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Sarees As Good As New From Kantha Embroidery Work

Author: shiva

Kantha Work is essentially embroidery work done on old sarees, dhotis and other apparel. Popular and practised in Bengal, especially in Bholpur, and Bihar, it is a running stitch on the sarees in the form of motifs such as animals, birds, flowers, simple geometrical shapes and scenes from everyday life.


Kantha originated from the way in which Bengali women mended their old clothes from a strand of thread from the colorful border of their saris and made designs with them.


Any work in which kantha embroidery is done is sometimes referred to as a kantha. A craft of skill widely practised by women in rural Bengal, it knows no boundaries of class or status. Be it a woman in a small village or a rich landlady, both devote their skills and talents to use Kantha for their clothing, either out of need or just out of interest.   


It gives the saree a wrinkled and wavy look and transforms old clothes into extraordinarily new creations. Other forms of stitch such as darning stitch, satin stitch and loop stitch are also used.   

Kantha stitching is also employed in the making of quilts, known as Nakshi Kantha. Women use old saris and other cloth, layering them with the kantha stitch to make small blankets and bedspreads, for children.


Kantha was a traditional art born out of need and later developed as a skill extraordinary. But it was never sought nor thought to gain commercially from it. It was in the 80\'s that a need was felt by an NGO Sasha to see this extraordinary skill get its rightly due. A lot of exhibitions were held and training classes conducted for willing learners enamoured by this extraordinary skill and in due course the world got the first glimpses of this unique art. Further it was explored for commercial transactions wherein the women would fulfil orders taken by traders and get paid for it.   

In today\'s times , it is economic activity for rural women to supplement the meagre income of their households. Many do a lot of kantha work for traders in Kolkata.The price of kantha embroidered sarees depends on the cost of the fabric and the patterns used to decorate them.  Borders and Pallus of Sarees especially are well-adorned by exquisite Kantha work.


Kantha embellishes a wide range of garments such as sarees, dupattas, shirts, bedding and a variety of other fabrics in cotton and silk. Old saris and dhotis are transformed by kantha work to serve as gifts for beloved ones.


Based on the use of the fabric, Kantha is divided into seven different types.

Lep kantha – done on warm covering material over which simple designs would be executed.

Sujani kantha – done on cloths used for ceremonial occasions

Baiton kantha -  done on book coverings and coverings for other valuable objects

Oaar kantha – decorating pillow covers

Archilata kantha – done for  covers or mirrors and other toilet accessories.

Durjani/thalia kantha – kantha on small rectangles with borders folding to form a wallet.

Rumal kantha – cloth used as wipes or plate coverings


In a village called Katna, Kantha is a way of life; a tradition that is still followed meticulously. kanthas are prepared for small babies to lie on, wedding kanthas are made by mothers and gifted to their daugthers and kantha is present on the ceremonial cloth meant for funeral rites.  


Kantha embroidery has found its way into current fashion yielding awesome saree creations

The Mercerized Pashmina Cotton Saree decorated by kantha thread work looks classy. It would aptly suit as daily casual wear, for school and college as well as office.

The artistically designed pure silk sari with a lot of  kantha work and which depicts Indian folk art designs on pallu and borders is graceful. This latest fancy wear is a refreshing change for evening parties and cultural programs.

The Lustrous Tussar Silk Saree done up with exquisite kantha work and kundans is wonderful wear for wedding and bridal occasions.

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About the Author

Shiva is associated with Unnati Silks in a professional capacity and contributes regularly on ethnic fabrics. You may contact on 040-64555251 or 97000 57744.

Unnati Silks has trendy designs, attractive patterns, in vivid colours and pleasing combinations in its large collection of 300 plus varieties of ethnic Sarees and Salwar Kameez.