Curious Bhutanese textiles

20 February 2013

Bhutanese bookmark

Diana Nelson, an active guild member, gave a program this month on weaving in Bhutan. She made a trip there about the time of the Royal Wedding, and took pictures of them weaving and brought back textiles.

Most of these textiles, which have great value in their culture, are hand-woven– mostly backstrap weaving and heavily brocaded. She had videos of the women weaving on circular warps and doing the brocade. You can see pictures of women weaving in Bhutan here.

Of the textiles Diana had, there were two curious ones when you touched them, they were very stiff. These are sashes that the women wear for special occasions. They are 3-4″ wide and about 6′ long with fringes. Diana had seen a woman twisting the fringes and thought they were woven on a backstrap loom.


You can see that it is stiff enough to stand up on edge. It also feels thick, like two layers of cloth yet the individual threads appear to be fine cotton.Each strand of the fringe has at least 8 threads.

Closer examination of the surface shows a twisted structure
IMG_0990 that almost looks like a knit cloth. There are also straight line indentations at irregular intervals all the way across the width of the cloth. You can just see one in the upper right of the picture. I don’t know how the pink/green line was made or if it is in one of the indentations. There are only two of these pink/green line, one near each end.

Diana has another of these sashes
Bhutanese brocaded sash
that is brocaded. Again stiff, made of fine threads and the ground surface has a knit stitch appearance. Part is densely brocaded and the rest has isolated motifs. I love hearts. The ground appears to be cotton and the inlayed thread silk or rayon, very shiny and contrasts nicely with the matte cotton; not very visible in the photo.


The brocading is fine, the three motifs in a row are each about 1″ square, and show a domination of the technique. First from the glimpses of the back of the textile, you can see that only the knots show up there. Some times the brocading thread makes it turns on the surface making little scallops; you can see these scallops between the chevron and diamond motifs. The 3 motifs in the center have nice straight line so the turns of the brocading weft isin the straight line between the motifs. The brocade threads have no tie downs, they just float across the span of the motif;the motifs are small.

After some discussion among the weavers at Thursday evening spinning, we suspected these sashes are card woven. Card weaving can be done with a backstrap tensioning system. Diana looked it up in a book she has on Bhutanese textiles and confirmed that they are card woven.

The curious thing is the combination of brocade and card weaving. I wonder how it is done. Have you seen brocaded card weaving?


2 Responses to “Curious Bhutanese textiles”

  1. Brocaded card weaving certainly was done in pre-Renaissance times. Anna Neuper’s Modelbuch is a pattern book by a 16th century nun, and Nancy Spies has written a book entitled “Ecclesiastical Pomp & Aristocratic Circumstance: A Thousand Years of Brocaded Tabletwoven Bands “.


  2. taylor cass Says:

    Yes, these chudang (belts) are tablet woven. They often make the cards using old x-rays from hospitals. The are woven using a continuous warp and backtrap, and generally woven with cotton and silk. I haven’t seen synthetic threads used here. The green and pink line is stitched in at the beginning of the weaving, by alternating loops across the weft. Some people believe that the brocaded belts help to heal abdominal ailments. It’s a beautiful technique, thank you for sharing


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