Khadi Spinning and Weaving

An age-old journey

Dastkari Haat Samiti

Dastkari Haat Samiti

Ancient sculpture of spinning and weaving (1st century BC) by UnknownDastkari Haat Samiti

The Vedas, ancient Indian texts regarded as the oldest books in the world, have detailed descriptions of processes for producing different varieties of cloth from natural fibres. Many artistic textiles are described in the Ramayana and Mahabharata, India’s major religious epics. The charkha, a floor level spinning wheel, and the takli, the hand-held spindle, were the first tools to create yarn from fibre. Terracotta panels show weaving in the 1st century B.C. but there are signs of spinning and weaving even in the pre-historic period.

Spinning yarn (2018-06-01)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi left many legacies for India and the world, some reverently followed, while others now struggle valiantly to survive.

Non-violence and truth are among the deeply abiding values accepted by most enlightened people, but his beliefs in the values of economic de-centralization, the dignity of handwork versus machines, interdependent rural communities and products remaining near to their markets are finding it hard to survive in a world moving towards greater globalization, automation and mega-markets.

Khadi sarees (2018-06-17)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Fourteen pure khadi saris display the range of colours that can be derived from natural dyestuffs.

These saris are collector’s pieces now, as spinning wheels, customer tastes and weavers’ inclinations have changed.

Their real value, both in terms of fabric quality and historicity, are invaluable.

Khadi sarees (2018-06-17)Dastkari Haat Samiti

A close up of the finest khadi saris, which are part of a precious private collection, demonstrating the exclusive quality of Indian khadi woven at the beginning of the 21 century.

Khadi sarees (2018-06-17)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Seen here is a range of blues that can be extracted from the indigo plant and woven in the hands of skilled dyers and weavers of khadi fabric.

Khadi Saree (2018-06-17)Dastkari Haat Samiti

The colours of yarn and the pattern of the border represent what could be symbolic of the quintessential khadi sari of earlier times when wearers of such saris made political history.

Khadi Saree (2018-06-17)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Gentle yellow stripes interspersed with zari threads and a narrow green border form the body of a more ornamental khadi sari that allows a splurge of zari on its pallu, or end piece.

Khadi Saree (2018-06-17)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Detail of the body of a khadi sari in gold and yellow checks that encompass a small green motif in them.

The texture and weave show it as being pure hand spun and handwoven.

khadi Saree (2018-06-17)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Khadi for politically concious

Mahatma Gandhi's genius during the fight for India’s independence from colonial rule lay in converting economic ideas into political ones. Village industry was mobilized to fight the ill effects of heavy industrial complexes in England that ruined Indian enterprises. He built on the ideas of Swaraj, Swadeshi and Swavlamban (Self Rule, Domestic Production, Self-Reliance).

Khadi Saree (2018-06-17)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Khadi followed the principles of extreme simplicity.

However, when khadi wearing politically conscious women wanted to be dressy, a more generous amount of metallic, zari, threads, broad golden borders and decorative body designs were woven. The fabric remained fine for lightness.

Khadi Saree (2018-06-17)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Detail of the gold zari border in which the crinkled fabric has a textural charm of its own.

Khadi Saree (2018-06-17)Dastkari Haat Samiti

The same sari has been stored rolled onto a long wooden rod for nearly 20 years, yet remains fresh and unspoiled.

It has wider gold zari borders along both lengths to add weight to the delicate body of small diagonal motifs in green and gold.

khadi Saree (2018-06-17)Dastkari Haat Samiti

A beige or biscuit shade of dyed khadi has a quiet elegance when dotted with small coin- sized gold dots and a generous gold pallu or end piece.

khadi Saree (2018-06-17)Dastkari Haat Samiti

A high level of sophistication is achievable in a khadi sari which is today unfairly considered a dowdy politician’s garment.

Finer counts, specks of gold against a black body left this sari to the level of high luxury.

khadi Saree (2018-06-17)Dastkari Haat Samiti

This detail shows the level of delicacy achieved in the weaving of a golden motif against black hand spun threads.

khadi Saree (2018-06-17)Dastkari Haat Samiti

An indigo and natural shaded khadi sari is another signature design that came out of the political movement for India’s freedom.

Above the dark blue border, the spiked ‘temple’ border is seen in many khadi saris in varying widths and styles.

This design retains the simplicity of a Gandhian product while retaining a quiet elegance.

khadi Saree (2018-06-17)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Detail of the nature of the weave of a temple border in a pure hand spun, hand woven khadi sari.

khadi Saree (2018-06-17)Dastkari Haat Samiti

This detail of a pale beige, possibly tea-dyed khadi saris enable a closer look at how the texture appears when woven with short staple cotton yarn.

khadi Sarees (2018-06-17)Dastkari Haat Samiti

A line up of khadi saris with assorted borders that give each one its own verve and personality.

Such saris are extremely rare to find now.

