Monday, November 6, 2017

Sashiko Embroidery

             Continuing on after Mexican bordado, Hungarian Matyo, and Swedish Delsbosom, my embroidery journey takes me to Japan and Sashiko.

             I am always amazed at the deceptive simplicity of Japanese arts and crafts. The beauty of this simplicity moves me; at first look it seems obvious and straightforward but that accessibility turns out to be the product of in depth thought, mastery of materials, a delicate balance of form and allusion, and a commitment to clarity. The basic geometry and sparse detailing evoke natural simplicity making these pieces seem misleadingly effortless. Japanese arts is a testament to the illusion of simple things and what they hold beneath the surface.

               Sashiko, a centuries old art, is a form of Japanese folk embroidery using a variation of the simple running stitch or now well known as the sashiko stitch to create a patterned background. The geometric, all-over patterns include straight or curved lines of stitching arranged in a repeating pattern. The Japanese word sashiko means “little stabs” and refers to the small stitches used in this form of needlework. 

             For my first attempt at sashiko I chose a pre-printed sampler on 100% cotton and a pattern called 'Kaki-no-hana'. I also stayed true to sashiko by choosing  to work with sashiko thread and sashiko needle. The beautiful time-honored patterns are inspired by the Japanese' love and respect for nature and hence follow a rhythm and lyricism inspired by nature.

                    Sashiko is easy to master and is very meditative and relaxing. Although the patterns range from simple to very complicated, they are just a matter of breaking down the whole into linear parts. The patterns are always worked in linear only.

               The simple Sashiko stitch is used to create simple and complex designs and this style of embroidery is both beautiful and functional. Aesthetically the sashiko patterns are very pleasing with their symmetry and precise use of space. Functionally these stitches were used for mending and quilting. It was used to add weight and thickness for warmth in garments. Farmers and fishermen used and reused materials and sashiko techniques made the most of their resources. In the winter women of the families used sashiko techniques to extend the life of worn fabrics, mend, and winterize clothing, and embellish everyday items. Shades of indigo fabric were patched or quilted neatly together with sashiko stitches, covering holes and reinforcing worn areas.  Traditionally, sashiko patterns were sewn with off-white stitches on dark indigo fabric. The timeless excitement of indigo and white strikes me as a classic combination that carries to a clean and elegant look.

                    I chose to sew my completed sampler into a drawstring bag. I chose a bright red fabric with small flowers which reminded me of the Japanese cherry blossoms for the lining of the bag. The combination of the dark blue and white with pops of red is so dramatic and chic.

A very good informative site on Sashiko and its history: