A quick weekend getaway to Jaipur tops one of my ‘favourite-things-to-do’ list, and I managed to sneak that in last weekend! While waiting to check-in (the hotel was busy), I began flipping through the pages of an old magazine. Little did I know that my general knowledge would be given a fillip, and I would learn something that I wouldn’t be able to resist sharing – it was about ‘Kantha’ and how it has captured the imagination of the world! A New York based designer, Mieko Mintz’s work follows the Kantha tradition and the west is embracing her designs and this craft form. Her designs are made into Kantha throws in West Bengal and then are cut and tailored to form contemporary jackets. Here’s a glimpse of some of her work:
So, what goes into making a beautiful Kantha? Good quality muslin and cotton – recycled, layered and stitched together. The usage of the Kantha determines the number of layers that would be made. Quilts, typically use 5-6 layers and are referred to as ‘lep-kanthas’ whereas the ones created as counterpanes are called ‘sujani-kantha’. A large number of stitches are used, like the Tara Chutki, Dhew, Mura, and Laathi. A beautiful store called Katna’s Kantha in Hauz Khas Village, New Delhi showcases the intricate work of artisans who create timeless pieces. Read more about the making of a Kantha and the embroidery motifs on their website.
On a different note, most of us have heard of ‘Kantha‘ or ‘Kaatha’ but did you know of its similarity to the Japanese technique called ‘Sashiko’? In addition to the ‘running stitch’, both the styles were used to beautify and strengthen/ reinforce used cloth by villagers who couldn’t afford new clothing. If you like to embroider, try Sashiko – it is very calming and meditative!
With the equinox on the 23rd, autumn is finally here, and while it may seem pretty warm as of now, very soon a drape or a jacket would be needed to make us feel warm and comfortable. While we appreciate the West embracing Kantha, India has some extremely talented artisans and designers creating magic one stitch at a time using this multifarious craft form.
We had written about gorgeous Kantha jackets by Kinche in one of our earlier posts. I love the idea of associating the name of a strong woman with a particular style of jacket! I promise you would want to own more than a couple of pieces from Kinche!
Another gorgeous collection of Kantha jackets can be found at ‘The Stitching Project‘- a Pushkar based social enterprise that ensures fair wages for its workers. Run passionately by Fiona Wright and Kanhaiya Lal, this enterprise ensure all people they deal with are fairly re-numerated for their work with an endeavour to create “as much work as we can for as many hands as possible”.
Sasha Fair Trade and Tia Pakhi, both Kolkata based enterprises work extensively with Kantha and create fine fashion and home decor pieces. You can find a permanent stall of Sasha at Dastkar’s Gali-e-khas – go shop there! While I didn’t find jackets in my last visit, the Kantha jackets that they had were one of the most beautiful crafted pieces ever!
Anuradha Ramam, the ace designer who reinterpreted Ikat has a beautiful collection of Kantha jackets too.
Without further ado, here’s a peek into the lovely collection of Kantha jackets we have put together for you…
The names to keep in mind if you are looking for stunning jackets:
The versatile Kantha subtly embellishes silk or muslin cloth and creates timeless pieces for us to adorn and appreciate. The simple ‘running stitch’ in Kantha has always reminded me of the fact that simple, humble steps have the capability to create something larger than life, something unimaginable. Traditionally, wearing the Kantha was meant to protect the wearer from harm and bring happiness and prosperity. I wish you the same…go get yourself the gorgeous Kantha jacket and have a stylish autumn.