If you love vibrant colours, you’d love the textiles of Bhutan

Email

From the dyeing to the weaving, the Bhutanese have nailed the process.

Bhutan is fiercely protective of their arts and crafts, of which there are 13. Each of these holds a special meaning in Bhutanese culture. But of these 13 arts and crafts, one is especially recognised for its vibrant colours, intrinsic patterns, and exquisite techniques. Enter: weaving (Thagzo). 

Weaving is among the oldest of the 13 crafts in Bhutan. Pair this beloved tradition with another of the 13 traditional Bhutanese arts and crafts, embroidery (tshemzo), and you get the famed Bhutanese textiles.

Bhutanese textiles come in distinct styles, with the motifs unique to different districts. Nettle, yak hair, and sheep wool are weaved into rain-proof sheets. Meanwhile, raw silk, eri silk, and cotton are saved for celebratory occasions.

Bhutanese textiles are central to Bhutanese heritage, starting from the making of the traditional dresses of gho and kira. But the usage of Bhutanese textiles transcends wardrobe needs. The Bhutanese also use the textiles for bedding material, furniture covers, rugs, and many others. 

The geometric symbols on Bhutanese textiles have religious significance, not to mention different degrees of complexity. An artist might take anything from a few days to a year to complete a piece. Different types of geometric symbols include:

  • Yurug (swastikas)
  • Phub (triangular pattern)
  • Dramee (eternal knot)
  • Dorji (thunderbolt)

Each symbol has a unique meaning. For instance, the phub is believed to promote longevity. 

The dyeing process

Colour is everything when it comes to the textiles of Bhutan. The yarn is dyed using local plants, roots, and vegetables, including indigo, lac, wild madder, and other wild plants in household gardens. 

The country has rich flora and fauna, so achieving a large platelet of colours is no problem at all. But the Bhutanese guard their dyeing formulas closely. Few outsiders know how they get their yarn to glow like they do — it’s a guarded secret. They are adamant that only the most qualified people should have insight into the process.

The secret is more than heavily protected. There are also superstitions surrounding the art. The Bhutanese believe that certain weather conditions, visitors, and even pregnant women who come near the dyeing process might cause the dyes to lose their effectiveness. Thus, yarn-dyeing is often done behind locked doors in the early mornings.

Types of weaves

With the yarn dyed, it is time to weave the textiles. There are three types of weaves, each passed through generations via oral tradition and no written records. 

  1. Plain Weaves — patterns of stripes and plaids.

Martha: Usually has red or maroon as the dominant colour.

Sertha: Usually has yellow or orange as the dominant colour.

Thara: Woven only to be used for horizontal-striped Kira with white as the dominant colour.

Kamtham Jardrima: Stripped weaves that use the colours of the rainbow.

  1. Warp Pattern Weaves — Yarn that runs lengthwise on the loom is called warp. Warp patterns are differentiated through their colour schemes. The superiority of the textile depends on the number of legs or cross hatches in each supplementary warp-pattern band.

Mentsi Martha: Yellow warp bands and plain red ground are alternated.

Mentsi Martha. The patterned stripes are the warp bands, whereas the solid reds are the ground.

 

Lungserma: Green and red are alternated over yellow ground.

Dromchuchem: “Dromchuchem” literally translates to “with little boxes”. The pattern and bands are woven in threes.

Mentha: Narrow white warp bands are weaved over a black ground. This particular pattern is only worn by women.

Weft: Yarn is passed back and forth across the loom and interwoven with the wrap.

  1. Weft Pattern Weaves — This design could be either continuous or discontinuous. The continuous weft patterns are much alike to other textiles throughout South and Southeast Asia. On the other hand, discontinuous weft patterns are indigenous to Bhutan. Coloured yarns are knotted individually to the weft yarns with the goal of creating geometric motifs.

Sapma: A continuous weft pattern design. 

Tingma: A discontinuous weft pattern design. Some people think it is impossible to weave the brocade patterning on a common back-strap look, so they mistake the supplementary weft pattern designs for embroidery.

The sapma and tingma weft pattern designs are often used for ngoshom (kira with a dark ground), kushuthara (kira with a white ground), and shilochem (alternate rows of wrap pattern bands, woven for both gho and kira).

Visit the National Textile Museum

 

There is no better place to learn about Bhutan’s rich textile heritage than the National Textile Museum. Located in Thimphu as part of the Royal Textile Academy, the museum consists of an impressive display of Bhutanese textiles. 

