Khadi Fabrics and Products - All that You Should Know About It

Author: Aayushi Kumar

Origin of Khadi or khaddar

Khadi is the symbol of the national freedom movement of India. It was not only the symbol of self-reliance, but an appeal to wear something that displayed the might of united India. It was introduced by Mahatma Gandhi, who believed that khadi production could inculcate opportunities for rural employment and thus boost the economic growth of the country. The hand-spun, handwoven khadi has always been admired for its quality and austere simplicity. 

Currently, Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) certified KKGSS (Karnataka Khadi Gramodyoga Samayukta Sangha) is the sole manufacturer and supplier of the Indian flag to the entire country. It is the only unit authorised to manufacture khadi Indian Flags of all sizes under BIS certification.

Khadi weaving

What is Khadi?

There are two criteria for a fabric to be tagged as khadi-
  1. The yarn is spun by hand using a traditional spinning instrument called Charkha or Hathkargha.
  2. The yarns should be woven on a handloom to make fabric.
It is a common misconception that khadi is made of cotton only. The fact is, khadi can be made out of any material, be it silk, flax, wool, or blends. However, the initiation of khadi preparation led by Mahatma Gandhi in the pre-independence period started with cotton, and it remains a popular choice to date. 

Image: Charkha  

Supreme quality and features of khadi

Here are a few examples of supreme quality and features of khadi fabrics and khadi apparel.
  1. This wonder fabric makes the body cool in summer and provides warmth in winters
  2. It is an excellent moisture absorbent material.
  3. It is a lightweight and airy material.
  4. It is the only fabric where the texture is so unique that no two fabrics are identical, thus allowing its exclusivity in terms of feel and texture.
  5. Khadi is a skin-friendly fabric which does not cause any allergies or irritations, unlike other synthetic fabrics.
One common misconception is that khadi is rough and thick. That is not always true, as the hand spinning allows the spinning of delicate fine yarns leading to softer and thinner material as well.

For example, Bengal's cotton muslin has a historical recognition of being the most lightweight, sheer, and soft material. It is khadi, which means, it is hand spun and hand weaved. The cotton yarn prepared for muslin is above 100 count, which makes it extremely fine and fragile. It can not be machine-made since the cotton yarns above 100 count cannot be processed by industrial spinning and weaving machines. 

Eco-friendly Product and Manufacturing process

The manufacturing of khadi is an eco-friendly process since it does not rely on electricity and is hand-made throughout. The waste produced in the process is not toxic.

Manufacturing one meter of khadi requires just 3 litres of water against the 56 litres needed for mill fabric, according to V.K. Saxena, chairman of Khadi and Village Industries Commission. It helps in solving one of the most pressing issues of today — the water crisis in both rural and urban India. 

The government of India has decided to provide solar energy to power charkhas (spinning wheels) to increase the production of khadi across the country. It shall enable hand-spun khadi to become the zero-carbon footprint green fabric of India. The Solar Charkha Mission is a Ministry of Micro Small & Medium Enterprises (MSME) initiative launched during June 2018 for this purpose.

Simple low- cost production setup

The production machinery used in khadi manufacturing like spinning wheel (charkha) and handloom are inexpensive and easy to make. It can be made by any local carpenter using natural resources like wood and bamboo in a very short time. This machinery setup is outright simplistic compared to those used in textile mills. There is no requirement for electricity for khadi production.

Supports needy and helps farmers:

Khadi is a social fabric. Almost every state of India produces it, only distinguishing by fiber mix and weaving style. It generates employment for thousands of skilled spinners, weavers, and carpenters across the country. In the majority of the cases, women spin the yarns, and men weave the fabrics on the handloom. Khadi empowers these women to become independent and empowered by earning out of their hard work. 

The popularization of khadi can generate employment opportunities for the next generation of weavers and spinners who are switching to other work profiles and moving to the cities for work. The increase in the demand for khadi supports farmers to grow cotton and other natural fibers, thus nourishing the entire supply chain. 

The untapped potential of Khadi:

India is the largest producer of cotton in the world and has over half a million skilled khadi spinners and weavers. This makes India the only powerful player in the world to produce top-notch khadi fabric and apparel. With an increase in conscious consumerism, the concept and features of the khadi fabric have immense potential to attract national and international buyers. Khadi is the answer to the most debatable issues of global fashion, like, sustainable, slow fashion, and zero carbon footprint process, thus, setting the stage for India to become a world leader of socially responsible fashion.

Karnataka Khadi Gramodyoga Samayukta Sangha (Federation)
India Today- Khadi aims to be the most eco-friendly fabric by Siddharth Rai (Jan,2016)
Khadi Gram Udyog: A tool for economic empowerment (Current Affairs)

About the Author: Aayushi Kumar, an NIFT, Kolkata graduate, and Co-founder of Ednam Solutions Pvt Ltd is working in the field of female healthcare and hygiene, making smart garment. Her interests include sustainable fashion, functional garments and luxury brand management.

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