Ghandi Chakra Wheel

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One of the most fascinating “spinning wheel success stories” that I have ever come across is the story of how pacifist activist Mahatma Ghandi used a simple Chakra style spinning wheel to revolutionize and revitalize the textile industry in India to help the people climb out of poverty.

There are many stories and news articles on this, but naturally the best source comes from Ghandi himself. The book, “The Wheel of Fortune” by Mahatma Gandhi is available on the Project Gutenberg website to read for free, although of course several re-print copies are also available if you prefer to have a paper analog version of the book!

The text itself can be a little hard to read, (especially if you are not familiar with India culture in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s!) – but if you want to really dive into how you could use something as simple as a spinning wheel to revitalize your own local community, this is an inspiring must-read for sure!

Why This Book is So Exciting and Important Nearly 100 Years Later Today

One of the reasons I wanted to share this book here with you is not just because I LOVE books and collect them, but because this particular book outlines a path where nearly ANY community in the world could benefit from hand spinning and weaving.

While spinning wheels can be quite expensive to purchase in the U.S., there are also many, many ways to make it more accessible and affordable to all! For example, a simple drop spindle may only cost between $5 – $8 to make – and while it may seem rudimentary I have actually met production spinners who used only a drop spindle to prove their point – no fancy wheels necessary!

There’s a couple of VERY interesting things this book talks about, so I wanted to share from there as well.

How Hand Spinning Complements the Textile Industry

On Page 58 of the book, Ghandi presents an interesting perspective on why hand spinning is a wonderful complement to the more traditional industrial scale fiber mills and factories.

“The hand-loom does not compete with the mill, it supplements it in the following way:

(1) It produces special kinds of goods which cannot be woven in the mills.

(2) It utilizes yarn below and above certain counts which cannot at present be used on the power-mill.

(3) It will consume the surplus stock of Indian spinning mills which need not then be sent out of the country.

(4) Being mainly a village-industry, it supplies the local demand, at the same time gives employment to small capitalists, weavers and other village workmen and

Lastly it will supply the long-felt want of, and honest field of, work and livelihood for educated Indians.”

The Wheel of Fortune, Mahatma Gandhi

The last point there really speaks to me because even in the United States today, even on the most local township or borough level, we see people every single day struggle with poverty + the desire for honest work and livelihood that improves our world and local communities.

Spinning Isn’t Just for Women

For centuries, spinning has been largely considered a “Woman’s Job”. This stereotype naturally makes many men shy away from spinning. Ghandi shows us it is not “inferior work” of women, but simply something women do because they have more leisure time.

Interestingly enough, my first spinning lesson actually came from a wonderful man who was part of the local spinning guild here – he taught me to hold onto my first ball of yarn because later I will look at it + be amazed at how far I’ve come + progressed as a spinner!

This wisdom has stuck with me for years now and I’ve found it can apply to nearly anything new you are learning, whether it’s art, woodworking, cooking, etc, etc. – you can only grow + improve with time and it IS a fantastic thing to see how much we’ve progressed!

Ghandi has this to say about the roles of spinning for women and men. As a pacifist, we should not be surprised he says it is far more manly to spin wool than to “wield the sword”.

If spinning has been the speciality of women, it is because they have more leisure and not because it is an inferior occupation.

The underlying suggestion that a wielder of the sword will not wield the wheel is to take a distorted view of a soldier’s calling. A man who lives by the sword does not serve his community even as the soldiers in the employ of the Government do not serve the country.

The wielding of the sword is an unnatural occupation resorted to among civilized people only on extraordinary occasions and only for self-defence.

To live by hand-spinning and hand-weaving is any day more manly than to live by killing.

Aurangzeb was not the less a soldier for sewing caps. What we prize in the Sikhs is not their ability to kill. The late Sardar Lachman Singh will go down to posterity as a hero, because he knew how to die.

The Mahant of Nankhana Saheb will go down to posterity as a murderer.

I hope therefore that no man will decline to learn the beautiful life-giving art of hand-spinning on the ground of its supposed inferiority.

The Wheel of Fortune, Mahatma Gandhi

If you are a man who is interested in hand-spinning, I hope this is inspiring to you – it is certainly not just a job for women!

