Kantha – Vintage Quilts – recycling fabrics the time honoured way

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I hadn’t known anything about the history of quilt making with recycled fabrics in India, until I chanced on an advert for an exhibition of KANTHA textiles at the Mingei International Museum, California, last September.

see https://julzcrafts.com/2017/09/06/kantha-exhibition-of-textiles-of-bengal/.

“Kantha is a term used across the Indian sub-continent to denote decorative stitched quilting. In Gujarat, hangings patterned with concentric circles or squares in running stitch are known as kanthas, while in Bengal, kanthas are stitched for a variety of purposes, such as winter quilts, covers and wraps for books and valuables or as mats for ceremonial purposes.

They are most often given to daughters on the occasion of their marriage, as a token of love, or as a gift for a new-born child or grown son. They are often, as tradition has it, made up of old cast off saris or dhotis. They can be the work of two or more generations of women and are treasured as family heirlooms.”

You can also find out more about Kantha HERE

fullsizeoutput_34bOne of the people who saw the post was Manish, who was doing research on this ancient tradition, and he has recently set up a small business to collect and recycle old quilts, and to make new ones for sale worldwide.

He asked if I could give his website a mention, and sent me a bit more information about Kantha.  So I checked him out!  I have edited his contribution to fit the style of this blog – which is ‘to inspire and educate’ my readers – and myself! – in various aspects of crafts, whether you make anything yourself – or just appreciate!

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PHOTO-2018-05-17-17-32-33” The term ‘Kantha’ can be understood in Sanskrit as ‘rags’.

 

The origin of Kantha can be dated back to the age of Vedic period, which has a profound background in India. Chaitanya Charitamrita is a very popular age old book written by Krishnadas Kaviraj, some 500 years ago. The recurring patterns, designs and other beautiful elements are most celebrated part, which the book talks about.

The historic art and motifs are incorporated in modern works with the depiction of nature, sun, trees, people, culture and many more through the finest play of thread over a piece of cloth.

In the region of West Bengal, Kantha is seen as a very auspicious symbol in weddings and birth ceremonies.

Being a Bengali man, I never really got an opportunity to peek inside and know more about this form of art, which is being transferred from generation to generation. 

When I was a kid, I saw my grandmother would sit with a piece of cloth in her lap and different colours of thread lying all around her. She used to be very keen and generous with her work. She would move her hands very slowly and firmly with a needle and thread across the cloth and a very beautiful design would come up. 

The clothes on which she used to weave would tell stories of trees, people, lakes and animals.

vintage kantha quilt by makkiWhen I moved to eastern Bengal, I saw old and young women still so engrossed in the stitching kantha handkerchiefs, quilts and bed sheets. I was mesmerized by the beauty in their eyes and the passion in their attitude while they were busy doing the embroidery.

I was so inspired and motivated to continue this tradition in other parts of India that I started my own business, selling Kantha quilts and, hopefully creating a world class platform for customers from every corner of the world to know more about India, its tradition and history of India, through the quilts.

vintagekanthaquiltThe Kantha quilts have been made with finest threads, and will last long longer than your life, so that you can pass down this historical piece to many upcoming generations. India is best reflected within the dimensions of quilt.”

He tells me that the “quilts are made in West Bengal by artisans, and they are paid fairly”.

Do have a look at his site – vintagekanthaquilt.com – the prices are reasonable and he is currently running a special discount offer.

NB:  I do not normally ‘advertise’ other businesses on this site, but he asked nicely – smile – and I like what he is doing.  No fee has been charged and I have no other knowledge of how he works, and do not take any responsibility for the quality of the products.

Sheep Shearing in the UK

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Following on from my previous post – the video of shearing a shetland sheep in USA – I thought I’d add a couple of my old photos of sheep shearing, taken about 30 years ago!  I can’t remember where I took them – somewhere in South Wales.

 

 

These are scans of the A6 sepia postcards I published of the original photos – which is why they aren’t very sharp.  The sheep were being sheared in a field, and they were penned to make it easier to do the shearing as quickly as possible.

