Kantha Embroidery : The Wonderful Running Stich

The Kantha Embroidery is the most popular form of embroidery practised by the rural women of West Bengal. Kontha or kantha is a saskrit word which means `rags`. Basically it is a recycling art. The precious cloths when became worn-out were not thrown away. The women piled them in layers and stitched them. There was another tale associated with the origin of the embroidery. It states that kantha origin to lord Buddha and his disciples. It is said that they used to cover themselves with the thrown away rags patched and stitched together.

The traditional form of Kantha embroidery was done on the sarees and soft dhotis. The thread for this craft was drawn out of the borders of these used garments. Traditionally the discarded sarees were piled on top of one another and quilted. The kantha embroidery is a simple running stitch made on the edges. The design is first traced, then covered over with running stitches. Although the stitch is simple running stitch, there is some unique patterns that make the stitch extraordinary. The cloth was given layers that were kept together by the stitches. The cloth had multiple uses. It could be used to sleep on or as a light blanket. Kantha for the Bengali folk means embroidered quilt.

Limitless Designs of Kantha Embroidery
The entire cloth is covered with running stitches and has beautiful folk motifs, floral motifs, animal and birds figures, images of Gods, and geometrical shapes. Themes from day to day activities are also taken into consideration. Some of the popular varietues are as follows:

  • Archilata kantha: They are used in small, covers for mirrors or toilet accessories with wide, colorful borders.
  • Baiton kantha: They are square wraps with elaborate borders used for covering books and other valuables.
  • Durjani/thalia: They are quilted wallets made out of rectangular kantha pieces.
  • Lep kantha: They are rectangular wraps heavily padded to make warm quilts. The whole piece is stitched in a wavy pattern. Simple embroidery is done on the finished quilt.
  • Oaar kantha: The stithc is done on pillow covers in simple designs. A decorative border is sewn afterwards.
  • Sujani kantha: They are decorative quilted kantha used as blankets or spreads during religious rituals or other occasions.
  • Rumal kantha: They are used as absorbent wipes or plate coverings. They also feature a central lotus with ornamented borders.

Modern usage
The contemporary Kantha is not necessarily done on old multiple layered saris or dhotis. It can also be seen on modern day garments like the sarees, dupatta, shirts, bedding and other furnishing fabrics. For these fabrics and dresses the base fabric used is cotton and silk. For rural women, ”Kantha” is a blessing. Earlier they made ”Kantha” during their free hours in the afternoons, but now, they are getting paid money for their work.

Kantha Embroidery Image Gallery
Kantha Embroidered Dress

Kantha Home Furnishings

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