The origins of kantha lie in north eastern India and what is now Bangladesh, and dates back many centuries. Kantha employs simple running stitches as well as some other simple stitches such as backstitch. Typically, it would be used to sew layers fabric, such as saris, in order to create quilts or blankets. The word kantha in Sanskrit means “rags” which reflects the fact that it was a craft borne out of a need to recycle fabric that was no longer required.
However, rather than this being purely functional craft, the embroidery would form motifs consisting of animals, birds, plants as well as geometric shapes. Traditionally, kantha quilts would be sewn by women who would create designs that reflected their environment, as well as traditional stories. Some kantha designs fill the whole of the fabric creating a wrinkled effect. The skills involved in creating these quilts would be passed on from mother to daughter.
Today, kantha has evolved from a folk art which served to recycle discarded fabrics into useful items into an art form which has spread far beyond its original geographic boundaries.
My own kantha designs seek to capture the spirit of these rural Indian women who created and continue to create magical kantha quilts. I am also inspired by what I see around me, although my environment is very different. For me, the basis of many of my designs is the Fenland landscape, and the animals and flowers which I see around me.
My Kantha Book of Indian Inspirations further explores the origins of kantha and provides some designs based upon traditional Indian motifs.