Sashiko is a Japanese form of embroidery used to repair or reinforce clothing. These simple decorative designs usually depict geometric patterns or those found in nature. Sashiko uses a long-running stitch with thick white thread usually on a loosely woven indigo fabric. An embroidery hoop is not used. Instead, the stitches are long and the fabric is smoothed after each series of stitches.
The supplies needed include:
- Sashiko Thread. This unique thread has a matte finish, is thicker and has a loose twist which is different from pearl cotton or embroidery floss which has a sheen. The most common colors are white, light blue and indigo. Since the thread is thick it stands up from the fabric giving texture to the design
- Loosely Woven Fabric. Use linen or Japanese cotton fabric. The fabric and thread should contrast for a classic look.
- Needle. The Saskiko needle had a large eye to accommodate the thick thread and a uniform shaft with a sharp point. This allows the needle to pass through the fabric easily without harm.
- Thimble. Necessary to push the needle through multiple folds created when making a long-running stitch.
- Chalk or invisible ink pen. Needed for transferring designs to fabric. (optional)I became intrigued by sashiko when working on visible mending projects (See Creative Corner Articles Visible Mending – April 2019 and Repair, Renew, Restore Ripped Jeans – June 2019) and purchased a kit from www.brooklynhaberdashery.com. The fabric is preprinted so transferring the design is not needed.
- Read more ‘Creative Corner’ articles here: https://www.theconnectionsnj.com/category/creative-corner/
Start by pressing the fabric. The idea is to make a running stitch by piercing the fabric with stitches 1.5 to 2 times longer than the blank spaces. The stitches should be uniform in length. A running stitch looks like dashes on the fabric surface and underside. You do this by tying a knot in the thread and then bring the needle up and down into the fabric, making the dashes and accumulating the stitches on the needle. This will make little pleats in the fabric. Bunch up the pleats until you have a third of the needle length covered with pleats, or you reach another pattern line or row end. By using a pre-printed fabric, the stitch length is set for you. Perfect for a beginner. Push the needle from the back end rather than pull the needle through the fabric. This makes for less tension. Use the thimble to help push the needle through the bunched fabric and then pull the needle through. Smooth the fabric to remove all the tension created with the thread. Then repeat the running stitch.
When stitching the designs, all horizontal stitching is completed first. The fabric is turned and then the horizontal stitching is done, followed by diagonal stitching. Leave a small loop of thread on the wrong side of the fabric when changing directions so the fabric does not pucker. This also eases the tension. Another tip is you can move to another area without cutting and knotting the thread as long as the space is less than 1” away.
If you enjoyed needlepoint in the past, this is simpler, yet precision matters. This technique can be easily applied as a visible repair to ripped jeans. Just add an extra piece of fabric to the inside and stitch away.
Sashiko supplies are available online. Design books are available in the library or online. Susan Briscoe’s The Ultimate Sashiko Sourcebook: Patterns, Design, and Inspiration is a great source of ideas.
Carolyn Hanson is a local knitting and crochet designer, teacher and fiber artist. She can be contacted at