Berber rugs are loaded with personality and history, hand-woven by the Berber people in North Africa and the Sahara. The carpets come in traditional and modern designs, which are distinguished by different knotting patterns, dyes, and fabric textures. which is what makes them highly sought after by art collectors and interior designers all around the world. What is a Berber rugs and how is it made?
Berber rugs are still used for their primal purpose in some areas, but more and more people are realizing their cultural and sentimental value, and are displaying them in their houses as pieces of art. This includes foreigners and westerners, with designers such as Le Corbusier, Alvar Aalto, and “Ray & Charles Eames” popularizing the Berber rugs by introducing them to their modernist design. Different types of Moroccan Berber rugs were sought after for their primitive and tribal designs. Which leads us to our next question: what’s up with the designs on those vintage Berber rugs anyways?
THE PROCESS OF MAKING MOROCCAN BERBER RUGS:
Women from rural Moroccan communities barely participated in public life; they lived in a space of their own. Which helped them develop art that radiates vitality and sensitivity, and reveals their great imagination and creativity. This is evident in their textile art as artists. For them, Berber carpet weaving is not just a job, but an art of living. Moroccan Berber rugs is pure poetry, pure abstract, but loaded with a deep meaning.
Step 1: shearing sheep and buying wool fleeces.
The making process of Moroccan Berber rugs is completely handmade, all-natural, and eco-friendly. It starts with sheering locally raised sheep from the Atlas regions to procure their wool (no sheep are harmed for this process!), then delivering that wool to the weavers This step belongs primarily to men. The sheep is immobilized laying on its side and fleece is obtained using big scissors. Generally, it takes between 50 to 100 sheep to get enough wool for standard-sized rugs.
Step 2: Washing and preparing the wool fleeces.
The ladies then sift the wool and remove the impurities such as twigs. Most of the time, they soak it and beat it with a stick before gently washing it in the river to clean it out of dirt and natural oils. , then placing it in the sun to dry and whiten. At the end of the day, the wool is stored at home for several days until needed.
Step 3: Carding wool.
Wool is cut, then washed and combed. Carding or combing wool is an essential stage in the production of wool fabric. Carding ensures that all of the wool fibers are untangled and oriented in one direction, making spinning more fluid. They work the wool with two wooden planks called imchden (cards), which they maneuver with a lively back-and-forth movement.
Step 4: Spinning wool
After the carding step is finished, foams of fleece are set ready to be spun. The tool used at this stage is “the drop spindle”, a tapered wooden tool containing three parts, the weight, the stick, and the hook at the top. A bundle of the fleece is attached to the hook, then spun to create tension while gently drawing out the fleece. As the spindle stops spinning, more fleece is pulled down gently and then spun again while holding the fleece firmly between the thumb and the index finger to get a solid thread. The yarn is then wwindedon the spindle itself and attached again to the hook to keep everything in place, and the process is repeated until all the fleece is spun and transformed into again.
Step 5: Washing the spun wool and storing the yarn
The yarn is washed again and placed in the sun to dry, then stored until the loom is prepared.
step 6: Weaving begins
Three essential tools at this stage: a knife with a hook on the end, a pair of scissors, and a comb. Different colors of yarn are hung on top of the loom depending on the colors that will be used on the rug. The weaver passes the piece of the yarn between two tablecloths using the knife’s hook, pulls it with the other hand, then cuts it with the knife, and repeats the process horizontally until the entire line of knots is completed. Then the weaver uses the heavy comb to compact the knots down firmly to keep everything in place. The process is repeated knot after knot, row after row until the carpet is finished.
step 7: Washing and drying the carpet
The carpet is now ready. It is a common thing for men to take the rug and try to sell it in the local market, taking place once every week, depending on each village. You can find a variety of handmade beBerberugs made by different families. Hence, every woman tries to weave the most beautiful and appealing rug to stand out on the market.