As we grow cotton on the farm, we have also started working with textile artisans in India. We are learning about and researching production options for the farm fabric. The feel and drape of the fabric are dependent on two things: the kind of cotton we grow and the post-farm production methods we use. There are endless options, but we know we want to create soft, flowy, breathable and versatile fabric. When we visited India, we noticed a few yards of fabric laid out on a studio’s cutting table. We immediately knew there was something magical about this fabric.
We found out the fabric is khadi. A traditional Indian textile, khadi is handspun and handwoven. The art of creating khadi has been passed down from elders to the younger generations and takes immense knowledge and patience. Khadi is some of the highest quality cotton available because human handling of the cotton makes the fabric much less stressed and damaged than the mechanized alternatives. The end result is a beautiful, delicate yet durable fabric that has the unique influence of the artisan who created it.
Charkha is a spinning wheel used to spin cotton fibers into yarn. The spinners tease, twist and pull clumps of raw cotton into a string shape around a spindle. The hand-cranked wheel is then used to make
the yarn finer and keep its thickness uniform. The strength and fineness of the fabric depends on the skill of the spinner.
Weavers transform yarn into swaths of fabric using a handloom that intertwines two sets of yarn—the warp and weft. The weavers first prepare the warp, the lengthwise set of yarn, by laying out the desired yardage in parallel and attaching it to the loom. The weaver then places a spool of yarn, the weft, in a boat-shaped “shuttle.” By using foot pedals to lift every other weft yarn and pushing the shuttle across the weft, the weaves intertwine the yarns and create a beautiful fabric.
Handweaving takes mind and body coordination. The weaver must create a harmony of motion and rhythm to make a high-quality, unique weave. When we were in India, we visited both handloom workshops and power loom factories. The contrast in the noise each space created was amazing. The handloom studios had a meditative music filling the air, while the power loom factory produced a jarring sound.
When we visited the different looms in India, we made sure to capture the sounds of each because we had such contrasting, visceral reactions to each. To us, the handlooms created beautiful music that perfectly represented the level of craftsmanship that went into the fabric. The power looms, on the other hand, created the obnoxious, unpleasant sound of monotonous, mechanized production.