Halima’s house in Bejaad is modest and tiny; we gingerly walk up the narrow staircase into her small living room and on into her workspace where she has carefully cleared out an area for our visit.

As we make our way up the stone stairs into her humble abode, her lively children run up and down the stairs around us. The street below is busy and bustling with little ones playing, neighbors chatting, and curious by-standers gazing at us, wondering whom we were.

Halima is a master weaver in rural Bejaad, Central Morocco. She is the head contact for a small but mighty group of female weavers in this quiet town; known for its beautiful, unique rugs. For female weavers here and all over Morocco, these carpets symbolize a tiny slice of independence.

Just as importantly, though, Halima is Mushmina co-founder Heather O’Neill’s loyal friend. Their friendship has evolved from Heather’s starting days in Morocco as a galvanized, determined Peace Corps Volunteer almost 15 years ago. She has also been Heather’s most trusted rug weaver and much-needed informal ‘consultant’ ever since.

 

Halima, whose infectious smile lights up a room and whose eyes twinkle with clever humor and intelligence, is an example of the strength and inspiration of the small but Herculean business of the Mushmina sisters, Heather and Katie.

Halima’s calm temperament and warmth radiates from her when she hugs me and welcomes us into her home.

Halima has not had it easy, however. As a woman, mother and wife in a tiny traditional Moroccan working-class town, it is often seen as taboo for a woman to be earning a salary. Finding a balance is difficult. Maintaining a busy home, where most women still wash laundry by hand and toil in front of teensy gas stoves for hours, as well as caring for her three young children, takes up most of her time.

Halima’s work ethic is unmatchable; her energy and vigor are unstoppable; her motivation is ceaseless. She has something inside her that is different-she takes initiative with her trade. She wants more for herself. She demands better for her children.

Halima’s heartwarming story is a fascinating one. An incredible woman who never had the opportunity to go to school as an uncle suddenly passed away and she was sent to care for the family, Halima speaks no French; typical of most rural Moroccan people. Luckily for me, Heather flawlessly translates Halima’s heartfelt story for us from Darija, the local language.

And then there is her actual physical weaving. Halima, like most Moroccan weavers (most are female, as it’s an ideal trade handed down from mother to daughter), has the family loom in her cramped kitchen. The lighting is dim and the elements can be brutal; summers are stifling hot and winters are brutally frigid. Heating and cooling systems are unthinkably too expensive.

Luckily, Halima is still young and her eyes and hands haven’t failed her. But she weaves at night after her incredibly long work hours at home are finished. Inevitably, the day will come. Her mother sadly had to give up weaving because it was too hard on her vision.

Weavers depend on their knowing hands for their work; these are their tools. Halima’s hands are her lifeline; soft and calloused from years of physical toiling at her basic wooden loom. Her loom, a simple wooden structure with two beaten-up, rudimentary cans placed precariously on either side as well as a spoon tied right in the middle for balance, is the heart of her income.

The ancestral wooden looms on which these women weave, amazingly, have not changed over the years. Although electrical looms exist, they are not used as a result of cost and maintenance.

 

While we talk and work and she shows us her gorgeous weaving, her children periodically come in and out of the room, asking questions, scrambling all over her. She handles them like a pro; not skipping a beat in continuing our work and caring for them.

We watch her as she weaves rhythmically, mesmorized.

Halima’s talent is quite magical. As Moroccan weavers do, their trade is innately in them-she doesn’t use any conventional tools. Halima uses her hands and her arms to measure the rugs. The rest, is almost divination-all of the stunning symbols that make the Bejaddi rugs so famous throughout Morocco and beyond, come from within Halima. Her patterns are so exact, so perfect, such excellent quality, one might think that they are factory-produced. This is a real, pure, raw gift.

Astonishingly, weavers work with their textiles facing outward from the loom; the women have to essentially do everything backwards. It is intricate, difficult work. When I ask Halima where she finds her inspiration, she tells me that her revelations come to her in various ways. It can be as simple as the outline of a grain. Or the peaks of the majestic Atlas Mountains. Nature and agricultural motifs are often woven into Moroccan textiles. Each region has its own trademark patterns.

 

We got a sneak peak of creative director, Katie working closely with Halima on designs that will later be sewn into Mushmina’s trademark handbags.

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As the afternoon wanes and the evening appears out of nowhere, we stop our work for a tea. The pocket-sized room, all of a sudden, is cold. We fill ourselves with minty, heavily sweetened Moroccan tea, cakes and toasty flat bread. And when our bellies are satisfied and our hearts are warmed, we hit the road. Feeling grateful to have been enlightened by this incredible woman. And to have shared a little bit of her world.

-By Tara Fraiture, Mushmina blogger

www.mushmina.com

 

 

 

 

*any ad content below this is not related to Mushmina

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Did you hear that Mushmina is moving!?

We have a new location in the lovely, Wayne PA. Join us on South Street for our final weekend and moving sale in Philadelphia.

Items under $50 -15% off, items over $50 -20% off, footwear -10% off this weekend only, jewelry over $60 -15% off

Boutique Hours at 1540 South Street:
Today Friday May 15th 5:30-8pm
Saturday 11am-8pm
Sunday 11-5pm

It’s our final weekend on South Street, but Philly don’t fret… you will see us at festivals and in our VW mobile boutique in the city this summer!

Thanks to all those who came out last night for Night Market on South Street. We are sad to go but were happy to see so many people come out to give us hugs and wish us luck at our new location.

Many thanks for all your best wishes and support!

“Trust the timing of your life!”

IMG_4164 Chefchouen Blue Size 7.5 (3)

We are celebrating all kinds of holidays this week!

In Morocco: Sunday was the first day of Ramadan in Morocco! This week the menu included all kinds of fresh juices (my favorites are mint lemonade and fresh orange banana juice), dates, and my famous Moroccan  ‘zeluk’ ratatouille. Click here for the recipe from a 2012 Ramadan post!

In Philadelphia and the USA: Happy 4th of July! We hope everyone has a wonderful holiday weekend with family, friends, and food.

Our shop will be closed this weekend, but check out our facebook page for online summer promotions!

Love, Heather, Katie + the Mushmina team

ramadan Day 1 2014

Ftur ‘breakfast’ Ramadan Day One. 2014 With Heather + Mohammed in our home.

It’s been 100 years since Woodrow Wilson proclaimed Mother’s Day a national celebration! We wanted to wish all the wonderful mothers out there a wonderful day!

“Motherhood is the biggest gamble in the world. It is the glorious life force. It’s huge and scary–it’s an act of infinite optimism.” —Gilda Radner

A recap of a week dedicated to moms @ Mushmina…. enjoy this glorious Sunday!

xo Heather + Katie

Habiba

Habiba and her son

Kenza at work (7)

Kenza and Khowla

Khadiga and family

Khadiga and little Hiba

Zhora and her son Youseff (7)

Zohra and Youseff

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Our mom and grandmom, Nanny. We love you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Know in your heart that all things are possible. We couldn’t conceive of a miracle if none had ever happened. — Libbie Fudim

Happy Sunday!

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Naema El Hami is all ‘qlbi’ or heart. Her story is a familiar one in Morocco where women of her generation were not sent to school because families did not see the value of an education for their daughters. Naema only attended school until the second grade when she was a mere 8-years old.

The unstoppable 52-year old mother of three is a local who was born and raised in Oued Zem, home to the Flying Camel Training Center and a city in Khouribga Province situated southwest of the Moroccan capital of Rabat. A true ‘Ouedzemiya,’ Naema learned to weave from her mom who spun her magic on a traditional wood loom known as a ‘minsij.’ She continued her training at the local ‘neddy’ a Moroccan training center where she learned embroidery, sewing, Rhonda traditional stitching, point de croix and hand stitching. She picked up additional skills from neighbors and friends ‘swiya b swiya’–‘little by little.’

Flying Camel Workshop Manager Kenza introduced her neighbor Naema to Mushmina as she has with many of the other artisans. When she first started with Mushmina in 2010, Naema hand-stitched scarves and wallets. A skilled and ambitious weaver, she worked on the embroidered pillow order for retailer Anthropologie in 2012.

Naema, a practical woman, realizes that her craft is also the means to earn ‘Floose!!’ (Money), she says as she laughs and a better way of life for her family. She can pay for things herself now and does not have to ask her husband for money for things that she needs. This year she plans to open her own bank account—another step toward financial independence.

