Berber pillows - little works of art

The renowned Moroccan tribal tradition of weaving has produced carpets for warmth and decoration, blankets and shawls as clothing, and kilims (knows as ‘hanbels’) for seating and as floor coverings – and it also extends to decorative and beautifully crafted tent pillows and cushions.

These little works of art were traditionally created for sleeping, lounging, and adding a little more comfort for guests, and they made a tent or Berber house cosy, warm, and gorgeously decorated. Many Berber families traditionally sat on the floor, propped up by cushions; so these woven gems were a vital part of home life.

Because of the tent cushion’s small size when compared to wide, long carpets, a weaver needed to be very skilled to create a dazzling little cushion. And since they were seen by guests, a weaver would take a lot of time to create a special work of art which showcased her craft and skills. We also often come across ‘practice cushions’ woven by young girls honing their skills – these pieces are charming and so individual.

Left, Berber cushions look striking in an industrial interior. Right, hung as works of art (from Bohemian Home)

Reflecting the design traditions and beliefs of each tribe, vintage pillows and cushions vary enormously in style and appearance – from fine and intricate geometric weavings, to soft and unusual pieces that mix patterns woven in knotted pile with a flat weave.

The cushions were normally woven as one entire piece. Halfway through her work, the weaver would change the pattern to create the design on the other side; and when her work was finished, she’d fold the weave in half and stitch it up on three sides, having created two pleasing and different designs for the front and back. If you’re thinking of buying an original Moroccan tribal tent cushion, look for a piece created in one continuous weave.

The nicest cushions were finished on the three sides with a fine knotted plait, often made of silk. Interestingly, it was men’s work to make these plaits, and most souks or village markets would have had a tradesman selling his plaited edgings. One of the oldest features of these cushions really is these finely plaited strands of silk delicately sewn onto the edges

Maroc Tribal Berber tent pillows

Weavers would fill these exquisite cushions with a variety of things – sheep’s wool, hay, and dried plants. They would be firmly stuffed and ready to decorate homes, providing snug and comfortable furniture.

Not many original tent pillows and cushions survive these days. They were well used in Berber homes and the oldest would have perhaps seen more damage than a carpet – little drops of wax or cooking oil, frayed corners, and marks. However, those that do survive are irreplaceably lovely items, full of life, charm and beauty, each telling its own tale about its creator.

We've been collecting rare and vintage Berber pillows and cushions, and now we have started to make some of these treasures available here on our website