Khadi Cloth in a Variety of Weights & Sizes

by - Tuesday, June 13, 2017

New Bengal Shawls - keeping the great Indian tradition of khadi cloth alive. 

Step into summer with our latest khadi scarves and shawls in a variety of styles and weights. This collection features jamdani embellishments; a traditional technique where the artisan uses a supplementary weft thread to create intricate designs. They also showcase the metallic sparkle of zari (gold & silver plated thread), undulating ikat, and the softness and tradition of handspun handwoven khadi cloth.

What is Khadi?

Khadi is a handwoven cloth made from handspun threads.
But khadi is so much more than simply a beautiful type of fabric.  It is an idea of cultural self-sufficiency with deep roots in the Indian identity.

In its essence, khadi is a fabric created through personal labour without industrial machinery. Khadi thus harkens back to the centuries when India produced some of the world's most prestigious cloth. But with it’s emphasis on manual skills and hand production, khadi also had a central role to play in countering the displacement of family life that took place during industrialization.

Mahatma Gandhi saw khadi as a way to break India’s dependence on British manufactured cloth. As part of the non-violent freedom struggle, Gandhi understood that a return to hand-made cloth would strike an economic blow to Great Britain (India is one of the largest markets in the world) while empowering the Indian public with a sense of self that could be achieved by all. 

Gandhi’s exhortation to boycott British imports and mill-made fabric, and for everyone to spin and weave their own cloth, is now well known. The effect of the Swadeshi (homerule) movement had the side-effect of slowing the erosion of traditional Indian hand production; —especially weaving. Because “homespun” had played an important role in creating a national identity (the spinning wheel or “charka” is on the Indian flag) India’s craft sector continued to privilege traditional materials and methods. Handloom was encouraged and promoted.

Traditional handloom is a remarkably flexible technology. Its great advantage lies in the production of embellished fabrics such as jamdanis. A jamdani is a cloth with tiny motifs made out of supplemental weft threads. At each throw of the shuttle, the weaver stops and turns the threads of the each motif by hand. As the weaver progresses a field with patterned embellishment emerges.

Handloom also permits weaving from fibres too fine to be handled by industrial mills. The mechanism of the loom (almost always worked with bare feet) permits the weaver to judge by feel when it is too damp, or too dry to continue working with extremely fragile fine-spun cotton. Exceptional muslins - as light as the air itself - can be woven only for an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening when the conditions are exactly right.

Khadi may be made from any fibres, but the term usually indicates cotton.

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