Khadi - The Backstory

Empowerment. Self determination.

The values woven into cotton Khadi, the fabric featured in our Artisan Collection. Promoted by the Mahatma Ghandi in the 1920’s, the production of this special hand-spun organic cotton was critical in helping the Indian people regain independence from the British. After decades of colonials growing cotton in India, and then selling it back to the Indians for a high price, Ghandi encouraged his people to break the cycle of dependency by learning to grow and weave their own cloth – Khadi.

And the tradition lives on today.

Nancybird is honoured to collaborate with two ethical organisations dedicated to keeping the spirit of Khadi alive. Hand spun, dyed with AZO-free dyes and woven by hand, this airy, fresh cotton comes into being under the care of makers from Central India. Our hand woven scarves come from a cluster of 14 villages in Dindori, Madhya Pradesh, deep in Central India. Called the KhatKhata Project – the word khatkhata coming from the sound that the looms make – the collective brings together teams of highly skilled, traditional weavers, mostly men, and dexterous spinners, mostly women, from the villages. As markets have surged and struggled, a charitable trust  has enhanced the work of Dindori’s weavers and spinners by teaching them new product development and marketing skills. Our handwoven khadi cloth comes from a central workshop in Maheshwar, a town on the River Narmada. The women weavers work together, bring their children to the organisations child care centre and can come and go as they need - many women work 5 hours a day to fit around family life.

Our block printed khadi cloth is created in Sanganer, where a small artisan group use hand carved blocks to apply the AZO-free dye to the khadi. Once the prints are completed, they are sent to Jaipur for cutting and sewing under fair trade conditions.

Shari, the co-owner, speaks beautifully of her journey working with Khadi. "We started out motivated by our love of India, its artisan crafts and wanting the freedom to have our own business. We felt intuitively the importance of treating people with respect and dignity as a fundamental part of our own humanity. We also felt we wanted to use natural fibres, artisan textiles and have a high quality standard. We have always been deeply inspired by Gandhi's philosophy and life and feel motivated to do things in the best way possible. Gradually we realized there was a world of people who had a similar vision and so we engaged with terms like 'fair trade', 'ethical', 'sustainable' as a means of connecting to others who share our belief in fundamental human and environmental values. Underlying the language of sustainable fashion and manufacture, are good business practices. These practices are the road to sustainability and the only thing that makes sense. I like the term 'sustainable' the best because it also speaks to something which is at the very core of being human. We must sustain ourselves and our environment if we and our children are to endure. We are all here in this together so we must practice being kind, respectful, sincere, doing things well and making things that will last."

We hope you are as proud to wear the Khadi cotton in our Artisan Collection as we are to do business with these inspiring organisations.

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