As a centuries-old tradition of hand-making, kantha quilts are beautiful and intricate works of art, with many artistic and symbolic nuances woven within each design. With popularized Bohemian styles growing in the present day, these unique embroidered quilts have become coveted pieces of home décor. But what is a kantha quilt – where does it come from, and what does it tell us about its rich cultural and spiritual heritage? In this article, we’ll take a look into the origins and materials of this enchanting form of textile art, explore the symbolic lore of the kantha quilt, and discover the vibrant types of quilts and their prized applications.
What is a Kantha Quilt?
Kantha quilts are beautiful and intricate pieces of art that have been crafted for hundreds of years in South Asia, particularly in India and Bangladesh. These quilts are measures of artistic expression and skill, often bearing vibrant and detailed designs. Given their dependence on artisanal and craftsmanship, these quilts are exclusive and a true representation of artistic culture within South Asia. In this section, we will explore the origin, materials, symbolism and making techniques behind the classic Kantha quilt.
Origin of the Kantha Quilt
The origin of the kantha quilt is closely tied to Bangladesh and the Bengal region of India, where the quilt’s popularity exploded in the 1600s. It is believed that the tradition of making kantha quilts originated from Buddhist monks from the region. These quilts, originally known as ‘sujni kantha’ were made from old clothes and other repurposed fabrics. The fabrics were stitched together with a hand-sewn running stitch traditionally known as ‘kantha’ or ‘kantha stich’. It’s believed that the kantha quilts were made as a way of passing down stories and beliefs to younger generations.
In West Bengal, it’s said that the tradition of kantha quilts began in the villages of Bishnupur, where they were used as a wrap or a shawl by the women living in these villages. By the late 1800s, the tradition of kantha quilts was established and began to spread across the region. This increased popularity was also due in part to India’s independence movement in the 1940s, when kantha quilts and craft began to gain an important place in the history and culture of the region.
Today, the tradition of kantha quilt making has survived and is widely celebrated across the Bengal region and further abroad. Every piece is unique, reflecting the unique style, stories, and beliefs of its maker. Every kantha quilt carries with it a distinct pattern, color, and history.
Materials Used for the Kantha Quilt
Kantha quilts are made with a variety of materials, all of which have their own important functions within the quilt. The most common materials used in the Kantha quilt are cotton fabrics, thread, batting, and embroidery floss. Each of these materials serves its own purpose in making a strong and lasting quilt.
Cotton fabrics are the primary material used in Kantha quilts. They form the basis of the quilt, providing structure and shape. Often times the fabrics used are pieces of discarded clothing (saris, blouses, and other garment pieces) that are layered together to form the quilt top. The fabrics used should be lightweight and soft, allowing for the quilt to be lightweight and comfortable to use.
Thread is also used to assemble the quilt top. The thread should match the color of the fabric in order to keep the design cohesive. Thread also binds the layered pieces of fabric together, preventing them from slipping apart.
Batting is a thin layer of material that is added beneath the quilt top to add additional insulation and thickness. The batting should be light and fluffy in order to keep the quilt lightweight yet warm.
Embroidery floss is used to create intricate patterns and designs on the quilt top. Embroidery floss comes in a variety of colors, allowing the quilter to create detailed and colorful designs.
Materials Used for the Kantha Quilt:
– Cotton fabrics
– Embroidery floss
Symbolic Significance of the Kantha Quilt
The kantha quilt has come to represent a deeply symbolic and meaningful representation of womanhood in various cultures across the world, including India and Bangladesh. The kantha quilt is made with recycled sari cloth, bringing forth the idea that new life can come out of the discarded. This speaks to the idea of resilience and the strength of women, something that is embedded in the kantha quilt. The quilt has also come to represent an individual’s offering of devotion and love. The quilt is made with an incredible amount of time and effort, something each recipient can look back on.
