Bhutanese women weave beautiful handloom textiles with intricate patterns on the back strap, treadle and card looms, using a variety of yarns, in rich, vibrant colours. The vivid colours are obtained both from chemical and natural, vegetable and herbal dyes.
Weaving is prevalent throughout the kingdom and traditionally it was the lady of the house "nangi aum" who had to see to the dyeing and weaving process in addition to her household duties. The entire process of weaving a fabric - from the spinning of yarn, the dyeing and final weaving was done by hand, at home.
Every fabric has a name, which describes its particular combination of fibre, colour and pattern. Material could be either striped or checked. Extra motifs and patterns are obtained by supplementary weft threads or by adding warp threads. All patterns have a symbolic meaning: the tree, the swastika the wheel, the vajra, the diamond, etc. Thus, checked woollen material is called mathra, serthra or tsangthra depending on its colour. Women's dresses with a white background covered with brocade designs of silk are called kishuthara, and those with blue background are called onsham. Material with a yellow background and green and red stripes with additional warp patterns is mensimathra.
Textiles in Bhutan are highly regarded, not only as a form of wealth or a commodity of value to pay taxes - but have a non verbal language of their own and convey the social identity of the wearer, are an expression of religious devotion and gifts of cloth are used to mark important occasions such as marriages or promotions.
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