Rug Making Process

Moroccan Berber rugs are loaded with personality and history, which is what makes them highly sought after by art collectors and interior designers all around the world. What is a Berber rug and how is it made?

Women from rural Moroccan communities barely participated in public life; they lived in a space of their own. Despite these social restrictions, they manifested themselves, in their textile art, as independent and daring artists. They have developed an art which radiates vigor and sensitivity, and which reveals a great imagination. The weavers improvise structures, patterns and motifs drawn from a vast and varied repertoire. The result is astonishingly beautiful. Moroccan Berber Rug is pure poetry, pure abstract - abstract, but loaded with a deep meaning.

One or two women sit next to each other on a bench at a vertical loom so that their hands always remain at the same level, the finished part of the carpet is gradually rolled round the lower beam disappearing the carpet from sight and the weaver sees only the last part of her work. This means that weaver must use forms drawn from her memory. In this way her creativity is given full scope. Although rooted in tradition she can continually incorporate into her work her own intuitions, feelings and imagination. She has the freedom which can make her a creative artist. This explains the surprising spontaneity and incomparable variety which characterize Berber carpets.

Indispensable tools : loom, combs, cards, cattails, baskets, spindles..

Shearing raw wool from sheep

Step 1: shearing sheep and buying woolen fleeces.

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 a standard-sized rugs.

Washing and preparing raw wool fleeces

Step 2: Washing and preparing the wool fleeces.

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 a standard-sized rug.

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, 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.

carding wool fleece

Step 3: Carding.

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.

spinning wool fleece threads

Step 4: Spinning

After the carding step is finished, foams of fleece are set ready to be spun. The tool used at this stage is “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 spinning to create tension while gently drawing out the fleece. As the spindle stops spinning, more fleece is pulled down gently then spinning again while holding the fleece firmly between the thumb and the index finger to get a solid thread. The yarn is then wind on 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 a yarn.
stored wool yarns

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.

a woman weaving a berber carpet

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, and 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.

Handwoven Berber Rug drying under the sun

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 berber rugs made by different families. Hence, every woman tries to weave the most beautiful and appealing rug to stand out on the market.