Silk-weaving in Uzbekistan

 If you ask any resident of Uzbekistan what khan-atlas is, he or she will say that it is one of the symbols associated with the country, and will be absolutely right. Many people like silk for its pleasant texture and its ability to flow around one's body. Silk has various types, ranging from weightless chiffon to heavy satin. Khan-atlas has a distinctively shiny and smooth surface thanks to a special type of weave where only threads of the warp go to the surface. The very name of the fabric originates from the Arabic word "atlas" meaning "smooth".
Silk-weaving was invented many centuries ago. People devised a technique of spinning very thin threads from silkworm cocoons and weaving delicate fabric from them. It was a very complicated and labour-consuming process, and khan-atlas was so expensive t often served as currency. It was used for paying tribute and settling trade deals. With time, production of silk fabric was improving, and its output -was increasing. When making the fabric, weavers used all their imagination and craftsmanship, and khan-atlas became more and more refined and original, Fragments of silk fabric excavated in North Bactria (Kampyr-Tepa, 3rd-2nd cc B.C.) testify to the fact that several millenniums ago weaving and dying techniques reached a high level of development in the territory of present-day Uzbekistan.
The city of Bukhara used to be the centre of silk-weaving. Later on, it shifted to Marghilan. To this day the city in the Ferghana Valley is known in Uzbekistan as its silk-weaving cen-xer. For centuries merchants bought the rainbow-like fabric :here. Khan-atlas travelled along the Silk Road from Marghilan to Baghdad, Kashgar, Khorasan, Egypt and Greece. In the 10th century a historian wrote, 'A length of Marghilan silk is worth all the estates of Bukhara.
The originality of Uzbek khan-atlas is in its colouring, it is unique and incomparable, and always different. It combines the greenery of leaves washed by the rain, the colour of scarlet tulips and of the evening glow, the dark blue of the night sky, and patches of sunlight on the flowing water...
Nowadays, silk fabric is produced in Marghilan at factories. Besides that, many artisans work at home making the colourful fabric that has become so popular outside the boundaries of Uzbekistan by hand, using the original ancient technique. This streaming varicoioured silk and other national fabrics have obtained prizes at many international exhibitions.
The process of manufacturing fabrics by hand is long and labour-intensive. It includes about forty different steps, from spinning threads to making a finished product. Threads are mostly dyed with natural dyes. Inimitable patterns are obtained by a special binding technique, which requires very high professionalism. Curiously enough, much depends on a craftsman's mood. If he is in high spirits, the combination of colours and patterns will be quite different from those produced when he is in low spirits. It seems that a simple thing would be to entrust the entire prate I lan-atias production to machinery. However, the fact that handmade production techniques have survived for austry and patience of Uzbek craftsmen as well as their love for the craft and the desire to maintain the national heritage and history of their native culture. It is not coincidental that fashion designers of Uzbekistan nave again turned to khan-atlas owing to its beauty and practicality.
For the Khan-Atlas Festival that was held in Tashkent for the fifth time, young fashion designers prepared 17 collections of bright national clothes with intricate patterns and unusual cuts. They presented 160 evening and everyday dresses made of khan-atlas, each of them being a result of bold fantasy. All those present could see for themselves how wonderful items made of khan-atlas looked - veritable masterpieces thanks to the amazing colours and patterns of the fabric.
The ladies who attended the festival were dressed no worse than the models. According to the traditional dress-code of the festival, they were either dressed in clothes made of khan-atlas or wore relevant accessories.
The fabric is very popular in Uzbekistan and is traditionally used for making ladies" dresses. Despite its thickness, khan-atlas has a pleasant cooling effect in hot weather. Thanks to its peculiar texture and colourful patterns, any dress made of khan-atlas looks splendid and refined. Another wonderful property of the fabric is that it does not wrinkle easily, allowing it to be used in the making of cloaks, capes and tippets.
The famous silk fabric, with its unique type of weave and inimitable patterns has deservedly become popular not only among Uzbek fashion designers but also among foreign couturiers who also use it successfully in their creative work.
Uzbek khan-atias is a unique fabric that can be found nowhere else in the world, it has stood the test of time and is always in fashion.

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