I just got off the phone with a gentleman who is looking into buying ikat fabrics from us and one of the topics we got into was a narrow width of Uzbek ikats. Here we got into a history of how in the Soviet days, when there was no such thing as a private business, the production of ikat textiles was in the hands of the government and the production was industrialized (ikats woven on industrial scale weaving machines). However, even those machines could not make a fabric wider than 90 centimeters. Why not? Because old Soviet industrialized looms were limited to 90 cm! For a reason, please keep reading...

The collapse of the Soviet Union and the opening up of the market revived artisanal craftsmanship. Fabrics that were made in big factories started being produced by artisans at home on hand looms, which are narrow.  To these day most of ikats made in Uzbekistan are made on hand looms. 

To answer the question as to whether the Uzbek ikats can be made in width greater than 90 cm, I had to drill ikat gurus with my endless questions and have to report that, sadly, "no" is the answer. There have been attempts to try weaving ikats on wider looms that were imported from India - another ikat making culture - and unfortunately, in trials, it was discovered that the quality of Uzbek silk is not suitable for wider loom weaving. 

This conversation reminded me of pre-1991 era photos which I received not long ago from an ikat maker in Margilan. Here we go – black and white photos from the old days. 

 

Uzbek SSR silk ikat fabric production

Sorting out silk cocoons

 

Ikat fabric making in Uzbek SSR

Young woman weaving

 

Soviet textile factory

Soviet textile factory

 

Uzbekistan's textile heritage - ikat making

Textile factory in USSR days, city of Margilan