Sashiko Embroidery | Japanese Running Stitch Tutorial

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Modern technology has made the world of difference to the enjoyment of other cultures and their traditional folk art as today we can bring these designs into our homes. Japanese Sashiko embroidery is a beautiful, but simple art form making effective use of the simple running stitch.

Learn how to sew Sashiko EmbroideryPinSashiko Embroidery


What is Sashiko Embroidery?How to Sew Sashiko EmbroiderySashiko Embroidery Materials:Sashiko Embroidery Patterns:Sewing Sashiko EmbroideryStep One: Prepare FabricStep Two: Design TransferStep Three: StitchingTips for Sewing Sashiko EmbroiderySashiko Embroidery Therapy!MORE EMBROIDERY STITCHES

What is Sashiko Embroidery?

Sashiko, meaning little stabs, is made of little up and down incisions of the needle and thread called running stitch. Following simple geometric and traditional patterns, Sashiko will have you totally caught up in its simplistic designs and traditional beauty.

sashiko embroiderysashiko embroideryPinSashiko Embroidery

How to Sew Sashiko Embroidery

Sashiko Embroidery Materials:

Sashiko, in its original art form, was worked on indigo fabrics in a white thread, but in the embroidery world of today, traditional colors are not so important.  It could be said, however, that Sashiko looks best in a light color on a darker fabric.

sashiko embroiderysashiko embroideryPinSashiko Embroidery Example

The fabric chosen should be medium to lightweight with an open weave to allow for easy insertion of the needle and visible thread count.

Needles need to be long and sharp because sometimes several stitches may be taken up by the needle at one time. There are special needles available or alternatively, a long needle with a sharp point is equally suitable.

The thread can be a quality made for Sashiko embroidery or plain embroidery thread will also work well.

Sashiko Embroidery Patterns:

Original Sashiko embroidery and its modern interpretations are based on geometric designs as well as some traditional cultural elements.

Shapes, circles and especially repeating diamonds feature predominantly in Sashiko embroidery. These geometric patterns lend themselves to the use of running stitch and the traditional lines created for Sashiko embroidery.

Aspects of nature are also popular and include mountains, waves, arrows, feathers and the persimmon flower.

sashiko patternssashiko patternsPinSashiko Embroidery Designs

Sewing Sashiko Embroidery

Step One: Prepare Fabric

Prewash and prepare the fabric.

It is vital to prewash the fabric in case of shrinkage which will affect the stitches by causing them to pucker.  Prewashing will ensure that the color does not run from the fabric, and affect the color of the embroidery thread.

Step Two: Design Transfer

Drawing a simple design with the help of a grid.

The Sashiko designs are mainly symmetrical and the grid allows you to fit the design into the lines so that every part of it is symmetrical. Sashiko embroidery will look the same on both sides of the fabric.

Use a grid ruler or graph paper and draw the design onto the fabric with a washable marker or tailor’s chalk.

It is also possible to used fusible interfacing on which to draw the pattern and iron it onto the back of the fabric. The interfacing method is only suitable for articles that will not be affected by the stiffening on the reverse side.

Step Three: Stitching

Start stitching.

Sashiko is simply a running stitch which is a basic up and down stitch.

Further Reading:How to Do a Running Stitch

running stitchrunning stitchPin

Tips for Sewing Sashiko Embroidery

There are a few factors that will improve the overall outcome.

Use a long enough thread to complete an entire row without having to stop and start.Be prepared to put several stitches onto the needle at a time.Visualize a grain of rice for this repetitive stitch in order to keep it uniform.Refrain from making knots at the back. Instead, use a double backstitch to start.Keep a stitch proportion of 3:2 as you make the stitches on the front side of the design slightly longer than the back.Leave a loose loop at the back when you turn a corner to prevent puckering.

Sashiko embroidery is a very symmetrical art form and these extra tips will help with the finer points of your finished article.

INTERSECTIONS – When two lines of the designs intersect, leave a gap and do not overlap the stitch. Leaving the center open gives a better symmetrical appearance. I did my sample late at night so didn`t follow my own advice! It would have looked much neater with a little planning.CORNERS – Plan ahead for corners. There must be a stitch that ends right into the corner or starts from out of the corner.STITCH ORDER – Follow this stitch order: Straight lines vertical or horizontal come first, followed by diagonals and finally curved lines.sashiko cornerssashiko cornersPinSashiko Embroidery Intersections and Corners

Sashiko Embroidery Therapy!

Japanese Sashiko embroidery, like Japanese zen gardens, will have you totally immersed in the therapeutic act of meditation as you sew.

Think of the beautiful zen gardens, with gentle lines raked across soft sand, as you curve your running stitches effortlessly across the fabric.

zen gardenzen gardenPin

On completion, you can give a traditional little bow and say: ‘Sayonara’ – farewell.

Time to end a peaceful act of quiet meditation while you worked on your Sashiko embroidery.


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