Many of us reduce The Making of Berber carpets to the act of weaving. Whereas weaving is just one stage of many other operations that contribute to the success of the production of these perfect pieces of art. For thousands of years, All these stages are still performed in a sequence. All Berber carpets and weavings are made from wool, a versatile material. Wool is the very heart and soul of the rug. Berber tribes regard it as a noble and beneficial material. goat's hair is sometimes also present in the fringe and in the warp.
Let's discover these stages one by one.
1-The shearing :
Berbers produce the wool with which they make most of their Rugs and textiles from shearing the sheep in their herd. This task is solely performed by men, with the help of a Blade shearing. The Shearer must be careful to produce fleece with maximum length without injuring the sheep to prevent the spread of disease amongst the flock.
The women sort the wool by length, color, and quality and remove the impurities like twigs. Then the raw material is transported in baskets to the water streams, opened, and soaked in water for about an hour. It is then taken out and beaten on flat stones with a stick to remove the grease. The wool is then plunged back into the water, and the operation is repeated as needed. The yarn is then pressed and dried under the sun for 2-3 days. Sometimes on cold days, boiled water is used to remove grease from the wool before dipping it into the river water.
3-Combing, carding, spinning:
These operations are performed in sequence. At this early stage, the women have a perfect idea of what type of textile they want to weave, like a thick high pile carpet, kilim, blanket, or a wedding shawl. They aim to produce the right warp, weft, and knot threads.
Combing is a process in which wool is cleansed through an instrument that resembles a comb.
Carding aligns the fibers and makes them flow when spinning. The carding process is also the stage when different types of yarn can be blended to get other varieties of needed textures and shades.
The wool goes through spinning using a traditional device. The size and density of the thread depend on the type and quality of the undergoing weaving project ;
Natural dyes were common in Berber rugs as late as mid 20th century. It was common knowledge in the weaver's circle before the gradual transition to synthetic dyes.
Dyeing is a skill in itself. It is challenging to get predictable and consistent results without a great deal of experience. In addition, there are too many variables to control, including and not limited to the type and quality of the dye, quality of wool, type of mordant, the mineral content of water, temperature of dye bath...
5- Warping :
For simplicity, we will skip all the careful forethought before each project, like 'warp dimensions, the spacing of warp...
The traditional Berber warping process requires only three pegs, a clean floor, and two helpers. Two helpers sit cross-legged on the floor behind the pegs facing each other during the process. The third one walks back and forth with the warp. Each time the warp yarn is looped around one of the pegs, the respective peg helper crosses two cords to separate the warp threads on the peg. These separating cords are of fundamental importance during the weaving process.
6- Weaving :
Regardless of the loom type, the rug-weaving process remains the same. One or more wefts are woven through wraps alternating with rows of knots tied to the wraps. Wraps are the most crucial structural element of the rug since they support both weft and knots.
Usually, vertical knot count is higher than horizontal knot count. After making a row of knots, the weaver inserts one or more wefts then a comb is used to beat wefts and knots downward.
The weaving process comes with many challenges. Other than it's a repetitive type of work that challenges the patience of the weaver. The most crucial challenge is to keep the shape of the rug straight. Another one is multiple warps threads torn at the same level.
7- Finishing :
Finishing is a late-stage operation conducted to improve the appearance of the carpet. Once the weaving is complete, the rugs are taken off the loom and undergo a thorough inspection that ensures the absence of defects. Then the carpets go through singeing, washing, stretching, shearing, and fringe knotting.
As you can see, we just unveiled the tip of the iceberg of the process of making Berber rugs. There are a lot of details we didn't mention. Still, we think there are enough elements included in the article that demonstrate the craftsmanship and the attention to detail incorporated into the making of Berber rugs.