How to make a Kantha quilt

Simple yet striking – Jo Avery’s done it again with her gorgeous jewel-tone prints and simple Kantha-style stitching.

How to make a kantha quilt

Whether you use it as a throw or a quilt, a homemade Kantha quilt has a luxurious feel with lots of colour, patterns, traditional Kantha-style embroidered running stitches and layers all tied together.  This quilt was designed by Jo Avery for Love Patchwork & Quilting magazine and is just one of our series of quilt patterns and upcycling projects. As it’s inspired by traditional Kantha quilting (more on this below), it’s a little different from a traditional quilt that you might usually make. Instead of a central layer of batting or wadding, we’ve added a backing layer of an old flannel sheet, which you then sew to the front panel, right sides together, turn inside out and finish with knots of beautiful thread. Give it a go and let us know how you get on!

What is a Kantha quilt?

Kantha is a traditional Indian embroidery technique, mainly from Bangladesh and Bengal. As with Western quilting, it is a way to use up old textiles: layers of old saris are stitched together to form bedspreads or used for cushions. We have used old sheets rather than batting in this project to evoke the traditional ‘drapey’ feel of these pieces.

Notes

  • Seam allowances are ¼in throughout, unless otherwise stated.
  • We used fat quarter halves for our prints.

Fabrics used

All of the print fabrics shown are from Honor Roll by Anna Maria Horner for Free Spirit Fabrics. It’s quite hard to come by  here in the UK in recent years but you can still shop some Anna Maria Horner fabrics over on Etsy.

How to make a kantha quilt
Combine your favourite fabrics from pre-loved garments or homewares or shop for favourite clashing prints to make our Kantha quilt pattern
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You Will Need

  • Fabric (Nine (9) different cotton prints, 11in x 18in eac)
  • Thread (Perlé cotton No.8 in a variety of colours to contrast with fabrics, for the Kantha stitching)
  • Fabric (Two (2) pieces of solid fabric, each 31in x 41in)
  • Sewing machine
  • Basic sewing kit
For the backing
  • Fabric (Backing fabric (we used a flannel sheet) 31in x 41in)

Total time:

Cutting out

Step 1

From each of the cotton prints, cut three (3) 5½in x 11in rectangles, to give you a total of twenty-seven (27) rectangles.

Step 2

Put twelve (12) rectangles aside for the moment and cut the remaining fifteen (15) in half. You will only use twenty-four (24) of these 5½in squares.

Assembling the quilt

Step 1

Sew two different 5½in squares together to make a rectangle. Press the seam open or to one side. Sew this pieced unit to a  5½in x 11in rectangle and press the seam. Trim to 10½in square (Fig a).

How to make a kantha quilt fig b

Step 2

Repeat this process to make twelve (12) blocks, mixing up your fabrics differently in each one.

Step 3

Sew three blocks together to form a row (Fig 1).

How to make a Kantha quilt Fig 1
How to make a Kantha quilt Fig 2
How to make a Kantha quilt Fig 3

Repeat to make four (4) rows, then sew these rows together (Fig 2).

How to make a Kantha quilt Fig 2

Make sure you mix up the blocks, rotating some so you can’t see the original block pattern (Fig 3).

How to make a Kantha quilt Fig 3

Quitling

Step 1

Layer the two pieces of solid fabric together and place your patchwork on top, right side up (Fig b). Press the layers together and then tack or use safety pins to secure them together.

How to make a kantha quilt fig b
Figure B

Step 2

Choose one of the larger fabric sections to start your kantha stitching. Select a contrasting coloured thread. Sew a running stitch in lines, backwards and forwards, covering the chosen section. Gather a number of stitches at a time on your needle for extra speed (Fig c). Your stitches can be quite large and you can start and finish threads with knots on the back because you will be adding a separate backing. Try not to pull your stitches too tight and make sure they lay flat, especially at the end of the lines. Stitch a random selection of fabric areas, from single squares to longer strips in this way, using a different-coloured, contrasting thread each time.

How to make a kantha quilt fig c
Figure C

Finishing the quilt

Step 1

Remove tacking threads and/or pins and press the quilt from the front. Trim away any excess fabric and square up. Place the quilt on top of the flannel backing, right sides together, and trim the backing to the same size as the patchwork.

Step 2

Pin together around the four sides and then stitch around the outer edge using a 3/8in seam. Leave a gap for turning about 14in wide in the centre of one short side, starting and ending your stitching about 8in from the corners.

Step 3

Snip off excess corner fabric, turn right side out and press well. Pin the gap closed and then hand sew using matching thread and a ladder stitch or similar (Fig d).

How to make a kantha quilt fig d
Figure D

Step 4

Finish the quilt by tying the layers together. Take a double length of perlé cotton and sew a small stitch from the right side, through to the back and up to the front again. Tie the ends together with a simple reef or square knot (Fig e).

Using a ‘false’ back means you can avoid the fiddly starting and finishing knots of traditional hand quilting and therefore sew faster!
How to make a kantha quilt fig e
Figure E

Repeat the knot, alternating the direction of the thread ends (Fig f). Repeat this process to add these ties all over the top of the quilt, at each intersection and in the centre of fabric areas with no kantha stitching, using different coloured threads throughout.

How to make a kantha quilt fig f
Figure F
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How to make a kantha quilt