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Report | March 2018

Glory of khadi in 100 years

The clothes reflect the personality of individuals and can be used as a marker of a group, community, family, region and even country. Khadi is one such cloth that had played a key role in the freedom struggle of India and thus has been referred to as the ‘fabric of Indian independence’, narrate Shruti Gupta, Deepali Rastogi and Ritu Mathur.

Clothing is among the basic amenities required by the 1.2105 billion strong, and growing, population of India. The Indian textile industry, which caters to this need, has an estimated market size of $108 billion. There are two broad segments within the industry, namely the traditional hand-woven and hand-spun textile segments, and the modernised mill segment (Nair & Dhanuraj, 2016).

Khadi was promoted by Mahatma Gandhi as a symbol of self reliance. He taught himself to spin and encouraged millions of Indians to spin their own cotton and weave their own cloth as he believed that the success of Indian independence and development depended upon the self-reliance of its villages (Else, 1988).

Khadi is a hand-spun and hand woven fabric and renders a soft character enhancing wear comfortability. Khadi fabric up to 500 count is available, which is otherwise impossible to weave in mechanised looms.

It is the only fabric where the play of texture is inimitable such that no two fabrics will be absolutely identical, thus lending distinctiveness to it. It is a durable and eco -friendly fabric.

Khadi fabric is cool, comfortable and environment friendly. The fabric porosity of Khadi is high, which allows it to absorb perspiration better in humid conditions making it one of the best fabrics for summer months. Khadi is also more ‘fuller’ or more voluminous than mill fabrics, as it is hand woven. The average yarn diameter of hand-spun yarn is always more than that of mill-spun yarn (Jain & Pant, 2015). This makes khadi warm to wear in winters too.

Since Khadi is spun and woven in the natural environment using natural fibres like cotton, silk and wool, it is considered 100 per cent natural (Mishra, 2014). Natural dyes are also used in dyeing of Khadi fabric, which makes it a perfect combination for a green fabric. (Anonymous, 2009). Production of one meter Khadi consumes just three litres of water against 55 litre consumed in a conventional textile mill. The making of Khadi is eco-friendly, since, it does not rely on electric units and the manufacturing processes do not generate toxic waste products. Organic Khadi is produced by avoiding all chemicals involved in the farming of cotton, during weaving and dyeing process (www.slideshare.net).

Strengths of khadi

Many kinds of fabrics are best woven on handlooms with various weaves and varying density of yarns. Khadi being a handloom fabric, several combinations are possible with intricate designs. Handloom acquires monopolistic position in the manufacturing of checks and stripes fabrics, with numerous designs and different weft colours. Handlooms are capable of producing the most fancy designs using different colours in small quantities. Individual requirements and tastes can be met with short pieces of Khadi having unique designs can be produced. Certain rough cloths of very low counts such as durries, floor coverings, rugs, etc. can be made only through handlooms in which the tensile strength of the yarn is too low for the powerloom. In powerloom, the necessity of using multiple box looms for giving more colour in the weft involves heavy cost. There is interference in the normal speed of loom on insertion of multi-coloured weft in different places at short regular intervals in powerlooms. The flexibility of catering to very narrowly segmented market is advantageous to handlooms (www.bhushavali.com).

Difference between khadi, handloom and mill-made fabric

Khadi: Khadi means a cloth woven on handloom using hand-spun yarn. All khadi is handloom, but not all handloom is khadi. Out of the total fabric production in the country, only 0.4 per cent is Khadi, 20 per cent is handloom and 74 per cent is power loom (www.deccanherald.com). The basic difference between khadi and handloom is the method of spinning the yarn. In khadi, it is hand spun and in handloom, it is mill spun. In both cases, the cloth is woven by handloom. Khadi does not require power and manual labour is the basic input of energy. Khadi cloth is generally much more porous that gives khadi a soft and well ventilated feel. The twist of the hand woven yarn is generally less than that of mill yarn. Thus, less twist helps improve its absorption properties. Yarn spun on charkha (spinning wheel) has a twist in the direction of letter ‘S’. The difference between Khadi and handloom fabrics is apparent in the texture.

Handloom fabrics: Handloom means cloth woven on handlooms using mill-spun yarn. The mill yarn usually has a opposite twist in the direction of letter ‘Z’.

A handloom is a simple machine powered by hand, which is used for weaving. A hand-operated loom can be a pit loom or a frame loom. In a pit loom, the weaver sits at the ground level at the loom and places his legs and feet in a pit where the pedals of the loom hang, while a frame loom is entirely self-supported and weaver sits above the floor. The handloom industry has the advantage of flexibility of small production quantities, being flexible to innovations, low investment, labour intensive and adaptability to market requirements.

