Patnulu is khadi made from fine-count cotton spun on a single spindle charkha by the rural women of Ponduru and the neighbouring villages in Srikakulam district of Andhra Pradesh.
Mostly of the Pattusali caste, the spinners of patnulu khadi make the entire fabric from scratch, starting from raw cotton to the handspun yarn, using indigenous tools at their homes. Once the spinners have made the yarn, it is woven into fabric by the weavers from the Ponduru town and nearby areas making the place a storehouse of expertise in fine-cotton yarn spinning and weaving. In this globalised world of power loom fabrics where anything sells as khadi, patnulu keeps alive the Gandhian idea of khadi as a self-made cloth that resists rampant capitalism.
However, patnulu also faces various challenges in the current age. Spinning fine cotton on a single spindle charkha takes special skill and patience which increases the turnaround time for the products. As remunerations do not match up to the effort it takes to make patnulu fabric, many weavers have moved away from patnulu weaving. Patnulu weaving being a collaborative process, the spinners struggle to function in the absence of weavers. Further, patnulu fabric can only use indigenous organic cotton, while the market is now flooded with cheaper genetically modified BT Cotton.
It will take efforts from the government as well as patrons of patnulu khadi to popularise and make it thrive once again.