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WHAT IS KANTHA?

A MEANINGFUL TEXTILE TRADITION

The word kantha derives from Sanskrit and means patched cloth. Kantha refers to the tradition of reusing old saris to make beautiful home textiles using the kantha stitch, a technique which consists in the straight, even stitching together of layers of sari cloth. 

Kantha is one of the most ancient Indian crafts, and it is a type of embroidery typical of the eastern regions of India (today Bangladesh and the Indian states of West Bengal, Tripura and Odisha). 

For centuries, Bengali women have been using kantha to repurpose old saris into quilts. Traditionally, women hand-stitched kantha quilts for their children, husbands and parents, believing that the bonds of love between the women who wore the saris, and the care with which they stitch layers of them into quilts, protect their loved ones from harm.

 

SUSTAINABLY & ETHICALLY HANDMADE KANTHA QUILTS

Our kantha quilts, large kantha quilts, baby quilts and swaddles blankets are all ethically handmade by the women artisans of Basha, a social enterprise in Dhaka, Bangladesh. 

Basha continues the tradition of upcycling saris to create unique and high-quality textiles and offers the opportunity of a dignified work to women survivors or at risk of trafficking and abuse. 

Each quilt is made with recycled vintage saris, featuring on each side a different fabric. Each kantha is unique and one of a kind, and it takes many hours of meticulous handwork and great ability, from choosing the best combination of patterns and colours to stitching each end together.

Depending on its size and complexity, each blanket can take up to 5-6 days of work to complete. For example, a baby kantha takes approximately 15 hours of hand sewing, a standard kantha throw 23 hours, whereas a king kantha bedspread can take up to 65-70 hours of work.

 

PROCESS

These are the steps Basha artisans follows to make a kantha quilt. It is a long process, and every detail is curated with great attention.

  1. Sourcing and pairing vintage saris - Reclaimed saris are sourced from a wide variety of locations in Bangladesh. Each sari is checked and carefully colour matched with another sari so that they complement and accentuate one another. 
  2. Cutting fabric and basting edges - After saris are washed, the artisan cuts them to the specified size needed. She then stacks six layers of sari cloth on each other. She stretches out the edges on the floor, holding them down with bricks, so they are not loose. At this point, she bastes the saris together ensuring they are straight and even.
  3. Kantha stitching - After having selected threads that contrast the colours of the saris, the artisan begins to meticulously stitch straight even rows of kantha stitch, joining the six layers of saris into a soft quilt.
  4. Details and labelling - Once a quilt is sewn together, the artisan patches any damaged cloth finishes the edges, adjusts stitching and trims any loose thread. She then attaches a label with her name embroidered onto it. Not only does this give her pride and recognition, and it is also a way to create a connection between the artisan and the person who will own the blanket as it is possible to read each artisan's story and send them a note here.
  5. Final washing and quality check -Finally, each kantha is given a final wash and checked one last time for quality purposes.

 

FEATURED VIDEO: MAKING A KANTHA QUILT

I highly recommend you also watch the video below about the making of a kantha quilt, it really worth it.