On Handloom Day, we present a comprehensive guide to help you differentiate between khadi, handloom cloth, and mill-powered cloth, so you can choose well.

Madhav Sahasrabudhe, a 62-year-old former engineer, has devoted years to preserving the art of spinning and now shares his insights.

“Traditionally, khadi cloth is that fabric which makes use of no external power for the machinery. Right from the harvest of the cotton cloth to the removal of seeds, separating the fibres to spinning, dyeing, and weaving, everything is done manually,” he informs.

Khadi is both handspun and handwoven, while handloom cloth involves a combination of manual and machine processes, using electricity, battery, or fuel. So “it can be handspun and mill-woven or mill-spun and handwoven,” he says.

Mill clothes use machine-powered spinning and weaving processes, resulting in easy and uniform manufacturing, leading to considerably lower prices compared to handcrafted fabrics.

Here are some simple tests Madhav suggests to understand the difference between these fabrics: “The ends of a khadi cloth are usually soft and loose as compared to a machine-woven cloth. So you can twist it in the direction of the yarn to find out if it’s machine-woven or handwoven. If the threads tighten, the cloth is khadi. If it comes loose, it is handloom or mill-spun.”

Take three fabrics — cotton, silk and wool, and look through each of them through a light source. “If you spot a slight difference in density and considerable transparency, the cloth is most likely khadi,” he says.

“If the density is not uniform but the cloth is not very transparent, it is most likely handloom. If the spinning is completely uniform and the weaving opaque, the cloth is machine spun,” he adds.

“Once you get familiar with these differences, you will understand that khadi is very light and soft. This touch test will be a good measure to understand the fabric then.”

If you can’t distinguish the fabrics through these tests, Madhav recommends asking the shopkeeper where they get their cotton threads from. “If they have employed spinners and weavers, it will tell you that the fabric is definitely khadi.”

He continues, “Or even if they can point out to the exact centre and region where they procure the raw materials from, that is a good indication of authenticity.”

Finally, Madhav says genuine khadi can be identified by the KVIC logo, along with batch numbers and specific information indicating its authenticity.