Sale begins at 12:00 AM PST Thursday Feb 15 and ends at 11:59 PM PST Tuesday Feb 20. Discounts can’t be stacked,
and only applies to items that are washable rugs and / or rug pads totalling $350 or more - it will not be
applied to any non-washable, non-rug pad items included in the order. Explore Washables
“Spin us a yarn” takes on a whole new meaning when we unravel the backstory of “sabra silk” -- a polyester fiber with an unabashedly silky shine and winding history.
We love a good story as much as the next person (if not more!), but when it comes to the origins, materials, and background of our rugs and other goods, we like to tell it like it is. For example, if you take a close look at the Secret Collection, our latest line of “sabra silk” flatweaves, you’ll see shiny, silky fibers that are… not made out of silk. In fact, they’re made out of polyester, and guess what? We think that’s perfectly fine; in fact, the fact that they’re made out of synthetic materials means that the rugs are more durable, stain-resistant, and retain their bold hues better than many natural fibers. At the same time, though, fear not: they’re still hand-woven by a coop in Morocco following designs designs curated by by our in-house team and inspired by local motifs, so the artisanal craftsmanship and collaboration are still very much present. Phew.
But first, let’s take a step back. What exactly is “sabra silk” purported to be? Also known as vegan, vegetable, or cactus silk, “sabra silk” is said to be produced from the long fibers of a aloe succulent native to North Africa whose long, spiky leaves are reputedly collected, hammered to a pulp, and left in water to soften. Then, the fibers are said to be separated, dyed, and finally spun into a thread that then gets woven into textiles for rugs, pillows, poufs, and more.
Initially, we were thrilled with the idea of “sabra silk.” Really, what’s not to love? It’s artisanal, vegan, local, and, of course, beautiful. But when we started to look into the backstory of the textile, our searches on some of the nation’s largest and most renowned libraries (plus our own experience working with local craftspeople) turned up virtually nothing.
We kept hitting roadblock after roadblock -- until we read The Anou’s post about their journey into the origins of “sabra silk” and their conclusion that distributors in Morocco were in fact selling rayon imported from India and Spain. They even went so far as to track down the small village outside of Marrakech that was, by all accounts, the source of “real” sabra that was used for rugs and pillows -- only to find that it was not the site of large cactus farms but rather the location of more than 100 weavers and distributors of sabra product. When The Anou’s team spoke with these weavers and distributors, they were, to everyone’s surprise, forthcoming about their use of imported rayon for their textiles!
The Anou’s team even went one step further, testing the fibers and confirming its rayon composition. And finally, they attempted to extract fibers from the sabra cactus following similar techniques used on other cactus or succulent plants that are the source for traditional fibers in places like Mexico, the Philippines, and Algeria -- to no avail. They noted that it’s not even clear if sabra fibers are strong enough to be used for basic rope, let alone a whole pillowcase or rug.
On the one hand, we initially felt a little disappointed -- we wanted to believe the backstory! It felt romantic, exciting, and even “authentic.” But on the other hand, we are happy to embrace the truth and whatever comes with it -- fake news need not apply here! So embrace it, we have. For our new line, we’ve not only welcomed the storytelling behind the textile’s man-made origins, we’re also celebrating the complex history behind its motifs, which are just as knotted and embellished as that of sabra silk.
After all, Morocco was colonized as early as the Roman Empire, followed by the Arabs, Ottomans, and most recently the French and Spanish, none of whom typically spoke the local Tamazight languages of native Berbers. Berber designs were deeply personal, even when they depicted specific tribal customs and beliefs, and the same symbol might have multiple meanings among members of a single tribe or other tribes, making translating and interpreting patterns a challenging and delicate task. The few published sources that we’ve come across that discuss the meanings behind Berber symbols tend to be Westernized interpretations that are difficult (if not impossible!) to verify, and we ultimately decided to name the four rugs in this collection after prominent patterns seen in one book: Lhruz (Amulet), Timshrad (Scissor), Afus izem (Lion), tit n tsekurt (Eye).
So our “Lion rug,” for example, might indeed repeatedly depict a motif that does signify “lion,” or it might suggest something different altogether! We can’t be sure, but we do know that the rug’s warp and weft are expertly woven by local members of a women’s coop in Marrakech, and that the background of the pattern and materials -- embellished by history as they both are -- is part of what makes them so beautiful.
Their silken sheen and range of color palettes mean they work in both minimalist and maximalist decor, and thanks to their synthetic fibers, they’re great in high traffic areas like a kitchen, entryway, or dining room. But to be honest, we find them to be so divine and masterfully crafted that we wouldn’t put it past you if you hung them on the wall as art; after all, they’re a story in and of themselves.