Kantha cloths, typical of Bangladesh and West Bengal, are an ancient tradition of resourcefulness and fine stitchwork. The word kantha itself derives from the Sanskrit for ‘rags’, a reminder of the humble materials from which each kantha is made.

Layers of old, discarded saris and dhotis form the kantha, held together through intricate rows of running stitch. Embroidered stitches unite the multiple layers of salvaged cotton to form an un-wadded quilt, and characterise the kantha with a pleasing regularity.

For centuries, women have created kantha, a skill that would be passed down the family from generation to generation. A resourceful approach, using old and worn fabrics to create the cloths carries a sentimental value too.

TOAST | kantha

Women developed their own individual stitches, almost like a signature, as a unique form of expression. With designs ranging from geometric to highly decorative, no two kanthas are ever alike, with each recalling the very hand of their maker.

The kantha coats, jackets and quilts in the TOAST collection have been made by small groups of women in West Bengal, who are part of two Fair Trade cooperatives. As is tradition, the women sit in circles as they work, selecting the recycled saris themselves in the colours they think match before hand-stitching each piece together. It is a laborious, time-consuming process and each craftsperson is responsible for a single cloth.

The women pass stories between one another while they sew, the older generations helping the younger with techniques and tips. They take great pride in their creations and the way in which certain, unplanned colour combinations suddenly sing. TOAST has worked with the same groups for thirteen years, helping, in a small way, to sustain this traditional technique.