Keepers of the Sheep: Knitting in Morocco’s High Atlas and Beyond

Keepers of the Sheep: Knitting in Morocco’s High Atlas and Beyond documents the knitting tradition of shepherds in Morocco’s High Atlas mountains. It is the culmination of three years of research, interviews, participant observation, and writing. Seven essays and thirteen patterns give the reader a glimpse of life in a High Atlas village and the important role knitting once played there. The book also explores the history of knitting in Morocco taking the reader backwards in time from Morocco, through Algeria, into Spain and Tunisia, and eventually Egypt, where historians believe knitting may have originated. Despite North Africa’s deep connection to knitting, very little has been written about this corner of the knitting world. Keepers of the Sheep: Knitting in Morocco’s High Atlas and Beyond fills this gap by presenting what remains of an age old knitting tradition and examining the available historical and artifactual evidence – some of which has not been shared in knitting books before. Included in the book are patterns from High Atlas shepherds, contemporary designs inspired by the High Atlas, and others recreated from historical accounts and artifacts. This book brings to life a North African knitting tradition that has all but disappeared.

I am extremely grateful to the shepherds with whom I worked and hope this book fulfills their wish to pass on their knowledge to future generations. As requested by the shepherds, a portion of the proceeds from the sale of this book will be donated to their village’s women’s co-operative, Cooperative Ibilou. Without the welcoming support and encouragement of Cooperative Ibilou’s members, I never would have met their husbands, fathers, uncles, and brothers who are the knitters of their village. The cooperative will use the funds for projects that will benefit the entire community.

Find This Book

Buy Directly from the Author

EU: Retrosaria Rosa Pomar and Retrosaria Serafina

UK: Daughter of a Shepherd and Wild and Woolly

USA: Wild Hand

For wholesale enquiries, please contact Irene here.

What People Are Saying

Rosa Pomar, Retrosaria Rosa Pomar, “There are knitting books and knitting books and if I had to choose one very special book from our shop I would choose this one. Maybe it’s because I love the history of knitting as much as knitting itself, maybe because I had the pleasure of meeting (Irene) during her research, maybe because Irene’s book reveals men knitting wool trousers using a new (to me and I bet for you too) way of carrying your yarn when working stripes.”

Rachel Atkinson, Daughter of a Shepherd, in reference to Hussein Mardi’s Tqasher Jadeed/New Socks pattern – “The pattern is designed to fit the individual foot and have to say, I think they’re the best fitting socks I’ve ever made!”

Paula Spranger, Retrosaria Serafina, “The book is even better than I thought. It’s so interesting to read and the patterns are wonderful.”

Jenny Dean, author of Wild Colour, “Beautiful and clearly the result of much painstaking research and experimentation. It’s the ideal combination of the practical and informative with plenty of background and historical detail.”

Erin Pirro, Morehouse Farm Merino, “Fantastic narrative of an amazing place and it’s rich wool craft traditions. I’ve gotten to experience just the basics first hand and am thrilled to have Irene take us behind the scenes. I cast on the Shabka/Trellis Socks as soon as the book arrived and am learning some amazing new techniques! It’s so freeing to have the directions result in a project that fits instead of just following and counting, following and hoping. I can’t wait to give a second copy to a dear friend. Thank you Irene – this isn’t just a story, it’s the heritage of our craft.”

Laura-Lee, Etsy Customer, “By any criteria, this book is top-drawer. It’s a wonderful ethnographic study; the photographs are worthy of an award all by themselves; the knitting patterns are interesting and clearly written. It would be of interest to anthropologists, knitters, and anyone who enjoys owning a beautiful book.”

Katherine, Etsy Customer, “Love this book! We live in Morocco at the moment and it is so fun to read the essays and learn about the cultural and historic aspect of the patterns. I have not seen any books like this. The pictures are beautiful. Can’t wait to try out the patterns. Should be a fun gift for anyone that loves textiles and crafting. Awesome job, Irene!”

Emily, Etsy Customer, “Wow. Blown away by this book and the care that went into making it, and how it honors the amazing humans who make up the book. Cannot wait to cast on some socks!! Thank you. This book will be a treasure to reference for generations to come.”

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