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.
“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
One 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!
” 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.
When 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.
The 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.