Bengal – State of Vintage Kantha Quilts

Kantha has become a very famous name in the world of handlooms and textiles today. However, not many people know that this pattern of embroidery has its root in the ancient India where it was considered to be a major craft among the household women of Bengal.

Kantha is a kind of embroidery craft that hails from the eastern regions of the Indian subcontinent, particularly in the areas of Bangladesh as well as the Indian states of Tripura, West Bengal and Odisha. In the state of Odisha, all the old saris are stacked on to each-other and are later hand-stitched in order to make thin pieces of cushions and various other decors. Kantha saris are further worn by the women throughout the region of Bengal in the Indian subcontinent.

Kantha embroidery derives its name from the word Kantha which means rags in Sanskrit. Thus, this fact reflects that this embroidery has been made out of the discarded clothes and garments. This form of embroidery is considered to be the oldest forms of embroidery that hails from India. To talk more about the origin of this form of embroidery, Kantha’s inception has been traced back to the ancient pre Vedic ages. The Kantha as we have seen today was found as a mention in the 500-year old book, Chaitanya Charitamrita by Krishnadas Kaviraj. All the motifs that are found in Kantha embroidery are mostly the symbols which were derived from the beautiful ancient art. All these symbols are reflective of the natural beauty present in the universe such as the sun, the tree or life, etc.
Earlier, the embroidery included the symbols depicting the natural creations, however, soon the same was used as a medium of religious and cultural significance. The credit of the revival of Kantha throughout the country goes to all the rural housewives of West Bengal who are known to be playing a significant part in the evolution of the Kantha embroidery. It was considered to be customary for al lthese women to make the use of this embroidery in running stitches along the edges. For centuries, the techniques of this art were passed down from mother to daughter and hence the art of Kantha continue to prevail.

Kantha embroidery was continued to be practiced among the rural women of West Bengal, but soon the craft began to fade with the time. It was until the year 1940 that this craft was revived by the renowned Kala Bhavana Institute of Fine Arts which was a part of Vishwa Bharti University in Shanti Niketan. This art was again revived by Shamlu Dudeja in the 1980s when the lady founded Self-Help Enterprise (SHE) that helped to empower women as well as their livelihood by the way of Kantha embroidery.

Today, this form of embroidery has become very popular not only locally, but globally as well. Kantha embroidery has been popularizing itself in the textile and handloom industry. Not only this, the fashion industry, too, has adopted the idea of this embroidery and as a result a number of fashion designers are working under various projects involving the use of Kantha. All credits to the rural women of West Bengal.

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Waves Fine Stitched Vintage Kantha Quilt Queen

Waves and floral Vintage Kantha Quilt Queen

West Bengal – State of Kantha Quilts

Kantha embroidery is so much in fashion today. This widespread fashion didn’t make it popular overnight, on the contrary Kantha has evolved itself ever since its very inception which dates backs centuries ago.

Made using recycled sarees and other fabrics, Kantha could be translated roughly to rags and likely refers to as the reclaimed character of the vintage fabrics as well as repurposing manners and methods using which Kantha quilts are created by many artists. This form of embroidery is s unique and beautiful as its name and the Kantha quilts involve a beautiful and vibrant patchwork of many layers upon layers of differently patterned fabrics, some bold colors as well as a culturally rich history that is woven together with each patch, stitch as well as a stretch of a beautiful fabric.

Kantha quilts are often dyed using all the natural colors that makes the use of leaves, grains, roots and seeds such as turmeric and many others in order to make a bold statement and further brighten up the existing design and then adding more character and life to any space where you use the Kantha quilts.
The inception and the roots of Kantha stitch is worth mentioning. Considered to be one of the oldest forms of embroidery, Kantha has its roots in ancient India and the name also has a double meaning as ‘throat’, further having its roots in the story of Lord Shiva and how his neck turned blue when he tried to save humanity from a poisoned ocean. Thus, the ancient Kantha quilts often entertained ceremonial symbols as well as animals printed and stitched on to them in different patterns where they were mainly taken into use in the ceremonies like birth of a baby, weddings, etc.

The credits to the real evolution of Kantha as seen and used today goes to the women of West Bengal. In fact, West Bengal is considered to be the place of origin of Kantha. The local and rural women of West Bengal would stitch Kantha handkerchiefs, Kantha quilts and various other handmade motifs as well as personal articles using this pattern. This art was then passed down from mother to the daughter and this is how Kantha has traditionally evolved into one popular form of embroidery.

Today, this form of embroidery has garnered a huge attention in the country, and the same is being used in different forms and patterns such as quilts, curtains, blankets, dupattas, scarves, cushion covers and many more. The popularity of this embroidery is not just restricted within the boundaries of India, but the same has spread across many nations of the world, thereby giving Kantha a global recognition.
Many western homes are using several Kantha decors and design to decorate and revamp their houses into something more vibrant and colorful. Kantha has become a popular form of embroidery in the fashion world as well and a number of designers are using it in their own unique manner.