Khadi sarees (2018-06-17)Dastkari Haat Samiti

These border weaves and designs that nearly always identify the sari as a khadi, hand spun, hand woven one, shows the sizes and varieties of the small additional ‘temple’ design consisting of tiny ridges or spikes above the main border.

Khadi Saree (2018-06-17)Dastkari Haat Samiti

The uneven quality of this very plain khadi sari can be examined by looking closely at the texture created by weaving short staple yarn.

It gives a texture that is unique and impossible to duplicate.

Khadi Saree (2018-06-17)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Tiny brown dots and circles cover the natural coloured body of a two-decade old khadi sari with quiet symmetry.

Khadi saree (2018-06-17)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Khadi as a luxury fabric

Khadi saree (2018-06-17)Dastkari Haat Samiti

A black khadi sari with tiny gold diamond-shaped motifs and gleaming gold borders and pallu demonstrates its elegance when draped on a stand against a turmeric yellow khadi sari.

Khadi saree (2018-06-17)Dastkari Haat Samiti

A cream coloured khadi sari with gold diamond motifs and a gold pallu with additional gold stripes for extra ornamentation is an example of how true simplicity is the way to achieve luxurious elegance.

Khadi saree (2018-06-17)Dastkari Haat Samiti

A soft pink bordering on salmon can be achieved by using pomegranate dyes.

This hand spun hand-woven khadi sari needs nothing else to enhance it.

Khadi saree (2018-06-17)Dastkari Haat Samiti

A soft pale blue with minimal silver enhancements would have been considered adequately dressy for the evening twenty years ago, before bright colours and digital prints came into the market.

Khadi fabric (2018-06-17)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Cotton fabrics in wider widths and thicker counts were developed two decades ago into a range of soft furnishings from the khadi sector.

Khadi fabric (2018-06-17)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Soft furnishings in khadi weaves were in a variety of widths and neutral colours made of natural, organically grown cotton.

Khadi swatch book (2018-06-17)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Khadi: The fabric of freedom

Gandhi developed the idea of khadi as a symbol. It was the name for
handspun, hand woven cotton cloth. The charkha and khadi cloth were used
by Mahatma Gandhi as economic symbols of self-reliance. Khadi became
the textile of freedom. The first national flag was made of khadi cloth.
Everyone, especially women, took up spinning the charkha at home to
produce yarn for handloom weavers giving energy and spirit to the quest
for self-rule. Between the years 2001 and 2002 a major project to explore
and document the philosophy,values and processes of khadi was
undertaken by a group of dedicated textile professionals. The result was a
collection of evocative and heartfelt essays on khadi, and meticulous
documentation of handspun, handwoven textiles developed for this
project.

The remarkable aspect of the Khadi - Fabric of Freedom project was the meticulous and elegant documentation, packaging and presentation of all the material that came out of it.

Boxes, designed by the National Institute of Design in Gujarat, contain sets of swatches of khadi fabric mounted on stiff card paper with details of the weave being shown.

Khadi swatch book (2018-06-17)Dastkari Haat Samiti

The many boxes made to contain the khadi fabric swatch cards are carefully designed to make each one a collector’s item.

Khadi fabric swatch (2018-06-17)Dastkari Haat Samiti

The pattern that naturally emerges after weaving shows the nature of the hand spun staple yarn used for this fabric.

Khadi fabric swatch (2018-06-17)Dastkari Haat Samiti

A loose weave in two colour yarn threads reveals yet another natural charm of khadi fabric.

Khadi fabric swatch (2018-06-17)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Swatches of different weaves and textures in khadi when held up against the light, show the texture and quality of each.

Khadi fabric swatch (2018-06-17)Dastkari Haat Samiti

The pattern that has emerged in this khadi fabric is abstract, random, and cannot be easily replicated, making it rare and especially beautiful.

Khadi fabric swatch (2018-06-17)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Khadi fabric that emerges as a form of twill weave.

Khadi fabric swatch (2018-06-17)Dastkari Haat Samiti

The nature of short staple hand spun yarn is to give a new aspect to stripes by insinuating its own character into them.

Khadi fabric swatch (2018-06-17)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Fabric swatches are mounted on stiff cards with all the details required to understand and replicate the fabric at a later date.

Khadi fabric swatch (2018-06-17)Dastkari Haat Samiti

A collection of khadi fabric swatches is fitted into each box in the collection.

Shanti Sutra (2018-06-17)Dastkari Haat Samiti

The final loving touch given to the project is the preparation of khadi yarn bracelets with a message of peace, to be worn like a friendship bracelet.

These were given out to every visitor to the exhibition of the outcome of the Khadi – Fabric of Freedom project of 2001- 2002 in India.

Khadi publication (2002) by Rahul Jain/©Amr Vastra KoshDastkari Haat Samiti

Credits: Story

Text: Jaya Jaitly
Photography: Chirodeep Chaudhuri
Artisans: Weaving Artisans from Ponduru
Ground Facilitator: Switha
Documentary Video: Chirodeep Chaudhuri & Jaya Jaitly
Curation: Aradhana Nagpal

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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