I recently attend a class on 'Kantha Inspirations' at my local branch of the Embroiderers' Guild. Kantha originates from West Bengal and Bangladesh. Kantha stitches are essentially running stitches, they were used to layer old saris to make quilts. This resourcefulness did not stop at recycling old saris, the thread used to sew was often drawn from the borders of the used cloth. Traditionally the running stitch would be decorated into birds, flowers and whatever else the embroiderers' found as inspiration in their day to day lives.
In our class we used pre-prepared stencils and acrylic paints to transfer motifs on to brightly coloured cloth. Once dry we layered fabrics together to create a wavy, quilted surface. Here I used a golden organza at the top, pink turban cotton, followed by white muslin. A pink bird is stencilled on the organza. Running stitches surround the bird, with flower and sun details added. The stitching scrunches up the fabric, enhancing the shimmering of the golden organza. Interestingly the central bird looks almost appliqued, I think this is due to the pink cotton behind creating a depth to its colour. Kantha embroidery used such a simple stitch, yet creates a strong effective technique. I have many more fabrics to embroider that I printed at the class - should keep me busy for a while!