When we stumbled across the Old Yarns Instagram page we were instantly hooked. Post upon post of the most stunning rugs, all styled in the most beautiful settings giving us some extreme home AND travel envy all at once. Better still, they are all handmade by some incredible collectives and weaving communities in Morocco, using natural materials and dyes and carefully sourced by the lovely Dee, the lady behind Old Yarns.
More than just rugs, each is a piece of art and clearly has a story to tell. We wanted to learn more about where they come from and how Dee came to have such a good eye for them, so we were thrilled when she caught up with us for a good old Q&A!
1. Hi Dee! We are absolutely in awe of your incredible rugs. What first drew you to them and inspired you to set up Old Yarns?
I grew up in the Middle East and some of my earliest memories are of my mother haggling over beautiful soapy silver jewellery and goat hair blankets in the souk. I first visited Morocco in 2003 and immediately fell for it in a big way. On my first trip I bought a magical sparkling marriage blanket and, each time I returned I would go to the same shop and choose another piece. I got to know the shopkeeper and his family. We shared tagines on his roof terrace and he started to teach me about the incredible range of rugs that are made in Morocco. Our home was quickly full but my appetite for Moroccan rugs was not sated. Having made some wonderful local friends, both in Marrakech and the Atlas, the natural next step was to ask them if they would help me to set up a small, responsible rug business. My background as a photographer also helped with producing both the imagery of the mountains and the rugs styled at home.
2. Your Instagram photos from the High Atlas region are fascinating, can you tell us a bit about the history/context of where these rugs come from and the people who make them?
I want clients to understand not only what a rug might look like in their own homes but also where their Old Yarns come from and who made them. So, I post about the places, cultures, stories and people who make the rugs and the landscapes in which they live and work. The women that I work with are Amazigh, they live in remote villages in the High Atlas mountains. These women have formed weaving cooperatives so that they can make and sell beautiful high quality rugs to support their communities whilst also sharing their agricultural and childcare workloads. I love that this is really a women's business - Moroccan rugs are made almost exclusively by women, using techniques and symbols passed down from mothers and grandmothers. The rug designs often tell of their stories and experiences but, sometimes, as Fatima (one of my lead weavers laughs) "we simply make beautiful shapes because we love them". Old Yarns makers only use natural materials (wools, cottons and plant based colours). We work with a small number of women's cooperatives in the High Atlas and we know our teams. We also make long trips up into the mountains, sometimes on foot with a mule, to source vintage pieces. These are my very favourite times: the landscape is breathtaking and the mountain hospitality and generosity still amazes me. I cannot wait to return. Everyone who works with me is paid a fair wage and we (me and my Moroccan team) are proud to have done our bit to support our weaving communities during the pandemic.
3. What would you say sets these rugs apart from others?
Old Yarns have been sourced with care. You can be sure that your rug was made by hand by a fairly paid woman with natural materials in a healthy and culturally sensitive environment.
4. All of your rugs are such beautiful and unique pieces and look so welcoming! Do you have any top tips for styling them at home?
Firstly, I think it's really important to fall in love with a rug. These are heirloom pieces which I hope you will have in your home forever. I advise clients to go with your heart and be confident with these rugs. They were made for rough and tumble mountain life so don't worry about them too much, just enjoy living with them. I love using a vivid generous Boucherouite (a High Atlas rag rug) next to a bath or in a kids' bedroom. The beautiful refined cream and geometric Beni Ourains and Azilals make perfect companions to almost any living room scheme, bouncing light around the room and adding glorious, cosy texture. And the tough old kilims in our house get dragged about in the summer, out on the terrace or as a floor in our son's endless dens.
5. And finally, of course, we always love to know, what's your favourite flower and why?
I am a massive flower lover but, if I must choose one, it would be a bluebell. There is nothing quite like the feeling of a woodland in Spring, surrounded by a sea of bluebells. Actual heaven.
If you want to see more, head over to the Old Yarns Instagram page, where you can see and buy the beautiful rugs Dee sources, all carefully sourced collection of vintage and new handmade rugs from Morocco.
Old Yarns also offer a personal sourcing service if you are looking for a particular style, size, colour.