Kanthas are traditionally worked by village women on old cloth, mainly soft, discarded dhotis and Sarees. Layers of old white dhotis used by men or faded coloured Sarees are held together in running stitches along the edges, using thread drawn out of the faded borders of the discarded Sarees. These borders are generally torn off and preserved carefully for the purpose by kantha makers.

Kanthas meant for use as quilts are called lep-kanthas, and those designed as counterpanes are called sujani kanthas. Kanthas also serve as covers for boxes and mirrors, as pillow cases, stoles for women and shawls for men; they are very popular as diapers for babies too.

The main characteristic of a kantha is the patterned running stitches in white tread with which the kantha-maker covers the whole surface of the piece. The stitches secure the layers together and the surface, the kantha-maker works in her embroidery, an expression of her love and affection, her thoughts and dreams.

Kanthas are, therefore expressions of an individual women's artistic spirit and are never repeated.