In a country where sheep breeding is a vital resource for sedentary and nomadic populations, wool is the only material used to weave carpets. Wool, Souf in Arabic, has been sacred since it gave its name to Sufism, in memory of the simple white garment that distinguished the followers of this mystical current coming from the East, formed during the first five centuries of the Hegira.
In the Atlas Mountains, the sheep are sheared by men in the month of May during a true ceremonial, identical to that of the beginning of the harvest. The women sort the wool, wash it in the river with clay soil, boil it to remove any impurities, then rinse it with running water. Combed and bleached, the wool is separated into long strands for the warp and short strands for the weft. Then, it is carded using two wooden boards with metal teeth that hook the wool fibers. Light and swollen, it is spun using a spindle. Once woven, the wool retains its rustic, animal, crushed and rough strands in some areas. Elsewhere, it will be silky, shiny and supple, especially if it is lamb's wool.
Having to be woven, the wool is dyed by women or in the souks Traditionally, the dyeing, adornment of all carpets, is made from pigments of flowers, fruits, leaves or insects. The red dye, the dominant color of most Moroccan carpets, is obtained from madder root or cochineal; the yellow is based on wild broom saffron or pomegranate bark; the orange, based on henna; the black, if it is not natural, is obtained from walnut, tea or tobacco bark; the blue is based on indigo. The variety of colors therefore depends essentially on the soil or nalt the carpet and natural resources. The dyeing properties of the plants give each carpet a unique personality. Today, the colors are enriched thanks to anilines, synthetic dyes, which fade less quickly with time. Alum fixes the colors.
Berbers or city-dwellers, all carpets are woven on looms of high smooth more or less archaic. The craft loom is rudimentary. It is composed of two vertical wooden uprights and two horizontal beams - the beams - one above the other below. Between these are stretched the warp threads, twisted and tightened. On these looms with roughly squared wooden uprights, the carpet follows the shape of the sometimes uneven selvedges. Tensioned vertically from the beginning of the preparation of the work, the warp threads determine the length, the fineness or the thickness of the carpet. The tension of the warp yarns is maintained by a pressure of the foot on the bottom beam. The weft threads are not tensioned as evenly. Two essential parts make up the carpet : the high wool and the ground fabric. The latter is formed by the interweaving of the vertical warp threads and the horizontal weft threads passed with the help of a heald, by hand, row after row and packed with an iron comb. These weft threads make up strips two to ten millimeters wide. The patterns are elaborated using wefts of different colors and their crossing, or using knots made with strands of wool cut to the same length. These knots form the high wool in successive rows, revealing patterns and sets of lines, alternating with the rows of fabric in the background. Two weaving processes predominate: the Berber knot is a knotting technique specific to the Middle Atlas. The thread of the knot is applied obliquely on two or four warp threads. Each strand passes behind the two threads and returns forward to pass under the obliquely applied part; the "gordhes" knot passes between and around two warp threads. The field of the carpet - its central extension - ends at the bottom and at the top with a weaving head extended on one side by bangs.
"Dr Mohamed sijelmassi , les arts traditionnels, 2022, Aubanel, Geneve, Suisse. Page number : 54."