In South Africa, Gandhi was twice penalized with hard labour. For some weeks, he had to sew pieces of torn blankets and cut shirt pockets from thick cloth for nine hours a day. He finished tagging the pieces given to him before time and asked for more strips.
IN The Indian jail too, for some more days, he worked on a
Singer Sewing Machine. It was all jail work done by him voluntarily. Gandhi
wanted to grow efficient in the use of a sewing machine. He disapproved of the
use of big machines that replace the working hands and make man a slave of the
machines owned by capitalists. He believed that a machines must not be allowed
to displace necessary human labour. The problem in India was not how to find
leisure for the millions but how to utilized their idle hours. He made an
exception of the sewing machine because " It is one of the few useful things
ever invented. Singer saw his wife laboring over the tedious process of sewing
and seaming with her hands and simply out of his love for her, devised the
sewing machine in order to save he labour. The machine had love at its back"
Gandhi once wrote to a female ashramite: " don't you worry
over the tailoring of your dress salwar and kameez. Whatever has to be prepared
can be prepared by me. We can easily borrow a Singer sewing Machine. A few hours
work should a make the necessary dress." He had every reason to be proud of his
needle work. He could cut and stitch his wife's blouses. He spun yarn on a
charkha, wove it on a handloom and sewed his own kurta. Expert tailors and
shoe-makers gave free lessons to the ashram trainees.
when Gandhi was guiding the Champaran ryots in resisting the
indigo planters' tyranny a British journalist maligned him. He said that in
order to win the ryots. Gandhi temporarily and specially adopted the national
dress. Gandhi wrote in reply: " having taken the vow of Swadeshi, my clothing is
now entirely hand woven and hand -sewn by me or my fellow workers."
Gandhi later gave up the use of kurta and wore a loin-cloth
and a wrap. Even then, at times, he hemmed the borders of his handkerchief,
napkin or loin-cloth. When he was kept busy in sewing, he dictated letters to
his secretary. During his detention in the Aga Khan Palace, he gave khadi
handkerchiefs as birthday present to the jail superintendent. Each handkerchief
bore the initials of the superintendent neatly embroidered by Gandhi who was
Under his direction, a lady once had to do patch-work with
suitable pieces of khadi on favorite shawl of Gandhi. As a representative of his
poor countrymen, he sat at the Round Table Conference beside the British Prime
Minister and attended a tea party at the Bucking ham palace with that shawl on.
He never cared for show, but detested a shabby, torn dress. Once in a meeting,
he notices a hole in the wrap of co-worker. Immediately he sent this note to
him: " To wear torn clothes is sign of laziness and, therefore, shame. but to
wear patched clothes proclaims poverty or renunciation or industry. I could not
appreciate the rent in your chaddar. it is not a sign of poverty or simplicity .
It is a sign of no wife, bad wife or laziness."