Connection with Vintage Kantha Quilts

It started simply with a stitch, and ends with a story.

I remember the day when I received my first quilt, progressed down to me from my mother, hand-stitched by my grandmother. It was filled up with life; her favourite colors, curved lines, witless patterns but a very fine stitch.

It was worn, assembled around the edges but kept its motherly warmth. My grandmother collected all of the quilts she made, and gave these to family members when she left us. I’ve adore mine, knowing that I’ll never get same like it, but still wanting to search something that I could start to collect, just like she did.

I found my halfway when I was first instigate to a few quilts that were labeled as “Kantha from bengal” at my husband’s shop with website fall in love, It was simply love at first sight; I wanted to grasp anything and everything about these beautiful kantha. Kantha refers to the kind of stitch used in the craft of this peculiar type of embroidery. The tradition began in India, where old sari is mixed and layered with worn recycled fabrics and stitched together, creating a vintage quilt. This distinct stitch gives the sari quilts and various fabrics a textured, wavy, quality. Each quilt is truly unique, and I love how each one feels like it has a unlike story.

So, I’m hooked. Here I am today, gathering and loving each vintage kantha quilt I can get my hands on. It may be the variety of pattern on each quilt that draws me in; how I can link to each stitch, after all, I’ve always been a bit all over the place, a rambling soul, a bit of everything. I fall in love with these kantha quilts, new for a new reason. I feel amazed seeing one side has Ruby red paisley prints with a vibrant patch of yellow florals, and the other has a winter snowy feel. They’re so bizzare, and so me.

Kantha is more or less like home to me. It’s something what I always wish and  love to collect; it’s what I wanted to keep near and dear to my heart. Each kantha quilt has a different story, and I’m now making these as a part of my story.

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Types and Process of Kantha Embroidery

The Sanskrit word kontha defines ‘rags.’ One legend links their origins to Lord Buddha and other gods like Brahma and Shiva who used to cover themselves with dresses made from discarded rags that were patched and sewn together. Rags unveil at Indian shrines or bind to tree limbs symbolize prayers and wards off the evil eye. The oldest endure kantha date from the early 1800s and is embroidered with blue, black and red threads that were untangle from sari borders. Because they were reinstate from used garments that had been habitually laundered, the colors tend to be muted. Please see types and process of kantha embroidery below –

Types of Kantha – 

Lep kantha are rectangular swaddle heavily padded to make warm coverlets. The whole piece would be stitched in wavy, rippled designs over which elementary embroidery was performed.

Sujani kantha are rectangular pieces of cloth used to make blankets or spreads on ceremonial occasions. It is kind of heavy work done of piece of cloth.

Baiton kantha are square swaddle used for covering books and other valuables. They are carefully patterned with borders of several rows of multi-color designs.

Oaar kantha : In this there are rectangular pillow covers in plain designs with a decorative border sewn throughout the edges.

Archilata kantha : In this there are small, rectangular covers for mirrors or toilet accessories with broad, colorful borders in assorted motifs.

Durjani/thalia kantha : In this there is a small rectangles with a midway lotus design and embroidered borders. Three corners of the rectangle are bending inward to form a wallet.

Rumal kantha : This is used as permeable wipes or plate coverings. These also attribute a central lotus with ornamented borders.

Dorokha or the double-sided kantha : This has either an alike pattern or sometimes a different pattern at the back of the embroidery. So it is veracious a reverse embroidery.

Kantha comprises of the elementary stitch in the language of embroidery – the running stitch. It is the process in which this stitch is used, in divergent arrangements which forms the complex vocabulary of kantha.
Originally it was used to sewn the layers of old saris, to make quilts and was used as a means of showing their thoughts, ideas by both urban and rural women in Bengal.

 Kantha Process and Stitches

The process of making kantha embroidery is quite simple but it allows for a vast range of expression. Now a day’s people have used this embroidery form in several ways from cutting-edge contemporary to classic traditional.

The motif is first drawn on paper by hand.

The outline is then hunt down on to a tracing paper. The edges of the pattern are incised with a needle with a distance of 1 mm between each prick. Colored embroidery threads are chosen in accordance with the pattern. All of the threads have code numbers that are eminent for future reference.Cane frames may be used to lengthen the fabric. Larger plastic frames may also be used.

Usually a simple outline is first made on the pattern.Sometimes the patterns are more abstract and are finished all over the fabric, usually to hold 3 or more layers of cloth. These motif are embroidered free-hand without discover. Artisans are skilled enough to stitch evenly spaced spirals or lines. In kantha embroidery there are numerous patterns for borders as well as ‘butis’ or dots to pervade a fabric.

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Kantha Embroidery needs a Rejuvenation

Kantha embroidery perceived its origin in the Vedic ages — it’s close-mouthed mention has been found in Krishnadas Kaviraj’s Chaitanya Charitamrita written almost 500 years ago. As a part of ancient art, this technique of embroidery saw the exposure of many kinds of motifs and symbols. The motifs were depiction of basic natural elements such as the sun, trees, animals, human and life in general.

