khadi chronicles pt. 1

khadi chronicles_1

when I came across khadi by the yard for sale at A Verb for Keeping Warm I was enchanted. To me, khadi is powerful cloth. Incredibly alluring, especially if you like the feel of course linen and natural colors and small textural reminders that human hands made your cloth, but beyond that it is politically potent. Five years ago I had the opportunity to participate in an incredible study abroad program which traveled from the US to India, Tanzania, New Zealand and Mexico and explored the impacts of globalization and grassroots resistance — it was a pivotal journey for me intellectually and emotionally, one which I am grateful for every single day. I first learned about the history of khadi while in India, so seeing and touching it was a visceral reminder of that journey and the (positive and negative) transformative potential of textiles.

khadi chronicles_8Khadi is a term for handspun and handwoven cloth, but it is also emblematic of the movement for Indian self-reliance and freedom from British colonialism. Gandhi advocated for each person to spin their own cotton and each community to weave their own cloth so that the Indian people would create home-grown textiles rather than buying fabric back from the British who held tight control over the cotton markets. Gandhi encouraged a daily practice of spinning with a foldable spinning wheel or charkha and community-scale fiber farmning, weaving, dyeing, and block-printing; a true example that the revolution begins at home. (This cursory overview of the history of khadi was imparted by my teacher in India, Saatchi, and a brief stay in the village and ashram of Sevagram; this website is another resource). While I doubt all khadi cotton is still spun at home on a charkha, some of this cottage industry remains, both for educational purposes and cloth production.

khadi chronicles_3

I bought a meager yard and a half, maybe even just a yard and a quarter, of organic cotton, naturally dyed khadi that day at Verb, and at the time I wasn’t really sewing clothing. I guess that khadi was the start of my stash, and I treasured it, saving it until I had dusted off my sewing skills. Even then, cutting into this plainweave, turquoise fabric made my heart jump! But this simple Wiksten tank has become a wardrobe staple for me.

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I chose the Wiksten tank pattern because I wanted a garment with a modern, simple design that would be straightforward for my beginner sewing skills and showcase the beauty of this cloth. The yardage had natural color variations including a large faded streak that I intentionally placed along the center back.

Nearly a year later I felt more confident in my sewing skills and I was fortunate to have a slightly larger fabric budget, so I returned to Verb to buy more khadi — this time gray and brown stripes of the same thick, organic, naturally dyed cloth. On the eve of Me Made May I sewed up a Scout Tee with added volume in the back (using Jen’s great tutorial for slashing & spreading the pattern) and lengthened sleeves (+2″ I think?). When I bought the fabric I had a Scout tee in mind because again I wanted a classic, modern wardrobe staple, but I definitely thought that the stripes went horizontally. Not so! The stripes run along the grainline and the cloth is pretty narrow, so I forged ahead with vertical stripes, and I’m very pleased with it.

khadi chronicles_6

Both of these tops are now part of my core wardrobe, and I love that each time I wear one I’m reminded not only of my own travels but of the incredible journey from field to garment. With this narrative in mind, I made sure to wear my khadi Wiksten as part of my outfit for Fashion Revolution Day:

fash_rev outfit

Stay tuned ~ tomorrow I’ll be posting another khadi garment & a few more words about my love for this cloth!

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Jess

making things & asking questions

3 thoughts on “khadi chronicles pt. 1”

  1. Thanks for such a thoughtful post! I’m not familiar with khadi (in the political or textile sense), and now I’m intrigued to do some research of my own. Also, those shirts are great. I especially love the voluminous Scout Tee!

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    1. Thanks Dani! In my next post I’m sharing a few places to find khadi by the yard if you’re interested in sourcing some. Can’t go wrong with a Scout & added volume makes it extra comfy 🙂

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