Assia - One of Rug designers best hand tufters

Hand-making carpets is a job for the patient. At a nearby carpet factory resigned-looking women knot different coloured wool onto a base by hand. They produce traditional carpets with intricate designs, gossiping steadily as they work, but it is s-l-o-o-w.

Assia is of a different breed. 4ft 6in high, give or take an inch, make-up exactly right, hair covered correctly, but with a fine line of lace across her forehead, which adds a touch of elegance, and dressed in a neat top and jeans, she exudes competence and energy and is the most experienced carpet maker of the Rug Designer team.

The day we meet she is masking a sample rug, a complicated'peacocks feather' design in cream, outlined in brown and raised against a cream background. The backing has already been printed from the picture received by email from England, with the design and the reference numbers for the colours. It is stretched onto a traditional carpet loom, then a machine that looks like a hand gun is filled with one of the colours, and a patch is filled in. The gun knots the wool almost exactly like the old 'by hand'´ method, but a lot quicker. It looks no more difficult than 'painting by numbers', but I suspect that keeping the colours within their boundaries and getting the correct density is more of an art than it seems!

Assia is, as I said, tiny, and petite in everything except personality. She is unmarried at thirty two, so considers herself as beyond being eligible. She lives with her parents and younger sister, and is allowed to go out to work because Abdul Kader, the foreman and general factotum, does a 'bus run', collecting all the women from their homes and returning them at the end of the day. Even a power-house like Assia has to fit in with the social order she lives in, though that does not stop her from being enthusiastic about work. She likes all the different patterns, and clearly enjoys trying out different texture ideas.

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