2009 Weave of the week #23: Moroccan silk plaid

Moroccan silk plaid

Moroccan silk plaid

The silk plaid shown above was part of a handwoven bounty that my friend Penelope generously brought me from her trip to Morocco. I saw a very similar piece online, described as a shawl that was probably made in Fez but worn in the south.

The fine red silk warp yarns are sett at approximately 60 epi and threaded on a point twill draw. The pale gold silk warp is sett more densely than the red is (100+ epi), so it creates a horizontal rib overplaid that sort of covers the wefts (see detail below). All of the weft yarns are coarser silk than the warp yarns (approximately 40 ppi).


Penelope also brought back the spools of Moroccan dyed silk yarn that are shown below. I haven’t used any of them yet because they look so elegant the way they are, but the yarn appears to be about the thickness of the weft yarns in the piece.

silk spools

Although I thought that this textile was intended to be worn, it isn’t reversible. There is a definite right side that looks lustrous and feels, well, silky, but the back side has a thin coat of a sticky substance. That makes me wonder what the backing is, whether it has anything to do with the holes in the cloth, and what — if anything — I should do about it, but those are questions for an expert.

Without a doubt, my favorite part of the cloth is the colorful fringes that were added to both ends.

Moroccan fringe

The fringes are cotton braids that were wrapped with shiny, jingly silver paillettes. All of the textiles that Penelope brought back from Morocco for me have paillettes that were either woven in or added later — I don’t know if that was because she knows that I love paillettes, sequins, and glittery yarn, or because the Moroccan weavers do, or both.


8 Responses

  1. Thanks so much for commenting on the origins of the silk/rayon confusion. Very interesting!!


  2. I’m afraid I agree with Janna. The fabric is beautiful, but I’m afraid the textile is rayon. The word for silk and rayon is the same in Moroccan Arabic: hrir [huh rear]. They used to use some silk up to the 30s I think, but it got way too expensive. There have been efforts to raise silkworms in Morocco, but they have failed. Sometimes now you will find a rug [often violet] woven of real silk that has been unravelled from cords used to hold ceremonial daggers, but they are rare, small, and very expensive. There are also some jellaba [traditional robe] weavers in the Bzou area in SW Morocco who use silk and wool combined to make very fine, transparent fabric; government Ministers wear those jellabas when they visit the King.

    As for paillettes: Moroccans, Fern and I all love them. They look gorgeous twinkling in kerosene lantern light. One woman who bought a rug with them from my web site said she was a bit dubious, but convinced when she got up one night “and it was like walking on stars.”

  3. Hi, Janna, Thanks for your interesting comment. Susan Davis, an anthropologist and expert in Moroccan textiles will speak at our weaver’s guild meeting in a couple of weeks, so I will bring your comment, and my plaid, and ask her about it.


  4. I hate to disappoint you, but I just got home from a textile trip to Morocco, and we found out Moroccan silk is not silk at all, but rayon of the most primitive variety. You can check: wet a bit in the middle and it will break there, which is a sure test for rayon. Most people, weavers and yarn sellers, told us it was from the agave, which is possible, only not directly as a fiber but as rayon, and one passement maker told us he imported it from Germany.
    Janna from The Netherlands

  5. How beautiful and I love the silk yarns still on their spools! I especially appreciate the workmanship because in my Fine Threads Study group at Complex Weavers we try to create weaves using very fine yarns. Thanks Fern!


    p.s. Since I mentioned Pumpkin the peacock (he was sort of our pet) on your blog before I should let people know that last week we gave him to a new home in Lancaster, PA. He was with us for nearly 2 years and we miss him a lot but we know he’s happier and safer there with other peacocks.

    • Thanks for your comment, Eva. Not only is the silk in the weaving very fine but it’s a super smooth filament silk, so the hand is beautiful even with the gunk on the back.

      Glad that you posted about Pumpkin’s new home too.


  6. Interesting that you’re writing about an African textile this week. I just borrowed a handwoven cotton blanket from Mali from a friend, and I’m putting together a blog post about it.

    From your post, I’m realizing I really should put in epi and ppi. (That’s a job for tomorrow!)

    That is a really interesting weave and I love the fringes too!


    • Great minds think alike, Sue : ) I’m looking forward to reading your Mali blanket post.


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