Inspiration Kantha; creative stitchery and quilting with Asa’s ancient technique.

Hergert, Anna

 Atglen, PN, Schiffer Publishing, 2017 ISBN: 978 0 7643 5357 4 112 pages 

The author introduces herself, explaining her background and how creativity is her ‘life force’. Hmmm. That kind of claim raises my eyebrows but, as books on Kantha are rather rare, I kept reading…and looking.  

 Is Kantha embroidery or is it quilting? I think this is immaterial. To me, it’s a lovely form of needlework and whether it’s one or t’other, or, as I think, both, doesn’t really matter. Kantha originated in the far west and far east of India and is a way of utilising worn clothing and fabric to make something new and lovely. In the affluent west, it would be tagged as re-purposing. However, the author does know her subject and it is interesting reading the back story of this needlework art form. Anna alerts us to the fact that most Kantha is now made for the western market so motifs and stitching have, in effect, been dumbed down – such a shame, but understandable. 

The supplies chapter includes some very western materials, which you can be pretty sure are never used by Indian Kantha makers…rayon and machine quilting threads, for instance. However, the author does seem to prefer Indian turban cotton, as well as other cotton fabrics, to work her designs on. Given that Kantha is basically worked with running stitch, the variety of patterns and textures possible just amaze me. Also surprising is the tip noted by the author that the stitching needs to be smaller than the gaps. The projects include both traditional and contemporary designs, some very colourful, some monochromatic. 

 If meditation is your thing, check out the chapter ‘Kantha as meditation.’ Whether the indigenous makers ever considered it meditative isn’t revealed. In some ways I think this book is more about the author’s take on Kantha and her personal philosophies but it is never the less an interesting read, with some charming, interesting projects. There are so few books on this technique and this one does have its pluses. 

 Erica Marsden