Modern technology has made the world of difference to the enjoyment of other cultures and their traditional folk art as today we can bring these designs into our homes. Japanese Sashiko embroidery is a beautiful, but simple art form making effective use of the running stitch.
Sashiko, meaning little stabs, is made of little incisions of the needle and thread. Following simple geometric and traditional patterns, Sashiko will have you totally caught up in its simplistic designs and traditional beauty.
How to Sew Sashiko Embroidery
Sashiko, in its original art form, was worked on indigo fabrics in a white thread, but in the embroidery world of today, traditional colors are not so important. It could be said, however, that Sashiko looks best in a light color on a darker fabric.
The fabric chosen should be medium to lightweight with an open weave to allow for easy insertion of the needle and visible thread count.
Needles need to be long and sharp because sometimes several stitches may be taken up by the needle at one time. There are special needles available or alternatively, a long needle with a sharp point is equally suitable.
The thread can be a quality made for Sashiko embroidery or plain embroidery thread will also work well.
Original Sashiko embroidery and its modern interpretations are based on geometric designs as well as some traditional cultural elements.
Shapes, circles and especially repeating diamonds feature predominantly in Sashiko embroidery. These geometric patterns lend themselves to the use of running stitch and the traditional lines created for Sashiko embroidery.
Aspects of nature are also popular and include mountains, waves, arrows, feathers and the persimmon flower.
Step One: Prewash and prepare the fabric.
It is vital to prewash the fabric in case of shrinkage which will affect the stitches by causing them to pucker. Prewashing will ensure that the color does not run from the fabric, and affect the color of the embroidery thread.
Step two: Drawing a simple design with the help of a grid.
The Sashiko designs are mainly symmetrical and the grid allows you to fit the design into the lines so that every part of it is symmetrical. Shashiko will look the same on both sides of the fabric.
Use a grid ruler or graph paper and draw the design onto the fabric with a washable marker or tailor’s chalk.
It is also possible to used fusible interfacing on which to draw the pattern and iron it onto the back of the fabric. The interfacing method is only suitable for articles that will not be affected by the stiffening on the reverse side.
Step three: Start stitching.
Sashiko is simply a running stitch which is a basic up and down stitch. (Read how to do a running stitch)
There are a few factors that will improve the overall outcome.
- Use a long enough thread to complete an entire row without having to stop and start.
- Be prepared to put several stitches onto the needle at a time.
- Visualise a grain of rice for this repetitive stitch in order to keep it uniform.
- Refrain from making knots at the back. Instead, use a double backstitch to start.
- Keep a stitch proportion of 3:2 as you make the stitches on the front side of the design slightly longer than the back.
- Leave a loose loop at the back when you turn a corner to prevent puckering.
More Tips for Sewing Sashiko
Sashiko embroidery is a very symmetrical art form and these few tips will help with the finer points of your finished article.
- When two lines of the designs intersect, leave a gap and do not overlap the stitch. Leaving the center open gives a better symmetrical appearance. I did my sample late at night so didn’t follow my own advice! It would have looked much neater with a little planning.
- Plan ahead for corners. There must be a stitch that ends right into the corner or starts from out of the corner.
- Follow this stitch order: Straight lines vertical or horizontal come first, followed by diagonals and finally curved lines.
Japanese Sashiko embroidery, like Japanese zen gardens, will have you totally immersed in the therapeutic act of meditation as you sew.
Think of the beautiful zen gardens, with gentle lines raked across soft sand, as you curve your running stitches effortlessly across the fabric.
On completion, you can give a traditional little bow and say: ‘Sayonara’ – farewell.
Time to end a peaceful act of quiet meditation while you worked on your Sashiko, Japanese embroidery.