The Cloth

Malkha, produced by a group of decentralised, primary-producer-run cooperatives, is pure cotton cloth. Be it a saree, a dupatta, or a piece of fabric, a Malkha product derives its distinct identity from the following features that characterize its making

  • Cotton lint that goes into the making of malkha yarn is subjected to neither baling nor unbaling – processes that destroy the elasticity, springiness, absorbency and lustre natural to cotton
  • Handloom weaving
  • Treatment of yarn and fabric using natural, non-toxic dyes

The outcome of this process, carefully designed to preserve the intrinsic properties of cotton, is a fabric with a slubbed texture that holds its colour, a saree that falls beautifully and retains its lustre, a garment that keeps its shape, all the while getting softer and more comfortable with each washing.

Yardage

Malkha kora is unbleached plain cotton fabric, woven on handlooms using plain [non-dyed] malkha yarn.

Malkha yarn, dyed using a variety of vegetable products, goes into the weaving of distinctively coloured malkha fabrics (and sarees and dupattas). Blue is natural indigo dyed in traditional cold fermentation vats. The yellow is pomegranate rind with harda; a touch of kasimi turns it grey-green. Catechu heartwood makes brown. All of the above are natural plant dyes, while red, the only exception to this rule, is non-toxic alizarin.

Printing of malkha cloth is done using blocks carved out of seasoned teakwood. Each colour (a distinct natural dye) in the design is printed with a different block, and there can be several colours, and therefore blocks, for a design. Malkha prints are designed exclusively for malkha by artists and designers, carved by expert block-makers and printed by traditional block printers.

The malkha fabric is suited for a variety of garments – men’s shirting as well as women’s kurtas, shirts, churidars, salwars, lehengas and tunics, as well as clothes for babies and children. It has the following specifications -

  • Count 27 or 35
  • Reed/Pick 60/46-54
  • Width 45-48 inches [120 cm]
  • Length 10-12 metres – can be cut to size

Sarees

To wear a Malkha saree is to rediscover the joy of the draped garment. Malkha sarees, woven from the finer malkha yarn [35 count], are available in our striking artist-designed hand-block kalamkari prints, or in natural yarn dyed colours, or as unbleached kora, with extra-weft dobby or plain contrast borders – these seem to be the most popular!

Unlike other sarees that need starching, Malkha sarees are best worn without any stiffening, so as to make the most of the inimitable bounce and drape characteristic of Malkha. The springiness of Malkha yarn also means that the sarees need only the lightest ironing. And of course, like all Malkha fabrics, the sarees too seem to last for ages.

They come in lengths of 5.5 metres and the usual width of 1.2 metres.

Dupattas

The dupatta, also called chunari or odhni, is worn over the shoulders, and is a part of the 3-piece salwar-kameez set. It is usually about 90 centimetres in width and about 2.5 metres in length.

Malkha dupattas are woven from the finer Malkha yarn and available in prints, or in natural dyed colours, or as unbleached kora.