Why I love kantha

Kantha (meaning rag or patched cloth) refers to both the tradition of making blankets from old cloth, as well as the small, straight running stitch of Bengali embroidery. 

For centuries, rural women of the Bengal region (now the eastern states of India and Bangladesh) have repurposed cotton saris to create blankets for their loved ones.

This time-honoured tradition of reusing old clothing and fabric scraps, stitching them together in patches and layers, finds a place in many cultures (think Japanese boro, for one). Needs must!

The kantha quilt is a celebration of creativity as well as an expression of love and sheer practicality ie the need to keep the family warm! Typically using brightly coloured and patterned saris, with a unique print on either side, the reversible quilts are known as kantha dorokha (literally, two faced).

Layers of sari pieces (usually 5-7) are bound together, and patched where required, with close lines of simple running (kantha) stitch. These upcycled throws are not precious pieces, but sturdy and hard-wearing, requiring very little care – their quality is a testament to the artisan process.

In the finest examples, kantha stitching is raised to an art form, with elaborate motifs and designs providing a form of self-expression in quilts that may have taken generations to complete. If you are in Delhi, I’d highly recommend a visit to the Crafts Museum where there are some spectacular examples.

I love the sari (kantha dorokha) quilts for their simplicity, honesty and beautiful imperfections, as well as their colour. I love the connection they offer to women’s hands and stories, and their link to a rich textile tradition.

And I love how they add beautiful texture, a unique pop of colour and (especially!) individuality to your décor – as a throw draped over your sofa or the end of your bed, or made in to a cushion cover (or tote!).

Each piece holds the stories of its past, no two are alike.

I’ve personally sourced and carefully chosen all of the vintage kantha quilts (and those made in to cushion covers) in our collection from suppliers around India. I am drawn by their colour, the quality of stitching and the beauty of the little patches. I must admit, I find it a little difficult to part with them, but am so happy to share these unique pieces with you.