Moroccan wedding blankets, more correctly called handira, have become super-popular as an interior accessory in recent years, inspiring style-savvy girls all over the world to hunt them down online and pin images of them to “Dream Home” boards on Pinterest. In fact, if you’re reading this blog and are into interiors, I’m willing to go out on a limb and guess that you suffer from the same handira-lust that I’ve been under for the past, oh, three years or so.
You can hardly fail to understand their popularity: the beautiful textures of these vintage, hand-woven wool blankets lend an eclectic quality to any room they’re placed in. I also think they’re a somewhat easy and – dare I say it – safe way to achieve the “global” look that’s so popular these days. The white colour means that they’ll easily fit into any palette, and the traditional fluffy, textural bands and sparkle from the sequins read as both feminine and quirky. In short: they’re crowd-pleasing.
Handira were traditionally woven by Berber women of the Middle Atlas Mountain region of Morocco, as part of marriage traditions. A bride’s female relatives would spend weeks before the wedding making and embroidering this blanket, which was part of her dowry. The usually white blankets feature strips of kilim-style colour and pattern, as well as rows of metal sequins; reasons cited for the latter range from being symbolic of wealth and fertility in marriage, to a way for the bride’s family to represent their wealth and standing in the community.
When you see handira in magazines and blogs, they’re usually slung over the lower part of a bed, as in the photos above. My guess is that this is due to their size: many don’t cover our large Western beds, so work best as a throw. In any case, it’s a lovely look, no?
You also see them occasionally used as rugs, but I think this is less practical. Imagine the dust settling in all those fluffy bands, or indeed, tripping over one?!
Though they’re usually white, handira can be found in other colours, though I’m not sure how traditional this is. I love the black one above; the sequins look like stars in an inky sky to me.
This is probably my favourite way to display handira, hung on the wall. It’s how, one day, I hope to hang mine; above my bed (a modern four-poster in glossy black, please) in a white room with minimal other accessories.
Because, oh yes, I finally have a handira of my own. After years of lusting after the things on the pages of my favourite shelter mags and blogs, I can cross that particular item off my “Dream Home” list.
My mother and aunt went to Morocco on holiday earlier this year, and my mum bought one for me as a birthday present. It wasn’t really a surprise (I did bug her about it for weeks before she left, naturally), but it was still wonderful to open this on my 30th birthday.
My handira is quite simple, with bands of beautifully woven pattern and stripes and small clusters of silver sequins. It’s also unusual in that all the coloured bands and sequins are on one side, and the fluffy bands are all on the other. I keep in on my bed sequin-side-up, but the back is definitely fluffy and warm to throw over my knees while I’m reading or writing in bed.
Here’s a fun fact: since the bride for whom it was made traditionally wore the handira from her parents’ house to her new marital home, like a cape, many vintage blankets have two shoulder ties attached to one side, to fasten it around the wearer’s shoulders. The newer ones aren’t made with these ties, so I was stoked to find two still intact on mine. I love wondering who my handira was made for, and who wore it to her new home.