Dumbara weaving

One of the craftsmen I interviewed in Sri Lanka was a Dumbara weaver. Saman Yapage comes from a family of weavers, but he only took up weaving in 2004 after he lost a leg in the Sri Lankan army.

Dumbara weaving is named after its place of origin, near Kandy. Mats were traditionally made on home-made looms by musicians who wove when they were not required to play for state occasions.

As with any other weaving, the warp threads are arranged parallel to each other and held in tension, and the weft threads wind under and over the warp threads to create the fabric. The shuttle (nadava) carries the weft thread, and wooden heddles (aluva) separate the warp threads. The weft threads are pressed together with a quick, sharp action using a sleay.

In Dumbara weaving the distinctive motifs are achieved by inserting thin sticks to turn and twist the thread to the required design. It is a time-consuming process that needs a lot of patience and skill.

Traditionally, weavers used hana, a kind of hemp. The leaves were scraped against a log with a sharp implement to remove the fleshy part, leaving behind the fibre. The fibre was then dyed with natural dyes, as in the  photo above.

However, Saman uses cotton. He is also changing the patterns and colours to suit modern tastes, as in the cushion covers I bought below.

I also bought a throw (not made by Saman) that is a kind of sampler of many different Dumbara patterns.

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Flextiles uses shibori, ecoprinting and felting to create original, one-off upcycled pieces. Extending the life of a garment by an extra nine months reduces its environmental impact by 20-30%.

6 thoughts on “Dumbara weaving”

  1. Hello,

    I will be in Colombo, Sri lanka from tomorrow, and was just researching places to visit there; and am amazed what you have shown on your blog and would very much like to visit these places when i am there as well. Would you be any change be able to tell me where they are?

    1. Hello Jeseeeka,

      All the craftworkers I interviewed in Sri Lanka worked in the craft centre at the Heritance Ayurveda Maha Gedara Hotel near Beruwala on the west coast, a couple of hours’ drive south of Colombo. The craft centre is really for the hotel residents, but if you contact the manager, Mr Janaka Buddhakorala, and mention my name he might let you go and visit.

      Shops I visited in Colombo and mentioned on my blog are Barefoot and Rithihi.

      Have a great time in Sri Lanka!


      1. hi Kim,

        thank u very muc for your information! will definitely check it out when I reach Colombo;)


  2. hello
    I’m a university student from jaffna, I have been following art and design course in university of Jaffna for 3 years, I have to do project in outside so I would like to study weaving, can you help me only 3 weeks?

  3. Im Fashion design student i have been following 3years course i have to do my final project.. about Dumbara weaving.. can you help me contact to Mr saman.. please have only 4 weeks..

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