|Home / Accueil / Startseite > La Hottee - Contact Information > Handspinning > Indian Book or Box Charkha|
Charkha (also spelled charka) is simply the Indian word for wheel. In western use charkha often means the foldable book (= small) or box (= bigger, also called briefcase or attaché) charkha. That's the one Ben Kingsley span on in the movie "Gandhi". Mahatma Gandhi suggested that Indians spin their own yarn (instead of selling their cotton cheaply to the English and buying back expensive cloth) and called for the invention of a foldable, easily portable spinning wheel.
I bought a box charkha out of curiosity (and because it wasn't expensive - it's directly from India: e-Trade Enterprises) and I'm completely fascinated by the principle. There's this neat little box that contains everything: drive wheel, accelerator wheel, 3 spindles, and even a skeiner. You have a ratio between 1:65 and 1:100 - that's three to five times what you get with a normal flyer wheel!
The charkha is a fantastic tool: Either simply to improve your long-draw technique (a charkha is pretty unforgiving of mistakes). Or to quickly produce large quantities of fine thread out of short-stapled fibre. The fibre in the picture is a commercial silk/baby camel blend. When I spun it on the flyer wheel, I was very unhappy with it (but it made a nice yarn). On the charkha it's not exactly a joy to spin either, but I liked it much better.
The charkha came with two pages of instruction, but they are not brilliant. On his website Mark Shepard gives a few more detailed tips on setting up and using a charkha. Another great source of information is Eileen Hallman's DVD "Spinning Cotton on the Charkha", which can be bought from most spinning suppliers or directly from her company New World Textiles.
Page updated: 07 April 2007