Next up from my adventures at the Creativ Festival is a workshop on sashiko, taught by Alma Laidlaw of Sew Fancy Inc. I had no idea what sashiko was when I signed up for this workshop. All I knew was that it was a type of embroidery, and I’m always game to learn a new embroidery technique.

Turns out it’s a Japanese technique that uses small running stitches to create geometric designs. The craft dates back to the Edo era (1615-1868) and was originally used to help strengthen fabrics or patch together worn out pieces of fabric. Although it is unknown exactly when or where in Japan this craft first emerged, during the Edo era laws prevented the lower classes from wearing bright colours or large patterns so small stitch designs of white thread on indigo fabric became common place. Today sashiko is prized for the beauty of these geometric patterns and many stitchers enjoy the relaxing, repetitive action of creating the designs.

Sashiko thread today comes in many different colours and sashiko can be stitched on many types of fabric, however, white cotton sashiko thread stitched on indigo cotton fabric is still a common and popular combination.

There are two types of sashiko so the workshop focused on creating two small samples. The first is moyōzashi, which is made up of continuous, uncrossing lines of running stitch.

Moyozashi sashiko stitch sample

Notice how even in the corners of this design the stitches don’t actually meet. Your eye naturally fills in the spaces to make it work.

The second type is hitomezashi which is also worked as running stitch but the stitches meet or cross to make up the design.

Hitomezashi sashiko fan stitch sample

In this particular sample, the outline of the fan is moyōzashi and the design filling the fan body is hitomezashi.

It was interesting learning about the history of sashiko and getting to try out this historical technique, and I may even do some more of it in the future. But to me it’s pretty much just blackwork with more initial set up effort. First you need to find the specialty sashiko thread and needles and an appropriate piece of fabric. Then you need to meticulously transfer the design to your fabric using transfer paper or stencils. I’d much rather just grab a piece of counted fabric and some standard embroidery floss from my local craft store and be on my way. The advantage of sashiko of course is the beautiful curves that are so difficult to create on counted fabrics. And no one wants to wear a piece of aida.

2 thoughts on “Sashiko

  1. This is really quite lovely…I can picture one of these designs repeated on a throw cushion, or perhaps a tote bag. This technique obviously requires great precision.


    • Bags seem to be quite a common project. I’ve seen some kits for bags where the pattern is pre-printed on the fabric which is a huge bonus! If I ever grab one though I’ll be coming to you for sewing assembly help after I’m done stitching!


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