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Woven to last a lifetime, khadi cloth.

by Fiona Cameron 11 Apr 2024
Woven to last a lifetime, khadi cloth.

Across India, in homes from the far north to the southern tip of the country you will find a vibrant tradition of textile weaving known as khadi.

Khadi is a fabric spun and woven by hand from cotton, silk, or wool fibers, originating from India. Raw cotton fibres are made into yarn on a spinning wheel called a charkha - and then woven on a handloom to make fabric.

The process is labour intensive and requires training, skill and patience, the final product is considered a fine and noble fabric treasured for it’s unique characteristics.


It is a natural and environmentally friendly product, it requires little to no water or electricity in its production and because the entire process is handmade, the carbon footprint and environmental impact of the cloth is minimal. The production of khadi is an important source of livelihood for communities across India, particularly in rural areas. It provides employment opportunities for weavers, spinners and other craftspeople who would otherwise struggle to find work. By supporting the production of khadi, consumers can help to empower these communities and ensure that traditional skills and techniques are preserved for future generations.

The making of this cloth  was encouraged by Mahatma Gandhi as a means to empower rural communities through independent work and as a symbol of resistance to colonial rule during India's independence movement.

Khadi is known for its softness, breathability, and durability: the fabric is also extremely resilient, meaning it will last for many years if properly cared for. Khadi is environmentally friendly, requiring little to no water or electricity in its production.

As with so many craft traditions, this manner of production is at risk from cheaper industrial methods & from foreign imports, but a movement to protect khadi is supported by the Indian Government, aiming to promote this important cultural heritage. Since the 20’s different initiatives have been set up to encourage artisans to weave and most recently in 2015 The India Handloom Brand was launched by the Indian Ministry of Textiles as an initiative for branding of high quality handloom products with zero defects and zero effect on the environment. It would differentiate high quality handloom products and help in earning trust of customers by endorsing their quality in terms of raw materials, processing, embellishments, weaving design and other quality parameters and by ensuring social and environmental compliances in their production”

Despite all this, if the industry is to succeed and flourish there is still a need  to support this craft & to encourage  transmission to younger generations who may resist working in these traditional ways. As always choosing to buy hand made is an important contribution to keeping alive ancient cultural traditions and supporting the artisans who practice it. 

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