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
We are excited here at O&M HQ about our upcoming range of beautiful handmade kantha scarves. Made in India from brightly coloured cotton saree cloth, handcrafted with the all-over kantha stitch, they are the perfect unique gift.
For the free-spirit, bohemian, dreamer, gypsy, hippie earth child… The light-weight kantha scarf is made of two layers of 100% cotton saree fabric, stitched together using the beautiful and functional kantha stitch, creating a double-sided 2-in-1 scarf of two varying saree prints. Due to the construction and dimensions, like many kantha products, the kantha scarf is so versatile as it can be used in many different ways:
We have found it to be a great head scarf or head wrap, shawl, sarong, wrap top and even a table runner!
Ah! They are so worldly and wonderful! Stay tuned.
The Kantha Project has just launched its newest Indigo Collection!
This carefully selected range of vintage Indian kantha quilts and throws consists of just six exclusive kanthas in indigo over-dye.
These are not your average indigo kantha –
The indigo dye is dipped or printed over the original cotton saree cloth of the vintage quilt, creating a kaleidoscopic effect of motifs and patterns over existing patterns. The varied blue shades are also unique to the vintage indigo kantha. The methods and materials used to create these whimsical textiles are recycled, contributing to less waste and more re-use, resulting in an eco product.
These wonderfully dreamy quilts, in an assortment of blue shades are a new way to appreciate the kantha quilt movement. Each one is special – a one of a kind piece!
Strengthened by the reinforcement of the running ‘kantha’ stitch, kantha quilts are generally easy to care for. They are made from layers of mostly cotton sarees and are machine-washable.
Follow these guidelines for machine washing:
Use a mild detergent (eco-friendly, cruelty-free work best)
Cycle: delicate/hand wash, normal or blanket setting
Temperature: cold to 30°C (max.)
Wash indigo dye quilts separately
If you happen upon a kantha with particularly delicate stitching or very old frail fabric, it’s recommended to hand wash, to avoid the delicate fabric tearing or threads being pulled. If unsure, always hand wash.
We strongly recommend using an eco-friendly washing powder or liquid, that is also cruelty-free ~ that way you will be supporting natural products that don’t harm you & your family, animals or the environment.
Our specially selected range of vintage kantha quilts and blankets will have you sustaining small artisans in India; contributing to helping people, animals and the environment through re-using vintage instead of purchasing new animal-derived products that put a strain on the earth.
A blissful combination of tartan (plaid) fabrics perfectly complementary, with an abundance of well-placed patches. Extremely tight stitching lends this kantha a uniquely suitable quality for use as a picnic rug.
The wonderful personality of Farrita really shines – and at it’s best outdoors. The Gemini-style split-personality gives you more to work with, whatever the mood! Such a bright and happy quilt:)
This one is very happy outdoors – with it’s not-so-perfect shape, it’s ideal for a grassy knoll, field, garden or park:) Think: complementary colours to the green of the grass, so it really stands out;)
Nicely thick and rustic to the touch, this throw can definitely handle the conditions of a picnic. It’s a little subtle, so as not to distract too much, happily being part of the background and setting the mood for a more sophisticated style…
Nina’s heavy weight, thickness and bright colours lends itself to the picnic atmosphere 100%. Ready to be thrown down on the grass for instant fun, vibrance and definitely the centre of conversation!
Holly would love to be part of your festive Christmas celebrations. Whether she’s used on the table or floor for a Christmas picnic for those of us in the Southern Hemisphere, those colours and prints just yell FESTIVE!! Being a little on the smaller side, you might want to combine her with some of her friends – the more the merrier, right?!
Meadow would also suit the festive season – just look at that print in olive greens, reds and white of this floral quilt cover. However, she’s the nonchalant, chilled type, so whatever goes, really! She’s nice and thick and would love to be close to nature, as her colours do inform… Hence our suggestion for picnicking:)
Vintage, handmade and often containing natural Indian dyes (such as turmeric), kanthas are one of the most eco-friendly, cruelty-free & sustainable quilts available.
Vintage kantha quilts are either; made over 30 years ago; or made recently with vintage fabrics. New kantha quilts are made from new fabric, recently. Here, we are passionate about the vintage kantha throw and in this post we go into detail about the benefits of buying a vintage kantha:)
GOOD FOR THE PLANET
You can call Kanthas The Eco-friendly Quilts due to their composition of recycled & repurposed fabrics as well as their natural dyes. In place of synthetic dyes, India is known for using the spice turmeric as well as other natural dyes to create the wonderful earthy colours that are so abundant in their culture. (For more on turmeric dye, view our post here.) Superior to synthetic dyes which harm the environment with chemical waste run-off, turmeric comes from the earth and is returned to the earth.
The longevity of the quilts themselves and their many uses adds to their positive impact on the planet = less production of new materials and products.
Kantha production sustains small communities. There is a wonderful harmony in how giving new life to old sarees provides a livelihood for the women and artisans who create these stunning textiles. It’s important to support cultural traditions, so that we stay inspired. It’s raw, it’s real and it’s often what we need to remember the important things in our busy technology-crazed society.
GOOD FOR THE PEOPLE
Not only is re-use an environmentally-conscious option, the kantha trade helps support small rural communities and keeps traditional craftsmanship alive.
Historically and culturally, the kantha technique of re-using, repairing and carefully stitching is the beautiful solution to the limited availability of materials. The kantha has it’s beginnings in the home; the passing down of handmade kantha quilts through generations was an age-old tradition; a symbol of family, comfort and togetherness.
Often, kanthas are made by women in Bangladesh and Calcutta’s slums, as well as in rural communities, giving these women the chance to be independent through their earnings.
