2019 additions to my Bhutanese collection

I came home from Bhutan in October with a few more pieces to add to my collection. The most special to me of these is a kera (belt) woven and worn by my monk friend.

Like all Bhutanese kera, the ground weave is created on a card loom. In this case it has been woven in the traditional colour for a Bhutanese monk’s clothing.

At the bottom of this image you can see one of the weft-oriented lines formed in the ground when the direction of turning the cards was reversed.

This kera is quite ornate for monk-wear, and I’m guessing it was created specifically to wear on special occasions such as tsechu (festivals). Both ends have been decorated with supplementary weft designs woven in the same manner as kushutara designs.

One end is sparsely decorated, but the other end is a sumptuous riot of colourful design:

The belt can be worn with one or the other end showing, so it is really two belts in one. The colours on the ornate end dance joyfully in an ever-changing arrangement of colours that would not be out of place on a high-end kushutara festival kira.

Here’s a close-up so you can see the detail of the sapma & thrima supplementary weft designs. You can also see slight wear on the yellow border.

It was a privilege to purchase this piece from him.  

Another kera was gifted to me by another friend:

This kera is woven in two colours woven in a complementary arrangement so that the pattern shows in negative on the reverse.

The motifs used on each end of the kera are different, so together with the reversability of this belt, it can be worn four different ways, making it four belts in one!

Unlike the monk belt, this was woven with much thicker weft, as the design is created in a completely different way and did not require the closely-spaced rows needed for the fine kushu work.

I was also gifted this pretty silk on silk kushutara table-mat:

Another gift has enlarged my collection of kiras. Being woven entirely in telicotton (polyester), this is much lighter than the silk kiras in my collection, so it is more likely to make it into my suitcase when I travel to Bhutan and so actually be worn!

I was given a choice of kiras, and picked out this one because it is also a useful addition to my teaching collection. It is hor (supplementary warp technique) and more specifically montha. My understanding is that montha traditionally had supplementary warps in red & blue or red & black.

The two tones of the supplementary warps (in this case black & brown) are excellent for illustrating hor technique, where the supplementary warps are enclosed in two sets of heddles: in this instance one set for the black and one for the brown. The supplementary warp threads are manipulated by the same arrangement of heddles even when hor is woven with a single pattern colour.

Combining two colours of supplementary warp in this way is only used for cloth worn by women, whereas many other supplementary warp designs appear in cloth for both men and women.

Here is a photo showing both the front and the back so you can see the complementary motifs formed by the supplementary warps. Right side is at the top of the image, and reverse side at the bottom.

Another gift that will be useful for illustrative purposes is this bag:

On my last two visits to Bhutan I have begun seeing kiras and yardage made from the same machine-embroidered imitation kushutara. I also noticed kiras of this fabric being worn to festivals on my last visit.

Some of these imitations are easy to mistake for real kushutara until examined closely. Even I have been tricked at a distance of a metre, and I can weave kushutara! Here is one piece that did trick me until I looked more closely:

One giveaway is the twill ground weave, but if you know how to execute sapma and thrima, it is easy to see on close inspection that this is embroidered.

Also added to my collection earlier in 2019 were two pieces of yak hair belt. Both are card-woven and this one is beautiful in it’s combination of natural colours:

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