Margilan has been known for its silks since ancient times. Due to the convenient location of the city (located in the Ferghana Valley at the intersection of two trade routes), silk was delivered by whole caravans to Kashgar, Baghdad, Khorasan. At times, caravans sold silk even in Greece.
Silk from Margilan is considered high-quality, and the main competitor is the products of China. 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, during the Great Silk Road. According to legend, the ruler of the Ferghana Valley ordered his subjects to learn the secrets of silk production from Chinese craftsmen. You will not believe it, but after this commission the war between the two countries began.
It was too long, so it’s hard to say how true this story is. Surely we can say that the technology of manufacturing Ferghana silks is more than 4 thousand years old. The Uzbeks have developed their own technique for extracting thread from a cocoon and dyeing it.
Interesting fact. Silk thread is 8 times thinner than a human hair. At the same time, it is stronger and repels water.
How silk is “born”
The process of obtaining silk threads is not as simple as it might seem. Getting silk threads depends not only on technology and human work, but also on natural processes.
First of all, a silkworm butterfly lays up to 500 eggs. After 20-25 days, caterpillars hatch from the eggs, which eat mulberry leaves for 30 days. In the process of eating leaves, the weight of the caterpillars increases to 10 thousand times. The caterpillar begins to weave a cocoon of silk thread around it. In 48 hours, the caterpillar weaves around itself about 1,500 meters of silk thread. Inside the cocoon, the caterpillar turns into a chrysalis, and this is where the natural process ends.
Masters need to have time to collect cocoons before butterflies appear, otherwise they can gnaw and ruin the silk. Further, the cocoons are immersed in hot water to kill the caterpillars and dissolve the protective layer. The final part of the work is the weaving of threads, the processing and creation of valuable silk.
Interesting fact. For the production of one silk dress, 2000 caterpillars are needed, which are eaten by 2 silk trees.
How to distinguish natural from artificial silk?
The demand for silk is great, so it’s not difficult to meet crooks with silk fakes. There are three ways to recognize a fake:
• Pull out a few silk threads and set them on fire. If 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 attach it to your face, the temperature of the fabric and 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 crumple it in your hand, the fabric does not wrinkle.
Margilan silk today
Today, two silk factories operate in Margilan: “Khan Atlas” and “Yodgorlik”. By the way,” Yodgorlik” is the only factory where even today (in the 21st century) Silk is produced manually. 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 fabric is released here and sent to anywhere in the world. Today, the factory employs about 450 employees, most of them women.
“Khan Atlas” in translation means “royal silk”. The color of silk products and the production method are different. The factory produces fabrics for snipe, shokhi and adras, based on silk threads.
If you are planning a tour to Uzbekistan, be sure to go to Margilan to one of the silk factories to see for yourself the process of creating products and buy silk and semi-silk fabrics.