Kantha quilts (a type of traditional embroidered patchwork quilt from India) have become popular within interior design communities, home decor retail & home decorators for their effortless ‘bohemian’ look. They are excellent for rustic queen bedding, floral quilt cover, hippie Indian tapestry, beach throw blanket, cotton sofa throw and even kantha cushion covers.
Originating from India and naturally made from upcycled saree cloth, hand-stitched together in sections and mended with patches over time, they are also considered one of the most sustainable quilts.
Kanthas don’t have any wadding, they are made from layers of sarees to create the thickness and texture. They can be quite insulative because of this construction.
These brightly coloured, incredibly versatile cotton quilted throws originate from generations of Indian mothers and daughters passing them down within the family. These true bohemians, are the originators of this method of re-use and repurposing.
The dreamy patchwork of kantha quilts may seem like a bohemian aesthetic, but actually the kantha technique has been used in India as a method for re-use and recycling old fabrics and clothes. Indians never waste anything – everything can be re-made into another item by repurposing and reviving materials. In the case of the kantha, layers upon layers of cotton are stitched together, creating a wonderful array of colour and texture. The patchwork of these fabrics make unique quilts – no two are ever the same. With a simple running stitch over the entire surface of the quilt or throw, the fabrics are quilted together in a simple but ingenious method, requiring only hand-work. The patchwork usually consists of cotton sarees, sometimes silk sarees, or a combination of both, as well as other fabric scraps. Large or small pieces are stitched together with incredible contrasts of colour and pattern.
Once the pieces of fabric have been laid down, the next step is to cover up any fabric imperfections – due to their recycled nature, any marks and holes are patched up with small pieces of fabrics mostly to revive, but also add character and charm to the finished quilt. Because of the vast array of textile materials produced in India, including various dye methods, block print fabrics and traditional sarees, there is a great amount of scrap fabrics.
Look out for our exciting new collection of handmade individual patches – that are handmade in Australia, ready for stitching onto jeans, jackets & bags – reviving all your favourite clothes!
To view our range of beautiful vintage Indian kantha quilts and throws and other kantha items, handmade in India and Australia, visit The Kantha Project shop
A beautiful mid-weight queen-size handmade patchwork quilt in homely 50s vintage florals ofsubtle colours, coloured threads and a multitude of colourful patches. One of our most patchy quilts, this Indian cotton bedspread is perfect for the bed as a bedspread and bed cover.
For other Indian kantha quilts, floral queen bedding, hippie Indian tapestry and decorative throw blankets head over to our shop!
Since Indian kantha quilts can be rather varied in their qualities, I thought it be helpful to go through the different types (oh that’s right, there isn’t just one) to get you familiar with and determine best use and suitability. Whether you’re in the market or just fascinated by the beautiful craft, this may be something you have not considered, so read right on…
The unique double-sided construction and ripple effect of the kantha stitch hand embroidery is probably the most obvious sign you are looking at a kantha. However, you may or may not have noticed that some kanthas are very textured whereas others simply have the running stitch covering the whole surface of the quilt without much tactile quality. This comes down to how it has been made.
Let’s start with the standard kantha technique of the running stitch which is entirely handcrafted. Every kantha is made up of this technique, the variations in this stitching however, can be quite diverse.
The raw kantha quilt’s stitching is usually fairly large and far-spaced, contributing to their looser construction. Usually the quilt will consist of between two to three layers, making it a softer, lighter blanket or throw.
The raw finish of the edges may have unfinished lengths of threads, so if you prefer a neater finish, the light-weight kantha is your next best thing. If you’re new to kantha and would like a more affordable option, the wonderful array of colours and prints will have you fall in love instantly!
Next to raw, we have better quality kantha throws that have smaller stitching and a neater construction. These are still in the lighter range and can really be quite beautiful – they pack up quite small and can be taken on a picnic easily.
This is where kantha really starts to shine! This is because the extra layers of cloth create a very tactile ripple effect unique to the kantha. The stitching is often tighter in the medium-weight quilts making them perfect as just that, quilts.
heavy & extra-heavy
One of the most breath-taking types of kantha, the heavy-weight of these quilts lends themselves perfectly for home use. As a very warm and insulative bedding – quilt/bedspread/bed cover/coverlet/duvet is probably the most popular use, but can also be given purpose as a throw for the couch or even a rug in your teepee or bell tent! Other potential uses include a picnic rug (but save this for when you’re driving there and back as these ones are a bit heavy to carry around), and perhaps another great use is for the back seat of your car, so you can keep it there until that picnic opportunity arises:)
Up to six or seven layers of saree cloth are used to create these wonderful texture-rich kantha quilts, giving them the strength and durability to last forever. The stitching is extra-tight – meaning the fabric is pulled (not flattened) when creating the tapestry. When you consider they are made 100% by hand, it’s hard not to appreciate this incredible craftsmanship – the perseverance, time and energy that goes into each stitch! [Personal experience making my own kantha quilts corroborates this – 1.5 quilts in total – the .5 is waiting to be completed… it’s a very time-consuming task!]
With these you really get a quality quilt. Just look at the detail in the example below.
It’s not just the extra weight and tight and close stitching that makes this category highly sought-after, they have extra detail and embellishment that truly makes them special. Often utilising special stitching techniques, a multitude of various coloured threads and if you’re lucky – some fabric disintegration which really has a wonderful effect on the surface showing through the inner layers! There is truly nothing else like it.
These kanthas are quite rare – having been refreshed with post-production printing or a dyeing process.
Indigo Over-dye is one of the common colours used for over-dying of kantha throws. An indigo dye bath is made and the already finished throws are completed immersed in the dye. This results in an all-over blue quilt with the original colours and prints coming through. Other colours are also known to be used.
Coming to store soon ~ is our very own Indigo Collection – six indigo over-dye kanthas, specially selected for our range!
Tie-dye was an iconic feature of the 70s, but did you know you can also find kanthas that have been tie-dyed in a rainbow of colour? Whether they are genuine 70s relics or a more recent innovation to the kantha family – the process involves dyeing a completed kantha in a brighter array of colours using the tie-dye method. We are hoping to acquire some of these gems in our store – so keep your eyes peeled!
Post-printed using the block printing technique after the kantha has been stitched together is a rarity. These are often older kanthas also refreshed using an overlaid design coating any pre-existing patches and textile prints. Check out this rare and unique kantha below – one of it’s kind in our store!
Please do have a peruse through my shop here. I stock all kantha types, if you’d like to enquire about a specific item please contact me through Etsy. Please feel free to leave general comments below:)