Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Quick, To The Charkha!

I've been planning to spin and weave a set of curtains for my studio window for AGES, and I keep starting and stopping on the project due to the "oooo, shiny!" distraction factor. Some friends who are also Doctor Who (my favorite show!) fans encouraged me to get it going again... it turned into a "dissertation". Now I HAVE to finish, right? RIGHT??

Team: Tardis
Category: Encyclopedia – C for Charkha
Craft: Spinning
Summary: My plan is to spin cotton singles on the charkha for the yarn for a future project of weaving sheer lace curtains for my studio (both the warp yarn and the weft yarn). I will need 4500 yards of 2-ply yarn, 10/2 weaving weight (34 wpi, 4200 ypp). The charkha will be used to spin the singles only. (I'll ply using the woolee winder on my electric spinner.) My sample is right on, 34 wpi (shown as 17 wraps per half-inch). I estimate that I’ll need 18 oz of cotton roving to get my needed yardage (including waste).

The Charkha
The charkha is a small, portable, hand-cranked wheel, ideal for spinning cotton and other fine, short-staple fibres, though it can be used to spin other fibres as well. The tip of the charkha spindle reaches faster speeds than the usual treadle wheel flyer, making it easier to quickly achieve high amounts of twist.  The charkha works similarly to the great wheel, with a drive wheel being turned by hand, while the yarn is spun off the tip of the spindle. The floor charkha and the great wheel closely resemble each other. With both, the spinning must stop in order to wind the yarn onto the spindle. The tabletop or floor charkha is one of the oldest known forms of the spinning wheel. The most common type of charkha available in the U.S. is more strictly identified as the box charkha, in “book” and “briefcase” or “attache” sizes.

Chiefly responsible for the widespread use of the charkha, Mohandas K. Gandhi was the preeminent leader of Indian nationalism in British-ruled India in the early part of the 20th century. Employing non-violent civil disobedience, Gandhi led India to independence and inspired movements for civil rights and freedom across the world. Cotton was grown in India where the men would harvest it and the British would ship this cotton back to England and have it woven and spun into cloth which was then shipped back to India and sold at a price that the people could not afford.  In order to resist the British, Gandhi encouraged the men to spin (traditionally women’s work), weave their own cloth and wear clothing made from this homespun cloth.  This cloth was called “khaddar” or “khadi” (meaning “rough”). This experiment of Gandhi’s eventually forced the British to leave India because the men were not harvesting the cotton, and the use of khaddar cut out the market for the British made cloth.  India eventually gained economic independence from England.  Some Indian money and stamps have a charkha image, and the Congress Party in India placed a charkha wheel design on their flag.


As part of the passive resistance movement, Gandhi would often spin in public.  On many occasions, he would spin and recommend spinning to others, saying it would bring them peace of mind.

 Since the traditional charkha was typically bulky and difficult to move, Gandhi needed a charkha that would be compact, portable and affordable.  Various models of box charkha were designed and then manufactured. The double-wheel drive, which allows greater speed and control as well as portability, was Gandhi’s own innovation.

 I’ll be using my Bosworth book charkha. My favourite position for spinning with the charkha is seated in a chair with the charkha in my lap. I place a piece of non-slip cloth under the charkha to keep it stable.

 Time Justification: It takes me a solid 2 hours to spin and ply 100 yards of 2-ply yarn this fine. So I estimate it will take me a minimum of 45 hours to spin and ply this yarn. Since there are 90 days in this term (Oct. 1st-Dec. 28), I’ll need to spin/ply for an average of 2 hours per day.
Team Tie-In: This fine white yarn will be used for weaving lace curtains, which will be gauzy and free-flowing and sheer and translucent, like the bridal veils worn by Amy Pond and Donna Noble, both companions of The Doctor.

 Wish me luck!!!

1 comment:

  1. Debbie, what an excellent post. I took a cotton spinning workshop with Eileen Hallman, thinking I'd never manage charaka spinning but was thrilled at being able to produce yarn. It's a fascinating piece of equipment. And portable!


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