My fresh start was 4 years ago when I moved to Morocco. Each New Year is now part of a lifelong journey of textile discovery. My love of sewing and craft took a new twist which helped me to settle in my new home and enabled me to fulfill a dream ,I didn't know I had until it popped into my head, of having my own etsy store sewsouk
Now the Medina- or old city- with its narrow streets full of artisan workshops and small businesses carrying on ancient traditional crafts has become my draw and is surprisingly where I feel most alive. I can still only speak limited Arabic and my French is poor too but the people speak my language- they make things- and the ability to create and craft is a universal language which garners respect and appreciation whatever your origin.
The braid or sfifa ( in Arabic) suppliers are grouped together with floor to ceiling shelves full of yarn of every hue ,wound on to bamboo spools, sparkling like jewels in the sunlight. Long poles with hooks on are used to pull the spools from the upper shelves- sometimes resulting in bamboo tumbling to the floor or hitting you on the head! Colours are matched, small pieces are spun with hand spinning bobbins to check the colour of cord and braid as the thread is darker when spun. Other customers are consulted for their opinions. Sometimes there are disagreements but everyones’ views are considered.
I asked my yarn supplier what was his most popular colour- his answer was a little baffling- the colour I don’t have. Did he mean he never seemed to stock what was popular or that he sold out quickly of popular colours? Or was he tired of checking colours all day? Tailors, their runners and those that sew for themselves all bustle about on their mission to match the 2 or 3 colours in their fabric.
Morocco is one of the few places on the planet where you can design your own braid, cord or trim and have it made in the colourway of your choice- in relatively small quantities – 5 or 10 metres for a minimum order. Some but not all the shops have small machines attached to their premises where they make the braid using techniques that have been used for hundreds of years. Some are actually braided by hand. Cord is spun in the street- a nail in the wall used as a hook and metres of yarn wound round it and down the street– at head level so watch out!- a tiny gadget then spins the yarn at high speed before the maker winds it back on the bamboo bobbin. Looms can also still be seen in places where fabric is woven on hand looms often using a mix of threads and yarns. . These are places in our modern mass produced world which should be treasured but are taken for granted. The options and choices are almost limitless but in many more developed countries it is hard to even find trim let alone have such a wide choice!
Behind closed door s in workshops and homes people work with the yarn to create handmade items for furnishings, celebrations and special occasions and here people still go to their tailor for a new suit, a new djellaba- loose outer garment a cross between a cloak and a coat -or a new party dress- and the tailor creates the vision for the customer- often using techniques and stitching and embroidery that has evolved over hundreds of years-most is still sewn or finished by hand. There are fashions too of which the tailor must keep abreast- my sister in law tells me tiny art silk buttons are old fashioned and bigger ones are now the trend- both use techniques that were used 300 to 400 years ago!
The level of fine hand work would be respected in a Saville Row suit or an haute couture design house – and reflected in the price too!-but somehow here it is taken for granted.
Passementarie – elaborate trimming- is engrained-it’s on furnishings, clothes and everyday objects.
Moroccans still have a love for the detail and ornate style that the French love so much – Morocco was once a French Protectorate- but Morocco has developed its own textile style incorporating tribal and Arabic designs, shapes and colours too.
The Medina always has a surprise- there is always something new or different-it is a mix of colour, noise and smells. A week or so ago I went to the same street I have been going to for the past few years but turning the corner I was almost bowled over by a strong smell- lavender! The grinding store which usually grinds grain was grinding lavender and the smell was magnificent! Purchasing my braid and trims that day was a real treat.