Mill made / power loom fabrics: A powerloom is powered mechanically instead of using human power to weave patterns or yarn into cloth. Over the years, power looms have taken over with the introduction of synthetic materials and other blended varieties of fabrics. It is used for a range of products and have become popular due to its durability and easily maintainable texture. Production on power looms is also a lot easier and faster than handlooms. The power loom sector produces approximately 60 per cent of cloth in India today, while the rest 40 per cent is produced by handloom. (http://textilelearner.blogspot.in)

Manufacturing process of khadi

Cotton, unlike most fibres, requires several stages of processing before becoming yarn. Production of khadi cotton includes: Conversion of cotton fibre to cloth involves the basic stages of ginning, carding, spinning and weaving which are described below:

Ginning: Cotton balls are hand-picked and separation of fibres from cotton seeds is done by hand using a sharp comb like object. The fibres can be handled separately in subsequent stages for yarn preparation through ginning.

Opening and cleaning: In this process, fibre is opened and cleaned by hand in order to facilitate the removal of foreign particles and to minimise damage. Extra cleanliness is maintained, which is necessary for hand spinning process to get the fine yarns.

Carding: Carding individualises the fibres (separates each individual fibre), and lays them out in a reasonably parallel and uniformly distributed manner. This process is done to eliminate the final traces of trash from the open fibres and to separate them fully, which is done by bows. This operation makes the fibres straight and aligned.

The carded web material is collected as ‘sliver’. Sliver is a cylindrical roll of cotton, which is used to produce the yarn by using charkha. Sliver is known by many names in India like Pelu, Pooni, Tag, etc. Sliver is made using a thin layer of cotton, which is laid on a smooth and flat surface. It is then rolled around a thin or straight stick and pressed with hands to compress it further.

Spinning: In spinning process, cotton fibre is converted into yarn. The carded sliver is taken and burst with the help of a hand-operated charkha to produce yarn of various thickness and counts. A simple tool called ‘Takli’ is used to spin raw cotton. The takli used to be 10-inch to 14-inch long and used to be thick like a large needle made of iron rod with the bottom of a brass circle.

Later, charkha was introduced as a better tool to spin the yarn and was mainly made of wood. The yarn count less than 60 was considered a thick yarn and it was spun on the charkha. Yarn count more than 60 and upto 400 was spun on Takli (http://shop.gaatha.com).

There were mainly two types of charkha used for spinning during freedom struggle.

  • Bardoli Charkha, which has a regular form having spinning wheel. It is one of the oldest known forms of the spinning wheel. The charkha works with a drive wheel being turned by hand, while the yarn is spun off the tip of the spindle.
  • Yerwada Charkha, which has a box-form, is efficient, portable and foldable. Since the traditional charkha was bulky and difficult to move, Mahatma Gandhi needed an instrument that could be easily transported. During his imprisonment in Yerwada jail, he had devised the portable spinning wheel that folds and has a handle for carrying. It is compact and folds into a wooden box.
Ahmedabad and Wardha are the two main centres of manufacturing charkha. Initially, it had only one spindle (http://www.kvic.org.in). Then new model charkhas were introduced by the Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC), incorporating the ring spinning technology having multiple spindles ranging from 2 to 12 spindles to give high speed and to provide better wages to the spinners. Although most of the spinning is now done on the New Model Charkha (NMC), in some remote villages the traditional hand spinning wheel is still being used. The spun yams are wound into reels of 1,000 m each. Khadi is identified by the direction of twist in yarn.

In khadi yarn, twist direction is “S”. Usually it is called left twist or anti-clockwise twist.

Some advanced developments in charkha are also taking place. A prototype of the electric charkha is being jointly developed by the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi and the new Wardha-based Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Rural Industrialisation Research Institute. The concept of the e-charkha is to produce yarn as well as to provide light for use. It has a maintenance-free lead acid battery fixed at the bottom, which functions as an inverter. It can give back-up power for about 6 -7 hours after spinning the charkha for about two hours. The spinners can double the productivity by running several spinning wheels at the same time without using much effort. It can also be used during the night depending on the battery storage capacity (www.livemint.com). In another project, an innovative twist to the age-old charkha is given where a team created a prototype that can colour the yarn on the fly. The coloured yarn created on the fly, will provide technology advantage to the weaver community of India. The focus was to innovate charkha using basic components such as the box charkha, a pulley, a colouring unit, and a spool.

