August, 2008


Maker unknown

Circa 1960-1975
Middle Sindh, Pakistan

Maker unknown
Probably made in Bihar, India
Circa 1975-2000

This month we are featuring two quilts from the Indian sub-continent. The featured quilts are a ralli made in Middle Sindh, Pakistan and a kantha likely made in Bihar, India. These two quilts are among the many quilts from unique quilting traditions included in the International Quilt Museum's collection.

Rallis, in a variety of sizes and shapes, are used for many purposes including bed-coverings, temporary walls, prayer walls, prayer rugs, cushions, and storage bags. They also may comprise an important portion of a woman's dowry. The ralli featured this month was made using appliquéd shapes that were created by folding fabric in fourths or eighths before designs were cut through all the layers (like paper snowflakes). Also featured on this quilt is a border treatment that looks a lot like one that American quilters might recognize as "prairie points." The appearance of similar techniques in far flung cultures illustrates how quilters around the world sometimes have responded to cloth with similar techniques and designs.

The kantha with its striking combination of orange and green is enhanced by red and white quilting stitches made of thick threads that frame the quilt. The stitches not only hold the layers together, but in this case they have been carefully planned and executed to create a herringbone pattern that adds an illusion of depth to the surface of the quilt. Kanthas are made from many layers of sari or dhoti cloth (women and men's garments) and the threads used to secure the layers together are often taken from the borders of these cloths. The piecing and layering of worn garments in order to make a new item provides the stitchers a way to make a serviceable item from bits of cloth that were previously of no use.

The conservation and renewal of cloth is important to the makers of kanthas, just as it has been important to quilters from other traditions. Kanthas, like rallis have many uses as bedding, floor mats and wall decorations.