An Archive From The Dawn of The 21st century

Discover the origins of khadi weaving and the similarities that exist with the present day practice

Dastkari Haat Samiti

Dastkari Haat Samiti

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

Khadi - the fabric of freedom

A group of people that included textile and fashion designers, researchers, a Swiss photographer, film makers, music composers, a singer, exhibition designers, and a supportive Volkart Foundation of Switzerland embarked on Khadi - the Fabric of Freedom project.

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

Above: Khadi, the film

The project emerged in many forms – a collection of pure Gandhi charkha woven khadi saris, fabrics for furnishing, a black and white film very simply named Khadi, and an exhibition that was mounted in many places across India.

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

Archiving khadi

An elegant document simply named Khadi was published. It contains the essays of those who were closely associated with the project, apart from a detailed research section titled hand-spun and hand-woven – cotton khadi in the new millennium. Many pages include an introduction to khadi as “the last surviving vestige of what was once the world’s finest cotton spinning and weaving tradition… that is both a material product as well as a cultural symbol”. Rahul Jain, the author of this article, describes this project as an exploration of whether khadi, in the new millennium, may be poised to usurp yet another status, that of ultimate uniqueness and luxury. He provides valuable information on cotton species and cultivation, the structure and properties of cotton fibre, pre-spinning and spinning processes like ginning, cleaning and carding, and finally, weaving and spinning processes.

Woman in the process of spinning (2018-06-01)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Certain sketches in the document of simple equipment used and processes in the journey from cotton boll to a spindle of yarn are contrasted against those seen in Ponduru and adjoining areas in 2018. Nothing has changed. Time has not stood still; life simply continues uninterrupted by modernity and machinery.

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

The document published along with the entire exhibition and collection of facets that embellished and gave a better understanding of the world of khadi had a simple, austere, and yet highly aesthetic cover printed on hand-made paper.

Subtitled page of khadi publication (2002) by Rahul Jain/©Amr Vastra KoshDastkari Haat Samiti

A closer look at the half-title page brings the reader closer to the unique textures found in khadi fabric.

The structure and properties of cotton fibre (2002) by Rahul Jain/©Amr Vastra KoshDastkari Haat Samiti

Of the 70 pages of the book, some offer detailed descriptions of the composition, structure and physical properties of cotton fibre.

Range and qualities of natural fibres (2002) by Rahul Jain/©Amr Vastra KoshDastkari Haat Samiti

Details given of the nature of cotton fibre are seldom described in such scientific terms as in this paper.

Sketches and text of cotton ginning process (2002) by Rahul Jain/©Amr Vastra KoshDastkari Haat Samiti

Cotton ginning is the process of preparing yarn from extracting it from the cotton seed to preparing it to go on the spindle.

Cleaning a cotton boll (2018-06-01)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Cotton fluff coming from each seed is teased out and cleaned with a comb made of fish bone.

Woman carding cotton (2018-06-01)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Fluffed cotton is gathered together and rolled like dough into larger handfuls.

Types of cotton gins (2002) by Rahul Jain/©Amr Vastra KoshDastkari Haat Samiti

A variety of instruments used for ginning are shown in with hand drawn sketches.

Cotton carding (2002) by Rahul Jain/©Amr Vastra KoshDastkari Haat Samiti

The simple carding process described and illustrated here is exactly what was seen still happening in Andhra Pradesh twenty years later.

Women in spinning process (2018-06-01)Dastkari Haat Samiti

The flattened cotton strips are passed on to be fluffed and cleaned further.

Cotton spinning (2002) by Rahul Jain/©Amr Vastra KoshDastkari Haat Samiti

Hand held spindles called takli or the spinning wheel called a charkha are the most ancient ways of turning a sliver of cotton into twisted thread.

Cotton spinning (2002) by Rahul Jain/©Amr Vastra KoshDastkari Haat Samiti

The author of this chapter goes into an intricate description of how yarn is spun on a charkha.

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

The spinner turns the wooden wheel with one hand as the other goes up and down manipulating the cotton wad carefully without allowing the yarn to break too often.

Woman wrapping yarn during spinning process (2018-06-01)Dastkari Haat Samiti

The spun yarn is wound on a square frame and turned by hand. To make a normal hank the yarn has to be wound around 1000 times.

Mechnisms of spinning process (2002) by Rahul Jain/©Amr Vastra KoshDastkari Haat Samiti

Small efforts at mechanization were encouraged by Mahatma Gandhi to increase output. Many believe Gandhi was against mechanized production but he never objected to machines reducing drudgery or increasing production as long as the human being was not displaced in the process.

Elaborate spindles for khadi yarn (2002) by Rahul Jain/©Amr Vastra KoshDastkari Haat Samiti

Continuing the journey of modernization, illustrations and technical processes of the New Model Charkha (NMC) tell the story of the charkha moving forward.

Comparegen of yarn characteristics (2002) by Rahul Jain/©Amr Vastra KoshDastkari Haat Samiti

Information in the document moves to a comparison of different types of yarn and how they affect the nature and properties of the fabric.

Stretched warp with yarn (2018)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Khadi yarn stretched out to its full length, and a hank of yarn dyed a deep madder red left casually on it at one end.

Types of looms (2002) by Rahul Jain/©Amr Vastra KoshDastkari Haat Samiti

Weaving is the final process in the laborious production of khadi cloth. Stretching and warping are just some of them.

All these are carried out in areas where communities of handloom and khadi weavers reside, all over India.

Woman weaving as her daughter makes a flower garland (2018-06-01)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Inside a home, the mother weaves while her young daughter sits beside the loom making a garland of flowers.

Types of weaving (2002) by Rahul Jain/©Amr Vastra KoshDastkari Haat Samiti

The author provides details of techniques employed to obtain different types of weaves.

The chapter ends with descriptions of different farming methods to grow cotton and the slow return to the growing of organic cotton.

Hand spun (on Ambar Charka) hand woven coloured cotton fabric (2018-06-01)Dastkari Haat Samiti

Some of the colours achieved through natural dyeing with plant material.

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

On the very last page is a reproduction of what is captioned as the earliest known depiction of hand-spinning and weaving in the Indian sub-continent. It dates back to 1st century B.C.

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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