The kantha quilt has come to represent more than just a quilt, it is about honoring each wearer and creating something that lasts for many years. The quilts are often embroidered with pictures and sayings, explaining the stories or moments being memorialized. For example, a quilt might feature a home or a family member’s image or name in the design. Often these quilts are given as gifts for special occasions and for important events like marriages and birthdays, creating a constant reminder of the love shared in these moments.
Kantha quilts also play a symbolic role in religious ceremonies and events, bringing together cultures and passing down the stories of each quilt. They have been used to decorate and beautify worship areas, buildings and have been used as part of traditional wedding attire, such as the bridal veil used in Hindu weddings. The kantha quilt has also become important as a sign of resilience and strength, embodying the message that old and discarded can be re-stitched into something beautiful and passed down through generations.
Kantha Quilt Making Techniques
Kantha quilts are handmade quilts from India, and their making involves a complex and interesting array of techniques. In order to create a kantha quilt, practitioners use hand stitching, embroidery, reversible patchwork, appliqué and dyeing to create a single, beautiful piece.
One of the most important elements of the kantha quilt is its layers. The process of creating a kantha quilt starts with three pieces of material stitched together, usually cotton saris. Then each of these pieces is cut into smaller strips, which are then reassembled with cotton or silk thread to form the unique patterns of the quilt.
The quilting process itself involves running long, even stitches across the quilt, highlighting the different sections, shapes and colors. This process of stitches makes the kantha quilt particularly durable and suitable for everyday use.
To create a kantha quilt, practitioners need to make use of several different techniques and tools:
• Stencils – Stencils are used to create the unique patterns that appear on kantha quilts. They are made out of cardboard or paper, and they are used to trace intricate patterns onto the fabric with an embroidery needle.
• Embroidery – Embroidery techniques such as kantha stitch, straight stitch and cross stitch are used to create decorative patterns on the quilt fabric. Embroidery thread is needed to create the patterns, and it is usually thinner and more delicate than thread used for other types of stitching.
• Needles – Sewing needles of various sizes and types are required for the different techniques of the kantha quilt-making process. Needles should be selected based on the type of fabric used for the kantha quilt, as well as the type of stitch that is going to be used.
• Thimbles – A thimble is an important tool that is used to push a needle through the thicker parts of the fabric when stitching the quilt. It is also helpful in preventing the needle from slipping away and causing a mess.
• Scissors – Scissors are essential for cutting and trimming the pieces of the quilt fabric. They should have a sharp edge in order to make precise, clean cuts.
Through the careful and intricate use of these techniques and tools, kantha quilt makers are able to produce traditional and modern styles of kantha quilts, which are cherished and appreciated across the world.
Types of Kantha Quilts and Their Uses
Kantha quilts are an incredibly versatile form of decorative and practical design. While their origins lie mostly in India, the love for kantha quilts has spread all the way around the world. The beauty of the kantha quilt lies in its unique patterns, vivid colours and intricate details.
When it comes to the types of kantha quilts, there are countless designs and styles to choose from. Let’s take a look at a few of the more popular ones available and their uses.
1. Traditional Kantha Quilts: A classic style of kantha quilt, these quilts feature hand-stitched motifs, often in the form of intricate floral designs, that create beautiful scenes and evoke a sense of history. Although they are often used in traditional Indian decor, they are also a popular choice to drape over the bed or sofa, adding an air of elegance and charm.
2. Geometric Kantha Quilts: Geometric patterns are popular in modern decor and the same is true for kantha quilts. These quilts feature block shapes, stripes and chevron designs that are perfect for those who want a more contemporary feel. They make for fantastic everyday throws or can even be hung on the wall, adding a bold and eye-catching design element to any space.
3. Repurposed Kantha Quilts: For those who are eco-conscious, repurposed kantha quilts are the perfect option. These quilts are made using re-purposed or vintage fabrics, bringing a unique look to your space. And best of all, they are often handmade, making them perfect pieces of art that help to keep the earth clean.
Kantha quilts are a wonderful way to add a stylish and unpreserved touch to any home. With so many different types of kantha quilts available and their many uses, it’s easy to find the perfect one to suit your style and needs.