I recently attended the second session of Level 2 Hand and Machine Embroidery at the Gail Harker Creative Studies Center in La Conner, WA. If you are anywhere in the area, I highly recommend that you take a look at their classes. They have just moved into a new location and the barn studio is amazing. For this session, we concentrated on Kantha embroidery. It was developed in Eastern India and primarily uses running stitch to develop pattern, texture and line. The first set of photos are all from the collection of Penny Peters, who kindly let us study them, take photos and get up close and personal to these beautiful saris.
I particularly liked this pattern and the sheer number of stitches is amazing. These saris are approximately 3′ x 7′ and completely covered with running stitch.
We spent the first portion of the class studying and sketching from Penny’s collection into our sketchbooks.
Many of the designs featured birds or other animals.
In between all the dark-colored threads and stitching, this one had white background stitching. When viewed up close, this really gave life and movement to the piece.
You can see the background stitching here. Isn’t that a cool fish?
I loved all the variety of motifs in this sari. The background fabric is usually a solid colored silk and all of the patterning is done with Kantha or running stitch. Originally, none of these type of embroideries were meant for sale and were considered personal wealth. Each of the young girls would begin stitching at the age of 4-5 and being working on their dowries soon after that. I’m sure I would be a very old woman before I got married as each woman had to have multiple pieces of clothing, bags, table linens etc. embroidered before they married.
After we studied the various saris, we then began to try out Kantha samplers. This one was done on one piece of cotton muslin and held in the hand not a hoop. It is harder than it looks trying to get your stitches even and lined up appropriately. This sample took me about 4 hours.
This sample shows a variety of ways that you can fill a square. The one where the stitches go in a diagonal manner is called bending stitch and it is quite challenging.
This last sample is Kantha stitching in a circle. After the two above which were so regimented, this one was easy. Stitching in a circle without having to line up the stitches was very freeing. The texture of the piece can be changed depending on how tightly the threads are pulled.
We then developed our own Kantha design and tried our various ways of filling our design with stitches, what the colors were to be etc. I am still working on this project and I’m about ready to start stitching my little bird.
I now have a new appreciation for Kantha. I knew very little about it before the class. It is wonderful the number of designs that can be made with a simple running stitch. I’d love to see other Kantha examples, so if you’ve done some, please give us a link to see what you’ve made.