The Original "Big Stitch" Quilting -- An Intro to Kantha Quilts

Every month in the Meander Guild, we "travel" to a different part of the world and learn about the quilt-making style that evolved there. Recently we explored the gorgeous/textured Kanthas of Bangladesh!


Now, just like there are many, many languages across the Indian subcontinent, there are many different quilt-making styles. While they vary region by region, the Kantha running stitch can be found in most of them.

A kantha is the work for quilt in Bangladesh, but we can also refer to the kantha stitch that makes up a Kantha. This stitch is a big running stitch that has a very soft, organic quality. It is big, like Sashiko, but a lot less precise, there is certainly a charm to its imperfect quality.



Traditionally, Kanthas were made from worn out white saris (loose garments), layered then stitched together. It would take about 7 saris to construct one kantha. There are many different types of Kanthas, but Traditionally Kanthas were a combination of embroidery and quilting. The maker would carefully layer the saris, smooth them out on the ground and place weights on them to hold them in place while they sewed large basting stitches.

Then the maker would embroider detailed images, outlining the outside of the image with a dark thread with usually a backstitch or chain stitch, then fill in the design and the surroundings with running stitches.


Around the 1970s, Kanthas became popular among Westerners, and the Bengali makers simplified the Kantha making process to make them more universally appealing to the Westerners and quicker to produce. So nowadays when you see Kanthas, most will not have the embroidery, but are whole cloth or pieced tops with the beautiful Kantha running stitches running from one side of the quilt to the other.

The beauty of Kanthas is their perfectly imperfect chunky stitch that provides a gorgeous texture. It's so much fun to do since the whole point is to not worry about perfectly even stitches. The charm is in their imperfect, hand-made nature. 

In Meander, we explored how to do Kantha in the traditional manner, how to get a similar look on your machine, how to do the embroidery method, as well as some other creative variations.

If you like the idea of experimenting with different styles and techniques, I think you'd love the Meander Guild! It's an online guild where we explore different quilt-making styles, master color, grow creatively, all alongside other likeminded quilters from all over the world. Click here to learn more and sign up!


Now, I'd love to hear from you! Have you tried "Big Stitch Quilting" before? Did this spark any ideas about how you can use these lovely, chunky sitches in your quilts? Leave a comment below and let us know!

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