Learn How to Make Your Own Chakra Spinning Wheel

The chakra spinning wheel is a type of wheel that looks quite different from more traditional Saxony and Castle style wheels. It is a table top wheel (or, more commonly, one which can be used while sitting on the ground) – and it’s construction is somewhat simple so that anyone can attempt building these affordably.

Here is what the wheel looks like:

Ghandi Chakra Wheel
Ghandi Chakra Wheel

And here are the directions:

The rear base with mark 1 is one foot 9 inches long, 4 inches wide and 3 inches high.

The front base with mark 2 is 9 inches long, 4 inches wide and 3 inches high.

The long piece which joins the two bases, marked 3, is 3 feet long (including joints), 3 inches wide and 2 inches high.

The large uprights marked 4 are 1 foot 6 inches long including joints, 2 inches wide, and 3 inches deep. They are fixed on the back base 9 inches apart. The holes in which the axle rests are made 2 inches below the top. These holes contain bearings of thin iron plates to secure easy motion of the axle. The bearings are kept open at the top to allow access of oil through a slanting hole bored on the outward sides of both the uprights, one inch above the axle.

The small uprights marked 5 are 9 inches long with joints 1½ inches wide and 1½ inches deep, with holes 4 inches below the top to contain the leather bearings which bear the spindle. They are fixed 3 inches apart on the front base and are connected together 2 inches above [pg 158]the base with a piece of a wood of the same thickness. This joining piece contains in the middle 2 sticks half an inch apart to regulate the position of the mala (the string which revolves the spindle) on the spindle.

Another piece marked 6 and joined parallelly to the left upright is meant to bear a hole for leather bearing when a thin spindle is to be used.

The drum or wheel consists of 8 planks such as the one marked 7, each being 2 feet long, 4 inches wide and ¾ inch thick. They are divided in two wings of 4 planks each, each containing two couples of planks joined diametrically with a groove in the middle.

Both the wings are nailed on to the wooden shaft marked 8, its size being 4½ inches long and 4 inches diameter.

Through the middle of this shaft passes a long round iron bar, which serves as an axle. It is 19 inches long and half an inch thick. Its end, where the handle is fixed is made square to ensure firmness of the handle.

[pg 159]A wooden washer one inch thick is fixed to the axle on either side of the drum to avoid its contact with the uprights.

The handle is shaped put of a wooden piece of 2 inches × 2 inches × 1½ feet long.

The reel noticed in the diagram between the drum and the handle is composed of a wooden disc marked 9 made out of 1 inch thick and 6 inches square piece of wood. Six brackets made of galvanized wire of 10 gauge radiate from the centre of the disc so as to make a circumference of 4 feet. The brackets are fixed in the back of the disc with bent ends and are further secured with small nails near the circumference of the disc.

A wire noose is fixed on the back base just below the reel to regulate the yarn when wound up on the reel from a bobbin or directly from the spindle.

A 4 inches long bamboo pin is fixed in the inward side of the front base parallelly to the long plank marked 3. It is meant to hold the bobbin while opening out yarn from it. When the yarn is opened from [pg 160]the spindle directly, it is held in the left hand with the point towards the reel. The right hand is employed in turning the reel by the handle of the charkha.

The figure 10 (image above), indicates the position of the spinner.

The Wheel of Fortune, Mahatma Gandhi

I have been wanting to construct one of these wheels myself for some time now, but as life would have it we simply have been too crazy!

Fortunately, there ARE a few videos where some wonderful people have shown directions on making them!

This is a great example of the wheel!

I also found another awesome video that shows how to make one with popsicle sticks of all things! That is certainly VERY doable for many of us, even if you don’t have a lot of woodworking skills!

A functional chakra style spinning wheel made from popsicle sticks!

The story of Ghandi and the spinning wheel is one of the most inspiring stories and a fantastic example of how something as simple as hand-spinning yarn can make such a positive experience in other’s lives!

I hope you find this story inspiring and of course, if you have any questions just ask in the comments below! I am always happy to share resources + help you any way in your spinning journey that I can!

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