What is Kantha Stitching?

kantha running hare

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.

Channel Hopping

It was around eighteen months ago now when I first appeared on Create and Craft TV. This was quite a daunting experience at first, but I soon got into the swing of it. C&C has been fantastic for bringing our products to a wider audience and introducing more people to the joys of kantha and natural dyeing.

However, within recent months my shows have become more infrequent as the channel has tended focus more on its core crafts such as paper crafting and cake making.

Recently, we have been approached by Hochanda who are keen to have us on their channel. So, my first show is on 13th July at 2:00pm. I will be featuring some new kits, and some Christmas kits (yes, really!).

Hochanda is on Freeview channel 85 and also on Sky 663 and Freesat 817. Or you can watch on their website (including catch up).

We are really excited about this new chapter. We think we will be on about every 6 to 8 weeks to fit in with my various teaching commitments, attending shows, etc.

The Tale of the Little Blue Hare

The blue hare has been my logo now for about eighteen months. It took me a while to come up with something that properly represents me and what I do and as I am not in the position to pay for any fancy graphic designers I needed to employ cheaper options, although ironically my son has just gone off to university to study graphic design!

I wanted something that represents my creativity and the part of the country in which I am based. I (with some help from my husband) looked at various designs that somehow linked to the Fens. So, what do you think of when you think of the Fens? Big skies? Flatness? Reeds perhaps? None of which are very inspiring. I experimented with cow parsley for a while, but concluded this was too complicated.

As ever, the best ideas come to you when you aren’t looking for them. When coming up with some kantha designs I found myself being drawn to hares. I like their symbolism and the fact that they, more than most animals, seem to attract folklore. They are associated closely with fertility, partly because they are particularly good at reproducing, but also because it was thought that they, along with the moon, died every morning only to be reborn every evening.

Fertility does of course mean the ability to reproduce, but also the ability to produce ideas, and therefore to create.

Hares have also been closely associated with madness, and with the moon as a symbol of madness, as in the phrase “mad as a March hare”. This is said to be related to the “boxing” that they engage in during springtime. “Madness” in this context generally means eccentric or individual, a phrase often applied to myself, particularly when dyeing fabric with various kitchen ingredients, or collecting recycled materials (known to other people as “rubbish”) for my creations.

Hares are certainly not unique to the Fens. In fact they can be found all over the world, but they are particularly seen here running across the wide open fields, and I see them most days.

My husband noticed this fascination (bordering on obsession) with hares, and took one of my designs and did some fancy stuff with Photoshop and converted it into digital form.

By why blue I can hear you asking? Well the particular shade of blue relates to another obsession of mine – woad. The growing and processing of woad was an active and highly successful industry throughout the Fens up until the early 20th century. There are many place names and road names in this area that reflect this industry. I have been involved in a project based at Moulton Mill (near Spalding) highlighting the history of woad production, and I do run woad dyeing workshops from time to time.

So there you have it, the little blue hare tells a story of creativity, individuality, eccentricity and of the Fens.