Uzbekistan has a long and rich history of such clothing crafts as weaving and embroidering. The products of local craftswomen can be seen at Asrlar Sadosi Festival of Traditional Culture. Here, old folk crafts and techniques meet with modern variations of folk clothes. People in Uzbekistan still practice weaving and embroidering, a lot of girls learn how to do it, Uzbek men and women wear national costumes and decorate their houses with tapestry and décor elements adorned with authentic patterns. The old textile tradition still lives in Uzbekistan today.
Uzbekistan was one of the great hubs of the ancient Silk Road and you can see the effects of that heritage today. They have a distinctive blend of cultures and, in particular, are known for their textiles. They raise their own silk and weave it in bold bright colors. There is a multitude of embroidery styles that are handed down from parent to child making it a living tradition. This is not something that's taken out showing every now and then – these beautiful embroideries are used to decorate their homes and the garments are worn for all celebrations and rites of passage.
Folk clothing of Uzbekistan
Uzbek female skull-caps adorned with embroidery
Uzbek traditional patterns
I was fortunate enough to be invited into several homes to observe the process close-up.
Pretty embroidery patterns
Beautiful pillow with embroidered birds
This is the kind of thick gold embroidery that you see people wearing at weddings. It's made from an inner thread of silk, with metallic thread wrapped around it, kind of like a guitar string. You have to do it row by row and then fasten it down.
Folk garments decorated with gold embroidery
See what the artisan is doing on the other side, because it's not the only regional embroidery style that uses the two-handed technique. There she is. She's tacking down from the other side, as you can see, and it's an interesting kind of a thimble that she's got there.
Process of two-handed embroidery technique
This lovely piece is by Mohira Sultanova, a woman who's applying the old techniques to modern shapes and more muted color sensibilities. And here's exactly how her stitching technique works.
Delicate female dress embellished with embroidery. The artisan uses a special stitching technique
She goes pretty quickly but, once again, this is a two-handed technique. That needle has a hook on it and she pushes the thread down through the fabric.
Process of embroidering using a unique stitching technique
Mohira went to the north of Uzbekistan to learn this technique from some of the older women who were willing to teach it to her. Here it is from the other side – you can barely see that needle flash through, and she quickly hooks that piece of thread back onto it and pulls it up. Now, that she's mastered the technique, she's teaching it to the people that work for her.
And here are some boots that she decorated and another piece with a very delicate color.
Leather boots adorned with embroidery
Beautiful embroidery on a blouse
Here, we're looking at a Buhara embroidery. This young lady was taught by her great-grandmother, who continues to sew at the age of 109.
Sample of Buhara embroidery
And this is Karakalpak embroidery. This lady was very happy to show how she did it and also to talk about how she was getting more and more Karakalpak girls involved in the stitching. The community created this piece by doing it together.
Sample of Karakalpak embroidery
And in the evening, the fashion show at the Asrlar Sadosi Festival highlighted modern applications of these techniques, showing off the high-quality silks and embroideries demanded by today's market, while still recalling the dazzling heritage of Central Asian textiles.