The textiles of Uzbekistan are world famous, particularly the embroideries known as Suzani, and the magnificent silk weaves know as Khan-Atlas. Suzani are an important part of Uzbek culture, and they are recognized world wide as some of the finest textiles and examples of folk art. The Uzbek people were originally nomadic, and these embroideries were meant to decorate their movable homes. All females were expected to embroider, along with all other homemaking skills. As these techniques spread, they also mingled with the techniques of other cultures along the silk road, as well as with other tribes. For example, one can see the influences of Asia and of Persia in the embroidery of Bukhara. The great courts of royalty were decorated with Suzani, and nowadays, high-end interior decorators and fashion designers get inspiration (and designs!) from this tradition. Today, grandmothers and mothers still pass down the skills to their daughters. While older suzani may command a higher price, if you are not looking for investment alone, look for good technique and imagination in the piece you are looking at. Is it cleanly executed? Is it on silk or cotton? Is it work intensive, or only sparsely covered? Does it have unusual motifs? And never wash a suzani, even if the vendor tells you it is okay to do so. Always dry-clean!
Silk weaves known as Khan Atlas are still used in clothing, although the real weave (not the prints) are generally reserved for special occasion wear. Most of the best Khan Atlas are woven in Margilan, and scarves and bolts are sold in almost any Uzbek market. Look for a dense, tight weave with a decent heft to the fabric, and bold patterns.
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