Velvet from Uzbekistan

Among the thousands of silk worms rustling before me on a bed of mulberry leaves, one occasionally raises a sleepy head to strike a pose, signaling the cocoon won't be long in coming. Aziz begins the day by explaining the life of a silk worm here in a family compound in Margilan, Uzbekistan. Later in the day, we see the silk thread tied off and dyed to create the famously beloved ikat patterns of his home region, the Fergana Valley. By evening, after multiple stops on the Silk Road, we are tired, but Aziz insists we must not miss the last and most important - the one who brings all this work to fruition. The velvet maker.

Driving down a dusty road through farmland at dusk, we come to a house spilling with children, grandmothers, curious neighbors, and a woman at the center of it, quietly at her loom. Aziz takes us into her small wooden room, shoes off please, to watch the magic of silk thread, pulled from the cocoon, wound and bound and richly dyed, now shuttling back and forth across her lap with nimble fingers.  

Each time the shuttle passes through the open warp, the woman inserts a metal rod. After 3 or 4 passes, she stops and picks up a sharp instrument, a kind of knife, and cuts open each strand of silk so that it blooms. It opens into rich, textured velvet.

Around me are audible gasps as my cohorts and I begin to grasp the magic happening in this little room. Watch the video below and you will hear Aziz interpreting her skillful back and forth, her fastidious cutting open of tiny threads to fashion the velvet touch. This is a remarkable feat. Shut down for decades by the Russians and usurped by mechanized factories, this native craft of the hand is returning, revived with pride.

The next night, in the home of Aziz and his family, we pause after dinner to touch and admire all of the velvets crafted and stored in a kind of library of cloth. They delight me, so sumptuous and rich, the colors pulsing. I begin to imagine the clutches they could become, folding and turning each pattern just so - long and chic under your arm. So that is where it began.

This week, the final results of that dreaming arrived and the team at Ibu went a little nuts for these bags. I'm afraid you may want one in every color - they're that good. And the price is so right. As my friend Cheeka used to say, Grab it and growl!  

Every time you grab one of the clutches, I hope you will feel the rhythm of a loom clacking away, that you'll touch the magic of thread blooming under your fingers, that you'll know a cultural language is being saved, passed along to these children who see their mother honored and paid for her skill. That's a lot for a little bag to say. I think you might just hear it all.

All the Best,

Susan Hull Walker