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

A French's connection and deep love for Bhutan

We talked to Dr Francoise Pommaret about French Friends of Bhutan and the France-Bhutan relationship.

Jul 12, 2022 20:36

7 interesting facts about the roads in Bhutan

Did you know that there are no traffic lights in the Kingdom?

Jun 15, 2022 21:52

The three most popular flowers in Bhutan

One of these flowers can only be found above 3,700m above sea level.

May 29, 2022 22:23

What went on at Miss Bhutan 2022 preliminary competition

The 3rd edition of Miss Bhutan is underway and the Preliminary Round was held and broadcast live on BBS Channel 2 on...

May 19, 2022 21:11

Check out Drunken Yeti Bar for the best cocktails in Thimphu

Named after a mythical Himalayan creature and perched on top of a distinct and unique 3-storied building in Thimphu,...

May 17, 2022 21:11

Latest

News

CNN lists Tergo-La trek among 23 of the world's best hiking trails

CNN travel recently published a list of “23 of the world’s best hiking trails” for their “Monthly Ticket” travel series.

Jul 28, 2022 19:25

Bhutan revised entrance fees for historical monuments and sacred sites

Aside from the Tiger's Nest Monastery, tourists are now required to pay Nu. 1000 entrance fees to various sacred sites in the kingdom.

Jul 18, 2022 18:51

Features

A French's connection and deep love for Bhutan

We talked to Dr Francoise Pommaret about French Friends of Bhutan and the France-Bhutan relationship.

Jul 12, 2022 20:36

7 interesting facts about the roads in Bhutan

Did you know that there are no traffic lights in the Kingdom?

Jun 15, 2022 21:52

Business

The enormous role of hydropower in Bhutan

Bhutan uses hydropower to conserve the environment, produce electricity, and achieve economic self-reliance.

Jan 25, 2022 11:43

Online businesses are becoming more and more popular in Bhutan

Even though the Internet was developed in the 1960s, the tiny Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan was only introduced to it in June 1999.

Jan 20, 2022 12:41

Sports

More Bhutanese youths are engaged in football

Sitting at the 186th position in the FIFA rankings, Bhutan looks to improve its rankings in the years to come.

Aug 03, 2022 20:19

BOB Bhutan Premier League is coming back soon with a bang

There’s an atmosphere of excitement and anticipation growing in the valleys of Bhutan as football fans in the country await what appears to...

Jul 24, 2022 14:47

Travel

Bhutan revises its tourism policy to redefine High Value Low Volume tourism

Visitors to Bhutan will now have to pay more than triple the previous Sustainable Development Fees (SDF).

Jul 20, 2022 21:44

Join #mybhutanmemories campaign now to win FREE flight tickets to Bhutan!

All you have to do is to share your fond memories of Bhutan.

Jun 19, 2022 21:52

Lifestyle

Chillies, a spicy affair in Bhutan

The Bhutanese love it hot.

Jun 07, 2022 23:55

Bhutan is traditionally a matriarchal society

Women are the decision-makers at home, but something is keeping them from public life.

May 27, 2022 22:14

COVID-19

A detailed summary of Bhutan's COVID-19 management and plans moving forward

With offices and all businesses open, movement of vehicles allowed and critical services resumed from 21st March 2022, Bhutan braces for a...

Mar 22, 2022 11:23

Vaccinated tourists to undergo 5-day quarantine in Bhutan from April 25

What you need to know about entering Bhutan from April 25.

Mar 14, 2022 14:21

Subscribe to our newsletter

Never miss out on new happenings and news stories!

Download Daily Bhutan Mobile App

Connecting with us just got easier!