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Poetry Embroidered on Cloth

Have you ever heard of Kantha quilting?  I hadn’t either until a couple of years ago when I saw fair trade products using the quilts.

The centuries-old technique was originated by poor women in Western Bengal to make quilts from their saris to keep their babies warm.  The quilts eventually became objects of hospitality, and even today in rural India are offered to guests in homes as a seat, serving as an expression of welcome. 

Kantha involves taking multiple pieces of recycled sari cloth, either silk or cotton, and stitching them together with hundreds of small and delicate running stitches. The word kantha actually refers to that type of stitch.

The stitches exhibit a distinctive rhythm that is part of the visual signature of each individual artist. It gives the resulting fabric a beautifully textured quality.

Depending on the number of fabric layers used, Kantha quilts today are turned into bags, clothing, and even jewelry.

Fair Trade Designs sells a variety of Kantha products, as seen in these photos. They’re full of artistry with exquisite patterns and fabrics.

Kantha is an especially significant part of many fair trade co-operatives in India, giving much-needed income to impoverished women in both rural and urban areas of India.

One woman who’s benefited is Prema.  She was widowed while she was pregnant, but was determined to support herself and her daughter without becoming a burden on her aging parents.  She learned about a fair trade organization in southern India that employs over 300 low-income artisans, working in their homes or in small groups.



While Prema trained as a seamstress, her daughter was taken care of at the on-site childcare center. She eventually began attending the on-site primary school for the children of employees.  Prema and her co-workers receive medical care, paid maternity leave, and a pension plan. Part of every sale funds a local health care clinic for villagers in the area.

Each Kantha product sold benefits women like Prema in one of the most disadvantaged areas of the world. Your care-full choice of shopping ethically gives them the chance to rise about their circumstances.




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