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.
Looking back at some photos from last Christmas, I came across this screenshot from my phone that really made me laugh:
My husband was dropping off our parcels recently, and a woman working in our shipper's office said, "I was looking at your site, and I think I might buy some of these blankets this year as gifts; I'm mostly shopping online." Another employee chimed in, "I'm going to do all of my shopping online, too."
That evening, he went with our kids to the mall to pick something up (masked, natch), and as he surveyed the hallways — with some permanently closed stores, some shuttered from lack of employees, etc. — Wayne's thought was, "I think I need to do all my shopping at the mall!"
Recently, dignify received a review on our blankets that addressed the variety of our styles (color/pattern), and the contrast/matching choices that go into our kantha. Let's take a glimpse behind-the-scenes at the number of factors that contribute to these decisions.
How do we choose the fabric? How do we match saris to create the kantha blankets? Why are some combinations bad? Why aren’t there more grey/buttery yellow/navy blue color combos?
I know that many of you have wondered about these questions from time to time, too!