The master of the blanket in Beypazarı
WILCO VAN HERPEN
‘Filling a blanket with wool is a difficult and precise job. The wool had to be divided in an equal thick layer over the whole surface of the blanket. The blankets that Naci made kept you really warm in the freezing winter times and cold it can get in Beypazarı.’
The year, 1959. The man: Naci İl. His father tells him that he will not go to school next season. The family is desperately in need of money. Naci’s father has found a job for him. The next morning he takes Naci to a small workshop and introduces him to his master, Naci Keleş. Young Naci is 10 years old. From one day to another, Naci’s youth was finished. Working as an apprentice is not an easy thing to do. Life is often very hard for the young boys. They work long hours. They have no days off. They have to obey their master.
Naci’s first jobs were cleaning the atelier, buying thread, fetching fabric or filling and delivering some of the blankets his master had finished. But whatever the master asked of him, Naci did it quickly, accurate and with love. Soon the master realized that with Naci, he got a pupil who was eager to learn a profession and who had a feeling for it as well. Especially the latter was important. It did not take long before the master started giving Naci different and more challenging jobs, like cutting fabric and filling the blankets with wool.
This might seem strange to you, but filling a blanket with wool is a difficult and precise job. The wool had to be divided in an equal thick layer over the whole surface of the blanket. If at one point there would be not enough wool, that part of the blanket would be colder while sleeping under it. If he would put too much wool in the blanket, then this would be an expense his master (obviously) would not like.
Slowly, step by step, the young Naci learned the profession; how to draw different decorative motifs on the blankets with chalk. Once he mastered the newly learned skill, it was time to start a new challenge in the making of blankets. Finally, his master gives him the final task; finishing a blanket with a new motif that Naci had to create himself.
For years, they worked side by side, but then, one day, his master told Naci that it was time for him to leave the business. Naci had learned everything there was to know about the job and he even finished blankets faster than his master.
Naci continued the business with as much enthusiasm as when he was an apprentice and these were golden times for people with his profession. Nobody was using electric blankets yet and there was not one single house in the whole area that had a central heating system. The blankets that Naci made kept you really warm in the freezing winter times and cold it can get in Ankara’s Beypazarı.
When I met Naci for the first time, I was travelling through Turkey in a camper. When I saw his shop, I realized what I missed in my house on wheels; a real nice, authentic handmade blanket. I do not know if you have ever seen those beautiful blankets but they are gorgeous. It is a piece of art you sleep with. Shiny bright blue, green, red yellow or pink colors on the upper side and a nice warm soft layer of fabric at the underside. The blanket is, especially when you choose the woolen variety, very heavy but it feels so nice.
Many times while travelling around in Turkey, people in the villages invited me to stay at their place. And every time, I slept under such a blanket. Imagine you are in a freezing cold bedroom and you do not have your pajamas with you. You get in the bed and you have goose bumps all over. Within a couple of minutes, the worst cold is gone and before you realize it, your bed feels like a nice and warm bird nest. This is the beauty of such an authentic blanket. The bad part though is… The next morning; you wake up and stick your head above the blanket. Your breath turns into little clouds; your nose is cold and red in a second. The worst part is leaving the bed and your oh-so-warm blanket. Once you are dressed up and manage, without being frozen, to make it to the kitchen, all the problems are over.
There is a nice heater and on the heater, tea water is boiling. Fresh bread is toasted and you praise the day and the people who took you as a guest into their house.
I entered the shop and had a chat with Naci usta. Drinking a cup of tea, we chitchatted a bit. New clients entered the shop and ordered a blanket. In the short time I was sitting there, at least 4 or 5 people entered the shop either to ask for the price or to check if their blanket was ready or not. It looked as if he was doing quite some business. But then again, if you realize that a handmade blanket costs around 150 Turkish Liras, then I wonder how a man can live from his work. It takes him 1 or two days to make one blanket and… unfortunately, young people actually do not like or appreciate the “old fashioned” blankets anymore.
As a wedding present
I loved his place. Sitting next to Naci on a little tabouret I looked at him. Naci was sitting on a kind of platform. Around him, attached to the wall are all different kind of blankets. In front of him is an unfinished blanket. Constantly, his needle and thread were making circles in the air, after which he sewed another part of the flower motif he was working on. A group of women enter the shop. They want to give one of his blankets as a wedding present. The wedding will take place one and a half month later, so Nacı usta reassures them; there is still time enough to make a beautiful wedding blanket.
A lively discussion follows about which color the blanket should be and if they can bring their own fabric. Then one of the women starts bargaining, but Nacı does not lower his price one kuruş. At the end, they agree and the women leave his little atelier.
I ask Naci if he can make a blanket for me as well, and he promises to make one for me. It took him exactly one day to finish my blanket; a green shiny blanket. Beautifully decorated with daisy motifs, I became the proud owner of a handmade authentic Beypazarı blanket. No more cold nights for me.