Wow, can anyone tell me where February went? I can not believe that another month has already been and gone!
In this month’s blog, I am going to tell you a little bit about the history of Sashiko, (pronounced Sash – Co), plus the discovery and start of my journey of this wonderful technique.
I am sure that many of you out there already know lots and lots about this technique, so please excuse me if it feels like I am teaching you to suck eggs. I can assure you that is not the case!
I discovered Sashiko by chance early last autumn while watching my favourite programme Sewing Quarter on television (freeview 78 / Sky 678, seven days a week from noon). Initially, me being silly me, thought they were demonstrating hand quilting (yet another skill which I really need to learn)! I had just made a quick cuppa, so I sat down and started to watch it.
Once the guest designer started talking about the technique, it soon became clear that this wasn’t hand quilting being demonstrated but something that I had never heard of, let alone be able to pronounce!
I watched the rest of the programme, fascinated with not just the history of Sashiko, but also the beautiful designs that it could produce. I was also wondering if it could be used as a way of practicing my hand stitching, so that I could learn to hand quilt.
So, what exactly do I know about the history of Sashiko I hear you shout? Compared to some, very little. However, knowing the history is not essential to be able to participate and enjoy this beautiful technique.
Sashiko is a Japanese form of quilting. I believe it started back in the fifteenth century, or maybe even before. The word Sashiko means “little stabs” or “running stitch” and was used to repair or join fabrics together for warmth.
Historically, different areas of Japan would often have their own patterns and designs. Modern designs of Sashiko tend to be geometric patterns, often stitched in white thread (either 3 or more strands of embroidery thread, or special Sashiko thread), onto indigo dyed fabric. However, any colour embroidery or Sashiko thread, or material can be used.
One of the main rules of Sashiko is that no individual stitch touches or crosses over. In the above picture you can clearly see that no two stitches touch. Also, there are special needles for Sashiko. These are much longer and pretty much impossible to bend. This is so that you can weave the fabric on and off of the fabric to create lots of stitches in a short space of time.
As a total newbie, I chose to buy some pre-printed fabric with a Sashiko designs on it from E-Bay. I opted to do this one for speed and two because if the truth be told my hand sewing stinks!
In the above picture you can clearly see the pre-printed design on the material.
You can however trace your own design or a copyright-free designs onto some fabric using chacopy tracing paper. There are plenty of beautiful designs out there on Pinterest, E-Bay, Amazon and maybe even your local library.
Whatever fabric you choose to use, I would advisable to do a zig-zag stitch all around the outside edge of your fabric to minimise fraying. This is because with Sashiko you are manipulating the fabric on and off the needle, as opposed to embroidery or hand sewing where the needle moves in and out the of the fabric. I would certainly recommend watching a tutorial on YouTube before you start if possible.
To start sewing though, you need to make a knot in the end of the thread……A KNOT I HEAR YOU SCREAM!!! Yes a knot!
Here you can see the starter knot on the reverse of the fabric!
Begin working from the back of the cloth and ensure that you keep the tension of the stitches even. Make small loops at the back of the fabric when it comes to stitching turns and corners. This will help keep the tension even.
In this photo you can see the part finished design. When I return to my Sashiko I will be doing the smaller curves in gold to create a nice contour.
If you look on Pinterest and search for “Sashiko designs” you will see hundreds of designs. Also if you search for Sashiko tutorials on YouTube there will be plenty to view.