Bengali kantha fabrics
Kantha is a type of embroidery stitching typical of rural Bengal. Village women recycle old saris to make quilts, shawls and cushions in which several layers of fabric may be layered up and patched, combined to create a new item - what we would today call upcycling.
The wonder of Kantha Quilts is the variety and extraordinary beauty of the fabrics.
This quilt has a wonderful art nouveau fabric with elegant leaves and flowers in a soft rust and charcoal print.
Kantha is the running stitch that holds the different layers of fabric together or acts as a decorative stitching pattern overlaying the patterned fabric.
The reverse side is usually a different pattern which gives you two quilts in one like this example below where the Kantha stitching also creates its own pattern of squares. One side is a strong floral print with red and turquoise flowers and leaves on a black background, the reverse is a fifties style leaf design in lime and pink on a black background.
Kantha quilts are some of the most popular items in our store and I'm always delighted to hear people exclaiming how amazing they are, calling to their friends to "come and look at this one". Often a bright pattern on one side is matched with a quieter design and colour palette on the reverse giving you two designs that may match the different seasons - like on the Lilac and Pink quilt below.
Patching and repairing is a feature of up cycling these beautiful fabrics and making them into completely unique works of art - works of art that make wonderful throws for a sofa, colourful panels to hang over a balcony or on the wall, as well as great bed covers. They've been washed many times and have a gentle soft feel of old cotton.
These quilts have all had a life, that's the wonder of them.
How old are they? Generally between 20 and 60 years, different fabrics in a Kantha may be different ages. Several layers of fabric are bound together by the stitching, sometimes you can see traces of the fabric underneath and sometimes the top layer is partly worn away to reveal the fabric underneath.
Some of the oldest Kanthas may be a hundred years old, they're usually white with many patches and tight wavy stitching - and the very finest may sell for over £1000!