An introduction to Kantha

Kantha work is a style from the state of Bengal that uses the simple running stitch in the most beautiful ways imaginable. It is one of my favorite styles.

The word Kantha actually means rags or waste cloth used by the women of Bengal to make quilts. A traditional Bengali woman’s sari is a soft white cotton fabric with a red border. When the sari got old and soft after several washes, it was used to make quilts. The simple running stitch was used all over the quilt to hold the layers together and also to embellish it.

Quilt making was mostly a work of leisure and art and never meant for commercial purposes. It took several women to stretch and hold several layers of the fabric together. Once this was done, these women embroidered their own designs on the quilt. The design usually began at the center of the quilt and slowly extended out.

Today, we talk about Kantha more as a style of embroidery that is done using the running stitch. Sometimes, stem and herringbone are also used. Typical thread colors are red, green, black and blue. Commonly used designs are peacocks, elephants, fish, lotus, creepers, leaves, flowers and temples.


Kutch Tutorial

I used three strands of embroidery thread for Kutch work. Two strands will also work well.

Step - 1
This is the simplest form of kutch work. Trace this design on to your fabric. Do not draw the squares very big.

Step - 2
Begin by creating a grid. Bring the needle up at box 1 and pinch a tiny bit of fabric away from the center as shown.

Step - 3
Work your way to box 2. Note that the thread is passed under to go to box 3.

Step - 4
Finish box 3 and box 4. Note carefully where the threads are passed under and over.
You finish the grid near the point where you started. Pass the thread under to finish.

Step - 5
Now we move on to interlacing. Bring the needle up at the centre of the grid.

Step - 6
Again, work you way to box 2. Interlacing is all about going up or down so that you lock the threads and not let it slip.

Step - 7
Here the needle is going through the tiny loop you created earlier by pinching the fabric.

Step - 8

If done right, box 2 should look like this. Move on to box 3.

Step - 9
You will finish box 3, 4 and then come back to finish 1.

All done!!!

Satin Stitch

Let's start with a simple leaf.
Outline the leaf with Back Stitch
all around.
Next mark a dividing line with
Back Stitch again, but in a lighter
Start at the widest part and make
the first stitch as shown. Bring the
needle out at A, which is at the
center of the leaf and push the
needle down at B, which should be
as close to the outline as possible.
Bring the needle out at C and
continue this way to finish the
upper part of the leaf.

I apologize that the the letters
turned out lighter than expected.

Once you reach the tip of the leaf,
come back to the center and
complete the lower part of the leaf.
I like to start at the center, but
you could also start at one end and
work your way up if you like.
Make the stitches as closely as
Finish the right half the same way
and you are all done!!

Long and Short Stitch

I have traced the same leaf that
was used for the Satin Stitch.
For the Long and Short Stitch,
mark a few directional lines, as
shown with a light pencil.
Begin by stitching an outline in
Back Stitch.
Work the first row with
alternating long and short stitches.
A and B point to the two lines
marked earlier and they show the
change in the direction of the

Start the first long stitch on line A
and finish the area below it with alternating short and long stitches.
Repeat the same on line B and
complete the area between B and A.
Then move on to C (which is the
tip of the leaf) and work a set of
'straight' long and short stitches.
This is the same picture as the
one above.,
Notice that the stitches at C
are straight.
The right side of the leaf will just
be a mirror image of the left.
Use the lines as a guide.
Once you complete the first of
stitches all around, work the
second row of stitches, all the
same length.

Try to blend the stitches with the
first row so that the fabric does
not show.
Once you complete the second row
all around, work the third row of
stitches. The length of the stitches
may become short. That's ok!

Now we have created a gaping
hole in the centre of the leaf.
Cover it up with a row of Back Stitch
in a lighter shade.

Kutch Work Border Design-2

Step 1. Trace the design.

Step 2. Work the grid from left to right. The route is a little different here because of the extra diamond at the top.

Step 3. Complete the grid, working right to left.

Step 4. End by taking the needle to the reverse side.

Step 5. Begin interlacing, again left to right. We will complete the third diamond in the next step.

Step 6. Complete interlacing.

Step 7. End at the same point that you began. Tie a knot on the reverse side.

All done!!

Kutch Work Border Design-1

Step 1. Trace a row of diamonds.

Step 2. Work the grid from left to right.

Step 3. Complete the grid by going back, right to left.

Step 4. Begin interlacing.

Step 5. Complete interlacing and end at the same point that you started. Tie a knot on the reverse side.

All done!!

Stem Stitch

Running Stitch

Mirror Work Tutorial using Cretan Stitch

I have begun the tutorial directly at the Cretan Stitch. I have not included the steps for stitching the grid here. Please refer to the first two steps of the previous Mirror Work Tutorial. The method followed here is similar. You can also take a look at the Cretan Stitch if you like.
Have fun stitching!

Bring the needle up as shown.

Pass the needle, first, through the grid towards you and then OVER the thread. This is part 1 of 2 of the Cretan Stitch.
The needle does not go through the fabric at this point.

Pull the thread gently to make a small loop.
Next, make a small running stitch a little to the right. It should end near the edge of the mirror. Bring the needle up and pass the needle OVER the thread. This is part 2 of 2 of the Cretan Stitch.

Pull the thread gently. This completes the Cretan Stitch.

Continue the stitch along the entire mirror.
Part 1/2

Part 2/2

Keep the length of the stiches as even as possible.

After you have covered the entire mirror, finish off the last running stitch on the reverse side as shown. Keep the length of the stitch the same as others.

This is the reverse side for your reference.
Tie a small knot and you are all done!!