A colouring unit is used as an attachment. As a spinner spins, the plain thread passes through the unit where the colour is dropped on the thread through a funnel, producing a clean, dry, dyed hand spun yarn. The prototype not only allows the weavers to colour the yarn in less time, but also provides them the opportunity to experiment with different colours of their choice for the hand spun fabric, without much dependency on the dyeing process (https://vantikadixit.wordpress.com).

Warping and sizing: Warping is a process, which converts the hank yarn into a linear form to give the length on the loom. Warping is done on a huge drum and the width and desired quality of the product is decided at this stage. Sizing is a pre-loom process, which is unique to handloom weaving. After warping is done, the warp is stretched out and sizing material is applied to add strength and lubricate the yarn. Natural adhesives like rice, maize, wheat flour or potato starch are used depending upon the availability and region. In most handloom centres, rice starch/gruel is mixed with coconut/groundnut oil and applied as sizing material.

There are different counts of cotton yarn required for the warp and the weft. The specifications for these yarns are:

  • Yarn count used for warp: The yarn count used for khadi weaving ranges from 2/20s to 2/40s in the warp. For shirting fabrics – 2/20s and 2/32s count and for suiting – 2/40s and 2/32s count are used, twisted yarn is used in the warp to resist the stress during weaving.
  • Yarn count used for weft: In the weft, single yarns are used. Counts range from 4s to 40s.
  • Drawing and drafting: It is the process of making the healds by looping nylon heald wire around the warp ends, depending on the weave and design of the fabric. After this process weaving is done.
  • Weaving of khadi: This is the final stage where the yarn is converted to cloth on the handloom. The process of weaving is done on manually operated looms to produce khadi. In practice, the basic purpose of the loom is to hold the warp yarns under tension to facilitate the interweaving of the weft yarns.
  • The first step in weaving is to stretch the warp yams, which must be very strong. The process is called beaming. The weft yarn crosses the warp, binding the warp yarns at either side to form the selvage.

    The three essential steps after the warp is stretched are: shedding, or raising every alternate warp yam or set of yarns to receive the weft; picking, or inserting the weft; and battening, or pressing home the weft to make the fabric compact.

    Plain weave is the most commonly used technique to weave fabric on looms. Design and variety in fabric woven with plain weave is created through texture, stripe and check. Texture is created by using different thicknesses of yarns. Stripes and checks are created by colour or by using different thicknesses in yarn.

    New developments are taking place in production of khadi fabric using different colour combinations and weaves. In a study, khadi silk jackets in various colour combinations with new weaves were developed using computer aided designing. Khadi being a comfortable and practical fabric and can easily be adaptable to a range of designs in both formal and informal look in Indian as well as western styles (Kashyap & Arora 2011).

    Khadi knit fabric was constructed in another study to utilise hand spun cotton and cotton/ polyester yarns in manually operated knitting machine. Plain knit and rib knit fabrics were developed in flat bed cotton hosiery machine. It was found that cotton/polyester knitted Khadi fabric is light in weight, thin, tight in construction, less stiff and rigid compared to cotton Khadi (Jain & Pant 2015).

    Dyeing: Khadi weavers uses both vegetable dyes as well as chemical dyes to colour yarn, fibre or fabric. Mostly vegetable dyeing is being practiced in Rajasthan. On the basis of the method of application, vegetable dyes can be classified into two categories, substantive dyes and mordant dyes.

    Substantive dyes: These dyes doesn’t require any additive to dye the fibre e.g.: turmeric (haldi), Babool chilka, Pomegranate peels (Anar chilka), Henna (Mehandi), Catachu (Katha) etc. Mordant Dyes: Some vegetable dyes have no direct affinity for the fibre; they adhere to the fibre only with the help of a mordant which is generally a metal salt. The mordant may be added to the dye in the dye–bath (kundi) itself or applied separately. Madder (Majith), Indigo (Neel) are examples of the mordant dyes.

    The weavers use tanks and big vessels for dyeing.

    The dyes which are commonly used are turmeric (haldi), Pomegranate peels (Anar chilka), henna (mehndi), babool chilka, Catachu (Katha), indigo (Neel), Hararh, madder (Majith), marigold, onions, walnut husks, etc.

    The mordants required by them are alum, copper sulphate, chrome, tin, oxalic acid, tartar, acetic acid, etc.

    Sincere attempts are being made to grow cotton without the use of chemical fertilizers. Khadi produced from natural fibres such as cotton, silk, wool, is being dyed with natural dyes to produce a fabric that is ecologically 100 per cent natural green fabric.

    A comparative study of the physical and chemical properties of chemically bleached cotton khadi fabric with those of khadi fabric bleached with cow’s urine was undertaken (Baruah & Gaikwad 2013).

