Wednesday, 1 January 2014


The Christmas period is extremely suited to relaxed hand stitching. Do you see it: Sitting in the corner of the sofa, feet up. A nice roaring fire in the stove, a nice cup of hot tea or even warmed wine within reach and maybe a mince pie or minty chocolates...

So in recent weeks hand stitching has been the order of the day. Several hand stitching techniques have to be explored as part of the course, and sashiko is one of them. Traditionally, sashiko was used in Asia (China and Japan) to reinforce and repair clothing and to stitch several layers of cloth together for warmth. It is worked by hand in running stitch, traditionally in white thread on indigo fabric.
I used a double layer of a lovely linen/cotton fabric in navy/indigo. (I'm showing the same fabric in all the photographs though I don't seem able to get the colour quite right in the pictures... You'll have to take my word for it...) A very sharp sturdy needle and white sashiko thread and off I went:

only few supplies are needed

I am suspecting the Japanese are generally much better stitchers than I am (many non-Japanese, too), and they would probably stitch away without much marking on their fabrics, but I did mark the patterns first.
The stitches are worked evenly in running stitch, each about the size of a grain of rice (no long grain rice though!) and the spaces between the stitches are about as long as the stitches themselves. The running stitch is worked in long continuous lines, forming decorative and geometric patterns:

 At first I found it quite hard to get the stitches even, but after a while I found a rhythm to the stitching and it became most relaxing. After the straight lines I tried a pattern with curves:

Of course each pattern has a name and I think this one has something to do with grasses waving in the wind... but my Japanese is not great (absolutely non-existent!) and I can't be sure.

Then I got really going:

This pattern looked so pretty when it was marked, but I found the stitching quite frustrating: The stitches are not supposed to overlap where the lines cross (at the top where the "flower" is attached to the arch), so you have to space the stitches along each section to end with a small gap. There have been too many times that I unpicked again and again to get it right...

Then I tried this one:

And I absolutely loved it! You stitch the widest arches along one row, then on the way back you stitch the second row of arches underneath the first, followed by the third. At the bottoms of the second and third arches you leave a loose loop of thread between the layers (or at the back of the fabrics if you prefer) to travel to the next arch along the row. This pattern stitched faster than expected and I love the texture it created when it was finished. I'd happily use this one again.

sampler with the four patterns
Then I found another pattern that I just had to try:

Because the stitches are not overlapping, little starbursts are formed on the intersections. Maybe not as even as I would have liked, but I still find them rather pretty. This pattern was surprisingly quickly stitched, too, which is a bonus when there is so much sewing to be done.

I am thinking of stitching a table runner with sashiko for understated elegance on my table. I only have to decide on the pattern to use. And then there is the minor matter of finding the time...

Wishing you all a happy and healthy New Year,



heart of charnwood said...

I adore the look of the sashiko, great work, it is definitely high on my list of want to try techniques, if I could just get a little spare time...

Catrin Lewis said...

Beautiful x I'm sure that it would make a gorgeous table runner.

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