The Art of Craft: Sashiko

Today’s post has been written by one of our wonderful volunteers: Laura!

Hello fellow crafters

I want to share a recent discovery of mine, the art of sashiko (meaning ‘little stab’).  It’s a type of embroidery originating from rural parts of ancient Japan and involves only a running stitch.  Its distinctive appearance (indigo cloth and white thread) comes from the fact that lower classes were prohibited from wearing brightly coloured clothing.

(image sourced here)

Soon after discovering this form of embroidery I wanted to get a bit more info and learn how to do it properly.  I found it really fascinating how such intricate and beautiful designs could be created from just one type of stitch.  So after a bit of browsing around on the web for suitable tome on the subject, I found and purchased The Ultimate Sashiko Sourcebook by Susan Briscoe.

One of the things I liked most about this book was that Susan gives you background information about the history of this craft, and what it was originally used for.

It was a technique used by peasants in Japan in the 17th-19th century, and evolved due to a need to preserve clothing for as long as possible due to the high cost of cotton cloth.  The embroidery was originally applied to clothing as a way of mending garments and of reinforcing them, the stitching holding several layers of fabric together and making the clothes stronger and more hard wearing.  Over time, as the clothing wore out the fabric was often remade into bags, cleaning cloths and other items.

The patterns and designs often had spiritual significance.  Zig-zag lines protected from evil spirits, a star like hemp leaf design symbolised strength and was often used on children’s clothing, and one pattern resembling fishing nets was often used on fishermen’s clothing in the hope that it would help them get a good catch.

 Check out this antique piece, on Sri threads:

However you can use the sashiko style of stitching to create more modern and individual pieces.  For example Jo Avery of Bearpaw

You can purchase templates of popular sashiko designs, and can even buy kits to make up items for yourself using traditional sashiko materials.  For example these pillow patterns by Alderspring Designs are available here.

However you can use the sashiko style of stitching to create more modern and individual pieces.  For example Jo Avery of Bearpaw has created this really cute tea towel using sashiko stitching and appliqué.

Lastly, here is my first attempt at recreating some sashiko patterns, using black embroidery floss and some bright blue cotton.  Apart from my slightly wonky lines (I was sitting in a coach going to Sheffield when doing this) I think it’s a promising start. 

I can’t decide whether to turn them into coasters (following a project in the Sashiko book I bought) or to turn them into a patchwork cushion.  Check out my blog in the near future if you are interested in what I do with these.


Thanks so much Laura for sharing your latest crafty adventure with us!


2 responses to “The Art of Craft: Sashiko

  1. Really interesting post…and inspiring ME to do some mending. ha.

  2. Hehe! That’s a good thing. I have a bit of a mending pile to deal with myself 🙂

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