Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Silk Ikat Backless Top from Uzbek Silk

We have a saying in Russian: "A shoemaker is always without shoes". I can relate only too well as we often have no time to make things for ourselves. However, I found this beautiful piece of Uzbek ikat silk and we loved it so much that my mother designed and made this top for me within two days. Is not it wonderful to have your own in-house fashion designer?

It is quite simple, with an empire waist, draped surplice top and an overall relaxed silhouette - just what I wanted for our hot summer. The bust is lined with vintage cotton and I wear it without a bra.

Since we have successfully piloted this design, we are also offering it in our MulberryWhisper shop - you can order a similar top here. We have lots of beautiful fabrics and hope you can choose something to your liking.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Silk Ikat Top - A Splash of Summer Colors

Silk ikat top with bare back is something we have been wanting to make for a while. This is a piece of clothing perfect for summer, being pure mulberry silk, buttery soft and cool to the touch. Madina just loves it, calling it "my so sooooft top", and refuses to take it off. This silk ikat top can be made to order in any size and in oh so many colors - you can see available fabrics here.

I am going to have one for myself as well. These ethnic Uzbek ikat designs are so beautiful - even though I have been living here for all my life, I still marvel at them.We have some other ikat silk blouses, shirts and tops in our Clothing Section at Mulberry Whisper - you might want to check them out if you like ethnic silk made in Uzbekistan.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Eat Fruit, Not Candy

Tashkent is full of sun and heat; bazaars are bursting with cherries, raspberries, apricots and small semi-wild mountain apples.

These days I am trying to teach my daughter to eat more fruit and less candies, explaining to her how fruit are useful and healthy and good for our skin, hair and overall well-being.

She is not the worst audience; she nods and diligently eats whatever green or red goodness I give her. As for industrial sweets, I just stopped buying them. I need to limit my own consumption, too - it is never too late. And, strangely, I have noticed long ago that the less sweets I eat, the less I want them - as if I am cleaning myself of their presence in my body and it stops calling for more.

Madina loves traditional Uzbek pottery and always demands that I serve fruit "in that beautiful sea-like bowl". I agree with her: the bowl is indeed lovely. Traditional Rishtan pottery (made in Rishtan valley, Ferghana Valley, Uzbekistan) is beautiful. I love the rich colors and tribal feel.

I have a big serving plate which is also made in Rishtan: it is perfect for watermelons or melons. In the meantime, we used to serve the first melon we bought this season - a small and fragrant "cantaloupe" melon.

"Mama, why is the melon so small? Is it because this is a baby melon?" - "No, the melon is ripe and delicious; this is just... just a smaller breed of melons. Called "cantaloupe". And then in the autumn we will have huge melons, like spaceships...". I told her that cantaloupe contained a lot of A and C vitamins essential for our functions such as eyesight and immune response ("you do want your body to be able to resist nasty microbes, do not you?", and we ate the delicious slices feeling like doing the right thing.

I hope I succeed in my cold war against refined sweets: I just need to persevere and refrain from buying them. I am also looking for simple recipes of home made sweets without sugar (or at least with a small amount of unrefined sugar), and will appreciate if you share some.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

A Sea of Uzbek Silk

I recently bought several pieces of lovely vintage Uzbek ikat silk - "khan atlas" - and I just cannot take my eyes off them. This lush, buttery soft fabric comes in many colors, but the pattern is always ikat (although sometimes you can buy plain undyed khan atlas but it is not found often). Just look at my new treasures!

Sometimes Uzbek silk ikat reminds me of wild flowers. There is something botanical in these elongated lines and mixtures of earthy and bright colors. 

This simple combination of colors will look and feel chilly on the hottest summer day. It looks so natural, I think they used natural dyes there.

I dubbed this one "my Renoir". The smaller elements in the design are considered highly desirable by the local people. When they offer you such fabrics, they always say: "Look, the ornament is so small! It is really beauiful and very chic!". The reason for that is, first of all, a greater complexity of the looming process. This design is not printed on Uzbek khan atlas; the threads are dyed in a variegated fashion, based on very complex calculations, so that when the silk is loomed, the design would appear. I think it is called self-patterning threads in knitting. So, naturally it is much more difficult to dye smaller sections in many different colors, rather than to dye threads for a large design in just three or four shades. Second, such design looks very flattering in a top, tunic or dress: it makes the wearer appear much slimmer (look here, for instance).

This is another reserved color scheme. I love the combination of soft white, soft black and emerald green.

And this piece of Uzbek ikat silk is crazy, in a good sense of the word.

All these photos were taken in the dim morning light. In the middle of the day, these silks will look even brighter, bolder and crazier. And this is a general view, to see the patterns better:

I know we are blessed to live in the silk heaven. A small town called Margilan produces a sea of silk every year and has been doing that since ancient times.

"The town is the location of Uzbekistan’s largest traditional silk factory, the Yodgorlik Silk Factory. Employing over 2,000 workers, everything is done in the traditional manner, for an annual output of some 250,000 square meters of highly premium silk cloth.

The neighboring Margilan Silk Factory employs 15,000 workers using modern machinery, and produces some 22 million square meters per year. It is uncertain when the secrets of silk production came to the Fergana Valley, but certainly, Margilan has been active in the industry since ancient times" (from Wikipedia)

Most of the silk I buy is vintage. Strictly speaking, modern silk is not worse, and often it is difficult or impossible to see the difference, because they use old patterns and designs in the new factory, too.  But in any case, we buy and use vintage fabrics whenever we can: they are beautiful, they are often rare, and I believe it is more environmentally friendly, even though we consume so little compared to the total consumption of Uzbek silk. Still, one little step is already something.

Now we need to turn these luscsious fabrics into something wearable and I hope to be able to share the results of our work soon in our shop - MulberryWhisper.etsy.com.
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