West Bengal, India
The roots of Khadi, a handspun, hand-woven cloth of natural fiber, are woven deep into India’s history.
In 1918, Mahatma Gandhi elevated the simple cloth to the ‘fabric of Indian Independence’ and symbol of Swadeshi, a national freedom movement grounded in self-reliance. At a time when industrialization was taking root in India and local markets were flooded with cheap imported fabrics, Gandhi was spinning fiber, weaving Khadi and making his own clothes.
“If we have the Khadi spirit in us, then we should surround ourselves with simplicity in every walk of life.” - Gandhi
More than symbolic, Gandhi’s revitalization of the Khadi industry reinvigorated national pride in India’s rich cultural heritage. Khadi, a simple, ancient and versatile cloth became the catalyst for socio-economic justice in response to repressive British colonial rule.
While the Khadi sector still remains in India, the ubiquity of cheap, industrial power-loomed textiles remains a constant threat.
Rove + Weft’s Khadi collection not only showcases a beautiful traditional textile, but also reflects our personal commitment to crafting a simpler life where quality time, process and real connection is deeply valued. We traveled to Bengal where we found master weavers who still spin all fibers in the same village where the cloth is hand-woven. Naturally dyed in solid colors, we seek to showcase traditional Khadi at its finest for the delight of makers everywhere.
It may seem obvious that a handloom fabric is a cloth woven by hand on a loom; however, we often forget about the complex process required to grow, prepare and transform fibers into yarn before the weaving can even begin.
Today, most yarns are industrially produced by mills that supply weavers across India. But the tradition of hand-spinning yarn still exists today. Khadi fabrics are those made using hand-spun yarns on a handloom. In other words, Khadi is a truly non-industrial, artisanal process.
Artisanal textiles require much time and extraordinary skill. To give you a sense of this, here is the basic life-cycle of our Indian Khadi:
- Raw Cotton Production - India remains the world’s 2nd largest producer of cotton. While our Khadi is 100% cotton, it may also be woven from linen, wool and even silk fibers.
- Hand Spinning of Fiber to Yarn Using Spinning Wheel - Weaving is a communal activity often involving the entire family to assist at different production stages. Women are primarily responsible for hand-spinning the yarns. Today, much of this process is outsourced; however, our Bengali Khadi weavers spin and weave everything in their community.
- Bobbin Winding - Once the yarn has been spun, it must be carefully wound in preparation for the loom. This process is also done primarily by women.
- Warping - This is the loom set-up stage where the horizontal warp yarns are attached to the beam of the loom in preparation for weaving. For a 46” wide fabric, the warp will include 3,200 individual yarn strands.
- Sizing - Once warped, the yarns are stretched across 2 beams and natural lubricants are applied to ensure the yarns do not break or fray during the intensive weaving process.
- Attaching the Warp to the Loom - Now comes the task of putting this whole thing on a loom. A process managed by women, each individual yarn (all 3,200+ of them!) are threaded through a heddle and tied to the beam of the loom.
- Weft Winding - We’re only half done (!) Now, the warp threads must be wound and inserted into a shuttle before the weaving can start. A different shuttle must be used for each color of the weft. The women are also in charge of this process.
- Weaving - The carefully coordinated process of interlacing the weft yarns into the warp to create a finished fabric. Traditionally, the weaving process is done by men in India.
- Dyeing - Yarns may be dyed before the weaving process begins (yarn-dye) or after the fabric has been fully woven. Our Khadi collection is naturally dyed after the fabric has been woven to create a consistent tone.
Our Khadi collection is vat dyed with GOTS-certified natural dyes.
Natural dyes require skill and patience for effective results and while many eagerly promote the ability to dye, few can deliver replicable results. While we appreciate the slight variations afforded by natural processes, we also wanted color consistency. And while we like how natural colors mature with use, we also don’t want our colors to wash out and fade too much. After all, we believe in making a long-term investment in what we wear and consume. So we’re building this stuff to LAST.
We partner with an Indian dye supplier who uses natural GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) certified dyes and mordants. Dyeing occurs through industrial processes. This means big machines rather than big pots. This means additional control which means greater color consistency. This means we’re able to reduce the environmental impact of our fabrics while aligning with consumer expectations. This means supply chain viability resulting in real-world sustainability.