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Things you own may have been made by people who do not know freedom, I wanted to see if we can take steps to eradicate this, without changing the product in your hand. I wanted to see if we can achieve this whilst not acting as a charity. I wanted to achieve this in the most fundamentally simple way possible… then I found Khadi.

In 2016 I was introduced to the Khadi Board of West Bengal. We love all they do to promote and keep safe hundreds of thousands of workers making this amazing cloth. But what exactly is Khadi?

We hit the history books to summarise the story of 1000 years of cloth making in India. And how this amazing ancient practice helps bring freedom to millions whilst helping make the backbone of Cora + Spink.

Hustle and bustle of buying Khadi in Kolkata

Hustle and bustle inside an officially sanctioned Khadi store in central Kolkata, India.   

What is Khadi?

Khadi is hand spun, hand woven cloth that has been manufactured in India* for over 1000 years. Each production of cloth is totally unique, with varying thread density and composition from its handmade origins. Predominantly made using raw cotton, although silk, wool, and reclaimed fibres are used extensively.

By nature, the end cloth produced is hugely varied, with no two batches ever being the same but the type made is also varied, with makers and regions specialising in everything from the finest delicate cloths to heavy and coarse fabrics.

Cotton Khadi with machine woven canvas

Cotton Khadi next to a machine woven twill canvas.

Who makes Khadi?

Khadi has traditionally been made within families or groups of families all over India. There are two processes involved, spinning of raw materials to make yarn, and the weaving of that yarn into cloth. The whole process from start to finish is usually shared within a family or village group.

Specialist yarn makers and weavers exist, and so the trade of the raw materials is seen in various locations across India, but in most cases coexist within very tight village communities.

What makes Khadi?

Khadi is defined as the spinning of the fibres into yarn by hand using a charkha, and the hand weaving of cloth, with no automation or machinery. The Khadi product has a distinctive feel and look, but the ethos and process are what makes Khadi, Khadi.

Buying Khadi in Kolkata

Seeing what’s arrived each week at the market is half the joy of working in Kolkata.

What is the history of Khadi?

The history of Khadi is a history of cloth making, but scholars agree cloth manufacturing really started to become a commodity for trade with the invention of the spinning wheel in India somewhere from the year 500. Xuan Zang, a travelling Buddhist monk mentions Khadi whilst exploring India in the 6th century, whilst 500 years later Marco Polo talked about Khadi “as fine as a spider’s web” that he encountered in Bangladesh. The Romans are recorded as importers of enormous amounts of Khadi.

Khadi is a cloth that existed at all levels, it was the finest and the coarsest and met all requirements, from practical to artistic.

The development of cloth manufacturing in the 19th and 20th century saw the almost immediate loss of a nation’s industry. The industrial revolution meant the number of workers required to produce cloth greatly reduced, whilst automation improved the consistency, quality and price of cloth, this had a knock on effect, as thousands of workers were no longer required.  

In the 20th century the politics of India started to change. With Khadi becoming a politicised movement supported by Mahatma Gandhi as a practical way to become self-reliant take back India from British control. Khadi became a symbol of freedom.

What is Khadi? Exploring Kolkata on a buying mission for Khadi.

The streets of Kolkata, India. On a mission to find new specialities. 

What is Khadi today?

Each plain lined Cora + Spink backpack uses about a meter of beautiful hand spun, hand woven fabric in the most amazing variety of local Khadi to our facilities in Kolkata, West Bengal. We love using Khadi within our products, as our requirements grow our ambitions and ability to utilise this amazing product will only get bigger.


Cora + Spink buying Khadi in India

We’ve been waiting for you. Khadi made for Cora + Spink backpack linings.