Artisan Stories: Quilt Embroiderers, Bangladesh

Quilt Embroiderers, Bangladesh

This kantha quilt is made by a fair trade social enterprise that employs survivors of trafficking and sexual exploitation. This empowering project provides vulnerable women with a safe haven, training and dignified work, often for the first time in their lives. The project is called 'Basha' which comes from the Bengali words for 'house' and 'hope'.

Bangladesh is a country of extremes, with densely-populated cities and remote rural villages. The UN identifies Bangladesh as one of the 'least developed' countries in the world based on social and economic measures. Our social enterprise partner has two locations in the capital, Dhaka, and a third office in the city of Mymensingh.

Vintage sari cotton

Kantha quilts are made from vintage cotton saris, making every blanket unique. Merchants travel door-to-door in wealthier neighbourhoods, trading old saris for cooking pots and utensils. The saris are sold on at large markets in Dhaka, where the most beautiful and colourful are hand-selected for a new life as a kantha quilt.

How is it made?

The word 'kantha' means 'patched cloth' and Bangladeshi women have made quilts like this for centuries. Six cotton saris are layered together and carefully hand-sewn with neat rows of contrasting thread. A kantha quilt takes about six days to create and is made by one woman from start to finish. The completed kantha is laundered and finished with a label hand-embroidered with the maker's name.

How your purchase improves lives

This social enterprise breaks the cycle of poverty for women in Bangladesh. In addition to a secure job the women receive additional benefits including subsidised medical care, life skills classes and a free on-site nursery school for their children while they are at work. Buying a kantha quilt gives brave women the chance to leave behind past traumas and social stigma and develop into leaders and entrepreneurs

“My life has changed so much. I've forgotten all my past and I am proud that I am doing a respectable job. My daughter will have a good education and she won’t have to go through what I have been through” Jahanara

View other products by these artisans

Image and video credits: Basha