Day 4: In Margilon – the land of Ikats!

Women at work on their looms

Women at work on their looms

Margilon (formerly known as Margilan) is the heart of the silk industry on the Silk Route. We made it to the town bright and early to see the entire process of weaving and to visit renowned weavers. While the town still maintains traditional methods of rearing, spinning, dyeing and hand weaving, mechanised looms have also emerged. As most of the fabric is exported out of the country, there is a growing emphasis on the revival of traditional patterns and use of only natural dyes.

We moved from a factory to a medressa and saw a lot of women involved in weaving ikats – and they were happy. They listened to upbeat Uzbek music on their tiny recorders, took their tea breaks and even played with their kids while they wove complex, intricate patterns.

As no-one was expecting “tourists” in the freezing winter, stock was all tucked away in storage. So Nisha pulled out stock from warehouses, stores and even people’s homes. Wherever we went, we soon found ourselves in rooms full of ikats – with patterns of paisleys, the tree of life, tulips, pomegranates and more. Even Zahid (our guide) was roped in to carry our shortlisted lots! (He’s really catching on to this sourcing business.)

Our guide Zahid at work

Our guide Zahid at work

We were impressed by the incredible humility of each weaver we met. They were all slightly taken aback when we walked in but treated us with enormous patience and respect. In true Uzbek hospitality, we were offered hot tea (with refills), bread, apricots, nuts and traditional sweets wherever we went. They showed us their work without any expectation of a transaction.

Our last stop for the day was the home of a private collector and a 4th generation family of weavers. Despite no heating in their gallery, we spent over two hours going through every pile in the rather large but extremely cold room. Soon our feet were so frozen, we could barely feel them. We stepped out of the gallery to put on our shoes, only to realize that they were ice cold since they’d been left out. We finally felt our toes a good half hour after we’d put our refrigerated shoes on. Utter madness!

When you see Nisha’s ikat panels from Uzbekistan, we hope you appreciate that we went through bitter cold, frozen extremities and a lot of pain to bring them back to India. 🙂


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