Wool, flax, silk and cotton were the primary materials used in the Thracian textile industry, which played a key part in the local cultural and economic life between the 18 th and early 20 th century.
Wool and the coarse woven woolen fabric called abas, were the primary product manufactured by the average rural family. The growing demand for woolen fabric in the enlarged Mediterranean market from 16 th century onwards, led to the establishment of corporative production and trade centers. In 1685, the most important guild was abadzides (manufacturers and merchants of abas) of Philippoupolis. At the end of the 18 th century, during the industrial revolution, the western woolen fabric and increasing use of cotton, displaced the local production of wool. Wool has been processed at home since the ancient times using the following stages: washing, scalding and carding, willowing, teasing and spinning.
Silk was one of the most important woven materials; a symbol of luxury and power, it had a major role in the economic and social life of Thrace. During the Byzantium era, it was placed under the strict control of the Empire, while during the Ottoman Empire it was considered a traditional activity of small economic importance. In 19 th century, Mustafa Passa and Ivailograd in Northern Thrace, Edirne, Didymoticho and Soufli, developed into very important silk manufacturing centers. In Soufli alone, the production covered 40% of the cocoons of the Adrianople admin division, while the first silk processing factory opened in 1903. In 1922, when Thrace was incorporated into Northern Greece, Soufli lost a significant part of its mulberry plantations from the east, and as a result, through the new economic and social situation, there was a decline in cocoon production.Yet, to this day, the silk industry in Soufli, is a major economic and social force in Thrace.
The increasing demand in cotton fabric in the wider European market, has
since 1828, given an impetus to cotton production in Thrace. By the end of 19 th
century, many areas in Thrace emerged as remarkable cotton production
centers of superior quality. Women would separate cotton fiber from the seed
with a type of spinning wheel. They used to cut cotton with a bow, a process
similar to wool carding. Next, they would spin the cotton into yarn, using a
distaff and a spindle. The cotton thread was very soon replaced by commercial
yarn, known as felimeni.
Up to 1900, flax was one the most profitable crops in Thrace. Farmers used to take their flax to bezirhanades, who extracted linseed oil and linen thread from the fibers of the plant. Organized groups of women with dragomana acting as their leader, were responsible for flax processing from the field to thread making. Before the seeds were perfectly ripe, the plants were uprooted and the seed was collected followed by the wetting stage. After soaking the bundles in special pits for 10-15 days, in order for the wooden part of the seed to rot, the next stage was drying them in the sun and beating them with a flail so the flax wood would fall. With more beating, the xyloriza (used to make second class thread called krokidi), would fall. Then the yarn was extracted from the remaining flax and used to make undergarments. Pure flax was extracted by pressing it with a type of mangle and the yarn was brushed with a pig hair brush. The continuous strenuous effort to extract yarn from the flax is reflected today in the popular expression “to suffer the travails of flax”, meaning, to be put through the mill or to lead a hard life.