Happy Sunday to you! Today our topic is a technique called 刺し子 Sashiko (pronounced: sa-sh-ko). Sashiko falls under the category of “functional embroidery”. Sashiko is sometimes found on clothing because it reinforces cotton fabric and can be stitched quickly in attractive patterns. Today, Sashiko is mainly decorative and often seen on napkins and place-mats or hung as artwork.
Basically, Sashiko is artfully placed running stitches in (usually) geometric designs for the purpose of mending or reinforcing fabric. The Japanese people are not wasteful and believe, if something is broken then it can be made more valuable with mending. You may have seen this practice with Japanese tea cups and bowls. If something breaks, instead of ending up as garbage, you mend it with gold and now it’s more valuable than it was before. The Japanese philosophy of embracing imperfection is called, “wabi-sabi”. In my opinion, this is a positive outlook for many things in life.
Don’t have anything that needs mending? Well, that’s ok! Sashiko’s decorative use is equally as amazing as it’s function. There are all sorts of kits and patterns you can find throughout the webs. If you’re handy with a ruler, designs can be simple enough to make your own. Here’s a super cute DIY idea.
Make your own Sashiko Sampler bracelet with some old denim. If you have kids, then you probably have tons of perfectly good jeans that they’ve grown out of. Get to work and make something for yourself!
Traditionally, for Sashiko you need a long needle and a special thimble that sits in the palm of your hand.
Use the long needle to make several running stitches at once, how ever many you can handle comfortably. The proper proportions are 3:2, with the longer stitch on the right side of your work. I’ve also seen Sashiko that has a top stitch 3 times the length of the underneath stitch. This is awesome because who likes hard rules anyway? Creative anarchy!
Now before you get too carried away, Sashiko does have an important stitching lesson to teach us:
To avoid puckering, leave a small loop of thread at your turns.
This is a fabulous example showing how to make beautiful Sashiko.
I followed her Sashiko tips on how to turn and how to make intersections to create this lovely octopus using a design I picked up during my February trip to Tokyo. Since I made a hair clip last month, I’ll turn this one into a badge. I fashioned the octopus in the same way as my leopard ribbon hair clip. It’s just a couple felt layers, some fabric glue and a pin back.
If you prefer a modern method, Baby Lock makes a Sashiko sewing machine. I haven’t tried one yet, have you? They look like they’d be a total blast.
Next month, I’m going to be in Japan! That’s right, we’re off to Tokyo were I’ll be shopping, eating and on the hunt for embroidery. We’ll comb the vintage fashion district of Shimokitazawa, check out handmade pillows in Oshiage, take a stroll through Harajuku and oh, so much more. If you can’t wait until the 4th Sunday of September to see what I’m doing, just follow me on Twitter @Allons_yAlice (we leave for Tokyo on September 19th ) where I’ll post pictures of Japanese thread / craft / fiber / awesomeness.
When she’s not gallivanting overseas (usually to Japan) Madeline is making things at home in the Oregon countryside where she lives with four dogs, a pig and her human family. You can keep up with Madeline’s endless fiber projects and find her travel blog at www.madelinewonderland.com as well as visit her Etsy shop.