Bengal’s Kantha Stitch Hand Embroidery and its Legacy

Kantha Stitch Embroidery by the word co-relates to the well-known embroidery of West Bengal and Bangladesh. Kantha embroidery is majorly done in the Birbhum district of West Bengal. Birbhum is located 210 km to the northwest of Kolkata. This place is well connected by roadways and railways from the state capital.

Kantha embroidery was traditionally done using old soft dhotis and sarees which are stacked together and bound by the running stitches along the edges. Done by the rural population it is also the major employment generating source for the less privileged ones.

Nowadays this embroidery is done as surface ornamenting on the sarees, stoles, dupattas, bedsheets, and cushion cover, etc. A single saree takes anywhere from a month to 3 months depending upon the amount of work in it. Usually, the work is distributed to the woman and man in the rural areas at their home. Women after doing their household chores take out the extra time to do the Kantha stitch embroidery work on the product.

Since the amount of labor and time involved to do Kantha embroidery is much. It is majorly done on pure silk for eg, tussar silk, Ghachi tussar silk, mulberry silk (Bishnupuri silk). But to cut down on the cost and to penetrate the middle-class section of the society now Kantha embroidery is as well done on Art (an acronym for artificial) silk and cotton as well.

A pure silk Kantha saree can cost anywhere from 7k to 14k and above depending upon the work and time involved. Every piece made is unique in itself.

There are various steps involved in making Kantha embroidery product:

     1. Selection of the design

     2. Drawing or tracing it on butter paper

     3. Making small holes with the help of needle on the butter paper traced design.

     4. Placing the butter paper on the fabric. Then special colored chemical is rubbed on the tissue paper. The colored chemical penetrates on fabric through small holes, and design is transferred on fabric.

       5. Distribution of these traced fabrics to the artisans along with embroidery thread.

       6. Once the embroidery is finished, these fabrics are collected from the artisans.

       7. The last stage involves finishing i.e. washing/ dry cleaning and then ironing.

Kantha stitch work in processTracing of design for Kantha embroidery

Tracing of design in process, before Kantha Embroidery can start.

Also read : Indian Hand Embroideries


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