This collage from Mary Ellen Beads Albuquerque shows the different ways this reversible Kantha quilt vest can be worn.

Three “H’s” of the Kantha Quilt Class

Happy colors, history, hand-stitching: these three inspirations emerged from A Reversible Kantha Quilt Vest class experience.

The word Kantha, pronounced (KAAN taa), means rags in Sanskrit. A Kantha stitch can also refer to a small straight running stitch in Bengali embroidery.

Something about alliteration tugs at my heart. It resonates. I’m prompted to repeat it. Thus, the three “H’s” of Kantha Quilts: happy colors, history and hand-stitching

Happy Colors in Kantha Quilts

Not every Kantha Quilt is bright, but one side of the Kantha Quilt is usually patterned. My fabric with its strong orange, green, red and black colors screamed ‘happy’. (It didn’t hurt that my Saturday was dedicated to using my hands, learning something new, and spending time with some of my favorite people.)

We wrapped ourselves in the Kanta quilt of our choice. In spite of the multiple colors and patterns, cohesiveness reigned. Some of us chose to own more than one quilt!

These Kantha Quilt class participants including Mary Ellen of Mary Ellen Beads Albuquerque wrapped themselves in a Quilt.
©2017 Mary Ellen Merrigan, Kantha Quilts, Class Participants

History of Kantha Quilts

If you don’t know the Kantha story…

“These vintage sari quilts from India are created using multiple of very worn and aged saris that have been mended and patched over many years of use. The quilts are then pieced together using various scraps of fabrics as batting (sometimes as many as 3-6 layers of scrap filling causing different thicknesses within a quilt.”

Here’s a Wikipedia page about all things Kantha.

Instructor Cindy Chavez of FreeForm Inspirations gave running background commentary as we worked. She also presented a wide range of options for our stylish, asymmetrical reversible vest. In addition to her original four-way design, Cindy encouraged us to make purses, totes, curtains, pillow covers and more. Her samples caused class members to ‘oooh and aaahh.’

She also suggested we use remnants for other mixed media projects and described how we could stamp, and further embellish the Kantha quilt material.

I met Cindy in 2012 when I interviewed her. Read more about how she packs fun into every project. 

Cindy makes it easy to improvise. She encourages experimentation. Each student incorporated their own version of the project into her pattern plan. Once the perimeter was marked, the cutting began.

Hand-stitching on Kantha Quilts

One student, who had a large sunflower in her quilt design, cut out the sunflower and embellished it on the reverse of her vest. Most of us added rectangles and/or pieces of material to form pockets and then hand-stitched them to our vest.

Hand-stitching is a soothing experience requiring no previous sewing training.

Mary Ellen Beads Albuquerque participated in a Kantha Quilt class with these ladies.

©2017 Mary Ellen Merrigan, Reversible Kantha Quilt Vests, Participants End-of-Day-View

In our always-on society, hand-stitching offers a different opportunity to feel connected. Hand-stitching connects you first of all with yourself. Feel into slowing down, threading a needle and sewing on fabric. Hold something besides the cell phone. Enjoy present moment awareness as you stitch.

This picture shows the hand-stitched rectangles and pockets on a Kantha Vest made by Mary Ellen Beads Albuquerque.
©2017 Mary Ellen Merrigan, Reversible Kantha Quilt Vests, Hand-stitched rectangles and pockets

Kantha quilts have always been hand-stitched, typically by someone using a running stitch. It’s easy to replicate. More importantly, it’s a satisfying experience. You’ll be amazed at the sense of confidence that comes from your hand-work.

This collage from Mary Ellen Beads Albuquerque shows the different ways this reversible Kantha quilt vest can be worn.
©2017 Mary Ellen Merrigan, Reversible Kantha Quilt Vest

My reversible Kantha quilt vest delivered these three H’s to me: happy colors, history, and hand-stitching. Which one most appeals to you?

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