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Khadi & the Freedom Movement - Gandhi

Khadi, from the Hindi word khadar, is an ancient cloth handwoven from handspun yarn – generally cotton, but may also be silk or wool. This unique fabric is steeped in a rich textile history, traditions that resonate with Gandhian philosophy.

In 1918 Mahatma Gandhi started his movement for Khadi as a relief program for the poor masses living in India’s villages, and as an act of passive resistance against the monopolisation of the cotton trade by the British Empire. Spinning and weaving was elevated to an ideology for self-reliance and self government. Said Gandhi,

Khadi became an emblem of the “Swadeshi” – the freedom movement promoted by Gandhi seeking independence from British rule. Gandhi only ever wore Khadi that he himself spun and made.

As a fabric, Khadi is light, yet also dense and durable, with a versatile weave that keeps the wearer warm in winter and cool in the summer. The handpicked cotton is cleaned, carded to remove any impurites, handspun, handwoven and dyed — usually with natural and vegetable-based dyes. The result is a fabric both rich in texture and history. Khadi is usually woven in the villages by the men in the family with the women preparing the thread by spinning the yarn on a Chakra (spinning wheel) .

During the spinning of the Khadi, the threads are interwoven so that air can circulate through the fabric. The twist of the yarn in the direction of the letter “S”is generally less than that of mill yarn. This reduced twist helps improve absorption and results in Khadi’s unique cooling and warming properties.

The finer the thread, the finer the cloth, and the higher the skill required to produce it. Yet this unique fabric still retains slight imperfections, adding to its beautiful handmade qualities.

It is said that Khadi is not a mere piece of cloth, but a way of life.

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