Culture & Traditions

Forgotten Craft – Silkworm in Macedonia

Many women regularly visit well-known shops in remote corners of the Old Skopje Bazaar looking for cheap but beautiful imported silks. The silk available at the bazaar is of an excellent quality as the merchants have long traditions of trade with Turkey and other countries of Asia where silk is being produced. What the customers do not know is that in the past silk production was one of the most important occupations in Macedonia, and almost every family grew silkworm. Macedonian silk was an important trade article, and in the 19th century silk business contributed to the appearance of the rich class of Macedonian tradesmen who led the national awakening and were at the forefront of the forming of the modern national sentiment.

The method of cultivation of silkworm and silk processing was a special secret skill which was carefully fostered and handed down from generation to generation. Now it is totally lost, although there are some grandmothers who remember how in their early childhood they were also included in the process of cultivation and manufacture. No doubt, they would be happy to witness an old craft revival initiative that would restore this craft, at least for the purposes of cultural tourism.

Silk is animal fibre produced by silkworm. There are two types of silkworm: wild and cultivated. Hair of the wild silkworm has a rough structure and is solid brown, as opposed to the yellow to gray thread of the cultivated variety. Wild silkworm lives and feeds on oak wood, and its natural environments are in India, China and Japan. Cultivated production blossomed in Macedonia primarily due to its relative simplicity. Between insemination and mature cocoon there is a period of approximately forty days, so that the silkworm afforded a relatively fast income to a family, while also allowing the cultivating families to be engaged in other activities, silk remaining a side business. Read more…