfiber: Microfiber is a soft, smooth material that is perfect for wearable blankets for a luxurious feel.
    a woman wrapped in wool blanket

    History of the wearable blanket in Africa

    Wearable blankets have a long history in Africa, where they have been used for centuries by various indigenous communities. These blankets are designed to be wrapped around the body and worn as clothing, providing warmth, comfort, and protection from the elements. 

    They are often made from locally sourced materials, including wool, cotton, and animal hides.

    The Basotho Blanket: The 180 Year old Wearable Blanket

    One of Africa's most well-known wearable blankets is the Basotho blanket, which originates in the Lesotho Kingdom, entirely landlocked by South Africa.

    The Basotho blanket is a high-quality wool blanket that symbolizes pride and identity for the Basotho people.

    The blankets are worn throughout the year and have bold, colorful designs and patterns representing the different facets of society. The stripe in the Basotho blanket is always vertical when worn, symbolizing growth.

    The African Kikoi Wearable Blanket

    Another well-known wearable blanket in Africa is the kikoi, a traditional Swahili textile worn as a wraparound skirt or shawl. The kikoi is typically made from cotton and features colorful stripes or checks.

    It is commonly worn by men and women in coastal regions of East Africa, such as Kenya, Tanzania, and Zanzibar. The kikoi should not be confused with the Masai shuka, traditionally worn by the Maasai tribe of Kenya and northern Tanzania, known for their distinctive dress and elaborate jewelry.

    The African Maasai Shuka Wearable Blanket

    The Masai shuka resembles Scottish tartan. The Masai are a nomadic tribe, and the shuka is made from a thick, warm material, primarily red or blue. 

    The African Mudcloth Wearable Blanket

    In West Africa, the bogolanfini, or mud cloth, is a traditional textile used for centuries as a wearable blanket. The cloth is made from locally grown cotton that is handwoven and dyed using a traditional mud painting process.

    The resulting patterns and designs are often symbolic, with different designs representing different meanings. The bogolanfini is typically worn as a wraparound skirt or shawl.

    In South Africa, the isiXhosa blanket is a traditional blanket worn for generations by the Xhosa people. The blanket is made from wool and features bold, colorful patterns with symbolic meanings. It is often worn as a cloak or shawl and is integral to Xhosa's cultural identity.

    Wearable Blankets In South Africa

    Wearable blankets have a long and rich history in Africa. They have been used for centuries by various indigenous communities for warmth, comfort, and protection from the elements.

    These blankets are often made from locally sourced materials and feature bold, colorful designs and patterns rich in cultural significance. Today, many of these traditional textiles have gained international recognition as unique and important cultural artifacts.

    A man is standing in front of window in the blanket by thula tula

    History of the Basotho Blanket as a wearable blanket

    The Basotho blanket is a traditional blanket that has become a popular wearable blanket in recent years. It originates in the Lesotho Kingdom of southern Africa, where it remains a prominent part of the local culture.

    Basotho blankets have unique designs only approved by royalty and are instantly recognizable. They feature bold, colorful patterns, each with symbolic messages associated with social status and milestones in life, and they portray deep cultural significance.  

    Basotho blankets are made from high-quality wool and are incredibly warm and durable. They became widely popular as wearable blankets in the 20th century and have steadily gained popularity, becoming a symbol of pride and identity for the Basotho people.

    Today, the Basotho blanket is famous in southern Africa and worldwide. It has become a fashionable accessory worn by people of all ages and backgrounds. The blanket is trendy among outdoor enthusiasts for its warm and durable properties, making it ideal for camping, hiking, and other outdoor activities.

    The Basotho blanket has become an essential cultural artifact in recent years. The Lesotho government has designated the blanket as a national symbol, which has been included in UNESCO's Intangible Cultural Heritage list.

    This recognition has helped to raise awareness of the Basotho culture and the importance of preserving traditional weaving techniques.

    As stated, "wearable blankets" might be a new catchphrase, yet, wearable blankets are as old as the hills (mountains) of the Basotho kingdom.

    The Basotho blanket is a unique and important part of South African culture. Not only is it seen as an essential cultural artifact, but its practicality and warmth have made it popular with outdoor enthusiasts.

    The recognition from UNESCO has helped to raise awareness of this traditional weaving technique, helping to protect and preserve the Basotho culture for future generations.

    A women is smiling and worn the blanket

    In conclusion

    Wearable blankets have emerged as an innovative and practical solution for staying warm and comfortable in various settings. These versatile garments are available in a range of materials, styles, and designs, catering to a diverse audience with varying preferences and needs.

    By combining the coziness of a blanket with the functionality of a piece of clothing, wearable blankets enable users to maintain their body temperature while still having the freedom to move and engage in various activities.

    As a unique fusion of fashion and practicality, wearable blankets are not only redefining the way we keep warm but are also offering a stylish and functional alternative to traditional garments and accessories.

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