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I never saw a Handira blanket while living in Morocco, though our Western obsession with the Moroccan Wedding Blanket might lead you to think otherwise. I worked in a women’s care facility in a rural village, and some of the women and their children were Berber, the Moroccan pre-Arab culture responsible for these beautiful blankets, while most were Arab. Nevertheless, the Moroccan Wedding Blanket, as the name implies, is a gift to the bride, and none of these women were brides. Furthermore, these blankets are not mass produced in the Berber villages of Morocco like they are in the United States. To own one, a real one, is to own a part of someone’s wedding, a mother’s good memory and a piece of one-of-a-kind art.
The holiday season is a time to celebrate family and love in this country, and I found and nurtured both forces while living in Morocco. Instead of adhering to the red and green color palette of Christmas this year, or depending upon big business for a plastic-enveloped Christmas tree skirt, I’ve decided to make a Moroccan Wedding Blanket for the tree. Though I never saw one during my time in Northern Africa, and certainly never saw one draped around the bottom of a tree, the blanket reminds me of experiences to celebrate and remember. If you, too, are interested in switching up your Anglo-Saxon traditions and making a DIY Moroccan Blanket for the tree this year, here’s how to do it.
The Berber Culture of Morocco
Morocco is an African nation influenced largely by Arabian, European and Berber cultures. The Berber culture goes back to prehistoric times, and the Berber people have preserved their own language and culture over the centuries. Many Berbers live in the mountains of Morocco, farming and operating small shops. The Moroccan Rif region, where I worked, is home to a distinct tribe of Berbers, called the Ghomara.
When a Berber woman announces her plans for marriage, the bride’s female relatives prepare her for her new life by weaving a special blanket. The Berber Wedding Blanket, known as a Handira in Morocco and simply the Moroccan Wedding Blanket in the West, is purposed to keep the bride warm on her journey to her new home. Once she arrives, the couple sleeps under the handmade blanket after their first night of being husband and wife. It is from the couple’s new bedroom that the West is influenced, incorporating the Handira in living rooms, on walls and around Christmas trees.
What You’ll Need for a DIY Handira Tree Blanket
- Two thin bath mats with lots of texture, such as this woven bath rug, for 12 yards of trim
- 8 yards of tribal ribbon trim for a 47″x71″ blanket (adjust all sizes according to the size of your blanket and intricacy of your design)
- 3 yards of a complimentary tribal ribbon trim. Enjoy choosing colors and designs that reflect your tastes or the colors of the holiday season.
- Pair of scissors
- Needle and white thread
- Hot glue gun and glue sticks
- Silver or gold Paillettes (Optional)
You’ll need to have a plan in place. This could mean drawing out your design and ordering more of one trim and less than the other. Perhaps you love the textures of your bath mats and would like to cover the entire blankets with different strips of them, alternating between bath mat and trim. Below is a pattern from the DIY blog Make Scout.
Blogger Veronica used a 47″x71″ blanket, making it possible to follow her pattern while ordering the exact number of supplies I listed above. If you’re going to follow Veronica’s pattern, note that her ‘Cream Lace and Sequin’ is my tribal ribbon trim; what’s marked as ‘gold sequin’ is my complimentary tribal ribbon trim; the 12 yards of ‘brush fringe’ listed on her design are strips of bath mat.
Cut, Paste & Tie
Yep, that’s right. These are your three guiding words after having mapped out your pattern. Begin by cutting out the hole for the tree trunk. Use a pen to trace a round object that’s handy, like a tupperware lid, in the center of your blanket. Then, pick any spot on the blanket to begin cutting a semi-straight line towards your outline.
Now, you can drape your blanket over a large flat surface and begin cutting and placing each trim according to your pattern. As a workplace, I prefer hardwood or tile floor. However, blogger Whitney of The Cuban in My Coffee used her dining table for its comfortable height, draping the edges of the blanket over chairs.
When cutting out the shaggy rows from the bath mats, be sure to cut between each row on the mat itself. Otherwise, threads unravel.
Now that you’ve placed each piece, heat up your glue gun and begin pasting them according to your pattern. Some bloggers, such as Lindsay of The White Buffalo Styling Co., used fabric glue instead.
Once every piece is glued, take your needle and thread and sew your silver or gold paillettes onto the blanket, anywhere on the blanket. You don’t have to be a seamstress to do this – just pull the thread through the tiny hole of the paillette and in and back up through the blanket, tying the two together with a messy knot and unevenly clipped ends. Remember that the imperfection adds to the charm! You want an authentic, vintage feel to the blanket.
Finally, your tree skirt is complete.
P.S. Some Moroccan Wedding Blankets have pompoms sewn to the edges. If you’re interested in going the extra mile and clipping strings to more messy knots, check out Vintage Revival’s awesome tutorial on how to make a giant pom-pom.
Have you ever made a handmade tree skirt? Share some of your tips and good memories in the comment section below!