In the 18th – 19th centuries, crafts flourished in the Ottoman Empire. They are constantly developing, with their total number in Plovdiv reaching 54. Christian associations, called guilds, are organized as corporations recognized by the state and the church. At a general meeting, each guild elects its first master (ustabashiya), who represents it in all matters before the local authorities, the church and the municipality. Each association has its patron saint and its holiday. The largest and most influential is the Aba Makers Guild, which was known far beyond the borders of Plovdiv. The aba (thick woollen fabric) and homespun produced by the guild are highly valued and traded on three continents.