A close up of some shoes

After a lovely mid-June heat wave known as the “veranillo de San Juan” it´s back to cool winter days and colder nights. Perfect time for making use of Paraguay´s most ubiquitous and eco-friendly blanket: the “blanket of cloth.” This is pronounced “fra” (frought) “za” (zombie) “da” (Dalí Lama) “de” (Denver) “tra” (traverse) “po” (Edgar Allan Poe).

As the name indicates a blanket of rag is a rag or fabric scrap blanket ( blanket = blanket, rag = rag). Artisans start by gathering fabric scraps – some simply use what is available in their home while others purchase or request scraps from nearby factories. The scraps are then cut into strips about one inch in width, rolled up, and woven together on a loom with thick cotton thread. Slowly but surely a blanket beings to take shape as more scraps are added. Because rag blankets are often made bit by bit they are a crazy kaleidoscope of colors and patterns. While the typical blanket of rag is made of cotton scraps there are also ones made with polar fleece and ao po´i. Trendy clothing line Pombero has recently come out with several rag blankets inspired outerwear designs. Note: Rag blankets should not be confused with the chuchier blanket poyvi , a blanket which has a more uniform design and color (more on that in a later post).

Someone I know compared to a rag blanket to an ex-boyfriend: “it weighs a lot and is not hot.” Meaning “it’s heavy (slang for a royal pain) and doesn’t heat things up much.” However I would argue otherwise (about the blanket, no comment on the ex-boyfriends). True, all those fabric scraps end up making rag blankets quite heavy, but that can be a good thing. When you throw a blanket of cloth over a lightweight blanket the blanket of cloth’s weight traps in the heat and keeps you toasty warm all night long.

After the divine heat wave in mid-June known as the “summer of San Juan” the mild days and cold winter nights have returned. It is the perfect time to use one of the most popular and ecological blankets in Paraguay: the rag blanket.

As its name implies, the rag blanket is made of rags, or rather, scraps of fabric. Some artisans collect their own fabric scraps while others buy or order scraps from nearby factories. The scraps are cut into pieces 2 to 3 centimeters wide. They are then twisted and woven on a loom with thick cotton thread. The rag blanket takes shape as more and more pieces are added. Since rag blankets are generally made little by little, they end up being a crazy kaleidoscope of colors and designs. Typically they are made with cotton scraps but there are also those who make fleece blankets and even ao po’i. The fashion brand Pombero even has a line of coats inspired by the rag blanket. Note: The rag blankets are the same as the “poyvi blanket,” which is cooler and has more uniform colors and design (I’ll talk more about this craft in another article).

An acquaintance compared the rag blanket to an ex-boyfriend: “it weighs a lot and is not hot.” However, I do not agree (about the blanket, as for the ex-boyfriends I do not comment). True, all those scraps add up and the cloth blankets end up feeling quite heavy. But that weight has an important benefit. If you place a cloth blanket on top of a light blanket, the weight of the cloth blanket will trap the heat and keep you warm throughout the night.