Dec: Sewing with Kantha Cloth

Dec: Sewing with Kantha Cloth


My winter sewing has focused on creating a collection of garments with Kantha Cloth. For most of us, this is the month of chilly weather, new teas and inside projects. Here are some ideas and techniques from my studio time this month. 

KANTHA is a type of embroidery craft in the eastern regions of the Indian subcontinent. For centuries, women in Bengal have taken their discarded saris and layered them with kantha stitching to make a light blanket, throw, or bedspread, especially for children. In Sanskrit, the word kantha  simply means ‘rags’.

The vest project above, started with a dyed, stitched Kantha Cloth throw. The piece came with the black borders and some hand-stitching. I used my Ashland Vest Pattern for the vest pieces. Playing with different directional layouts can really add interest to a garment.  For this vest, several pieces were placed in different directions to accent the stitching and use the border on different edges.
Adding Collage
• Adding collage to the front & back pieces. In this case,  tee shirt knits, more              kantha scraps and linen strips. 
• Adding a side pocket with a hand-stitched edge was created before the side seam were sewn. 
• Finishing the shoulder and neck seams first leaves more options for adjusting the  side seams and back opening overlap.


For a great fit: Put the vest on and see where the side seams and back pieces look best. Dropping the front (shown above) and topstitching in onto the back at the sides (leaving a nice slit for more movement) can make a huge difference on lots of body types.

Edges & Hems

Facing pieces were added inside to some of the hem edges. Facings could be added for weight, a shaped, accent edge or finished to the outside of a garment.

The white /grey vest above with white stitching (Katherine Tilton’s Butterick 5891/out of print now). I loved making this pattern as a shirt, and knew I wanted a vest version. This kantha garment was all hand-sewn, the ultimate ‘go-slow’ project. I enjoyed the time to think through decisions as they surfaced, like: which side and in which fabric, do I want the facing to lay?…and do I want the print to show on the grey side too? How would the hem look folded to the outside? ...or in different directions on each panel? I know I made different choices sitting with a needle and thread than I would have zipping along with the machine.


A grey & persimmon color throw was used for this I-Ching Jacket/Shirt. I especially loved just 2 solid colors…it really lets the hand stitching stand out. Here are some details that make this collarless version a success.

Use the Finished Edges- This influenced everything from the direction the pattern pieces are placed, to the shape of the front edge and how the tucks would be sewn. Each front was placed with the stitching in different directions to add interest. An additional horizontal tuck was added towards the bottom to shorten one side of the front, and an outside vertical tuck (on the side with vertical stitching) to accent the asymmetry of the design. The pattern includes a tuck with a hidden pocket.

• Shaping the Center Front Edges- Here is a technique for using the original finished edge on the fabric all the way to the shoulder, AND getting the edges to curve up to the shoulder edge:

1. Cut the front piece out, leaving 1” extra along the shoulder line edge. To get the correct line, re-cut the shoulder edge after you make the dart. Next, place the pattern piece on top of your fabric, lining up along the finished front edge.

2. Fold then sew a dart from the shoulder edge down the front to the turn as in the illustration. The size of the dart will be determined by the shape of the front curve you want to create. 

3. Once the dart is sewn and steamed flat, re-cut the shoulder seam as needed. Both front edges can now curve nicely to create the shape called for on the pattern pieces. This is a genius technique you’ll want to use!!

4. A  2-3” wide facings could also be used for finishing the front edges with the seam allowance  rolled under and machine or hand stitch to match.

Scarf Accessory
Making this garment collarless inspired the scarf piece (above) using the remaining scraps. Both sides of the fabric were used so the scarf has both colors showing.  The scarf can be pinned from underneath…or secured with a decorative pin. Although the garment is reversible, the persimmon color as the accent works so beautifully. 
A SHRUG in Kantha
This  beautiful piece of Kantha cloth was combined with my French-Fold Shrug Pattern. Using this pattern, the width of the fabric is the garment width from wrist to wrist. For this garment, a triangular back panel was added & cuff pieces for more sleeve length. 
The accent vintage fabric facings add a distinct accent where they show. Knotted ties in plum color Habu thread are just sweet! When everything is thoughtful your design has a richer quality. Taking the time to gather the right materials: Fabric bits, threads, trims, buttons etc changes the outcome. 
Now - through the end of the year, buy all three patterns for:
That's the Ashland Vest, French-Fold Shrug and I-Ching Jacket/Shirt for 20% off!

I want to thank each one of you for all the ways you share your passion for textiles &  sewing online and in your communities…it is a rich history worth passing on.

Share & Enjoy your Stitching Time.  Happy Holidays, Diane

Back to blog

1 comment

How did you know that I have been thinking of that Kantha yardage waiting in the closet? Wouldn’t it make a great outer garment for Ashland? or even SoCal? Once again, your ideas are inspiring.
Have a wonderful holiday season. Miss you.
Hugs, Ardis


Leave a comment