A loving mother, Naema wants to see her two sons Amine 28, and Nabil 26 and her daughter Wafaa 19 succeed and be happy. Despite the fact that her two sons have diplomas as welders, they remain unemployed and this weighs on Naema. She encourages her two sons to apply each year for the American immigration lottery and uses money she earns for them to pay for the application and necessary Internet use. After all, she wants to be a grandmother and her sons can’t start a proper family until they are employed. Naema also dreams of building a beautiful house to enjoy in her later years where her grandchildren can visit and she can sip mint tea as the sun sets.

-From the series A Window to Morocco by Heather O’Neill and Yvonne King

Naema (1)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Naema (3)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Naema (2)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Workshop Oued Zem (2)

 

If I have been of service, if I have glimpsed more of the nature and essence of ultimate good, if I am inspired to reach wider horizons of thought and action, if I am at peace with myself, it has been a successful day. — Alex Noble

Soul Sunday @Mushmina!

Mali Blue Inshalla Nomads

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

See more from the Spring 2014 Collection here: http://www.mushmina.com/Spring-Summer-2014

Finding purpose

March 20, 2014

Yesterday at the the women’s workshop Katie and I came early for a full day’s work. At 2pm when the workshop officially opens the first woman to knock on the door was ‘Haja,’ Malika’s mother in law. Haja has been weaving her whole life and recently set up her loom in the workshop to weave in the company of the other women.

While Katie worked on the sewing machine and I on the computer, we enjoyed Haja’s quiet company. She takes off her shoes in a ritual of weaving and sits comfortably on top of a boucherouite rag rug. Haja was the first to arrive and the last to leave. She wove for 5 hours straight and would occasionally look up to smile.

This morning  Katie and I realized that what we do is not just about economic empowerment. It’s about women of all generations finding purpose.

Thanks Haja, you inspire us.

Haja (2)Haja (3)Haja (4)Haja (5)Haja (1)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

-From a Window to Morocco the series by Heather O’Neill and Yvonne King.

Katie is coming to Morocco this week! We will hit the ground running. 1st stop, Mehdi’s workshop to design a new fabric collection. Excited to see what Katie will come up with this year.

Today I am finding inspiration in nature. Enjoy your Sunday and do whatever you need to do to recharge and renew your soul.

xo Mushmina

Katies Patterns

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pomplemouse

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wood Buttons

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oranges

Malika El Bouteqali was born in the rural village of Asrir in the Guelmim-Es Semara region in Southern Morocco where homes made of rich red clay and date palm trees mark the landscape. A ‘Saharaia’ or daughter of the Sahara, she grew up near the city of Guelmim (also spelled Guelmin or Goulimine) bounded by the northwestern Sahara and known as the gateway to the desert and Mauritania where Mushmina’s Mauritania fabrics originate.

A Spin master on the sewing machine, Malika still speaks with the accent of someone from the south. The married mother of four has three daughters, Fatima Zohra (14), Shamaa (12), Wisar (8) and a son, Hatim (5). Malika, who only attended school until the second grade, realizes the importance of education for women as well as men and emphasizes a strong education for all her children.

Curious and driven, Malika paid a neighbor to teach her how to sew while she was living in the Moroccan capital of Rabat where her husband was stationed as a police officer. After her children were born, the family returned to Southern Morocco where her entrepreneurial spirit shone through. Malika and her mother opened their own shop in their garage where they sold clothing and accessories. A quick study, Malika studies patterns and designs that appeal to her and creates versions of those designs with her own unique touch.

Malika has since settled in Oued Zem and has been working with Mushmina for two years. She started with ‘point de croix’ of Mushmina’s embroidered prayer flags, which were later sold to ABC Carpet and Home. Since then she has moved on to work on linen tunics, handbags, pillows, and many other items. Not one to slow down she is also enrolled in the Flying Camel Training Center to learn new techniques and continue improving her skills. On Malika’s list of future accomplishments is also expanding her literacy and learning to speak English.

Whirlwind artisan Malika is motivated to learn, teach, and exchange ideas through the cooperative and serve as an example to her children. Malika’s most fervent hope is that her children go far in their lives and advance beyond what she has achieved. They may have to go far indeed to surpass Malika who hopes to be ‘labas a liha,’ which means to have money, travel and sell products in markets across the world. Most of all she desires to keep growing in all aspects of her life, for as she says, “People always want to improve, am I right?” We couldn’t agree more.

-From “A Window to Morocco Series” – By Heather O’Neill and Yvonne King

Malika the seamstress (1) Malika the seamstress (3)

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