Thursday, 26 June 2014

Cotton, silk and a well-dressed tree

I am sure you will not be surprised to hear that given we were following the ancient Silk Routes, textiles were rather a recurring feature of our recent trip! So I thought that I would share some of them with you.

Everywhere that we went in Uzbekistan we were told that cotton was one of their major crops, so you can imagine how delighted I was to hear that! I certainly had visions of being spoilt for choice when deciding what to buy as a reminder of the trip. Strangely it didn't quite work out like that and although there were lots of cotton scarves around I only found one shop in Samarkand that sold fabric lengths.

Cotton fabric

Needless to say I bought some! I haven't decided yet what to do with it but I am sure that I will think of something :)

Wrapped tree Bukhara

For reasons that were never apparent, several trees in the courtyard of a Madrahsa in Bukhara were sporting these wonderful fabric wrappings. Fabric bombing Uzbek style, maybe ??

As you know by now, I can never resist a market and Samarkand had a great daily market and even better a treasure trove of a haberdashery right next door.

Thread seller Samarkand

This lovely lady came over all coy when I asked to take her photograph, but as I had just handed over the cash for a large bundle of her silk embroidery threads, she couldn't be too shy :)

Trimmings stall

Her fellow trader didn't do quite so well out of me, as I was able to resist the yards and yards of glittery gold trim, but along with a fellow traveller did succumb to a couple of the embroidered ribbons. The ribbons were sold as a cut length but had a plain black section in the middle, which you can just see in the middle ribbon in the picture. It took us ages to work out why they were like this and I can't claim any credit for the answer to the puzzle. We discovered that the ribbons were meant for trimming the cuffs of the loose trousers that the local women wore under their kaftan-like tops, so would necessarily be sold as pairs. It all made sense then :)

Embroidery and applique featured heavily in many of the finished items that I saw along the way, from these lovely bags

Applique bags Khiva

to these beautiful embroidered cushions.

Embroidered cushions Khiva

The cushions were made at a design collective workshop, where you were able to see the process of their production from start to finish, including examples of the natural resources used to produce the dyes.

Dye sources Khiva

I had heard of some of these before, but pomegranate as a dye was a new one on me. It produces the most vibrant yellow though, doesn't it? The white balls on the plate to the left are the silk cocoons.

As you can see in the cushions and bags above, the embroidery and applique motifs used in many of the designs were very stylised. In one of the museums we visited in Bukhara they had exhibits of the stamps used to print motifs on fabric.

Silk fabric and fabric stamp, Bukhara Summer Palace

The one above dated from the late 18th Century/early 19th Century.

I found a more modern version of these in one of the stalls at the back of the covered market in Bukhara.

Embroidery templates, Bukhara

The stallholder said that these were embroidery templates. They were made of a cardboard like material and were apparently hand-drawn and cut. She said that they were to be stitched over to give a raised, I suppose couched, effect. You will not be surprised to read that some of these might have found their way into my suitcase! I am hoping to use them as a reusable template for applique or embroidery rather than as a one-off embroidery template, but that is a job (and post) for another day.

My final textile-related photo for this post is this rather wonderful machine spied in the haberdashery in Samarkand.

Sewing machine Samarkand

It looks very complicated and maybe even dangerous! I thought that it might be an overlocker but not having one of those myself I wasn't sure. I am sure someone out there though will have the answer :)

On another note entirely if you have made anything Christmas or holiday related this month, don't forget to link up to Ho, Ho, Ho and on We Sew, which is over at Weekend Doings, there is a sweet mini charm pack up for grabs for one lucky linker.

As ever linking up to

Really Random


  1. Hi Fiona,
    What wonderful photos. I love the one of the lady selling her silk thread and haberdashery. I might have ditched all my holiday clothes out of the suitcase to fill it up there. The wrapped tree is a laugh too

  2. Amazing pictures of wonderful things! The bags are especially gorgeous, I would have a hard time not buying everything!

  3. Gorgeous photos! I think I need all the cushions and bags. :D Such beautiful designs and colors!

  4. I like the lady and her fabricy treasures too, although I personally would want a more comfortable seat if I was going to spend hours with my stuff :D When I go on vacation I get to see all kinds of haberdashery goodness as well - I call it ... visiting Joanns. Definitely NOT on the same level as these pictures, though, LOL! ;) I think that machine is called a Bake-inator - it mixes cake batter by hand, bakes the cake, then decorates it - all with the flick of a button!!! (I WISH!) :)

  5. How wonderful to experience such a place : )

  6. fun pictures!! The bags and cushions look so pretty! is the embroidery work done by machine? Can't wait to see what you do with the embroidery stamps.

  7. certainly a wonderful place to visit for stitchers as there is so much to see and admire and by too of course

  8. It looks like a brilliant place to visit with lots of inspiration (and temptation!)

  9. Thanks for taking us along with you, fabulous photos and lots of inspiration all around. Love to see what you make with the cardboard motifs.

  10. What an exciting and intriguing collection. I think you must be right about the machine, although I don't have one either. I love the bag and embroidery stamps. I'm looking forward to seeing what you make :)

  11. I would have loved to have seen the dyeing process for the cushions, not to mention the wonderful purchases I would have made!!! Enjoy deciding what you'll do with the fabrics.

  12. What a lovely trip! And thank you for sharing with us, it is fascinating to learn.

  13. Oh gosh, they should employ you as minister for tourism- i know where i want to go this summer!!!

  14. So much eye candy. It really looks like an amazing trip.

  15. It looks like you had a great time, and made a few good finds. I can imagine the fabric in the first picture being made into cushions. The fabric-wrapped trees look beautiful.


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