The ground floor has an exhibit of royal ghos, including the wedding clothes of the fourth King and his four wives. The upper floor has a showcase of major weaving techniques, including the styles of the different areas.

It’s worth a visit if you’re in the area. Especially if you love vibrant colours.

Purchasing of Bhutanese textiles

If you'd like to purchase Bhutanese textiles, check out Bhutan Natural online store



Related Posts

Traditional costumes of Bhutan and the evolution of kira

The Kingdom of Bhutan is unique for many reasons, but one peculiarity that sets them apart is their dress code.

Apr 21, 2021 11:25

Rifles and Rituals: Satire and Societal Shifts in Bhutan as...

Pawo Choyning Dorji, whose film "The Monk and the Gun" offers insight into the Himalayan nation's modernization process.

Feb 20, 2024 11:04

All You Need to Know About Gelephu Mindfulness City

The kingdom of Bhutan is planning to develop a "mindfulness city" covering about 2.5% of its land, which is larger than...

Feb 08, 2024 10:42

Bhutanese artist wins one of Asia's top art contests

The International Artist Grand Prize Competition is held in Taipei, Taiwan.

Oct 04, 2023 18:19

Art United: A Contemporary Vision' Exhibition Now Open to Public

'Art United: A Contemporary Vision' Exhibition was unveiled by Her Royal Highness Ashi Sonam Dechan Wangchuck

Sep 19, 2023 18:56

Bhutanese Students Get Ready to Compete In First Global Robotic...

Five students from Bhutan will compete in the First Global Robotic Competition in Singapore, which is themed Hydrogen...

Sep 14, 2023 13:51

Latest

News

Thailand and Bhutan to Advance Bilateral Relations

Prime Minister Dasho Tshering Tobgay is on an official visit to Thailand from 25 to 28 June 2023.

Jun 28, 2024 16:47

Navigating Change and Bhutan's Path to Sustainability

Bhutan is among the world's most exclusive destinations. CNA delved into Bhutan's transformative journey and tourism policy.

Jun 19, 2024 11:35

Features

Rifles and Rituals: Satire and Societal Shifts in Bhutan as Portrayed in 'The Monk and The Gun

Pawo Choyning Dorji, whose film "The Monk and the Gun" offers insight into the Himalayan nation's modernization process.

Feb 20, 2024 11:04

All You Need to Know About Gelephu Mindfulness City

The kingdom of Bhutan is planning to develop a "mindfulness city" covering about 2.5% of its land, which is larger than the size of...

Feb 08, 2024 10:42

Business

Brand Bhutan: Karma Yangchen

Karma Yangchen, a distinguished artisan from Bhutan exemplifies a profound commitment to the art of handwoven textiles.

Dec 14, 2023 10:22

Brand Bhutan: Bhutan Herbal Tea

Bhutan Herbal Tea is the brainchild of two Bhutanese individuals who first crossed paths in New York during a Bhutanese New Year gathering...

Nov 25, 2023 13:56

Sports

Bhutan Cricket's New Milestone: The Inaugural Indoor Cricket Academy

The Bhutan Cricket Council Board (BCCB) inaugurated its inaugural indoor cricket academy on 20th December, with the objective of ensuring...

Dec 21, 2023 14:57

Paro FC Clinches Third Consecutive Victory in BOB Bhutan Premier League

Paro FC has once again claimed the BOB Bhutan Premier League championship, marking their third consecutive title victory during the season's...

Dec 12, 2023 10:26

Travel

Bhutan Reduces SDF for the First 15,000 Bangladeshi tourists

This special scheme will be valid until 2027.

Jun 05, 2024 10:09

Honoring the Past, Embracing the Future: Bhutan's Tourism Turns 50

Bhutan is set to commemorate the golden jubilee of its tourism industry, marking 50 years since the nation first welcomed international...

Jun 03, 2024 20:34

Lifestyle

Chunipa Losar: Bhutan's Timeless Celebration of Traditions and Offerings

Chunipa Losar is a day of offerings, a moment when communities come together to express gratitude, seek blessings, and strengthen bonds.

Jan 12, 2024 12:31

Bhutan's Time-Honored Tradition: Exploring the Nyilo Season and the Lolay Ritual

Approximately 750 children recently took part in the traditional practice known as "lolay" in Bhutan, marking the beginning of the Nyilo...

Jan 04, 2024 14:18

Subscribe to our newsletter

Never miss out on new happenings and news stories!

Download Daily Bhutan Mobile App

Connecting with us just got easier!