The Kantha Project seeks out kantha items that are fair-trade – providing work & livelihood for these women, as well as supporting the growth and development of small craft-smiths with fair work agreements.
Cotton is a natural fibre and thus is perfect for someone who is allergy-prone, as there is no synthetic wading, nor does the vintage kantha contain wool, unlike many quilts.
GOOD news FOR ANIMALS
Supporting vintage gives life back to old products thus halting the excess production of new products and materials, ensuring no further animals are harmed. Buying vintage or pre-loved is the best way you can reject the exploitation of animals – because it’s hard to know the exact content and process of any given new product. Therefore, repurposing and re-using is highly regarded for it’s ethical standing.
Kanthas don’t contain any wool products, unlike most quilts. And although silk is a common textile material used in India (and may be present within the kantha layers), we believe that all we can do is improve life for all (big and small) in our time. Since we can’t change the past, we’ll do our best to fix the present and future.
As well as being one of the most sustainable quilts made from layers of cotton saree, because of the Indian embroidery design of the kantha stitch hand embroidery and vintage print textiles, these cotton quilted throws are always one-of-a-kind which makes them that much more special. They have quickly become the favourite hippie Indian tapestry.
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:)
Kanthas (saree embroidered textiles) are incredibly versatile, which makes them ideal for festivals. Have an unforgettable time all day and night outdoors, immersed in nature and music, camping under the stars and generally being wild and free!
Deck out your tent with vintage print kantha cotton blanket throwsfor an instantly homely, bright and happy hippie vibe! Wear your kantha as a cape for a unique festival get-up, or cuddle up under the stars with your bestie. Whatever the use – go with it!
These are our favourite picks for the festival season – a combination of bright, fun, soft, & light-weight, so it’s super easy to bring along, comfortable and just enough colour and a little warmth to get you through the festival season…
Have you taken a kantha throw to a festival? Share your pics with us on Instagram @thekanthaproject
So we’ve covered the most common uses for kantha quilts India – if you haven’t yet read our previous post “Top 5 uses for Kantha quilts” this may be a better introduction.
Thought the wonderful colourful kantha was reserved only for the home? You were oh so wrong! Read below for some awesome uses you probably never thought of – definitely some of our favourites…
Bring that perfect vibe to a relaxed balmy-night Summer tea party! Because there is so much detail in the vintage print of a kantha throw, using it as a tablecloth can really bring this detail forward and in the spotlight! Using a light-medium kantha throw will work best for table tops, allowing the corners to flow nicely off the table.
Most are completely machine-washable and they are probably a better choice over a plain tablecloth, as any spills will be barely visible on the vintage ethnic textiles vibrant patterns and patchwork.
2. CURTAINS OR ROOM DIVIDER
Simply adding curtain clips along any edge of a kantha quilt can instantly turn it into a wonderfully colourful curtain or room divider – with a hippie Indian tapestry vibe. Here at The Kantha Project we like to keep open-minded and let you decide what uses you can get out of our beautiful range of kantha quilts and blankets, leaving them untouched, as-is.
3. car seat cover / throw
Keep a kantha in your car for extra warmth as a blanket, a picnic rug or even to bring personality and colour into your car. Cover the back seat with a colourful kantha, throw a kantha on the front seat and drive!
4. cape / wrap
Chilly night? A little too breezy? Swap your jacket for something a little more fun – a kantha around your shoulders will give much warmth due to the insulation created by the various cotton layers – it’s a poncho-like, cape-y, wearable blanket sort of deal. Plus, vintage ethnic textiles are all the rage.
5. BABY PLAYMAT OR WRAP
Babies love colour! Choose a bright kantha with varied prints and patches and you’ve got yourself a baby-approved playmat that you can lie on your living room floor guaranteed to keep your bubs occupied while you catch up on that midday soapie.
You can also use it as a blanket (folded over twice) or baby wrap!
6. BEACH THROW / COVER-UP
Whether used as a beach throw blanket to sit on, or a cover-up if you just want to chuck something on over your bikini, kanthas are the latest accessory. They provide whatever cover you need on-hand. Aren’t they just awesome?
The thicker, heavier kantha quilts can be used as rugs! Perfect for the teepee or glamping experience, they are a great choice for covering the entire tent floor – easy, fun and pleasant to sit or lie on – pile up some cushions and chill!
8. YOGA MAT
Bored of the usual foam yoga mats – feeling like changing things up a bit? A folded kantha quilt that is fairly light-weight is ideal as an eco friendly yoga mat or yoga blanket. Because it’s layered cotton, it’s more hygienic and a more natural yoga mat than the typical foam yoga mats, and a lot more attractive as well. You can roll it up the same way or have it folded in your bag, and even use it for other things the same day – such as a picnic lunch!
What do you think? Can you think of any other great uses? Comment below or if you have a kantha or two tag us on Instagram @thekanthaproject 🙂
Kanthas are ideal for bedding – as a quilt, coverlet, bedspread, bed throw, blanket… The multiple layers of cotton make for excellent Indian cotton bedding, naturally insulative without the need for any synthetic wadding.
Being vintage, handmade and often made using natural Indian dyes (such as turmeric), they are one of the most eco-friendly, cruelty-free & sustainable quilts available. [More on this here]
We have selected our top picks for bedding below for every mood and every style – considering size, quilt-like qualities & thickness.
In our collection, you’ll find floral quilt cover, cotton quilt bedding, vintage quilt cover and all fair trade kantha quilts.
Lots more available in our shop for both twin and queen bed sizes. To find these easily, search by “twin” or “queen” here.