GUNNY, a sort of cloth, the name of which is supposed to be derived from ganga or gania of Rumphius, or from gonia, a vernacular name of the Crotolaria juncea a plant common in Madras. One of the first notices of the term itself is to be found in Knox's Ceylon, in which he says: " The filaments at the bottom of the stem (coir from the coco-nut husk, Cocos nucifera) may be made into a coarse cloth called gunny, which is used for bags and similar purposes."
Warden, in The Linen Trade, says:
" A very large proportion of the jute grown in Bengal is made into cloth in the districts where it is cultivated, and this industry forms the grand domestic manufacture of all the populous eastern districts of Bengal. It pervades all classes, and penetrates into every household, almost every one, man, woman and child, being in some way engaged in it. Boatmen, husbandmen, palankeen carriers, domestic servants, every one, in fact, being Hindu for Mussulmans spin cotton only pass their leisure moments, distaff in hand, spinning gunny twist. It is spun by the takur and dhara, the former being a kind of spindle, which is turned upon the thigh or the sole of the foot, and the latter a reel, on which the thread, when sufficiently twisted, is wound up. Another kind of spinning machine, called a ghurghurea, is occasionally used. A bunch of the raw material is hung up in every farmer's house, or on the protruding stick of a thatched roof, and every one who has leisure forms with these spindles some coarse pack-thread, of which ropes are twisted for the use of the farm. The lower Hindu castes, from this pack-thread, spin a finer thread for being made into cloth, and, there being a loom in nearly every house, very much of it is woven by the women of the lower class of people. It is especially the employment of the Hindu widow, as it enables her to earn her bread without being a burden on her family. The cloth thus made is of various qualities, such as clothing for the family (especially the women, a great proportion of whom on all the eastern frontier wear almost nothing else), coarse fabrics, bedding, rice and sugar bags, sacking, pack-sheet, etc. Much of it is woven into short lengths and very narrow widths, two or three of which are sometimes sewed into one piece before they are sold. That intended for rice and sugar bags is made about 6 feet long, and from 24 to 27 inches wide, and doubled. A considerable quantity of jute yarn is dyed and woven into cloth for various local purposes, and some of it is also sent out of the district. The principal places where chotee, or jute cloth for gunny bags is made are within a radius of perhaps 150 to 200 miles around Dacca, and there both labour and land are remarkably cheap. The short, staple, common jute is generally consumed in the local manufacture, the finer and long stapled being reserved for the export trade. These causes enable gunny cloth and bags to be sold almost as cheaply as the raw material, which creates an immense demand for them in nearly every market of the world."
Such appeared to be the definition of gunny cloth at the time the above was written between 1850 and 1860. Most of the Indian cloth for gunny bags is now made by power, and within about 20 m. of Calcutta. In many respects the term gunny cloth is still applied to all and sundry, but there is no doubt that the original name was intended for cloth which was similar to what is now known as " cotton bagging." This particular type of cloth is still largely made in the hand loom, even in Dundee, this method of manufacture being considered, for certain reasons, more satisfactory than the power loom method (see JUTE and BAGGING).
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)