    Vat dye is also used for dyeing of khadi. Material is immersed in dye and gradually brought to a boil. Alternatively, the fibre is allowed to sit and soak for several hours or days. During this period, agitation is necessary to allow full penetration of the fibre by the dyestuff. Depending on the type of fabric and dyestuff used, certain salts or acids are added to assist absorption of the dye. Prior to the dyeing process, the weavers usually test the prepared dyes on their hands to check the shade of the colour.

    Experiments have been done to overcome the shortcomings of Khadi cotton like texture, dye ability and colour fastness. The colour of Khadi fabric is reported to fade or bleed during washes. To improve colour fastness of direct-dyed cotton Khadi fabric, a study was done (Pant & Sharma, 2009). This can be minimised by chemical processing by using swelling agents in optimum conditions. To pre-treat, cellulose swelling agents, primarily strong electrolytic sol vents have been employed.

    The absorbency of the fabric towards water and dyes was increased due to loosening of crystalline region of cellulose by swelling agents. It was concluded from the study that positive effects were obtained with ethylene diamine swelling agent i.e., moisture absorption, bending length and crease recovery angle were maximised by using the optimised process variables (Dixit & Jahan 2014).

    Washing and finishing: After weaving on the loom, the fabric that comes out is known as gray fabric.

    Gray fabric contains some impurities and requires treatments like washing, calendaring, finishing, etc. Finishing is usually done at some nearby finishing plants (http://khadiindia.net). Various research studies have been undertaken to improve the fabric properties such as:

    • Increased absorbancy and whiteness of the fabric: Research was conducted on the use of pectinase and cellulase in the enzymatic processing of Khadi fabric. It was concluded that pectinase is able to enhance absorbency and whiteness of the Khadi fabric, while cellulase can improve softness and smoothness of the fabric (Gayal, Nagarkar & Khetarpal, 2012).
    • Increased comfort properties of the fabric: Khadi has some inherent qualities, it is very soothing in summer season with ample amount of ventilation. It has the capacity to absorb moisture, therefore it easily soaks the sweat and keeps wearer cool and dry. A study was done to improve comfort properties of Khadi fabric by different desizing methods. Application of size hinders the passage of air through the fabric but after removing of the size, there is no barrier in the flow of air which increases the air permeability (Bajpai & Sharma 2010). Improved fabric quality through pre-treatments and finishing: A) Handwoven and Khadi fabrics are not usually preferred internationally because of the absence of efforts to improve fabric quality through pre-treatments and finishing, such as wrinkle-free finish and high-density press. Research was conducted focussed on wrinkle-recovery treatment for Khadi and handloom fabrics. Cross-linking agents may be used to recover from deformation stresses and avoid wrinkles but reaction would be dependent on changes in the physio-chemical properties of the fibres (Sarvani & Balakrishnaiah 2007). B) Study was done to find the effect of softeners viz., cationic and silicone softener on physical properties of naturally coloured cotton Khadi fabric. It was observed that there was increase in the yarn fineness and dimensional stability. On treatment with softener, resistance to abrasion decreased (Sujata & Naik 2006). C) Study was done to modify the characteristics as stiffness and drape of Khadi fabrics which are relevant to garments. Fine cotton Khadi became soft on application of silicone finish. Results showed that finishing agents can be successfully used to change drape, number, shape and size of nodes/folds as well as to influence drape effect in garments. Silhouette of garment can be changed according to change in fashion trend through application of finish (Sonee, & Pant, 2014). D) Study was undertaken to analyse fine cotton muslin fabrics in terms of realization of fibre strength in yarn and yarn strength in fabric and were tested with respect to all relevant physical properties (Samanta, Mukhopadhyay, Bhagwat, & Kar, 2015)
    • Types of khadi fabrics

      Among all types i.e, cotton, silk and woolen, cotton Khadi is more popular in both domestic and export markets.

      Cotton khadi: The cotton Khadi is very comfortable in summer season. It has the capacity to absorb moisture, therefore, it easily soaks the sweat and keeps the wearer cool and dry as enough amount of air ventilation is therein. It comes in plain as well as in printed fabrics and is not harmful to the skin as synthetic fabrics.

      Due to its historic significance and style the Khadi wearer gets a distinct and unique look.

      Khadi muslin: Khadi Muslin is a type of finely-woven cotton fabric unbleached or white cloth, produced from carded cotton yarn. Wide muslin is called “sheeting”. Muslin breathes well, and is a good choice of material for clothing.

