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Indian Kantha Quilting with Manjari Singh

An Introduction to Indian Kantha Quilting with Manjari Singh | Megan Nielsen Patterns Blog

Hi I’m Manjari from @kanthabymanjari, and I live in Melbourne. I graduated in Fashion Design from India and travelled around the country studying various traditional weaving, printing and embroidery techniques. I studied Fashion Business in Melbourne and after working for over a decade in fast fashion, six years ago I started my own brand of handmade children’s clothing called Bubbles For Poppet. I also run Kantha sewing workshops in Melbourne, where we come together as a community, connecting over slow stitching!

An Introduction to Indian Kantha Quilting with Manjari SinghKantha, a word that brings back memories of snuggling up in a warm cozy jacket, sipping chai, mango pickles, glass bangles, home made papadums and the bazaars full of handicrafts!

Kantha literally means “rags” and that is exactly how this beautiful art which has travelled far and wide now, originated in Bengal, a state in India where beautiful light weight cotton saris are worn even today. Women used to layer old saris and hand sew them using a simple running stitch to make beautiful quilts for winter.

Over the years the art of making quilts became a community project for weddings, every bride had a Kantha quilt in her trousseau made by women in her community. These quilts started becoming more and more ornate, decorated with beautiful patterns and figures depicting stories of the year past or folklore! I sometimes imagine how wonderful it would have been for the women in those days to be able to gather together and sew a quilt, maybe share some stories or songs.

An Introduction to Indian Kantha Quilting with Manjari SinghAn Introduction to Indian Kantha Quilting with Manjari SinghThe Hovea Jacket pattern is a beautiful shape, which accommodates a Kantha style of sewing with ease. I chose to make my jacket using four layers of fabrics, the top fabric for front and back is linen, while the sleeves are made from hand-block printed fabric from another beautiful state of India, Rajasthan.

An Introduction to Indian Kantha Quilting with Manjari SinghAn Introduction to Indian Kantha Quilting with Manjari Singh An Introduction to Indian Kantha Quilting with Manjari Singh The embroidery motifs for Kantha are generally derived from nature, they are mostly floral with simple animal drawings. Kantha embroidery is very free flowing and forgiving as compared to any other embroidery technique. Using just simple running stitch, back stitch and occasionally satin stitch, the idea is to fill up the patterns following the outline from outside to in. I like to draw the pattern freely using a pencil on my fabric, however, the designs can be traced onto the fabric using a carbon paper. I like using all six strands of my cotton embroidery thread to make my embroidery standout. Traditionally the strands of old cotton saris were pulled out to sew the quilts, nowadays a single strand of white cotton sewing thread is used in Kantha.

An Introduction to Indian Kantha Quilting with Manjari SinghThe beauty of Kantha is in the stitching, filling up the layers with closely done stitches creates a puckered effect which gives the quilting appearance. Another way of achieving the puckered effect is to gently pull the running stitches after every few inches. I like using back stitch to outline a small part of the pattern with bold colour and fill the rest with running stitch.

An Introduction to Indian Kantha Quilting with Manjari SinghOnce the motif is embroidered, the rest of the jacket fabric can be covered in stitches in any direction. On the front and sleeves I’ve sewn diagonal stripes, whereas on the back I’ve just moved around the motif in an abstract pattern covering most of the back piece of the jacket.

An Introduction to Indian Kantha Quilting with Manjari SinghMaking my Hovea jacket was the perfect slow stitching project during lockdown in Melbourne. When the world is a bit grey, bright sewing projects add the joy in crafting! I will always treasure my Hovea jacket!

An Introduction to Indian Kantha Quilting with Manjari SinghFollow my journey in slow stitching and slow fashion through my Instagram pages @bubblesforpoppet and @kanthabymanjari. Once we are out of lockdown in Melbourne I’ll be able to start my sewing workshops again and I’ll post more details on my Insta pages, stay tuned.

Thank you for reading and sharing my love for hand sewing!

Manjari xo

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About Author

Living in Melbourne, Manjari originally studied Fashion Design in India and travelled around the country studying traditional weaving, printing and embroidery techniques. After moving to Melbourne where she studied Fashion Business, she opened her own brand, Bubbles For Poppet with beautiful handmade children's clothing. She also runs Kantha sewing workshops in Melbourne, where the community can come together to connect over slow stitching.

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Linda (ACraftyScrivener)
Linda (ACraftyScrivener)
1 year ago

All these posts are so inspiring! Beautiful and I love hearing the history behind the techniques

Anita
Admin
1 year ago

Oh we’re so pleased you’re loving them Linda! It’s been such a learning experience and such a joy for us to work with so many incredibly talented sewers!