Friday, March 7, 2014

Inspirational Traditions: Kantha

India has a great and versatile traditions of hand embroidery. Among them the Kashmiri, Gujarati, Phulkari, Chikan, Sindhi, Kasuti and Kantha - to mention only a few. So Kantha, which orginates from Bengal is only one of them.
My cherished kantha bedcover from old silk sarees
Kantha is perhaps the oldest form of Indian embroidery. In Sanskrit the word "kontha" means rags. The thought behind this needlework was to reuse old clothes and materials. There is a myth telling that Buddha and his disciples used old rags patched together with stitches to cover them at night and that this is the where kantha embroidery originates. 
Traditionally women would take several layers of old sarees, stitch them together with simple running stitches and used them as blankets. The yarn was taken from old saree borders, several of the fine threads at the same time, to work stronger, in the visual sense as well. 
Women working on kantha together
Kantha was used for decoration as well.  The design embroidered with simple running stitches, later enriched with the chain stitch can be depicting lush vegetation, woods or animals. One of the most important floral motif is the lotus, which is usually placed in the center of the piece.
The central for is a thousand petalled lotus symbolic for fertility and abundance

Or they are narrative, depicting rural life or folk stories or lately related to the life of the women who made them.



If you would like to know more about the kantha stitches, you have some samples here and watch a short video how kanthas are made in rural India.

Is there any traditional embroidery you've found inspirational? Please share it with us!

6 comments:

  1. Thanks...I liked looking at their work!
    Indian colors are the best!!!

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  2. Great posts. Very informative and causes licking of lips! ;~)

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  3. Thank you for sharing this research and providing the links. Fascinating!

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  4. These are traditional stitchings that I admit I have very small knowledge of. Thanks so much for sharing the history and especially the gorgeous examples. Very interesting!

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  5. I first heard of this embroidery work through Linda kemshall..it's wonderful. Thanks for introducing others to the different embroidery techniques.

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  6. I am really enjoying these posts about traditional stitch. I am of the age where little girls were given boards to lace yarns through to outline a picture. My love of stitch started there and has continued to grow. Learning of different cultures and their embroidery traditions is a joy. Thanks so much for these posts!

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We would love to hear from you and even better have some links to your work!