Ysabel’s Notebook, my SCA blog: https://ysabelsnotebook.wordpress.com
Closeup photos of three colchas I examined at the Boston MFA: https://ysabelsnotebook.wordpress.com/home-page/colchas-at-the-mfa-boston/
For many centuries, decorative stitching techniques have been used in Bengal to embellish
textiles. There are numerous extant examples of colchas, which are large embroidered and
quilted textiles created in the 16th and 17th centuries for the Muslim and European export
markets. Although none of the surviving colchas was produced for local use within Bengal,
period texts describe a variety of embroidered and quilted clothing and household items in an
Indian context. The extant colchas are surviving historic examples of a longstanding Bengali
tradition of kantha quilting and embroidery that continues to the present day.
My project is an embroidered and quilted 12-inch square in the style of a colcha, using
materials, techniques, and motifs appropriate for 16th century Bengal. It is modeled on one of
three colchas I examined by special appointment at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, where I
was able to see thread and stitches close-up and take many high-resolution photos. An
embroidered square such as this might have been used as a book wrap, jewelry roll, or cushion
cover in a wealthy Bengali home, or sold for export.
I taught myself to spin on a takli and charkha to make appropriate tussar silk thread for this
embroidery. My experiments with thread and sizing are documented in an appendix.