Hand-knotted rugs from Morocco

Saida shows me how she works knot by knot on a new rug. In the meantime her son crawls underneath her arms. “It is a lot of work, but nice to do.” The weaving loom is situated in her living room. “I can stay with my family and choose when ever I want to work”, says Saida. Knotting rugs is a tradition in Berber families which is passed on from mother to daughter. In the winter the rugs are used as insulation. The winters can be very cold in the mountains of the High Atlas of Morocco with snow and temperatures below zero. To stop the cold from coming into their homes, families cover their floors with carpets and rugs.

The rugs are being made on a weaving loom. The warp threads,  which are the vertical threads being used as a base, exists of hand spun sheep wool. This is a chore where all the women have to work together. By using sheep wool for the warp, the rug will be extra soft in the end. Each visible pole in the rug is a small skein of sheep wool. To insure that all skeins have the same length, Saida uses a simple but smart tool. A little incision is curved in a round wooden stick. Saida spins the wool around it and then cuts it loose via the incision. This way she can process 10 to 15 kilo wool for one rug.

Saida makes about 25.000 knots per square metre. Knotting a rug is a labour-intense process which takes her about 3 to 4 weeks to make.

With each skein Saida makes a knot around two warp threads. This knot is known as the symmetric (Turkish) knot and is very strong and durable. Saida makes about 25.000 knots per square metre. Knotting a rug is a labour-intense process which takes her about 3 to 4 weeks to make. A lot of work, but worth while. By using the sheep wool and their way of knotting, these rugs will assure you lifelong pleasure. Saida shows me an old sample made by her great-grandmother. Here and there it’s coulered with henna*, but still soft and thick!

Henna is being used by the Berber women to dye their hair and decorate their hands. By using the henna so often their nails have turned orange and the inside of their hands have become black. You will often find tracks of henna in old rugs.