Moroccan Carpet Buying Guide

The weaving tradition in Morocco goes back centuries and the diversity of style and design is widespread. So much variety is awe-inspiring but can also make choosing a carpet for your home an overwhelming task!  The good news is that the variety allows you to be as specific (It must coordinate with my furniture and fit the dimensions of my livingroom!) – or as flippant (How about medium-sized and colorful?) – as you wish.

Senna with Carpet

Here is a brief overview to help you get started: Moroccan carpets are functional pieces designed to warm the home and brighten the decor, making them both attractive and durable. All of the carpets we refer to here are woven on a vertical loom by one to four women, depending upon the carpet’s dimension. They are all handmade, knot by knot, row by row.

The main categories to consider when buying are the type of material you prefer, color schemesizestyle, design, and price range you’d like to stay within.

Material

The warp (lengthwise yarns that are held in tension on the loom) is most commonly cotton because it’s strong. Before cotton was readily available, handspun wool was used, which is one reason why older carpets and blankets are sought after. For the weft (the “back and forth” of the carpet and the design that you see), materials include:
   • Wool Yarn:  Natural tones, thicker yarn, slightly coarse until worn    
   • Cotton/Acrylic Blended Yarn: Vibrant tones, soft plush yarns

   • Sabra: A finely spun, unique Moroccan textile blend of silk, linen and wool. Often dyed in vibrant colors, these will fade into soft hues with exposure to the sun or high traffic.

 Wool

Cotton/Acrylic Blend

Sabra

Color Scheme

While the material can somewhat dictate the color scheme, there are still many options. First, consider what the main background color of your carpet should be, and if you want a more neutral palette, soft tones or vibrant, bold colors. Then choose which coordinating colors you definitely want to include. With custom-made carpets, you can be quite specific about color scheme. However, if we are shopping at local weaving associations or in the “souqs” (outdoor markets) for your carpet, it’s best to tell us the few main colors you are interested in, while being flexible about additional hues.

Natural Dyes offer earthy tones, and can range from rich browns and yellows to deep reds and oranges. Availability of these colors are dependent upon seasonal crops and vegetation, such as Madder root, poppies, walnuts (husks), fig (leaves), and onions (skins).

Commercial Dyes are often in pure hues. For custom carpets woven by Association Gorges Du Dades, wool yarn and cotton/acrylic blended yarns are most commonly found in true red, orange, yellow, green, blue, black and white, although a few other colors are also available.

Popular color schemes among Amazigh (“Berber”) carpets are red/black/white, blue/black/white and black/off-white, but there are many, many other combinations from which to choose or to customize for yourself!

Size

Moroccan carpets are rectangular, with dimensions only limited in width by the size of the loom, which typically allows carpets up to 2 meters wide. They can be as long as you wish. Another factor in determining size is the cost of transport, which is based on size and weight.

Style

  • Pile are tufted and can be cut shorter or shaggier, depending upon your preference.  The design options are wide-ranging.
  • Flat Weave are simply woven back and forth, and have no “shag.”  These can be striped or intricately designed.
  • Ahandir are Moroccan wool blankets, also a flat weave. These can be up to sixty years old with a wool warp, and the natural white, brown and black tones of the sheep’s wool. These blankets are most often striped by alternating white and brown/black wool.

Pile

Flat Weave

Ait Ouffi Ahandir
Ahandir

Design

There are many other options of carpets. Designs range from simple to ornate, informal to formal, symmetrical and assymetrical. Another common differentiation are carpets with a central motif, and surrounding frames, rows of design, or striped. Many designs vary by geographic and cultural regions.

Takhalelt

In the southern, rural mountain village of Ait Ouffi, the women of Association Gorges Du Dades, weave a variety of Pile, Flat Weave and Ahandir, primarily with traditional Amazigh (“Berber”) influence. Often included in their designs are the “takhlelt” (Amazigh bride pendant), the Amazigh alphabet and geometric patterns. These weavers also enjoy experimenting with new ideas, which they draw from other carpets they discover, the village landscape and their own personal interests.

If you are interested in having Association Gorges Du Dades weave your rug, you can suggest your own design by sending them your preferences – perhaps even a drawing – from which they will work. It is worth noting; however, that they are artists, and they are known to take liberties when it suits their aesthetic!  The more particular you are about the details of your design, the more specific we need to be in placing the order. Or, you can give them your wishes and let their creative fingers do the rest!

  

Price Range

We are committed to pricing these carpets in a way that provides an appropriate wage for the weavers and the cost of their materials, while still falling within an affordable range. Price is first calculated according to the size of the carpet and the materials needed. Then, a fair fee for the weavers is calculated, depending upon the amount of time the entire weaving process will take. (For example, an Ahandir is simply woven; however, if it’s made of raw wool, we consider the time the women spend washing, drying, combing and spinning the wool before the weaving begins.) We then add shipping and handling. A simple, small carpet begins at $70USD; larger carpets range from $250-$500USD.

We look forward to helping you choose your ideal Moroccan carpet.  With a wealth of materials, colors, sizes, styles, designs, and prices from which to choose, we will work with you to discover your perfect match.  It’s a wonderful way to bring Moroccan culture into your home, and supports local artisans in the High Atlas Mountains of Morocco.  Email Sarah Young at sarah@flyingart.net for more information, or to place an order.

[A little music while you read? Here's one of our favorites from Tinariwen.]

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