The history of the needlework suggests that owes its origin to the need to stitch skins of dead animals using sharp stones and bamboo needles. Even during the Iron Age, the man knew to cut and join. Then, they learned to pick cotton plants and trees, spin them into threads and weave them into clothes. Man had learned the art of stitching and joining even before they had known the use of fire.
Needlework in India has always been a vital part of weaving. Evidence of this can be taken from Gujarat, Chamba and West Bengal and Bangladesh. If designers of northern India create magic with their needles and threads of gold and silver on silk, so did the Kantha work and embroidery designs of Bengal.
Needlework has primarily been associated with women. Through ages, women have tried to express her emotions through this art form. The girls of West Bengal and Bangladesh are experts of Kantha Needlework. Her handmade quilts and wraps are often designed with geometric patterns and are very colorful.
The excavations at Mohenjo-daro, the sculptures in the old Buddhist stupas show human figures draped in stitched clothes, as do the figures of the Kushan age. This is also seen in the paintings at Ajanta and the descriptions of clothes in the works of Kalidas and others.
Mughals brought with them the Persian style which blended easily with the local tradition. This added to the beauty and during the days of Akbar, these Indo-Persian creations began to travel abroad and attract attention there. The Indian quilt was to be seen in European markets in the sixteenth century. These used to be made of yellow coloured silk and finely stitched.
In Kantha Needlework of Bengal, old and about to be discarded clothes, such as – old saris and dhotis have been extensively used in Nakshi Kantha Works, including Kantha Quilts. If a piece of clothing had become too old to be used, it had to be put to some alternative use. The women claimed that as far as possible things should not go to waste. Behind the art and beauty of needlework, there is this determination to save.
Needlework in India has a tradition, colorful and varied. The threads are usually red, blue or yellow. However, all other colors are also in vogue. The Indian artists described religious rites along with scenes of everyday life. This was particularly to be found in the coastal regions like, Bengal, Orissa, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Gujrat.