So far, I have discussed the acquiring of items for starting this exciting hobby. Now I feel it is time to start to experiment with them.

Working on the principle that you already have the shirt, various other fabric items and the sewing kit, I would like to talk you through making a quilted pincushion, Kantha style.

What is Kantha? In Sanskrit, the word means rags. The women of Bengal, Odisha and Bangladesh have traditionally used old rags and made new clothes or blankets using a simple running stitch.

The word is spelt a variety of ways such as Kantha, Kanta and Qanta. The process involves layers of fabric stitched together in long colourful rows of running stitch, which has more layers added as the fabric begins to take the shape for its intended purpose. Raw edges are either incorporated into the work or folded over and sewn on top depending on the individual taste of the maker and the community style and culture.

Kantha is traditionally made using embroidery thread – multiple stands of coloured thread twisted together or several untwisted stands sewn through the eye of a needle at the same time – as we are using basic cotton we will be doubling it up.

Running stitch for those that do not know is the basic stitch of sewing. Here is a quick how too.

Have the length of the thread roughly no longer than 24 inches – any longer and the length may catch and become twisted.

Once the needle is threaded double the thread up and tie the end of the two strands of thread into a knot.

Using one of the shirts buttonhole plackets – January’s blog – the shirt deconstruction – as a practice piece, we waste nothing, as everything is useful.

Insert the needle up from the bottom into the fabric and pull through. Then on the same spot place the needle back into the fabric and pull thorough.

Repeat this once more.


I have made this bigger so you can see the process. However, it only needs to be very small as this is known as casting on. You could just use the knot but I like to make sure it is secure.

Once you have cast on you now need to do the running stitch. Leave a small gap and place the needle into the fabric and pull through to the back.

Then leaving another small gap push the needle back through the fabric and pull through.

As you can see you now have two stitches. Repeat this process until you have a row of them.


Or some people chose to do running stitch as placing the needle up and down through the fabric as shown in the image below.

This is okay for speed or a tacking stitch – USA version basting stitch – however, in Kantha stitching, it does not produce neat work, and therefore I would not recommend it.

Now you can choose to do the stitches all lined up on each row or off set on every other row. The choice and style is down to you.

The sample above, shows a rough section of stitches. But basically this is Kantha.

On to making the pincushion. First, we need at least three layers of fabric. The basic definition of a quilt is at least two layers of fabric with middle. Now wadding / batting is a modern concept and therefore layers of fabric were used to build the quilt up rather than wadding.

I hope you have been saving that fabric.

100% cotton shirt.

100% cotton Pyjama bottoms.

100% cotton shirt from January’s blog.

These are my three layers of fabric. You can use anything as a template. I have chosen to use a cereal bowl.

Draw around the bowl using – in my case tailors chalk – a marker.


Once marked out.

Cut out six shapes of your chosen template. Two from each colour fabric.

Then pin three layers together. This combination is for my top layer.

My bottom layer.

Then pin in place

I have placed the pins in the middle as to secure all three layers, this reduces the fabric bunching in the middle when you start to sew it.

So now, we can start to sew using your chosen thread. I have chosen blue as I would like it in one colour but you can do a mix and match and every time you change the thread, you could change the colour. Or change it at the end of every row.

Not everybody has a plastic ruler in the house so instead you can use an envelope to measure out an area.

One a small envelope folded in half or

an A5 envelope folded into three.


Both of these methods give you roughly the same size as the width of a ruler.

Place the item you are using to measure from against the edge of the pincushion and draw a line.

Fill this area with running stitches in nice neat rows all going the same direction.

Mark the next section, this should be a different direction to the area already stitched, either horizontal or vertical.

Then fill this section with running stitches in rows all going the same direction.

Again, mark the next section going in the other direction similar to above.

Repeat with rows of stitches.

Mark section four the same way.

Filling with more Kantha stitches.

You should now have a filled area like the picture above.

Next fold the envelope in half so it is half the width of the first sections and mark the next section.

Fill with stitches and then mark again, until the whole area is filled with Kantha rows.

Notice how the back has a nice quilted look to it.

Next we start on the other side. We will be taking a different approach for this side. I have chosen to use a very busy fabric as it helps show some contrast with the other fabrics.

Using your ruler or envelope, mark sections on your fabric.

Then using a different coloured thread of your choice, fill at least two sections.

I have used green and yellow but they do not show up clearly on the photograph.

Using a strip of fabric – I had one in my scrap bin – 100% cotton – I laid it down the middle section and pinned in place.

It does not matter if edges are raw, known as raw edge appliqué. Fill this section with rows of straight stitch as before.

Using another strip of fabric – this one I cut from the pyjamas bottoms – place it onto the fabric wrong side up but have it down from where you need it to cover.

Tack and pin in place.

Then turn it up so the wrong side sits against the right side of the bottom fabric and pin in place.

This method is known as flip and stitch.

Sew the first row of stitches over the folded area this will secure in place and give you a straight edge in which to guide the stitches.  I chose to fill this section with alternative rows instead of plain row on row.

We have a triangle area to fill – using the shirt – draw a right angled triangle and cut it out.

Pin the triangle to the area and trim so it matches the edge of the bottom fabric.

Again, fill with Kantha stitches.

Cut fabric out and place wrong side up onto the base layer. Pin in place and tack down.

Once tacked, flip over and pin in place.

Add the Kantha stitches. Continue to fill the remaining sections with stitches using a different thread for each section.

Once completed pin the two halves together, right sides facing each other and pin in place. Remember to leave an area so that you can open it up. I do this by placing the pins upright into the fabric as shown in the picture.

Using backstitch – at least quarter of an inch from the edge – and very tiny stitches sew together.

Once you have done that and are happy with it. Turn it right side out.

Roll the edges with your thumb and forefinger to help make sure the seams are all out.

For stuffing, you can use a variety of items such as: old socks, stuffing from old cushions, scraps of cotton, scraps of fabric or band new stuffing.

I always save my scraps as these cut down on expenditure. Now to stuff.

When you stuff make sure you get it into all the areas as evenly as possible.

Once stuffed turn the opening into the inside and fold in.

Pin this closed.

Then using a ladder stitch to close up the seam.

This stitch has the needle going back and forth between the fabrics from the inside of the fabric.

You could also sew closed with whip stitch. This is where you place the needle into the fabric and pull the thread over the top of the fabric. It is done with very small stitches tightly together.

Mine is not very neat as I struggle to hand sew.

That’s it, you have finished. Well done, you now have a Kantha quilted pincushion to add to your sewing kit. What’s more, you have made it yourself. You will be the envy of all your non- sewing and sewing friends alike.

The best thing about this pincushion, it is reversible.

Next month I will be discussing Boro – Japanese patchwork…

…So start saving that denim.