I would like to thank Phil, our chairlady, for giving me the opportunity to research Kantha quilting. I must admit when she asked me about the Kantha stitch , I was totally clueless. When I saw images of the Kantha stitch , I realised I had seen this work before on Indian garments,I just didn't know what the stitch was called.
Kantha quilting is also known as Nakshi Kantha in India and Bangladesh. It dates back to the times of Gautama Buddha who used to cover himself in garments made from discarded rags that were patched and sewn.
Tha art of Kantha ( pronounced Kaatha in the north, Kontha in the east and Kantha in the south) originated among the rural folks of India and literally means "rags".
This craft can be referred to as a recycling art form.
It was traditionally used to make simple quilts, light blankets, throws or bedspreads especially for children using old worn out clothing especially sarees. Bengalis were reluctant to throw away their fine quality muslin and cotton so they mended old clothes by taking a strand of thread from the colourful border of their sarees and making simple designs with them.
Kantha embroidery is used in the making of covers for pillows, boxes, mirrors and sarees, shirts , furnishings and bedding. The whole cloth is decorated with beautiful motifs portraying birds, animals, geometric shapes and other cultural visions from daily life in West Bengal.
Rural women worked at leisure and during rainy seasons taking months or even years to finish a kantha.
At least 5-7 sarees were used to make a standard size kantha. Today new cotton cloths are used instead of old clothing ( sarees or dhotis) .
To make a Kantha , the sarees are spread on the ground in layers. They are smoothed out leaving no folds or creases in between. Weights on the edges are used to keep it flat on the ground. The four edges are stitched and 2 or 3 rows of large running stitches are done to keep the kantha together. The Kantha can then be folded and stitched at leisure.
Kantha stitch is similar to the decorative running stitch of Japanese Sashiko quilting.
Thank you , Phil for the little kit you gave us to practise the kantha stitch . You are truly an inspiration!
Thank you to Deepa Balagopal for allowing me to use her information in my talk last night.