Kantha Needlecase

Materials

  • Three 12in x 8in pieces of prewashed fine calico or cotton (this is larger than the finished article to allow for ease of working).
  • 12in x 8in piece of fine wadding, Polyfelt, fine needlepunched wadding or thick felt.
  • Two 8in x 4in pieces of coloured felt.
  • One skein of Choices four-strand mercerised cotton or DMC flower thread (a pleasing result is obtained if the thread and felt are the same colour).
  • One skein of cream stranded cotton.
  • 4in square of template plastic or thin card.

Finished Size

The finished needlecase measures approximately 4 1/4in square when closed.

Skill Level

Intermediate

I always like to keep my quilting 'betweens' separate from my other needles, so what better way than keeping them in a quilted needlecase. The motif used to decorate the needlecase is the wheel or chakra – a design found in the majority of kanthas. It symbolises rebirth and the continuity of life. The needlecase is made of cream calico – white or cream being the traditional colour used for kanthas. I linked the colour of the thread used to stitch the chakra with the colour of felt I used inside the needlecase.

Kantha Needlecase

Method

  1. Iron the fabric and tape one piece to a firm surface using masking tape.
  2. Using a water soluble pen or other marker, mark out a 9in x 5in rectangle (the outside edge of the needlecase) and then inside this a rectangle 8in x 4in (the position of the border) (Figure 1). The outer marking is larger than the finished item's dimensions to allow for the slight "shrinkage" that the quilting will cause.
  3. Trace off the full size chakra (wheel) design from the template and transfer it to the piece of template plastic or thin card. Cut out the shapes to leave a stencil.
  4. On the marked piece of fabric mark the centre of the front and back inner squares by laying a ruler across from diagonal corners and making a small line near the centre. Where the two lines cross will be the centre point (Figure 2).
  5. Put a pin through the centre of the stencil and through a marked centre on the fabric. This will position the stencil correctly. With the marker mark the design on the fabric following the lines of the stencil. Repeat for the other marked square on the fabric (Figure 3).
Figure 1: Mark outlines on fabric
Figure 1: Mark outlines on fabric
  1. Remove the masking tape and tack together the needlecase top, the wadding and the backing fabric (second piece of calico). As the quilting is done in the hand the layers need to be securely tacked together.
  2. Using one strand of the coloured thread, make a line of running stitches around the inner marked square on both the front and back of the item. This ensures that the fabric is not distorted when the traditional contoured quilting is worked around the design. Repeat with two more lines of running stitch close to the first (Figure 4).
Figure 2: Mark centre point of each square
Figure 2: Mark centre point of each square.
  1. To stitch the chakra on the front of the needlecase, start at the centre of the wheel. Fasten on one strand of coloured thread into the backing fabric with a back stitch and bring the needle up to the side of one of the marked shapes. Take a running stitch over the marked area, under the space between the marked areas, and up again at the next marked area. Repeat this round all the shapes. The running stitch is worked outwards in a circular direction so that the shapes are gradually filled in (Figure 5). Do not be tempted to work a satin stitch across each shape in turn. The desired effect of this technique will only be achieved by working in this circular fashion. When a length of thread is finished, fasten it off neatly into the backing fabric and continue stitching from that point.
Figure 3: Transfer chakra shapes
Figure 3: Transfer chakra shapes
  1. Using one strand of the cream stranded embroidery cotton, work running stitch as a contour around the chakra. The first line of stitching will be around the actual shape of the chakra following the "spokes" (Figure 6), followed by circular stitching around the shape (Figure 7). When the corners are reached continue the circular lines into the corners (Figure 8).
  2. On the back of the needlecase (in the other marked square) work a running stitch line in the cream stranded cotton around the marked shape, as an echo of the design on the front.
  3. Using one strand of the coloured thread complete the and back of the needlecase by fastening on the thread at the back of the work and bringing the needle up just underneath one block of the three parallel lines of running stitch. Take the thread up and down through the blocks of running stitch, as shown in Figure 9, and then back in the other direction (Figure 10).
Figure 4: Stitch parallel lines of running stitch for border pattern
Figure 4: Stitch parallel lines of running stitch for border pattern
Figure 5: Stitch running stitches in a circle round the shapes
Figure 5: Stitch running stitches round the shapes
  1. Stitch a line of tacking stitches along the outer marked line; this will act as a guide when lining the work. Remove the other tacking stitches from the needlecase.
  2. With right sides facing, tack the lining (a third piece of calico) and the quilted piece together, using the tacked guidelines along the outer marked line as the seam line. Machine three sides together, leaving one short end open (Figure 11).
Figure 6, 7 & 8
Figure 6: Stitch contour line round outside of shapes

Figure 7: Stitch in circles round the chakra shape

Figure 8: Stitch circular lines into corners
  1. Trim all the seams and turn the needlecase right side out through the opening, to enclose all the seams inside. Ease out the corners carefully.
  2. Fold in the edges of the open end and oversew together neatly with cream sewing cotton.
  3. Tack one piece of coloured felt to the wrong side of the needlecase. It may need to be trimmed a little, depending on how much the quilting has "shrunk" the original size. The felt should be approximately 1/4in from the edge of the needlecase. Hem it down neatly round the edge.
  4. Tack a second piece of felt to the needlcase, then using an even back stitch and coloured thread, sew it down the centre of the needlecase right through to the other side. Remove the tacking. Trim the felt if necessary.
Figure 9: For border pattern weave thread through blocks of running stitch
Figure 9: For border pattern weave thread through blocks of running stitch
Figure 9: Then weave back in other direction
Figure 10: Then weave back in other direction
Figure 11: Stitch round edge of needlecase, leaving short end open
Figure 11: Stitch round edge of needlecase, leaving short end open

First published in Popular Patchwork Volume 7 Number 3 - June 1999