For centuries, women in West Bengal and Bangladesh created kantha cloths of varying sizes to use in the home, a skill that would be passed down the family from generation to generation. The functional quilts were used to keep the family warm as bedcovers, for mats to pray on and to wrap precious items in the home such as books.
Ceremonial kanthas would be elaborately embroidered, with motifs of animals, flowers and birds, depicting scenes of everyday life. Sometimes, three generations would work on a kantha together at one time, stitching in motifs to represent desires and dreams.
The notion of using old and worn fabrics to create the cloths was not only a resourceful approach, it carried a sentimental value too. In Bangladesh, using old cloth is believed to keep one from harm.
Kantha’s in the home were precious objects to the family, and were stitched for loved ones as gifts of thanks and blessings. Women developed their own individual stitches, almost like a signature, as a unique form of expression, and a sense of individuality and creativity. With designs ranging from geometric to highly decorative, no two kanthas are ever alike, with each recalling the very hand of their maker.