Strings were pulled out of sarees and layers of worn out and torn sarees were stitched together to make lep days. Women of the rural Bengal never knew that their simple work of art would soon become a hit of the fashion runways. Ranging from simple running stitch to the most intricate designs of thread work, wintery for the kanthas and kantha caters to the wishes of all. Resembling the trails left behind by a colony of ants on a field, this magic work just requires a needle and a thread.
Hailing from Bolpur, Shantiniketan in the Birbhum district of West Bengal, these sarees get their name from “kantha”, meaning quilts. This work of art has been handed over generations after generations from the mothers to their daughters. Kantha sarees boast of bringing out the contents in a woman’s mind, which she draws with the thread on a saree. Kantha work is usually done on cotton or silk sarees. Colourful contrasting threads are used to weave various designs.The most popular types of stitches include running, double running, loop, satin, Dorokha. The intricate thread work on a single delicacy creates them all, beautifully on the sarees. These sarees are designed with a lot of thread, flowers and star shaped designs are beautifully drawn using threads.From everyday scenes to local flora and fauna, from village pictures to mythological characters, kalka and Darning stitches. Motifs like solar, palki, Katha saree may take a week to a few months’ time. Kantha sarees are the perfect piece of asset for any woman because of its royal, rich and intricate thread work. Use of cotton makes it economical too. Heavy threadwork on the pallu and borders with simple body gives you a classy yet contemporary look.
With the fast spread of this artwork in various states other than West Bengal, it has added fusion ideas to the traditional work. This beautiful Kantha stitch art has spread to Bhagalpur, Bihar and Jammu Kashmir. Eye popping motifs with stunning thread work on Pashmina cotton sarees are a treat to wear and watch as well. Theme based designs, epic lore are among the favourites of the designers nowadays. A new innovation done to the traditional Kantha sarees include the use of three different materials for different parts of the saree. The body of the saree is made using one kind of Kantha, the border with other type and the pallu with another. This new style gives a beautiful variation and a creative designer appeal.
Perfect colour selection, with magnificent thread work combined with the love and patience of the rural craftsmen produces this masterpiece. Even though Katha sarees has reached various parts of the world, with many top fashion designers working on it, the traditional rural craftsmen are the only choice while crafting these pieces of beauty. Work which was once done because of necessity, has now become a global fashion trend. All thanks to the women of Bengal to gift us such a beauty.