One of the most magical things about Liberty Fabrics is the community that surrounds it. Across the globe, legions of talented crafters draw upon our vast archive of heritage prints and studio-fresh artworks to create magnificent projects that never cease to amaze. After stumbling across the #libertysocietykanthastitchalong hashtag on Instagram, we were determined to find out more about how people around the world have been stitching kantha-style with Liberty Fabrics.
The kantha stitch-along project was launched by Australian maker, Cat from @tincatsew, in collaboration with fellow antipodeans (and Liberty print fanatics) Ava & Neve. Part of a virtual crafting community that works predominantly with Liberty Fabrics, the stitch-along has encouraged hundreds of makers to try their hand at a form of stitching inspired by kantha – an ancient Bengali method of quilting that dates back at least 500 years. Now in its second year, the #libertysocietykanthastitchalong has been an incredible success, with makers based everywhere from England and Australia to Japan, Norway, Brazil and the USA.
Kantha (pronounced KAHN-taa), is a Sanskrit word that literally means ‘rags’. Traditional kantha was invented by the women of the Bengal region of Bangladesh and India, who used ingenuity and creativity to craft warm quilts and blankets from old saris and other scrap or discarded fabric. As well as the make-do-and-mend nature of the textiles themselves, ‘kantha’ also refers to the multi-layered stitching technique used to create the finished articles. Sustainable and eco-friendly in nature, the traditional art of kantha transforms a functional household item into a thing of striking heirloom beauty.
Maker Cat was first inspired to try out this beautiful stitching technique only a couple of years ago, after seeing a picture of a traditional kantha cushion. Emphasising the incredible skills of the Bengali craftswomen who have been creating these designs for generations, Cat explains that she is certainly no expert – “I asked if people wanted to join me to learn about the craft together and give it a try. My interest is in creating online communities where people can indulge their passion from sewing, be inspired and help each other.” She enjoys the repetitive elements of hand-sewing as meditative and calming, and found kantha-style stitching to be the ideal new crafting challenge.
This interpretation of kantha stitching is well-suited to use with our iconic fabrics – as Martina from Ava & Neve explains: “Liberty Fabrics are timeless and every time you work with them you discover something new in the fabric – plus Tana Lawn feels SO silky smooth.” With over 45,000 Liberty Fabrics designs to choose from, the possibilities for design and layout are truly limitless. The patchwork element of kantha allows the maker to use whatever they have on hand, resulting in vibrant designs that express a sense of spontaneity and originality.
In traditional kantha stitching, fabric sections are laid on top of one another and constructed into a layered design with a uniquely crinkly and textured surface. The layers trap air for added warmth, but by varying the number of layers, kantha-style stitching can be used for everything from classic quilts to cushions, needle cases, tote bags, tablecloths, and even jackets. This is clear from the vast range of creations on the #libertysocietykanthastitchalong hashtag – look out for a universe of designs made with archival classics and current season newness fresh from Liberty Fabrics’ London studio.