I did a search for shearing in the UK, to get a bit more info on when shearing is done here, and found this useful piece, oddly enough, published under the name of Sheep Shearing in the UK by Indie Farmer.

 

 

These are a couple of colour photos from that site.

And this is the first part of the blog – written in July 2014

The sheep shearing season in the UK (roughly mid May to mid July) is pretty much finished now, so farmers will be pleased that one difficult and time consuming job is over for another year, and the sheep will be happy to have got rid of their thick fleeces in this hot weather.

Shearing requires both skill and a lot of hard, physical work in hot summer conditions.  Some farmers shear their own sheep but many, especially those with large flocks (anything over a few hundred sheep) hire specialist shearing gangs to do the work for them.  Shearing gangs typically have three to eight members, and travel the country going from farm to farm, shearing every day during the season.  It is a hard life but pay can be good, about £2 a sheep and a good shearer can shear 200 sheep per day.  When the UK shearing season is over, the shearing gangs often travel to other countries where the shearing season is at a different time of year, in what is known as ‘the shearing circuit’, travelling from the UK to Norway, the USA, the Falklands, New Zealand, Australia, and pretty much anywhere that you can find plenty of sheep!  It is a very tough, hard working and hard drinking lifestyle, but it’s a good way to see the world, have fun and make some money.

Wool used to be where the main profit was in sheep farming, with meat as a useful sideline.  Many of the great Cathedrals and castles of the middle ages were built using the profits from the wool trade.  The Lord Speaker in the House of Lords still sits on a ceremonial Woolsack to represent the importance of wool to the economy in former times.  Now, however, sheep farmers make their main profit from meat, with wool being a very minor sideline.

It’s always useful to know a bit more about where your wool comes from!  Especially for spinners who are carding and spinning the raw fleeces!

PS. PLUG!

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pair of standard hand carders – 72 pt

I sell hand carders that can deal with raw fleeces and all types of wool fibres – and also are quite useful as brushes for sheep and other animals if you are tidying up your stock for Agricultural Shows.  The current listings can be found if you click on the links below.

Listed on julzcraftstore.com here

USE THE COUPON CODE  customer10%off  at the checkout to get 10% off your order.

Listed on etsy here

Listed on ebay here

Sheep Shearing Video

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Just thought you might like to see how sheep are sheared – for those of you who’ve never seen it!  Shearing is done very fast, and doesn’t hurt the sheep, if it’s done by an expert – and the fleece is rolled up to be processed and, hopefully sold.

This video comes from a farm near Niagara Falls, New York, who actually specialise in Shetland Sheep.  Shetland Sheep are the smallest of the British sheep breeds. They are bred for their wool, which is very soft and fine, a delight for handspinners. Shetland Sheep are very hardy, and easy to care for. They are ideal for families with smallchildren, handspinners and breeders.

The original post can be found HERE.

 

Some ‘British’ Gift Items, and Garden Ornaments

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It’s been lovely weather this last week, and I’m afraid I have been spending all my time in the garden, and haven’t been thinking about posting anything particularly craft based.

And, of course, I watched the Royal Wedding on TV on Saturday!

There are loads of ‘souvenirs’ on sale for the event, and it reminded me that I hadn’t got around to listing some of my new stock on julzcraftstore.com, where I also sell an eclectic mix of gift items.

Some of these are just for fun – and altho’ none of them specifically relate to ‘The Wedding’, I have a few ‘Union Jack’ bits and pieces that fly the ‘British flag’ and are often bought by my international customers.

You can find them listed in the ‘British Category’ of Julz Craft Store – HERE

I also sell a few garden related items, and have recently re-ordered some of these rather lovely small garden ornaments.

Prices range from £12.99 – £17.99 – and you can see the full information HERE

How Industrial Weaving gave us the Computer

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This is a short video produced by the BBC Future Series – worth a look!

http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20180423-how-industrial-weaving-gave-us-the-computer

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Punched card pattern for a jacquard loom. Artist: Dorothy Burrows

“In the early 19th Century, Joseph Marie Jacquard invented a remarkable machine that reinvigorated the fashion industry – and ultimately led to the modern computer.”