Monday, December 8, 2014

The Yarn About Two Yarns

In my capacity as the Secretary of the Rotary Club of Thimphu, I came in contact with an interesting Japanese gentleman named Genji Nosaka. He is the Chairman of a museum in Fukui, Japan called “Bhutan Museum Fukui”. The museum is dedicated to promoting friendship between the people of Japan and Bhutan. It has exhibits that help create awareness about Bhutan’s rich cultural heritage among the Japanese people. I met him twice.

During his last trip, he gave me an intriguing assignment to perform. He and his wife handed me a bundle of creamy white yarn and requested that a fabric be created out of it. He had one very precise condition: the textile that I create must be of a fusion between his yarn (known as Kouzo) and a Bhutanese yarn of my choosing! In the enmeshment of the yarns, the Kouzo must form the Warp and the Bhutanese yarn must be woven as the Weft.

And what is the idea? The idea, according to Genji-san, is that such a fabric produced by bonding two natural fibers grown in the two respective countries will be symbolic of the strong bond and friendship that exists between the people of Japan and Bhutan.

And the purpose? It will serve as an exhibit that he will hang on the wall of his museum.

What an IDEA! The more I thought about this, the more I was convinced that the idea was refreshingly ORIGINAL! - very ingenious and creative and infinitely sensitive. I loved it! So I decided to devote time and thought over the matter.

First I needed to think of what yarn/thread to use to create this symbol of friendship. Then I needed to find someone who could do justice to the weaving that has to be top notch!

After days of brooding over the matter, I had the answers! For yarn, I will use Zocha Kuip (Kui kromen in Khengkha) - a yarn derived from the fiber of the bark of Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica).

Having decided on the yarn, the answer to finding a master weaver was simple - I already knew a master weaver in Langthel, Trongsa who weaves Nettle clothing. Her name is Ms. Sundu Choeden. I called her up to find out if she was at home - she was. So I drove to Langthel to hand over the Japanese yarn and ask if she could weave what I had in mind. She looked at the yarn lovingly and exclaimed; “what beautiful yarn!”. She agreed to weave the piece and so we sat down to decide on the size and the pattern to weave into the body of the fabric. The results are the following.

Fusion Fabric Design 1

Fusion Fabric Design 2
Close-up of Design 1's Pattern

Close-up of Design 2's Pattern

Although a single strip of fabric was woven, it was divided into two different panels. This way it was possible for the master weaver to integrate two different patterning designs so Mr. Genji-san has an option to choose from and not be limited for choice.

The patterns of the fabric is also woven with Zocha Kuip that has been dyed with natural dyes.

The fabric is currently on its way to Japan. Pre-shipment images I sent him received glowing appreciation from Mr. Genji-san.

Kouzo yarn:
Kouzo yarn is derived from the bark of Paper Mulberry (Broussonetia kazinoki Sieb.). It is a temperate deciduous woody plant. It is popularly called Paper Mulberry because it is a raw material for Japanese paper that is mainly used for printing currency notes.

Balls of Kouzo yarn

 Nettle yarn:
In olden days, Bhutanese use to grow cotton but we don’t anymore. The other yarn that we used those days from which to weave clothing was harvested from the wild - Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica). The plant was stripped of its bark from which a fine fiber was produced which was spun into yarns.

Zocha (Nettle) yarn

Weft & Warp:
In weaving, the thread or yarn that runs horizontally is known as the “Warp”. In Bhutanese it is called the Muh. Similarly, the thread or yarn that runs vertically or diagonal to the Warp is known as the “Weft”. In Bhutanese it is known as the Poon.

 Weft & Warp

UPDATE: One reader called me up to say that in some parts of Pemagatshel in Eastern Bhutan, some bit of cotton is still grown from which a textile design known as Kamtham is woven.


  1. Beautiful result from the wonderful combination. It represents friendship and also brotherhood. I should get you the Silk Warp produced in my place(Sidlaghatta)...

    1. HI Mallik,

      That would be a great idea! Let me know if you want to see this through - may be you can bring the yarn during your upcoming show here and we discuss this properly. What do you say?


  2. Thanks a lot sir. I'll bring our Silk warp then. Please see the small documentary about Sidlaghatta Silk production:

  3. I thought Poon was the weft...

    1. Hi Anon,

      You are right - Weft is the Poon --- my apologies. Totally confused ... between Warp, Weft, Warp, Weft, Warp, Weft, Warp, Weft ... :)- But as you can see, my sketch differentiating between the Warp and the Weft has been rendered correctly.

      The error has since been corrected.

  4. very interesting.I look for materials about urtica dioica.
    Thank You