Motifs used in Kantha embroidery are human and animal figures, floral symbols which cover the surface from the corner. Basically, the center motifs used are lotus. Different patterns like fishes, birds, kalka, mandala, mythological stories also figured. The threads used were blue, green, yellow, red and black.
Stitches used in Kantha embroidery are running stitch, darning stitch , satin and loop stitch. In Kantha stem stitch is also used to outline the motifs.
1) Archilata Kantha- Covers for mirrors or toilet accessories with wide, colorful borders.
2) Lep Kantha- these are wraps which are heavily padded to make warm quilts.
3) Baiton Kantha- Square wraps used for covering books.
4) Durjani/Thalia- are quilted wallets made out of rectangular Kantha pieces.
5) Oaar Kantha- are used pillow covers.
6) Rumal Kantha- are used as plate coverings.
7) Sujani Kantha- are decorative quilted Kantha used as blankets or spreads.
Till today, this combination of thrift and aesthetics is not mass produced and is usually not for sale. The intricate geometry of their design and the near absence of folk motifs continue to be a notable feature of Muslim Kantha-making traditions of Murshidabad.
The Kantha holds a very special place within the village life in Katna. Making Kanthas is a ritual activity as they are used to wrap and protect precious objects. Baby Kanthas are prepared for the newborn. At her marriage every girl receives an intricate Kantha that her mother would have worked on for years. A Kantha is also used during cremation ceremony to cover the dead.
Katna's Kantha, a Street Survivors India project, is a livelihood generation programme that has taken this traditional and evolved skill of village women to economically empower them. Street Survivors India strives to work with communities in Murshidabad through a holistic approach that recognizes the inseparable linkage between empowerment and livelihood.
Kantha work is embroidery done on used apparel, renewing their looks and extending their life. It is a unique art from Murshidabad in former Bengal. Kantha Work is essentially done on old sarees, dhotis and other apparel. It is a running stitch on the sarees in the form of motifs such as animals, birds, flowers, simple geometrical shapes and scenes from everyday life.
Traditionally the Lep Kantha of old, involved poor village women sewing together layers of old cloth, mostly saris, with intricate stitches. The thread used for the purpose was pulled out of the sari itself. Their meticulous artistry transformed worn out rags into extraordinarily beautiful creations that could withstand further usage.