Making of Janapada Khadi

With the proliferation of several duplicate ‘Khadis’ or the trend of reckless interchanging of the terms ‘Khadi’ and ‘handloom’ to promote ‘sustainable’ businesses, even well-meaning consumers are conned into making wrong choices. While there is ample information out there, there is a serious deficit of knowledge which allows for misinformed choices to be made. One of the ways by which Janapada Khadi aims to fill this knowledge gap is by empowering consumers to make right choices by giving them the right education and transparency in production. In order to demand the right products, a consumer must be aware of the process of Khadi-making which in itself is unique and distinctive, and markedly different from other kinds of fabric making.

Often, the terms Khadi and handloom are used interchangeably. However, the two are different from each other. Weaving done on handloom using a mill spun yarn is called a handloom fabric, whereas, weaving done on handloom using handspun yarn sets Khadi apart. This makes Khadi weaving more complex in comparison. Since the yarn is hand spun, yarn breakage is inherent and natural. The strength of the yarn is uneven compared to a mill yarn, making Khadi naturally coarse and irregular. It is the only fabric where texture is so unique that no two fabrics are identical, thus lending its exclusivity in terms of feel and texture.

Khadi making is meticulous and involves many steps. The pre-processing itself involves five steps.

The first step is ginning, where the cotton fibres (lint) are separated from cotton seeds. The lint is then compressed to make large bundles called bales. Baling the cotton makes transportation easier. The second process is called blowing. It is during this process that the cotton is un-bailed or unpacked. The third process is carding. Here, the unpacked cotton is cleaned to produce long bundles of cotton fibre called ‘sliver’. The fourth process is drawing. Drawing helps in making uniform quality of silver by combining multiple slivers. The fifth process is known as roving, where uniform quality of silver is given twist to produce rovings (long and narrow bundle of cotton fibre).

The rovings are then converted into yarn (hanks) by hand spinning, using New Model  charaka. While most fabrics made from the yarn is spun in a mill, Khadi is strictly made only from hand spun yarn. Rather, only that fabric which is made from a hand spun yarn should be marketed as ‘Khadi’. One hank typically consists of thousand  metres of yarn. For the Khadi produced at Janapada Khadi, handspun yarn is procured from Holenarasipura khadi and rural employment cooperative society `situated at Holenarasipura town, about 70 Km from Melkote. 

At Janapada Khadi, the following processes are carried out by us. These processes are done entirely by hand by the in-house artisans. 

1. Sizing: Hand spun cotton hanks are treated with starch and oil to give stiffness and smoothness to withstand the rigours of weaving.

2. Bobbin winding: The sized hanks are wound into bobbins.

3. Warping: Here yarns from wound bobbins are converted into warp which is a long set of cotton yarns arranged lengthwise that forms vertical threads towards the weaver on loom.

4. Weft winding: It is a process of winding cotton hanks into pern that goes into weft which runs horizontal on loom.

5. Weaving: It is the process of passing a thread cross-wise (the weft) through alternate lengths of thread (the warp), creating the fabric. On a handloom, this is done by hand rather than being driven by electrical power. Sitting facing the length of the warp, the weaver pulls the cord that controls the shuttle, simultaneously pulling the moving sley towards oneself. The first action throws the weft yarn through the warp, and the second sets the weft yarn firmly in place. A hand-operated loom can be a pit loom or a frame loom. In the former, the support of the loom are set into the floor facing a pit in which the pedals of the loom hang, while a frame loom is entirely self supported and sits above the floor.

6. Natural Dyeing: A variety of leaves, fruits and seeds are used to obtain natural, earthy colours which gives a typical rustic finish to the fabric. Blue colour is extracted from Indigo plant (Indigofera tinctoria). Black colour is produced out of iron rust. Yellow colour is derived from pomegranate peel (Punica granatum). Brown colour is extracted from the heartwood of Kaggali plant (Acacia catechu). Brick red is produced out of roots of Madder plant (Rubia cordifolia). Scarlet red is derived from Alizarin which is a non-toxic byproduct of coal tar. It is the only synthetic dye used by Janapada Khadi. It takes about two to three days to dye a piece of yarn / fabric. Following are the key process of natural dyeing  

i. Scouring: it is a process of treating cotton yarn / woven fabric in hot water with soap oil and washing soda for few hours to increase absorption capacity.

ii. Mordenting: Scoured yarn / fabric is treated with powdered Myrobalan seeds (Terminalia chebula) or Alum. This process helps to bind the coloring matter to the fiber.

iii. Dyeing: Mordented yarn / fabric is dyed in dye bath using respective dyeing materials. It may be hot or cold process depending upon colours.

iv. Washing: Dried colored yarn / fabric are washed to remove excess colour