Jeanette Farrier's kantha quilts.
Visiting one of my favourite stores in NYC, John Derian, I looked for what must be the tenth time at some quilts he has always carried from a woman named Jeanette Farrier. I have to admit that I never previously looked into the reason as to why these quilts are so very soft. I mean they are freakishly soft. Like that baby blanket you carried with you constantly as a child that you wish you still had or that t-shirt you washed a million times and it was just that perfect softness right before it fell apart.
Turns out these quilts are really something special. In addition to being heavenly soft, they are entirely handmade. Jeanette Farrier discovered these magical textiles that the women of West Bengal create from recycled cotton saris on her travels to India in the 1990s. These quilts are of the traditional art known as ‘Kantha’ and expert seamstresses fold and stitch the soft cloth into an ultra-fine quilted fabric which is warm, beautiful, durable, and one-of-a-kind.
What I am also most in love with about these quilts and Jeanette’s company must be that as these wonderful textiles are valued and precious, so are the women seamstresses who create them. They are paid well and are able to work in their own homes. According to Jeanette Ferrier’s website, today there are two villages outside Kolkata whose livelihood has been transformed through sewing Jeanette Farrier’s Kantha cloth.
Stitching kanthas was an art practiced by women across Bengal, a region today comprising the nation of Bangladesh and the state of West Bengal, India. For over 500 centuries, Bengali women have taken their discarded cloth and sewn them together with a simple running stitch to create something new. Kantha also had an aspect of intimacy. Old cloth in Bangladesh is said to keep the user safe from harm. That sounds good to me.