A bit of history
Sashiko is a traditional Japanese embroidery technique, originally used to strengthen the areas of kimonos such as elbows that are prone to wearing out quickly. Traditionally it is worked in light thread on Japanese indigo cloth, to produce some amazingly complex and beautiful designs.
Having said that, I really think that sashiko is a technique that has a lot of potential applications in modern sewing. I've put together a mosaic of some less traditional uses of Sashiko - it has a distinctively Zakka feel to it, don't you think?
1. Sashiko Tsuno Kikko (Tortoise Shell), 2. DSC_0024_1369, 3. Sashiko -Shippotsunagi- 2, 4. Sashiko, 5. sashiko towel detail, 6. Sashiko Pouches, 7. Sashiko stitched, 8. Sashiko, 9. Hand Felted Bag Sashiko stitches detail
Tools:All you'll need is a needle, thread, thimble and fabric. You don't even need to work it using a hoop.
Traditional sashiko needles are very long - about 2". Rather than go out and buy new supplies I worked with what I had.
I tried a couple of different needles out (an ordinary sharp, the longest I had which was about 1 1/4" long.
My favorite needle for sashiko was a beading needle I use for sewing beads onto cross stitches. These are long, thin and a little bit flexible which I found really helpful.
The beautiful thing about sashiko is the little bumps the stitching produces. There are a few options for thread. You can purchase thread specifically designed for sashiko, but again I worked with what I had.
I ended up using two strands of DMC embroidery floss (the stuff you use for cross stitch) but I had a play with Aurifil 12wt cotton mako too, and it produced lovely results.
Ideally, it's best to choose a fabric with a slightly looser weave, such as linen or a cotton/linen blend.
To make this you will need a 7.5" x 14.5" rectangle of fabric (I've used Essex linen in natural) and fabric marking pen (mine is a water soluble pen I use for marking quilting lines), needle and thread.
The first thing you'll need to do is transfer a design onto your fabric. There is a brilliant website called Incompetech, which you can use to generate graph paper in a huge variety of shapes. I chose to do hexagons (with 1" sides) but there are so many options, including a traditional overlapping circular sashiko design. When I generate graph paper, I only change the colour (to black) and the hexagon size (in this case 1"), and leave the other parameters as is. If you have any questions on using it, please ask! Just as an aside, Incompetech is also an excellent tool for creating English Paper Piecing templates :o)
Once you've printed out your design, you'll need to transfer it onto your fabric using a dissolvable fabric marker - I simply taped the paper to a window, and then taped my fabric over it and started tracing. You will need to move your fabric a couple of times if you want to cover the entire area, since the print out is a fair bit smaller.
First, tie a quilter's knot in the end of your thread (I love this great tutorial by Heather Bailey).
Take your needle through from the underneath of your fabric, and then run the needle through the fabric until you have several stitches on the needle. The traditional ratio in sashiko is 3:2 - the three being the visible stitches, and the two being the gaps.
Then, push the needle all the way through, and gently pull the thread through. Pull the fabric taught, to avoid any puckering in the fabric.
Continue stitching up to the end of the first line. Some tutorials recommended leaving a small loop of thread on the underside before changing direction (to avoid puckering) - although I didn't do this and didn't find it to be a problem. I guess use whichever works best for you.
Continue around the shape until you've completed each side of the hexagon.
At this point, I decided to change to a lighter shade thread. To do this, tie a knot close to the end of your stitching in the first colour. Thread your needle with the second colour, again tying a quilter's knot in the end, and start stitching at one of the corners of the first colour.
At the end of this second hexagon, I chose to continue stitching another hexagon with the same coloured thread. To do this, turn your work over, and take your needle up through the next starting position, leaving a loop of thread on the back.
To avoid this causing puckering, make sure the loop isn't pulled taught.
Continue stitching around the hexagons, changing threads if desired. I used three different thread colours (the dark teal, a medium aqua and a very light aqua), and changed threads randomly throughout. The only whole hexagon in a single colour is the first one I stitched.
I'm thinking of making a couple more of these to sew together and make into a cushion. I'm also planning on embellishing some Japanese linen fabrics using sashiko to make into bags and the like. It is extremely relaxing and addictive - you have been warned ;o)
If you make a block using this tutorial, please add it to the Something New Blog Hop Flickr group - there are some great prizes up for grabs!