Silk Production in Uzbekistan

 

Uzbekistan Handicrafts: Khan-Atlas Royal Silk and other Natural Silk Fabrics

 

Silk Production in UzbekistanSilk clothes have always been popular in Uzbekistan. In the Emirate of Bukhara only people of the highest status could afford silk clothes. Silk was very expensive at that time because it was brought from China by caravans. Later the silk production technology was also developed in Central Asia. However, this did not make the material affordable, since a large number of silkworms were required to make just a small piece of fabric.

How is silk produced?

Silkworm eggs are put in big boxes with linings. Once they emerge, the larvae need be fed on a regular basis, with 20 g of larvae consuming up to 3 kg of mulberry leaves daily.

After feeding on the leaves for about a month, the larvae reach the size of a human finger. The silkworm stops eating and begins enwrapping itself with thinnest silk thread, which gradually forms a cocoon. At this stage a few silkworms are put aside for breeding. The others are treated with steam, and the thread is further used to produce silk.  

Thread in each cocoon must be unwound very carefully to avoid damaging the fibres. It is unbelievable that a cocoon 2-3 cm in size may yield a thread 1,200 m long!

Silk Production in UzbekistanTypes and properties of silk fabrics.

Natural silk is soft and pleasant to touch; it seems to flow and caresses the body. Silk fabrics may be light and thick, for everyday and ceremonial use.

Silk clothes have the following properties:

  • strength and durability. 
  • lightness and air-penetrability, which is very important in the hot climate of Uzbekistan.
  • high hygroscopicity.
  • and last but not least, beauty.

These are the qualities this material is so popular for in the East. At all time women liked making dresses from this unusual fabric: in hot seasons one does not feel hot in such clothes.

Silk Production in UzbekistanToday silk is highly popular across the world: many outstanding fashion designers like to work with silk fabrics, since they can be used to implement any creative ideas and look stylish and original.

Khan-atlas (royal silk) is a type of Uzbek silk that requires special mentioning: this is a thick and smooth material manufactured in Margilan. According to legend, khan-atlas was developed by an artisan who wished to surprise his khan. The master saw clouds and a rainbow reflected in a stream and decided to design a fabric, light as a cloud and with a pattern that, like the rainbow, would play all colours and would never repeat itself at that. The khan was struck by the beauty of the material and let his favourite son marry the weaver’s daughter. The king modestly named the newly designed fabric in his honour – khan-atlas. This is the story of the famous pattern which today, apart from silk, can be seen on a range of other fabrics.

Khan-atlas is a trademark of the Uzbek silk production sector. It is impossible to imagine traditional Uzbek clothes without khan-atlas. Many museums across the world display variations of this fabric.

The city of Margilan in the Fergana Valley is the largest silk production centre in Uzbekistan. The visitors of the Yodgorlik silk weaving mill can enjoy all the stages of the manual production of silk fabrics. In the heyday of the Great Silk Road (Route) the Margilan silk was extremely precious and was often used as a means of payment. Today, any woman can easily obtain an unusual flowing silk dress.

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