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Sashiko - Mending and Embroidery


Sashiko (literally - little stabs) is a decorative form of mending or ornamental surface embroidery from Japan. It is a continuous hand or sometimes machine running stitch that forms simple elegant patterns in the fabric, originally used to mend patches in field workers’ clothing, to combine layers of thin fabric to form warm outer garments and on garments worn under armor. The arrangements of parallel running stitches are deliberately simple as Sashiko designs are based upon patterns found in nature. Today, Sashiko is regarded among the needlework arts of embroidery, quilting and appliqué.

Sashiko stitching traditionally was applied to dark indigo dyed fabric using heavy white cotton thread; today this decorative stitching is usually achieved by using any contrasting thread and fabric combination. The repeating interlocking patterns are often varied on the same quilt or garment they adorn.

The visually pleasing Sashiko patterns have names suggestive of their natural or cultural origins; passes in the mountains, lightning, arrow-feathers, woven bamboo, fishing nets, rising steam, Seven Treasures of Buddha, fish scales, mist, hemp leaf, pine bark, interlaced circle of two birds, and many, many more.

Sashiko patterns are worked without an embroidery hoop so practice is important to produce consistent tension and straight, even stitches. Time-honored Sashiko needles are surprisingly long to accommodate multiple piercings of the fabric at one time and the width of the needle does not taper gradually to the point as in traditional embroidery needles until the end. Contemporary Sashiko needles have a larger eye so that the heavier cotton thread is easy to pass through the eye of the specialized needle.

This needlework art is a tradition young girls would learn from their mothers and grandmothers. Sashiko today is counted among the needle arts. From a humble stitchery technique that was developed to strengthen, reinforce and repair workers’ garments and later refined as an artful embroidery and quilting technique, Sashiko continues in the legacy of sustainable sewing.

Sashiko Embroidery and Surface Embellishment as viewed on Pinterest.com

Sew happy, sew inspired.


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Content copyright © 2015 by Cheryl Ellex. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Cheryl Ellex. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Cheryl Ellex for details.

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