With so many blankets that we refer to as “kantha throws”, "kantha spreads", "kantha quilts", or "kantha blankets", you might simply wonder, what is kantha?
Kantha (meaning: “patched cloth”) refers to both the tradition of producing these unique, quilted blankets (making something useful and beautiful out of discarded items), as well as the craft and stitch itself (a small, straight running stitch in Bengali embroidery).
The tradition of kantha was borne out of the same things that are now trendy, clever, and fun among crafters, hipsters, and vintage-lovers in the West: repurposing the old into new, using something with history, handmade creations, layering beauty…
But, kantha’s origins are more humble than our pinterest-inspired hobbies. For centuries, poor Bengali women have taken their discarded cloth scraps and sewn them together with a simple running stitch; taking the old and repurposing it into something useful and protective. Far from trend-setting, or even artfulness, kantha was created originally for the most basic and practical purpose: to keep warm.
There is a richness to the tradition as well, used as a means of self-expression for both rural and urban women. Kantha were stitched for loved ones, with more elaborate kantha embroidery to incorporate storytelling and well-wishes to the recipient.
Centuries have passed, and in recent years, the unique beauty and skilled craftsmanship of kantha has been discovered here in Canada and the USA. Our blankets still keep you warm, and showcase the best there is to the craft: 6 feet of the classic kantha stitch, straight and perfect, running parallel lines (every inch or less) across the entire width of the blanket. Complementary toned thread adds depth of colour and beauty.
Our kantha quilts are not actually made of rags, but are indeed fashioned from cloth that has been discarded and is ready for new life. Cotton saris have been traded on doorsteps for cooking pots & spoons, then sold at large sari markets; our "special" silk-blend blankets are made from silk-blend cloth discarded by the producers for flaws, colour variation, out-dated patterns, or as remnants. All the cloth that makes kantha blankets sold at dignify is sourced in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
What is happening with dignify?
How are the women in Bangladesh doing?
What impact has the coronavirus pandemic had on what you're doing?
These are all questions I have received over the last two months, so here are some updates.
It's too early to know, or comment on, the economic fallout from COVID-19.
Part of what I have personally found overwhelming is the cacophony of varied economic experiences:
Many people are jobless, have had income interrupted, or lost big in the market; others are flush with cash that they would have otherwise spent on restaurants, gym memberships, commuting, and travel. Some businesses and restaurants are shuttered or declaring bankruptcy; while trampolines, puzzles, & Peletons are back-ordered and meal-prep services can't keep up.
One truth that is indisputable: the economy local to our area is immensely valuable.
When the novel coronavirus COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, shopping habits changed dramatically and immediately.
One of the headlines that made me cringe was something like “Amazon hires 100,000 new employees”. As many of my local businesses were closing for a week (and then, indefinitely), it grieved me that Amazon — the business with already so much of the market share, so much in the bank, the richest man in the world in charge, and which would surely fire everyone as soon as they weren't needed — would grow even more.
But, I also didn’t begrudge anyone from shopping there, either! Where do you buy educational workbooks or board games and the odds & ends you need when you are suddenly housebound?!