Legend goes that the most beautiful silk in the Central Asia, called "khan-atlas", was created by a poor weaver in ancient Margilan. The powerful ruler ("Khan") of the city at that time decided to take a fifth wife for himself and the choice fell onto the beautiful young daughter of the poor weaver. Desperate to save his daughter from the forced marriage, the poor weaver fell onto his knees and begged the ruler to change his mind. Khan told him that he could grant his request only if the weaver would present him with something so extraordinary that would make him forget the beauty of his daughter.
The devastated weaver left the palace and went to sit on the shores of a water channel, "aryk", not knowing how he could complete the impossible task. Sad, he was looking at the passing water when suddenly the sun came out and illuminated beautiful rippling reflections of the blue sky, snow white clouds and of the blossoming trees along the aryk. Jumping to his feet, the weaver cried "Oh, heavens, thank you for the idea!" and ran to his workshop.
The next morning he presented Khan with the most beautiful silk fabric Margilan has ever seen - it was light like a breeze, soft like a cloud and with such beautiful colors like a rainbow in the sky, that Khan had to admit that he has never seen anything so stunning and canceled the wedding.
This beautiful fabric has been named "khan-atlas" (royal-silk) and the technique for creating those mesmerizing rippling colors is called "abrband" (or "ikat" in other countries), which literally means "tying a cloud". The uniqueness and extreme difficulty of this method is in tying and dyeing separate bands of silk threads before stretching them on the loom, so that a specific pattern is formed when the fabric is woven. Although in the legend the weaver supposedly made the fabric overnight, it usually takes hundreds of hours of work, from extracting silk threads to carefully tying them, then dyeing in steps and finally weaving, in order to create such elaborate patterns on the beautiful extremely light silk fabrics.
Khan-atlas was considered to be equal to gold, used in transactions, traded and passed through generations as one of the most valuable family possessions.
With the time and introduction of industrial machinery such fabrics became widely available to most of the population. However, even nowadays, the most valued silk ikat is still produced strictly by hand, employing only traditional techniques. Remarkably, while traditional textile craftsmanship is slowly disappearing in many other countries, Uzbek khan-atlas is currently receiving renewed attention from local and international community alike.