[Late 19th-century Kantha, made in Panjia, West Bengal. Stella Kramrisch Collection, Philadelphia Museum of Art.]
Not sure how I missed this three years ago when I posted a bit of background on the Philadelphia Museum of Art's exhibition, Kantha: The Embroidered Quilts of Bengal, but there's an accompanying podcast. And it's really good. Curator Darielle Mason takes viewers through the whole show, highlighting every amazing stitch.
[Screengrab showing one of many details in the video. Kantha is mid-19th century. Kramrisch Collection, PMA.]
Kanthas are embroidered textiles traditionally made by Bengali women using worn out clothes. Some are humble quilts with just the simplest of stitches while others, like the pieces in the past show, are elaborately embellished. White backgrounds are the norm, explains Mason, because until the mid-20th-century, Bengali women and men wore white muslin almost exclusively. Many women used colorful threads from old sari borders for the expressive embroidery, which often told a story.
The spectacular catalogue is still available in the Museum gift shop, btw -- paperback or clothbound. The free, 30 minute podcast can be found in iTunes or here.