Kanthas are a symbol of culture, history, family, integrity and strength.


Lotus Indian National Flower Kantha Quilt

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Kantha Quilts and Kantha Cushion Covers Home Organizing hacks

Organizing and decorating a house has never been an easy task. However, the process could become easy sometimes if you sample out the right things to be used for decoration. The house décor items such as blankets, quilts, bed covers, cushion covers, etc. play a very vital role in making any of your house space look rich, classy and sophisticated. Kantha products have become the flavor of season these days. From magazines to websites to experts – everything is touting Kantha to be the latest trend in house décor.

You can therefore include everything Kantha into your house-decorating process to make it look all the more beautiful. Kantha cushion covers and Kantha quilts could be customized in a number of ways using which you can decorate your house like never before. Following are the 6 organizing hacks using Kantha cushion covers and quilts that are marked and suggested by the experts themselves.

  1. Kantha bed-covers:

You can use your old Kantha quilts to give them a makeover into a bed-covers. Bed covers are very much in fashion these days and turning your Kantha quilt into a bed cover isn’t a bad idea at all. Use these bed covers in your bedrooms and living room and you are all set to create a new look.

  1. Kantha curtains:

Kantha quilts can also be customized and used into Kantha curtains. For this particular purpose, you can also take an old Kantha saree into use. Decorate these Kantha curtains using various laces and frills.

  1. Kantha cushion covers:

Kantha cushion covers have become the hottest Kantha trend. Ditch your old cushion covers and add a harmonious look into your drawing room by inculcating the beautiful Kantha cushion covers into the same. The beautiful prints of the Kantha cushion covers is surely going to add flavors into the boring sofa.

  1. Kantha frame:

Your old Kantha quilt or bed-sheet can also be recreated into a beautiful looking Kantha frame. You are merely required to pick your favorite Kantha print and further get it framed into a beautiful Kantha frame. Decorate it into your drawing room.

  1. Kantha table cover:

Just like the bed covers, Kantha quilt could also be taken into use as a Kantha table cover. Table covers always add an extra flavor of beauty as to your boring table. Thus, what’s better than adding some beautiful and colorful prints of Kantha into the same? The results would be more than vibrant.

  1. Kantha mats:

You can also cut your Kantha quilt into small sized mats to further use it as to the decoration of your side tables or side stools. Thus, it is the time you forget your boring table mats and add a hint of Kantha into the same.

These Kantha hacks are not so extravagant. You are merely required to take out your old Kantha quilt and give it a new touch to redecorate and renovate your house space into something extraordinarily beautiful.

Story of three “H” of Kantha Quilts

Happy colors, history, and hand-stitching: these three H of Kantha Quilts, creativity emerged from a reversible Kantha Quilt originated by artisans in west Bengal, India. The word Kantha, pronounced (KAAN taa), means ‘rags’ in Sanskrit. A Kantha stitch simply means a small straight running stitch in Bengali embroidery.

Something about alliteration tugs at my heart. It resonates. I’m prompted to repeat it. Thus, the three “H’s” of Kantha Quilts: happy colors, history and hand-stitching

Happy Colors in Kantha Quilts

Not every Kantha is bright but as these are double sided so there are chances of one side to be brighter than other. The colors and the patterns are so unique that they amazed the eyes. These make me feel that they are happy and wanted the same from as well – happiness.

We wrapped ourselves in the reversible Kantha quilt of our choice. In spite of the multiple colors and patterns, cohesiveness ruled. We choose each and every Kantha of our own choice and sometimes also request the color and the pattern we need in quilt so they add to it.

Made from vintage saris, these can be made in multi-layer. 3 layered is the most running Kantha quilt and at the same time affordable to.

History of Kantha Quilts

Interested in knowing detailed history of Kantha quilts ?

“These vintage sari quilts from west Bengal, India are produced using multiple of very worn, aged, recycled saris that have been mended and patched over many years of use. The quilts are then sewn together using various scraps of fabrics as batting (sometimes as many as 6-7 layers of scrap filling causing different thicknesses within a quilt or as per demand.

Hand-stitching on Kantha Quilts

In our always-on society, hand-stitching propose a different opportunity to feel connected. Hand-stitching connects you first of all with yourself. Feel into slowing down, threading a needle and sewing on fabric. Hold something besides routine. Enjoy present split second awareness as you stitch.

Kantha quilts have always been hand-stitched by rural women, typically using a running stitch. It’s quite easy to replicate. More importantly, it’s a satisfying practise. One can be amazed at the sense of confidence that comes from your hand-work by producing such a beautiful quilt.

My vintage Kantha quilt delivered these three H of kantha quilts to me : happy colors, history, and hand-stitching. What’s your kantha appeals to you?

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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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