Exploring The Making of Moroccan Rugs
Morocco is a beautiful country situated in the northwestern tip of Africa, is famous for its beautiful beaches, traditional music, delectable cuisine, colorful history and most importantly, its stunning hand-woven rugs.
But to Western rug lovers, Morocco means hand-woven tribal rugs, which are highly prized by collectors in the West for their exotic beauty characterized by simplistic patterns and a variety of colors.
Morocco has about 45 different tribes spread across geographical regions that vary from the cold Atlas Mountains to the hot Sahara desert. Nomadic Moroccans and Berber tribes have been making rugs to use as tent sides, bed coverings, sleeping mats, burial shrouds, saddle blankets, and as a pastime tracing back to many generations ago.
The rugs they make vary from being very thick with a heavy pile to flat woven and light to reflect the climate of the region they inhabit.
Since the designs are usually passed down through the generations in a rug weaving family, each tribe has developed its own distinctive design with varying weaving and embroidery styles. Over the centuries, Moroccan rug weavers have borrowed techniques from all over the Middle East and North Africa. However, they have a few common weaving styles that can be divided into three categories:
1. Knotted – To weave a knotted rug, a secure base is first created by laying a few rows of weft threads across the warp. A weft yarn is then slipped around the warp, catching at least two warp threads, and the extra length is knotted across the width of the textile. A knotted pile rug is warm because it is fluffy and traps air between the yarns.
2. Flat weave – Flat weave rugs have no knots, so they are thinner and may feature more intricate designs. This process involves lacing strands of weft year in and year out of the warp threads and beating them down to make a close, even textile. This techniques is widely used by the nomadic tribes that live in the Sahara desert. One primitive style that is well-knows is the Oued Zem, which is characterized by bright colors and toy, animal or household motifs.
3. Weft substitution – This is a variation of flat weave that involves creating complicated patterns from the back of a loom using different colored weft threads. The color variation allows the weaver to build elaborate designs. Weft substitution is actually a descriptive term, as the technique has no specific name and is often confused with tapestry and similar weaving styles.
Unlike other antique oriental rugs that have elegant designs consisting of intricate patterns and motifs, Moroccan hand-woven tribal rugs have a more subtle elegance about them. Yet, it is the simplicity in design often found in these rugs that help them fit in wonderfully with modern decor.
This unique quality combined with affordable pricing is the reason vintage and antique Moroccan rugs continue to remain popular with rug lovers and collectors today!