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A duvet (UK: //, US: //; from French duvet [dyvɛ], meaning 'down') is a type of bedding consisting of a soft flat bag filled with down, feathers, wool, silk or a synthetic alternative, and typically protected with a removable cover, analogous to a pillow and pillow case. Sleepers often use a duvet without a top bed sheet, as the duvet cover can readily be removed and laundered as often as the bottom sheet. Duvets originated in rural Europe and were filled with the down feathers of ducks or geese. The best quality is taken from the eider duck, as its down is known for its effectiveness as a thermal insulator.
In Australian English, a duvet is also called a doona (plural doonas). In American English, it may be called a comforter; however, a comforter is usually a slightly different type of bedding that is not as thick, does not have a cover, and is often used over a top sheet. In the United Kingdom a duvet is also known as a continental quilt (often just shortened to quilt).
From Viking times, duvets of eider down were used by people on the northern coast of Norway. From the 16th century, wealthy people all over Europe began buying and using such duvets. In the story The Princess and the Pea from 1835, H.C. Andersen tells about a princess lying on 10 eider-down duvets.
There is one thing very particular to them, that they do not cover themselves with bed-clothes, but lay one feather-bed over, and another under. This is comfortable enough in winter, but how they can bear their feather-beds over them in summer, as is generally practised, I cannot conceive.
Duvets can reduce the complexity of making a bed, as they can be used without a top sheet, blankets or quilts or other bed covers. Duvets can be made warmer than blankets without becoming heavy. The duvet itself fits into a specially made cover, usually of cotton or a cotton-polyester blend. The duvet cover can be removed and laundered as often as the bottom sheet and pillow cases. The duvet itself may be cleaned much more rarely, and depending on its contents, may require specialist dry cleaning.
While a comforter is fundamentally the same as a duvet in terms of construction, it is used somewhat differently. In the United States, comforters are used on top of the flat sheet, often without a cover.
Duvets are the most common form of bed covering, especially in northern Europe. They became popular throughout the world in the late 20th century.
A British traveller in Germany in the 1930s encountered them: "She even learned to like feather quilts ('they don't seem to know about blankets -- perhaps they didn't have them in the middle ages')"
Originally called a continental quilt across Australia, a duvet is now often called a doona, which is the brand name created by Kimptons (Northern Feather). The Tontine Group acquired the trademark in 1991 when its owner, Pacific Dunlop, took over Northern Feather. "Doona" is derived from the equivalent Danish and Norwegian term "dyne" ('down') and was popularized by the retailer IKEA in the 1970s.
In Asian countries like India and Pakistan, duvets are known as "ralli quilts" or razai.
Thermal performance (tog rating)
Manufacturers rate the performance of their duvets in togs, a measurement of thermal insulation. This enables the purchaser to select a duvet appropriate to the season: the higher the tog rating, the warmer the duvet.
A few manufacturers have marketed combined duvet set consisting of one 4.5 tog and one 9.0 tog. The light-weight one is for summer and the medium one for spring and autumn; snapped together, 13.5 togs is designed for winter. Manufacturers may also offer up to 15 tog duvets.
Standards and sizes
Modern manufacturing conventions have resulted in a large number of sizes and standards.
In popular culture
The term "duvet day" is used in some countries to describe an allowance of one or more days a year when employees can simply phone in and say that they are not coming in to work, even though they have no leave booked and are not ill. The provision of this benefit became fashionable in the late 1990s with many larger companies in the UK.
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- "Mina" (2002-02-05). "How to fit a Duvet Cover: The One-minute Guide". BBC.