A model in an outfit by Virtues by Viral, Ashish and Vikrant at AIFW Autumn Winter 2016
Have you ever seen a Kantha sari or dupatta? It typically has scenes of everyday life or flora and fauna stitched on it. The traditional form of this fascinating embroidery was done on soft dhotis and saris, with a simple running stitch along the edges. Depending on the use of the finished product, they were known as Lepkantha or Sujni Kantha.
A Stitched Painting
The embroidered cloth has many uses including women's shawls and covers for mirrors, boxes, and pillows. In rare and exquisite cases, the entire cloth is covered with running stitches, employing beautiful motifs of flowers, animals, birds and geometrical shapes, as well as themes from everyday activities.
The stitching on the cloth gives it a slightly wrinkled and wavy effect. Kantha embroidery has undergone a reinvention in the recent past, with revivalists wanting to use the embroidery in more modern forms, used in different fabrics, and even in different designs. In fact, contemporary Kantha is applied to a wider range of garments such as saris, dupattas, shirts for men and women, bedding and other furnishing fabrics.
Where it all Began
The association of the word Kantha, which basically means ‘throat’, is associated with Lord Shiva. The old tale revolves around how Lord Shiva consumed poison while stirring up the ocean, and therefore the significance of this word goes all the way back to the Vedic times. This type of stitch is basically the ‘running’ stitch, and is very simple. Kantha is perhaps the oldest forms of Indian embroidery as it can be traced back to the first and second A.D. The myth surrounding this type of embroidery points out that Lord Buddha and his disciples used old rags with different kinds of patch work to cover themselves at night, and this gave the Kantha embroidery its origin.
Making Kantha Cool
The thought behind this needlework was to reuse old clothes and materials and turn them into something new. Designers such as Doodlage have used it in their Summer Resort collection wherein they’ve up-cycled a sari that was industrial waste and turning into a piece of art by employing Kantha embroidery all over it. The Kantha stitch has become a much revered form of art that was dying, but has been well-revived with the use of new techniques, colours and motifs. Not just in India, but the demand for it has shot up even in Japan. Especially when they’re used as patch work – the global market uses it to add glamour to their outfits.