Part 3: Introducing to silk fiber

As you may already know, Georgia is a small country with a population of only 4 million people. Around 20% of Georgia’s territory has been occupied by the Russian Federation for 30 years already. Georgia is located at the crossroads of Asia and Europe, with Russia to the north, Turkey, Armenia, and Azerbaijan to the south, and the Black Sea to the west. However, socially and culturally, Georgia is considered a part of the European continent.
I want to say a few words about the Georgian landscape. In this small country, a guest (tourist) who visits Georgia for a few days can swim in the sea, ski in the mountains, and enjoy the best wine from the country’s vast plateaus. Therefore, as a “Soviet kid,” my parents used to take me to both the mountains and the seaside for summer vacations.
Vacationing in the Soviet Union was also different. You had to stay in line to get access to Soviet resorts, usually located in Georgia, South Ukraine in Crimea. I don’t know what was happening in other Soviet republics, but because Georgian people were always very attached to their land and agronomy, we all had village.

The countryside, where I can now go with my small SUV on EU-funded roads within two hours, seemed like a very long trip to me back then. Back in my childhood, everything was a little different. We needed two hours to cover the last leg of our trip from the main road on the secondary road directly to our village.

It was a terrible experience when our old Soviet car, which was already in bad condition from the beginning, couldn’t make it through the rough terrain. My father had to gather local farmers and their tools and tractors to help us cover mile after mile. It was the era when the Soviet Union was placing nuclear warheads in Cuba while its own citizens were struggling to meet their basic needs.

Traditional wooden yarn spinning spindle used for creating yarn by hand.

However, one thing I can say is that the natural beauty of the upper Imareti Region of Georgia was and still is perfect. In the village, nobody could speak Russian except for the Russian language teacher, who people jokingly called “big nose.” It felt like we had some freedom, but it was a fake one. Nobody dared to talk about anything that might be prohibited. It was a fake reality that we lived in, and this was understandable because anyone who knew what was needed had already been killed in 1923 and 1933. Later, 600,000 Georgians died in the Second World War. Therefore, until very recently, there was nobody who would take the initiative for this small country.

Anyway, when I was in the countryside, it was the first time I experienced the process of yarn-making. Every now and then, elderly women would tell us kids that they had silkworms to feed. This meant that we kids had to run to the woods to gather mulberry leaves for the silkworms. This was my favorite activity of the day because it allowed me to eat mulberries and gather leaves in the forest. These women had wooden sheds in their gardens where they had silkworm farms. The woman who lived closest to my house was teaching me how to feed the silkworms and how to gather silk combs. Unfortunately, we didn’t have mobile phones back then to film all of this, otherwise, I could show you so many interesting things.

You may wonder how I was able to freely enter people’s homes and learn new things. There’s a unique aspect of Georgian culture that sets us apart from other European countries: as a guest, you can visit anyone without prior notice, as long as the host is home. They will make you feel like the most important person of the day, especially if you’re a kid, because doors are even wider open for children. That’s how I first learned about yarn spinning and silk yarn at my neighbor’s house. As a city girl, I had probably never seen a silkworm before that year, but I had the opportunity to watch and learn about wool gathering and yarn making from the local women. Anyway, that’s enough for now about my personal experiences. Next time, let’s dive into the rich culture of yarn spinning in Georgia!

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