2009 Weave of the week #41: Berber wedding blanket

Berber wedding blanket

Berber wedding blanket

This week’s featured weave, the wedding blanket of which a detail is shown above,  was handwoven by Berber women in the mountains of Morocco.  (I should perhaps mention that Berbers — who call themselves “Imazigen,” which means “free people” in the Berber language — are indigenous people who have lived in North Africa for 4,000 years.)  This was another gift from my friend Penelope,  who traveled to the Fès-Meknès area and brought back some fascinating textiles.  Wedding blankets are believed to have magical powers that protect the users from the evil eye, so this would have been an especially welcome gift.  (Click this link to read an earlier post about another Moroccan textile from Penelope’s trip.  That fabric’s silk fiber content is suddenly in doubt after a reader posted interesting information about it.)

My blanket is 3’7″ x 5’8″, and is very warm to sleep under.  It is densely woven plain weave,  in natural-colored sheep’s wool,  with lighter-colored nubby cotton stripes and smooth cotton knotted pile fringe.  Round metal sequins,  like the ones visible in the photos,  are traditionally sewn on by brides-t0-be and their relatives.

Knotted pile with sequins

Knotted pile with sequins

In  his excellent book The Techniques of Rug Weaving,  Peter Collingwood says, ” A clove hitch on one or two warp ends, is used in some Moroccan rugs.”  My blanket’s fringe has four multi-strand knots per inch,  as shown in the photo above.  I can’t tell whether the clove hitch is the knot that was used or not,  but maybe I can find out at the October 31 meeting of the New York Guild of Handweavers,  when Susan S. Davis,  an anthropologist and expert on Moroccan textiles,  will be the guest speaker.  For complete information about the meeting (the public is welcome),  visit the Guild’s website,  here,  and to read more about Susan S.  Davis and about her work with Moroccan women rug weavers,  visit her website,  here.

One of the reasons that I love writing my blog is that it leads me to look closely at textiles that I have lived with,  and taken for granted,  for years,  so that I can write about them.  Knotted pile,  for example, is a technique that I tried once and discarded because it wasn’t practical for production weaving (the result was the vegetable-dyed pillow to the right of Bobby in the photo below).

Bobby and knotted pile pillow

Bobby and my only knotted pile project

However,  examining the wedding blanket has reawakened my interest in the pile weaves,  and I’m excited about where the concept may take me.  Don’t look for shaggy scarves at Saks any time soon, though.

Update:  To see three more Berber wedding blanket capes,  see  Susan S. Davis’s photo on my gallery page (click on the thumbnail to enlarge the image).

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6 Responses

  1. Nice photo of beautiful capes, Susan, many thanks for sharing it. Now it’s on my Gallery page for all to see and enjoy.

    Fern

  2. This textile is actually a Moroccan wedding cape, worn both at a woman’s wedding and to special occasions afterward. They are perhaps used as blankets too, though I haven’t seen that in Morocco – but I do!

    They come in a wide variety of styles and colors, varied by region. Actually, the style is a rectangle, but it may have fringe or paillettes or not. The one here is from the Middle Atlas, and it’s amazing the variety they create with the wool and “cotton” [I’m not really sure what it is] stripes. I have two in Minnesota that I wish I could bring to the meeting: they are rust and black stripes with touches of white and gold, and are slightly different, like musical variations on a theme. I do have a photo, if one can post them. And I have another couple of different styles I can bring to the meeting Oct. 31. This always happens, I plan to bring a few things and then get carried away…. But it’s so much fun!

  3. Hi, Eva, “Cozy” is one of Bobby’s favorite things, so he’s very content to be snuggled in wool.

    Fern

  4. It looks cozy and I really like the pretty patterned edging with the sequins. Bobby seems very content surrounded by lovely weavings!

    Eva

  5. Good morning, Sue. I’m glad that my friend Penelope reminded me that she was in Morocco around 25 years ago. That’s something that hadn’t occurred to me when I read Janna’s comment, and will probably figure into the answer to the silk/rayon question. Stay tuned : )

    Fern

  6. It will be interesting to hear what the Moroccan textile expert says about the rayon or silk controversy. On a mill tour I took recently, they talked about one of our NH mills making “artificial silk”, which is how they advertised rayon.

    I’ve never tried knotted pile techniques, but someday!!

    Sue

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