What is Kantha?

The word kantha itself derives from the Sanskrit for ‘rags’ or in simple terms ‘patched cloth’, a reminder of the humble material from which each kantha is made.  The correct pronunciation is “KAHN-taa” opposed to the westernised incorrect pronunciation ‘cantha’.

Traditionally Kantha stitch was used when stacking old saris onto each other and then hand stitching them together using a simple running stitch, this resulted in a thin cushioned layer. Traditionally Bengali women layered together old clothing with the simple kantha (running stitch) style stitching. This was to make a bedspread or bed cushion, repurposing the old into something useful.

Where does Kantha originate from?

Kantha stitch dates back to being one of the oldest forms of Indian embroidery. The kantha technique was first mentioned in a book by Kaviraj over 500 years ago. The form of sewing is indigenous to West Bengal and Bangladesh. These areas have for generations been known for the export of high quality silks and cottons and continues to this day to be the primary form of textiles in the regions. 

For centuries, women in West Bengal and Bangladesh have created kantha cloths of different sizes and used, a skill that would be passed down the family from generation to generation. Ceremonial kanthas would be beautifully elaborately embroidered, with embroidery of animals, flowers and birds, usually depicting scenes of everyday life. Sometimes, up to three generations could be working on a kantha cloth together at one time, individually stitching in motifs to represent desires and dreams! 

Meet some of the artisan women who have created our beautiful kantha stitch scarfs, tote bags and baby blankets. You can match the symbol with the maker on your vintage scarf and baby blanket. Depending on the size it can take up to three days to make each item. A huge amount of pride is taken in incredible craft and talent, passed down the generations. 

kantha stitch

Modern day fashion upcycling 

Whilst the history of kantha is drenched in tradition the modern day values of kantha can be just as important. The idea of upcycling and recycling garments and fashion has never been so important.  10,000 items of clothing being sent to landfill every five minutes, that is the equivalent to £140 million in value every year. This statistic is pretty terrifying…..how can this be sustainable and not have the most awful consequences on our planet. 


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