Margilan has been famous for its silks since ancient times. Due to the convenient location of the city (located in the Fergana Valley at the intersection of two trade routes), silk was delivered in whole caravans to Kashgar, Baghdad, Khorasan. At times, caravans sold silk even in Greece.
Silk from Margilan is considered to be of high quality, and Chinese products are considered the main competitor. Let’s understand why silk is known all over the world and how it is made.
How Uzbek silk appeared
Uzbek silk appeared in the second millennium, at the time of the Great Silk Road. According to legend, the ruler of the Fergana Valley ordered his subjects to scout out the secrets of silk production from Chinese masters. Believe it or not, after this assignment, the war between the two countries began.
It was too long ago, so it’s hard to tell how true this story is. Surely we can say that the technology of making Fergana silks is more than 4 thousand years old. The Uzbek people have developed their own technique for extracting the thread from the cocoon and dyeing it.
Interesting fact. Silk thread is 8 times thinner than human hair. At the same time, it is stronger and repels water /
How silk is “born”
The process of making silk threads is not as easy as it might seem. The production of silk threads depends not only on technology and human work, but also on natural processes.
First of all, the silkworm butterfly lays up to 500 eggs. After 20-25 days, caterpillars hatch from the eggs, which eat the leaves of the mulberry for 30 days. In the process of eating leaves, the weight of the caterpillars increases up to 10 thousand times. The caterpillar begins to weave a cocoon of silk thread around itself. In 48 hours, the caterpillar weaves around 1500 meters of silk thread. Inside the cocoon, the caterpillar turns into a pupa, and this is where the natural process ends.
Craftsmen need to have time to collect the cocoons before butterflies appear, otherwise they can gnaw and spoil the silk. The cocoons are then immersed in hot water to kill the caterpillars and dissolve the protective layer. The final part of the work is weaving threads, processing and creating valuable silk.
Interesting fact. To produce one silk dress, 2,000 caterpillars are needed, which are consumed by 2 silk trees
How to distinguish natural from artificial silk?
The demand for silk is great, so it is not difficult to find crooks with silk fakes. There are three ways to recognize a fake:
- draw out some silk threads and light them. If the silk does not burn and the smell of burnt hair appears, then this is a natural product;
- real silk has thermal properties, so if you apply it to your face, the temperature of the fabric and the face will be the same. Real silk is pleasant to the touch and does not cause discomfort;
- silk is soft and elastic, so even if you wrinkle it in your hand, the fabric will not wrinkle.
Margilan silk today
Today there are two silk factories in Margilan: “Khan-Atlas” and “Yodgorlik”. By the way, “Yodgorlik” is the only factory where even today (in the 21st century!) Silk is produced by hand. About 6 km of silk fabrics are produced here per month.
Khan-Atlas is considered one of the largest in Central Asia. Every day, up to 3 km of fabrics are produced here and sent anywhere in the world. Today the factory employs about 450 employees, most of them women.
“Khan-Atlas” means “royal silk”. The color of silk products and the method of production are different. The factory produces bekasam, shokhi and adras fabrics based on silk threads.
If you are planning a tour to Uzbekistan, be sure to go to one of the silk factories in Margilan to see with your own eyes the process of creating products, and buy silk and semi-silk fabrics.