Me and Kantha Stitching

A nice commenter asked a couple of good questions about my “kantha stitching.” Traditional kantha was done in India by using old saris, and other thin cloth, and using the simple running stitch in a variety of patterns to stitch the layers together. ( Anna Hergert has written an excellent article about kantha here.) Although I have the “big book” of Kantha now, my original inspiration was not antique kantha embroidery. The beautiful work of Marianne Burr was my original inspiration, and her work was originally inspired, I believe, by kantha. But her work has gone on beyond kantha, with her painting on silk, and her beautiful thread and color work.

The way I stitched the background of this quilt is similar to traditional kantha.

The way I stitched the background of this quilt is similar to traditional kantha.

So the way I do my kantha-style quilting and embroidery is this: I either piece together a top, or use a single piece and put together a quilt sandwich. The reason I do this is because the sandwich acts as a stabilizer for the embroidery. I have never ever liked using a hoop or a frame in any fiber craft. With the three layers of the quilt sandwich, I can stitch away and not have any distortion from the embroidery.

I have added french knots and lazy daisy stitches to the traditional running stitch of kantha.

I have added french knots and lazy daisy stitches to the traditional running stitch of kantha.

Sometimes I embroider through all three layers of the sandwich. This is usually around the outside edge of a motif (like a circle,)when I want to emphasize a shape, or to actually act as the quilting. But most of the stitches, especially the simple running stitches, are done only through the top and the batting. The reason for this is simply ease of work. Its much more enjoyable to stitch through one and a half layers than through all three layers.

I also use blanket stitch to raw-edge appliqué motifs to a top.

I also use blanket stitch to raw-edge appliqué motifs to a top.

My batting of choice is Quilter’s Dream Request Loft Batting. I started using this particular batting after a quilt teacher, Judy Danes, recommended it. That is where I learned to put my quilt sandwich together simply by steaming the layers together.  After I started the kantha embroidery, I tried various batts, but this same batt seems to work the best. It is easy to stitch through, and it does not generally “beard,” (where the batting will come through the needle holes to the surface of the quilt.) This is the thinnest of the Quilter’s Dream batts. I love the light weight of it, and the way it hangs.

I hope this is helpful. Just make yourself a little quilt sandwich and begin to play!

 

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6 thoughts on “Me and Kantha Stitching

  1. So many helpful tips packed into a short post! I would have never thought of stitching through 1 1/2 layers! I also checked out the post about steaming the sandwich and I found that very interesting too. Thank you!

  2. You provided a beautifully clear and detailed explanation of your kantha embroidery. I am not a keen hand stitcher but your work is so pretty it is almost tempting me to have a go!

  3. I have been inspired by your designs and want to make a throw using 12″ Blocks……I thought I would make each block individually with its own stitching design and would back each block with the batting then after I sew all the blocks together, put the backing on and secure it with Stitch in the Ditch where the blocks are sewn together. My question is, what would you suggest for the top fabric to stitch on? My first thought was a high quality muslin.

    • Great idea! High quality muslin is very nice to stitch through. Most quilting fabrics are enjoyable to stitch through. I tend to stay away from batiks,as they have a tight weave structure.

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