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Kantha stitch embroidery

Learn this sewing technique to up-cycle your textiles

Orissa Textile Art

Orissa is a must go destination if you share a love for textiles. It’s home to many unique textile techniques with fabrics being produced all over the state. It is mostly famous for silk ikat weaves through the process of Bandha creating unusual patterns and vibrant colours keeping it in popular demand all over the world today. It’s fabrics are also rich in kantha stitch embroidery, a wonderful technique to embellish any of your old fabrics to create beautiful textile design projects.Kan

Kantha embroidery

One of the sensational stitching techniques seen in Orissa is Kantha embroidery. It is one of the most important textile arts in Eastern India. Like most traditional textile techniques, it is both a fine art and a household craft, and a form of personal expression for the artist.

Origins of Kantha stitch embroidery

Kantha embroidery began 500 centuries ago in West Bengal and Orissa as a method of reusing and recycling dhotis, sarees and other pieces of clothing Bengalis were reluctant to throw away. It was a means of creating useful household items from used fine quality muslin and cotton saris. Yarn salvaged from worn clothing was used to embroider large repeating motifs and designs across whole pieces of fabric. This is a wonderful process to transform your textiles receiving world wide demand. Even Hillary Clinton feel in love with the exquisite displays of Kantha embroidery.

What is Kantha embroidery?

Kantha embroidery is unique because of its extensive use of the running stitch (which is called ‘kantha’ locally). This is one of the basic hand stitching techniques suitable for beginners, threading the needle up from the back and then down again. Usually the stitch under the fabric should be shorter than the one above leading to the distinctive wavy wrinkled look to the fabric. Remember the closer and tighter the stitches, the stiffer the fabric will feel compared to the stitching being further apart.

Traditional Kantha embroidery involves running stitches across the whole fabric design normally in a single colour but there are various standard styles for stitching this. This is classified broadly into two categories aligned (JOD), not aligned (BEJOD). Butti is usually denotes a small motif placed throughout the fabric.

How to apply the Kantha stitch to your craft projects

This delightful stitch can be applied to all light and medium weight fabrics although cotton and silk are best suited for this embroidery. Colouricious first bock print the fabric to create a stunning base to stitch across. You can also block print the specific motifs and design ot act as a template to trace with your stitch and acts as an fabulous embellishment. There are many different applications for Kantha. These can be categorised into a few of the below:

Lep Kantha – generation of warm and heavily padded quilts using kantha stitch.

Sujani Kantha – creating blankets or spreads for ceremonial occasions.

Baiton Kantha – using square fabric pieces stitched to produce coverings for valuable objects or as wraps for books

Oar kantha – to develop pillow covers

Archilata Kantha is used for covering mirrors

Durjani Kantha is small pieces of fabric inside of a wallet

Rumal Kantha which is used to cover plates

Try Kantha stitch yourself!

There are so many ways to wonderfully apply this technique to create your gorgeous textile art. Just be creative as you don’t have to worry about going wrong as this embroidery is adaptable. One of its great attributes is you can keep this project going for months, not having to worry about keeping to a pattern. It is a great way of repurposing any old fabrics you have laying about along with block printing. Hand or machine washing would be adequate to maintain the longevity of the fabric and embroidery.

Colouricious Holidays

Kantha-stitch-embroidery-sewing-techniquesYou will witness the women in India hand sew and embellish beautiful fabric pieces used as Kantha sprees and Kantha quilts. You will enjoy the company of like-minded people enjoying a creative and inspiring textile holiday learning about different hand printing and sewing techniques that you will then explore yourselves. Visit to find out what amazing adventure you could be on next!

Learn, create, be happy!


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Colouricious Holidays ATOL Logo