History of Moroccan Inspired Design and Pillow Tutorial

I adore remnant fabrics, and a few months ago, I came across two remnant fabric pieces, a mustard yellow and modern gray geometric print at Jo-Ann’s Fabric Store. I had seen this geometric print all over designer sitesfabric websites, and blogs. I thought I too would jump on the geometric print train, along with the chevron print train. But I wanted to know where this popular design style came from, and a quick Google search said that this was considered a “modern” Moroccan inspired print.

gray geometric moroccan pillow print

I wasn’t completely certain that this particular design was reminiscent of Moroccan art, so I conducted some research of my own, looking at what others had to say about Moroccan art and architecture. Many articles referenced, Arabesques: Decorative Art in Morocco by Jean-Marc Castera (English translation by Kirk McElhearn). Castera mentioned that an eight-pointed star is a common motif seen around Morocco.

tower_bird morocco geometric print pillow

Source: Islamic Arts

Oren Kosansky, an Associate Professor from Lewis and Clark College, wrote an article in The Journal of the International Institute (as a student) about the historical relationship between Muslim and Jewish cultures in Morocco, particularly in Fez. He discussed how the eight pointed star design, which looks like superimposed squares, are common artistic features in Moroccan architecture – seen in mosques and private residences. Some attribute the eight-pointed design back to the Star of David, a six-pointed star, reflecting two superimposed triangles. (The Star of David symbol can be rooted even further back to the Seal of Solomon.)

Looking at a photograph of a wooden sculpted door in Marrakesh, the eight-pointed star motif is shown at the center, but it is also mixed with the six-pointed star motif as well, demonstrating a mix of both Jewish and Islamic art motifs together.

stars-62 morocco geometric print pillow

Source: Islamic Arts

According to the Morocco News Board, the eight-pointed star design can be seen in other cultures, such as the eight paths in the way of Buddha and eight immortals in Chinese tradition. In Islamic traditions, this design pattern is called khatim or khatim sulayman, and prophets used this pattern as a signet ring symbol by the Middle Ages.

royal_palace_throne morocco geometric print pillow

Royal Palace Throne in Meknes, Source: Islamic Arts

Many of Morocco’s beautiful architecture are created by Zellige master craftsmen, who painstakingly and meticulously design zellige (or zillij) art. Zellige art is terra cotta tile work that is covered with enamel in the form of chips set in plaster. Popularity grew in the 14th century, adding bright blues, greens, and yellows to public and private spaces in Morocco. After learning about Islamic and Jewish cultural influences in Moroccan art and architecture, I still wasn’t completely sure where this design came from, until I came across this:

                                      Quatrefoil-Architectural morocco design print motif   Quatrefoil-Architectural-alternate Morocco print design

Source: Wikipedia

This overlapping circular pattern called quatrefoil, which means “four leaves,” is derived from the Latin word quattuor. According to Wikipedia, quatrefoil can be found in traditional Christian architecture during Gothic and Renaissance periods. When you look at how quatrefoil, zellige art, and symbol for the Star of David influenced art and architecture, it makes sense that this geometric pattern demonstrates a culmination of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism in one modern pattern.

Moroccan_pattern geometric print morocco

Source: Sauder

MINI-TUTORIAL: Making a Modern Gray Geometric Pillow Cover

Now that you’ve read a little history about Moroccan art motifs, let’s make a lovely geometric print pillow cover.

Supplies:

  • geometric print fabric (about 3/4 yard or yard of fabric)
  • pillow insert (example below is 20″x20″)
  • pins
  • scissors
  • cutting mat
  • measuring tape
  • rotary cutter
  • ruler
  • sewing machine

gray geometric moroccan pillow print

Step 1. Cut and pin two sides of fabric together. For the back, I cut two pieces with about a three inch overlay, so that I can hem the edges (see below).

I like having an open back to my pillows, so that I can easily take them out and wash them as necessary.

gray geometric moroccan pillow print

I also had to carefully cut my remnant fabric to make sure that the geometric print aligned correctly when sewing together. (Take a look at my chevron print pillow tutorial when I used .33 yards of fabric to make a lumbar pillow. That task proved to be a bit of challenge.)

gray geometric moroccan pillow print

Step 2. Stitch edges.

gray geometric moroccan pillow print

Step 3. Voila! Project complete!

gray geometric moroccan pillow print

The more I read about Morocco, the more I understood the beautiful complexities of Morocco’s rich cultural heritage. Although this geometric print doesn’t reflect the eight-pointed star motif, I learned something new in the process of making this pretty and modern pillow, and that’s something I can carry with me well after our pillow’s lifespan.

Sources:
Architectural Digest – Geometric Patterns in Islamic Art
Islamic Arts – A World of Stars: Decorative Art in Morocco
Arabesques
Reading Jewish Fez: On the Cultural Identity of a Moroccan City
The Morocco News Board – Origins and Meanings of the Eight-Pointed Star
Wikipedia- Zellige Art

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From my hometown to yours,

Betty

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