      Silk khadi: This fabric is characterized by its sheen and luxurious appearance. It is more expensive than cotton khadi and must only be dry-cleaned.

      Woolen Khadi: These are famous for their aesthetic appearance and at the same time keeping body warm.

      In Khadi only hand-spun yarn is used which is not very even fine. In woolen Khadi yarn ranging from 2 nm to 10 nm is used.

      Polyvastra khadi: It is a blend of 67 per cent polyester and 33 per cent cotton which is hand spun and hand woven. It consists of shirting and suiting material in attractive shades and designs. (www.rajss.org)

      Khadi is sourced from different parts of India, depending upon its raw materials. Silk variety is sourced from West Bengal, Bihar, Odisha and northeastern states, the cotton variety comes from Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal. Khadi poly is spun in Gujarat and Rajasthan while Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka and Jammu and Kashmir are known for the woolen variety.

      Khadi fabrics and their products come in a wide variety. Khadi is also considered a fabric that embodies purity and simplicity in India. The versatility of the fabric lends itself for use in apparels as well as furnishings. Many types of apparel are made from it like tops, shirts, trousers, dhoti, jackets, skirts, handkerchief, ties, salwar kameez, kurta pajama, sarees, dupattas, vest and jackets, coats, shawls, gloves, caps etc. Khadi is also used in upholstery, bedspreads, curtains, table linen, kitchen linen, cushions, blankets, throw and bags. R&D initiatives taken by KVIC and other Institutions

      KVIC is a statutory body established by an Act of Parliament (No. 61 of 1956, as amended by act no. 12 of 1987 and Act No.10 of 2006. It works under the administrative control of the Ministry of Industry, Government of India under the Department of Small-Scale Industries and Agro and Rural Industries. The head quarter of KVIC is in Mumbai and it has its state and regional offices in all the states. he Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) is a statutory body established by an Act of Parliament (No. 61 of 1956, as amended by act no. 12 of 1987 and Act No.10 of 2006. It works under the administrative control of the Ministry of Industry, Government of India under the Department of Small-Scale Industries and Agro and Rural Industries. The head quarter of KVIC is in Mumbai and it has its state and regional offices in all the states.

      The KVIC has state offices at the zonal level. There are six zones in all.

      • South zone comprising state offices at Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry and Lakshdweep
      • West zone comprising state offices at Maharashtra, Gujarat and Goa
      • Central zone comprising state offices at Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh
      • North zone comprising state offices at Delhi, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab, Chandigarh and Rajasthan
      • East zone comprising state offices at Bihar, Odisha, West Bengal, Sikkim and Andaman and Nicobar islands
      • North East zone comprising state offices at Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura

      KVIC together with Mahatma Gandhi Institute for Rural Industrialization (MGIRI) have taken a number of steps in research and development for promotion of Khadi which include establishment of design centre for khadi garments, quality assurance manual for khadi, low-cost hank dyeing machine, improved dyeing process for khadi development and popularisation of e-charkha, technology for soft and stiff finish of khadi. KVIC has been implementing a specific programme for cluster development, namely, Scheme of Fund for Regeneration of Traditional Industries (SFURTI), under which assistance for replacement of obsolete equipments, setting up of common facilities centres, product development, market promotion and other support and facilities are provided.

      With a view to popularise and promote khadi and village industries (KVI) products, KVIC has been organising district, state and national-level exhibitions in collaboration with State/UT Khadi and Village Industries Boards (http://pib.nic.in).

      MGIRI is a hub to network the Khadi related institutions. It is developing machinery suitable for decentralised Khadi clusters and providing leadership in ‘product design and development’ to add value, thus enhancing the market potential of Khadi. It is creating quality norms, testing network and guidance systems for khadi (http://www.mgiri.org).

      Conclusion

      Khadi has historical significance for bringing about extensive rural empowerment. The concept of spinning yarn for Khadi fabric was introduced and it became one of the symbols of the Indian freedom movement. It is extremely versatile in terms of its usage. It is quite warm during the winter months and cool during the summer months and can thus be worn anytime of the year. This fabric is eco-friendly and made without the use of harmful chemicals. Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) together with Mahatma Gandhi Institute for Rural Industrialization (MGIRI) have taken a number of steps in research and development for promotion of Khadi.. Over the years Khadi has become the invaluable asset of heritage providing respectable means of livelihood to huge human resource especially rural women. With new developments we need to give rightful place to traditional handloom products and make them the centre piece of fashion for India and the world.

      References

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      The article is authored by Shruti Gupta, Deepali Rastogi and Ritu Mathur. They are from the Department of Fabric and Apparel Science, Lady Irwin College, University of Delhi.

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