Silk Production in Konavle

The Chinese discovered how to make silk as long ago as 2850 BC. They jealously guarded the secrets of breeding silkworms and making silk from the rest of the world: the act of smuggling silkworms over the border was punishable by death. However, a pair of missionaries smuggled out silkworm pupae in their bamboo staffs and thus the Europeans came to know this fine fabric in the 5th century BC.

According to the oldest written records, silk production in Dubrovnik’s Konavle region goes back to the 15th century. Silk was an exceptionally important fabric here since it was used in weaving the Konavle folk dress – one of the most beautiful aspects of Croatian cultural heritage. In this part of the world, people literally were born with silk, lived with it and died with it, and the art of producing silk was passed among women from generation to generation. Women from Konavle had great respect for the tradition of breeding silkworms and making silk; it was a part of their regional identity and a family tradition to which they remained loyal. You can see silk worked into Konavle folk dress, most often on decorative bibs and bodices, aprons, caps, waistcoats, suits and elsewhere.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about silk production is rearing the silkworms themselves. In order to obtain the highest quality threads, man must work in harmony with silk moths, silk worms (in Konavle dialect: bubice) and the white mulberry trees on which they feed.


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