So, how’s your Sashiko sampler coming? I’m really enjoying this project – there’s something really pleasingly mindless about it, once you get into the zone with it.
Which, admittedly, isn’t the easiest! I agree with those of you that have said the Sashiko thimble is hard to use. I feel like I just need to get used to how to hold my hand properly, and I have moments where it seems like I’ve got it – but then it’s gone again. But even though I find it awkward, I can’t imagine doing this embroidery without it. The combination of the extremely long and sturdy needle and the thimble does allow for a whole row of stitches to be picked up at once, which really a huge difference. An efficient and speedy style of stitching would be close to the opposite without that ability.
I expected this post to include some tips for stitching curves, thinking that it would be more difficult than straight lines somehow, but it really isn’t. I didn’t feel any difference at all doing this orange peel-ish section than the previous geometric patterns!
So now I just have to decide what to do in the last wedge there. I’d assumed something with curves, to make the whole thing symmetrical, but then I wonder if it’d be more interesting to keep this section the only curves. I only have a few days left to finish within February, so I’ll have to make up my mind pretty quickly!
And so we begin! I’ve transferred my pattern to fabric and gotten started with the stitching. The sashiko needle (I’m using the larger in the pair I bought) is kind of insanely long and feels very awkward, but I kept watching that one video and trying to mimic her movements and wowee, does it make a difference!
By pushing with the thimble sitting at the top of my palm / bottom of my middle finger, I am able to grip and rock the fabric with my free fingers. Kind of ingenius, actually!
It takes some practice and feels very odd at first, but even as I worked the first (simplest) section of my sampler, it started to speed up and I feel like my stitch length is getting a little more consistent. That rocking motion really does work a treat, and allows you to load up a crap-tonne of stitches before you pull your thread through. The first section of my sampler (shown in progress above) took about one hour to work up.
This sampler has already made me very curious to have a more comprehensive go at hand-quilting; I wonder if the rocking motion I learn for Sashiko will help that seem slightly less impossible!
Sashiko has always caught my interest because it is very simple but manages to be elegantly beautiful with so little. Basically just running stitch and a repeating pattern; not everything needs big, expensive tools and fancy materials to be effective. And actually, by a funny coincidence, all of our samplers so far (minus the french knot one, which is a bit of an odd one out) are based on running stitch. Both huck weaving and pattern darning create a running-stitch effect by passing under threads, and while blackwork isn’t strictly only running stitch, many of its stitch patterns rely on it. And yet – I don’t feel that they are really that similar at all.
Sashiko is a centuries-old technique that started as a practical method for strengthening clothing and stabilizing fabric layers for warmth (quilting, essentially). I am struck by how many craft techniques were established by combining a real basic need with a desire for things to be beautiful. Of course fabric could have been mended and strengthened in a utilitarian, boring way – but why not do it in a way that adds decorative individuality?!
Anyway, this webpage gives a nice historical overview and it is very interesting. But the general idea is that Sashiko uses a simple running stitch to create repeating geometric patterns. The thread, stitches and closeness of stitching give the fabric strength – and a yummy new texture! Because there is essentially just one stitch to learn with Sashiko, today we’re going to browse a few links to get an idea of how to do that.
Sarah’s Hand Embroidery Tutorials has posted an excellent 3-part Sashiko tutorial, covering materials, pattern types, stitching direction, etc — honestly, I think this set of pages is all we’d really need to work this sampler! This is almost definitely going to be my main source of information as I go: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.
While Sarah (of the above links) explains what Sashiko is all about, I’ve found two Japanese videos that allow you to see, which I think is vital when trying a new technique. This video is very long, but is really worth leaving on in the background while you eat your lunch or something. Would you look at her go! I appreciate that tutorials show still photos for clarity and how-to videos typically slow things down to make things accessible, but seeing this woman work at her natural speed is invaluable! This really helps understand the movement we’re aiming for.
This second video is totally awesome and typically Japanese, and is more of a traditional how-to. I have no idea what it’s saying, but the tips it offers on stitch length and working corners, etc, are shown through universally understandable diagrams. Definitely worth a look!
And lastly, About.com offers a series of free traditional Sashiko patterns, which is mostly what I’ll be using to work my sampler: Part 1, Part 2.
Of course, there’s loads of other tutorials and blog posts out there – some from very popular sites, some less so, but I spent a lot of time scanning through a lot of sites and photos and videos, and I’ve compiled this list based on what shows us the essentials as clearly as possible. So, have a look through them and watch the videos, and I’ll be back very soon to start stitching!
Hurrah! I’ve started to catch up and get things finished-along (update in the next couple of days), so it’s time, peeps. Ready to get back to our Year of Samplers? I’m going away for a few days, so we’ll aim to start Sampler #5 around February 5th – this time we’re going to learn a little about Sashiko embroidery!
So we can start up together next week, let’s get our supplies together now!
We won’t need much for this sampler – other than designs and the usual embroidery tools (scissors, etc), what’s pictured above is everything we’ll need. Sashiko thread, long sashiko needles, a sashiko thimble (which may or may not be necessary, but I like to try out the tools and see what’s what), and some Robert Kaufman Essex Linen (a cotton / linen blend) to stitch on. I honestly don’t know if this fabric is close to the traditional fabric for this type of stitching, but the internets says it’ll be a decent substitute. And since it’s what we embroider on for Little Dorrit & Co. patterns (it’s a lovely fabric to stitch on!), I happened to have some handy.
Other than the fabric, my sashiko supplies came from the the Cotton Patch (here in the UK).
So go hunt and gather and I’ll see you here next week to start Sampler #5!