Khadi is an exceptional cloth, deriving from 100% natural fibre, ranging from mainly cotton, silk and wool. This fibre is hand spun into a variety of yarn, using a spinning wheel known as a charkha. Then, the yarn is hand woven using a loom, which can also lead to the possibility of hand dying the fabric. This is a lengthily process, as the textile is entirely hand made. The beauty of this results in irregular textures in the cloth exhibiting a more natural impression. Khadi is a fabric that has the ability to help keep the skin cool during scorching temperatures, but also keep the skin warm during colder temperatures.

The process of khadi is very likely to have started as far back as the Indus civilization, which could be about 8,000 years ago! Over time, explorers such as Alexander the Great and Vasco de Gama have aided in exposing fabric from India to most of the world. Khadi, became popular and thus began to lose its hand spinning identity; in order to cater for an increasing market, khadi like cloth was then developed at the mills. Europe also began to manufacture similar fabrics at a lower cost, which soon took over the textile industry.

Mahatma Gandhi reintroduced khadi and its essence of hand spun, hand woven methods. The Swadeshi movement, a campaign to only use Indian produced goods, and boycotting British imports, inspired Gandhi to foster self-sufficiency through khadi. This motivated communities to plant and harvest raw materials, then spin the fibres into yarn and weave into cloth to be made into simple khadi garments. In many ways this is a sustainable act as it empowers villages to use natural resources. Khadi, resulted in having a huge impact in India gaining its independence in 1947. At the centre of the Indian flag you will notice a chakra; the importance of the spinning wheel leading the nation into freedom.

Today, khadi isn’t used to its potential and is often expensive. Its production methods are sustainable in ways that it presents jobs for local communities and empowering around 80% of woman. Furthermore, hand spun khadi releases 91% less emissions in comparison to machine-produced fabric. If khadi is spun from organic cotton, then a far less percentage of water is required. Within India, there is about 1% of khadi production, this shows that the use of true khadi has declined. Most times the fibre is machine developed into a khadi like cloth. There are few mills developing khadi using solar powered machinery inspired by the chakra. This shows that maybe the meaning of khadi is developing in order to fit with social changes.

This powerful textile has had such a tremendous impact socially, culturally, economically and politically over the years. A cloth with many positive attributes and with so much potential to be sustainably established.

 

Sources:
Khadi talk at Fashion & Textile Museum
What is Khadi?
Swadeshi Mouvement
Story of Khadi
The Story of Khadi