Kantha Quilting from India is one of the most ancient practices we see, and one of my personal favorites. The embroidery in India is usually done by the women and can be a symbol of something like which caste she is in or where she is from. At One World Fair Trade we typically see three types of embroidery- the elegant chikkan kari from Uttar Pradesh, mirror-work often seen in Gujarat, and the very popular kantha stitch that has been a staple for centuries throughout Southeast Asia.
‘Kontha’ is a sanskrit word that translates to rags, this is fitting because kantha stitching started out as a favorite among India’s most rural. When saris or other textiles or articles of clothing got too worn out, they would be turned into new textiles, creating upcycled clothing, kantha quilts & throws, scarves & jewelry, baskets or anything else you can put cloth on. This allows the intricate details and hard work that went into the original saris be preserved among other beautiful pieces, creating something that is always unique. The term ‘kantha’ also describes the characteristic running stitch used on these pieces.
At One World Fair Trade we have lots of stunning examples of kantha work, but our favorite right now is the long Beaded Kantha Necklace. Long enough to layer up to three times (I usually layer it twice), it is wooden beads wrapped with recycled saris. The warm, muted tones are fabulous with almost any outfit. Perfect to add some interest to a solid color top or dress. Another great piece of handmade Kantha Jewelry is our Kantha Woven Cuff, a chunky cuff in bright, sustainable fabric makes for a great pop of color.
For an even bolder kantha statement we carry our classic fair trade sari scarves, shawls, and throws. Each scarf, shawl and throw is 100% unique. Some of the most stunning vintage saris are used for these pieces. Our Kantha Scarves are a colorful way to make sure you stand out in a crowd. Choose a color that compliments the colors you wear a lot and we will choose our favorite scarf of that color for you. The slightly bigger Kantha Shawl size is perfect for a little black dress and will keep you warm on a spring evening. The throw is the perfect snuggle size and you will love it in any room. The rich colors and detailing will invite you to spend an afternoon wrapped up reading a book.
To me there is something so satisfying about wearing something with history or tradition to it. It becomes a conversation piece and brings awareness to a part of our world that needs support right now. Shopping fair trade gives back to artisans in very poor parts of the world. Our handmade kantha pieces come from India and Bangladesh, and the people who make these pieces are ensured a living wage and a safe working environment. It looks good and feels good to do good.