Sunday, December 2, 2012

What is Kantha?

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The first pit stop in my quest for the perfect gift was 'Kantha' -  the art of layering fabrics and hand stitching these together to create a piece of art that can challenge the power of imagination. Kantha stitch is primarily a running stitch on vintage fabrics and the home decor market has recently seen buyers scouting for these finds all across India. Kantha throws labeled as 'Found pieces' were flying off the shelves at Pottery Barn last December. 

Kantha embroidery is the art work of women from West Bengal, India. The stitches can be as intricate or as simple as a straight line and can take days to create a single complete piece of saree, stole or bedspread. 

What I love about handmade art is the story behind it. Kantha - the Sanskrit word kontha means 'rags.' One legend links their origins to Lord Buddha and his disciples, who used to cover themselves with garments made from discarded rags that were patched and sewn together. Rags displayed at Indian shrines or tied to tree limbs symbolize prayers and wards off the evil eye. The oldest extant kantha dates from the early 1800s and is embroidered with blue, black and red threads that were unraveled from sari borders. Because they were salvaged from used garments that had been frequently laundered, the colors tend to be muted.

Kantha has found its way into the contemporary household. The fabrics used aren't necessarily discarded rags and the colors being used are bright and vivacious. 

My top pick is this scarf from Shawls&Quilts. Their products are handmade by rural women of India, using up-cycled cotton and silk sarees and can be 
shipped worldwide. 


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