First of all, how are you? No, really—how are you? For me, life during Covid-19 seems both harder and easier. Not a lot of choices these days, though creativity remains a good one. Still, without my Sun-dyes with Kim, hovering over dye pots of indigo, I’m adrift. But apart we stay, careful not to breathe coronavirus on each other. Six feet is about the length of Kim’s backyard table. On some Sundays, we gather to chat and knit, wearing face masks and drinking kombucha.
Then came last Sunday.
For years, we’ve pondered what to do with 200 inches of hand-spun, handwoven cotton khadi cloth I brought home from Kolkata.
Quick khadi cul-de-sac: When I go to India, I always wear and buy khadi, the fabric of India’s self-determination over British rule. Locals have even thanked me for it. Gandhi believed that by rejecting foreign fabrics, India’s citizens could weave the country to independence while restoring jobs and dignity and reducing consumption. That’s why a spinning wheel, or Charkha, is on India’s national flag. The image below is of Mahatma Gandhi spinning khadi, taken by American photographer Margaret Bourke-White.
“There is no beauty in the finest cloth if it makes Hunger and Unhappiness.”—Gandhi
Seasons earlier, we had dyed about 100 inches of the khadi a deep, hypnotic blue, letting the center stay a bleary smudge and keeping the rest neutral. Since then, nothing has seemed good enough for it. We kept throwing out ideas, then swatting them away. Then, I found the criswoodsewsenvelope dress, designed by the marvelous Cris Wood. I showed it to Kim and, before you could say “Fetch the scissors!” she had her blue sewing machine and ironing board out on the patio.
This dress design is so smart and flexible. If you search for it on Instagram, you’ll see about a million people have sewn it—and it looks great on all of them. Cris Wood says you can make it from 1 1/2 yards of any fabric. Because khadi is spun on a handloom, its selvage is only 36 inches, which would have made a garment too short (selvages make up the top and bottom). But that presented an opportunity—introducing the contrasting color.
We* upped the complexity of the pattern by adding piecework and pockets. You can wear it loose and flow-y or belt it for definition.
And Kim’s version, worn to the Minneapolis Institute of Art because it deserved its own gallery opening:
* Kim put in the hard labor; I merely sliced and ironed as we went. The picture of the hearts is yet another Kimvention—fabric weights filled with stones to keep your papers and cloths from flying in the breeze. Using leftover stash bits, of course.
While writing this, I came across a great online vendor of khadi; check it out.
Indian Independence Day is next Saturday, August 15. Namaste!