"A rainbow on every loom" Fergana Travelogue by TheWanderingCamel

Fergana Travel Guide: 32 reviews and 117 photos

Textiles are the glory of Uzbekistanstan's long tradition of handcrafts, and the fabrics we call ikat and they call abrabandi are the peak of that achievement.

Abre is Persian for cloud and abrebandi means "tying a cloud". Whilst the artistry in these fabrics comes from the designer's understanding of how dye, warp and weft work together, it is the skill of the weaver at her loom that catches our eye as her shuttle moves faster that the eye can see and the pattern becomes apparent on the long strands of the dyed warp as she bangs the plain weft into place.

Anyone interested in knowing more about abrebandi/ikat - call them what you will - will find this article interesting. I'm off to join the weavers at their looms ....




When all the dyeing is complete, the hanks are twisted into an enormous skein that will be used as the warp of the fabric being woven. This hangs suspended and counter-weighted, 6 metres across the room and the warp threads are firmly tensioned back onto the loom.




The plain weft can be either silk or cotton.

Ordinary silk on silk is called atlas while the best quality is called khan-atlas.

Fabric with a cotton weft and a silk warp is called adras

The hand looms are typically only 30-45cm wide, so the cloth made on them is much narrower than cloth produced on a machine.




The demand for ikats outstrips the capabilities of purely hand-produced and loomed fabrics and nowadays machines have their place in the manufacturing process. The Yodgorlik factory's machines however are not the huge monsters of modern days, most of them would qualify for inclusion in a museum if this were not Uzbekistan.

The machine this man is using seperates the warp threads evenly before they are transferred to the loom. Watching him operate it, it was clear this is still a painstaking operation, barely mechanised at all.




Here a weaver is using a 19th century mechanised loom - capable of faster production of wider cloth than the handloom, it is still a long way from the industrial looms of today.


The resurgence of traditional Uzbek crafts since Independence is quite a phenomonen. The repression of the Soviet regime that saw individual creativity forbidden and generations of arcane knowledge lost has been swept away. A new generation of young men and women are being taught the crafts their grandparents practiced and their parents were denied.

With this renewal has come an appreciation of even older practices and a determination to rediscover techniques whose loss pre-dates Soviet times. Natural dyes are used in place of the aniline ones that had replaced them in the 19th century.

Dyed with such dyes - indigo, cochineal, madder and weld - this ikat was designed by the master, Turghunboy Mirzaahmedov who died in 2006, and woven recently in his family workshop. Unusually in a craft that keeps its secrets close, Master Mirzaahmedov kept notes and records of all his designs so that they continue today. One of the founders of the Yodgorlik factory, he left them a legacy of over 200 designs

It's adras - silk warp and cotton weft



Mirzaahmedov's son, Rasul, has gone even further in his quest to revive lost techniques. Among his successes have been the rediscovery of how to dye and weave velvet ikats - A'lo Bakhmal. The most luxurious of all Uzbekistan's luxurious fabrics, none had been produced for over 100 years. A complex and difficult technique requiring the dyeing of two warps and weaving with two wefts, it was only ever produced in Bukhara and then only for the Emir and his court. Now it features in the collections of designer Osca la Renta and others - and at prices you'd need to be an Emir to afford.

Rasul has also rediscovered the lost techniques of Khorezm silk weaving - this shawl, silk on silk, purchased at his medressah in Margilan is woven in this way. Quite different from ikat, it has a diapered weave, is soft and drapes beautifully - a real treasure. It didn't cost an Emir's ransom either.



Chapanahi is striped cloth, traditionally used for making chapans the long loose overcoat you see hanging in the markets and worn by men all over Central Asia. One of only a very few cotton cloths made in Uzbekistan still - what was once a thriving industry making huge variety of cotton fabrics, all with their own particular weaves and characteristics, was wiped out by cheap imports as long ago as the first half of the 20th century.




Have you read both the travelogues on this page? Just for fun - take the quiz here to see what you know about ikats. (The answer to Question 4 is 2005)

  • Page Updated Dec 16, 2009
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