West Bengal has the oldest tradition of the popular embroidery with the thread, named as the Kantha Stitch. This mighty state of India has enjoyed the global reputation for its fine muslin weaves from Dhaka. The muslin cloth was woven in the plain pattern with white cotton threads and opaque patterns.
The muslin material is used for weaving of the Kantha Sarees. The intricate designs of the muslin sarees were created by the stitching threads, all over the body. The borders and the pallus were stitched with the patterns and motifs of leaf, stem, and cypress. Even silk threads are sometimes used to give the designs a glittery look. In fact, the silk-based stitches give a shady effect to the entire Kantha saree when put under light. Nowadays, the weavers are even making use of the work of silver gilt. Katha stitch is not only a special saree embroidery, in fact, this art form can be seen stitched on coats, girdles, shawls, and sarees. Katha stitch comprises of chain stitch, running stitch, hemstitch, long stitch, short stitch and also the work of the silver gilt on a padded base made with cotton thread. The Katha design or embroidery is created on patterned and plain materials which created subdued effects of elegance and richness.
The buyers were extremely close to the folk art of India’s Bengal. The traditional stitches found in a Bengal Katha saree are back stitch, chain stitch, open work, knot stitch, etc. This tradition is seen in the traditional quilting of this part of India. You may have heard of the famous Katha based quilts which the grandmothers or the elderly ladies of the family used to make out of unused clothes.
Other than embroidery sarees and quilts, the Katha stitch embroidery can be seen in mirror covers, pillow covers, bed sheets, toilet articles, etc. The women of Bengal even today create magical pieces of apparels with the Katha stitch. The literal meaning of the word Katha is the patch. This came from the concept of making a quilt where unused sarees and dhotis placed on top of another and they were stitched together to create a pattern. Making of Katha or quilt has always provided the weavers and the women of Bengal a platform of expressing their creativity.