But moderately, the embroidery found relevance and was used to portray fine intricacy, circumscribe culture and religion. With that, more and more rural people in West Bengal, Odisha and the neighboring Bangladesh quaff  the style, adding their own personal touch to it.

Kantha embroidery was one of the means by which people in Bengal would drizzle their blessings on the newly born in the family. It would be gifted to their near and dear ones during auspicious occasions like wedding, housewarming and to showcase their skills. An interesting mythological allusion behind the kantha‘s origin talks about both Lords Shiva and Budhha swaddle themselves with garments made from discarded rags (or in 0ther words, Kantha) that were mend, patched and sewn together.

Kantha embroidery is a noticeable style applied to the creation of quilts, blankets and coverlets. Normally in Lep kantha, women sew together layers of old cloth, mostly sarees, with intricate stitches. The thread used for the project is pulled out of the sari itself. Their precise artistry transformed worn out rags into exceptionally beautiful creations that could withstand further usage.

Old, unravel cloths, usually saris, experience a new lease of life, also describing the story of a new life for the women occupied in this craft. Kantha clutch a very special place within the village life in Katna, West Bengal. Making kanthas is a traditional activity as they are used to wrap and protect precious objects. Baby kanthas are prepared to give as gift to the newborn. At her marriage every girl receives an intricate kantha that her mother would have sewn on for years. A kantha is also used during cremation ceremony to cover the dead.

The beauty of Kantha

Visualize a snake leaving colour patterned trails on a field in the course of its tour across it. Kantha, the embroidery once from Murshidabad, in former Bengal, with its running stitch and other silhouette of stitches in coloured thread on handloom saris and other fabrics, is just about that and more.

This eccentric art that narrate beautiful thread work has the running stitch bring out exquisite endearing motifs of flora and fauna, simple geometrical shapes, scenes from everyday life, mythological themes and folklore in multi-color. The stitches for kantha work primarily embrace the running stitch, darning stitch, satin stitch and loop stitch forms of thread work, however the stem stitch is specifically for the coloured motifs. Kantha work gives the sari a grooved and wavy look that modify plain into unique, average into extraordinary creations. Though the running stitch is most accepted for its ease, other forms of stitch such as darning stitch, satin stitch and loop stitch are also used.

Colour of the thread employed are based on the design and subject, the field or background and the plead that it could possibly create.

More about Kantha

Kantha got a commercial boost in the 80’s when an NGO saw this remarkable skill get it’s rightly due. A plenty of exhibitions were held and training classes organized for willing learners enamoured by this extraordinary skill and in due course the world got the first glimpses of this unique art. Further it was traverse for commercial transactions wherein the women would fulfil orders and get paid for it.  This led to a new wave of art outstanding  practitioners and soon it became a respectable means of earning a modest income.

In today’s times, rural women still see it as a means to additive the spare income of their households. Many do a lot of kantha work for traders in Kolkata and to export. The price of kantha embroidered saris lies on the cost of the fabric and the patterns used to decorate them.  Borders and Pallus of Saris are mainly adorned by beautiful  Kantha work set of unique appeal.

Kantha adorn a wide range of garments such as sarees, dupattas, shirts, bedding and a variety of other fabrics in cotton and silk. Old saris and dhotis are modify by kantha work to serve as gifts for beloved ones even today.

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What is Kantha Quilting?

What is Kantha Quilting?

If you have browsed into our shop – vintagekanthaquilt, it is quite likely you have heard word “Kantha”.  Maybe you heard by different names of it like “Kantha Blanket”, “Kantha Throw”, “Kantha Quilt”, ”Kantha Shawl” ,” Kantha Cushion Covers” or even “Kantha Scarf”.  You might even perceive these colorful and alluring embroidered textiles but may not really know how it got its real name?

The simplest explanation is:  Kantha is the archiac Indian art of embroidery.

But here is the deeper story inside it :  ‘Kontha’ is a sanskrit word that literally translates to rugs or patched cloth.  This is felicitous because for centuries, women of Eastern South Asia have taken their textiles or articles of clothing that became too worn out and simply sewn them together for the most basic and practical purpose, to keep their family warm. These were also made to earn their livelihood but now have become trend and quite in fashion.

Over time, Kantha became a traditional art form and a skill developed through generations and they are no longer made from rags, they are fashioned from used and old saris.  Now the term ‘Kantha’ is universally known to illustrate the characteristic small, straight running stitch used to quilt these amazing one-of-a-kind pieces made from recycled saris.  Kantha products are now often purchased as meaningful handmade gifts, often as wedding gifts, gifts for mothers, gifts for friend and as a vibrant way to add splash to your home or wardrobe.

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