Makers & Menders
Sashiko

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Things you learn with your hands you don't forget.

Basics of Sashiko

A Workshop coming soon. 

 

What is Sashiko:

Sashiko means little stitches.

 

History:

It is not known exactly when sashiko originated. It probably originated in different areas of Japan. 

Sashiko then developed as a peasant household activity, during the Edo period, 1615 - 1868, to give fabrics, (linen, hemp, and ramie) of which there were not many, a longer life. Girls and young women attended village needlework schools in the winter, when farm work was at rest, where sashiko was passed from hand to hand. Learning sashiko helped instill values such as patience and perseverance, which were essential for a farmer's wife. 

Sashiko was used to make cleaning rags, furoshiki (cloths for wrapping), rice bags, insoles, firefighters' clothing, work clothes (hanten and donza jackets, etc.) aprons, and futon kisssen and blankets. 

Sashiko was also used as a spiritual practice in sewing funzo-e kesa (Buddhist priest's cloak). Funzo-e were fashioned from old fabric scraps and were a symbol of humility. Their making was an act of devotion. Prayers were recited during the process. 

Sashiko is traditionally sewn by hand. The traditional colors are white and blue. During the Edo period, it was forbidden for the lower classes to wear colorful clothes with large patterns. An order during the Edo period stated that peasants in Shōnai could only wear blue or gray and that a pattern could not be larger than a straw. This may be the origin of why sashiko stitches should resemble a grain of rice. 

Today, sashiko is also used in quilting and embroidery for decorative purposes.

The Sashiko Stitch:

Originally, Sashiko is a stitch for quilting, that is, at least two layers of fabric are held together by the simple running stitch common to Sashiko to make fabrics thicker for better protection from cold, but also to make fabrics stronger and more durable. The top fabric layer was the better and the bottom is the worn fabric layer. There was originally no need for fleece as we know it from American quilts. This makes the fabrics heavier and stronger than their American sisters.  

The stitch itself is a simple forward stitch, but it is very short and comes up at regular intervals. Sashiko is therefore an upcycling stitch. Sashiko is a functional embroidery to strengthen the fabric.

It is technique for repairing, reinforcing and mending worn spots and tears in the fabric. 

Sashiko mainly uses geometric patterns, which can be divided into two main styles: moyōzashi, in which the patterns are created by long rows of stitches, and hitomezashi, in which the pattern is created by arranging individual stitches on a grid. They can be used together. 

Kuguri-sashi belongs to the moyōzashi and is a two-step stitching technique that creates beautiful, textured patterns on fabric. In the first step, a hitome-sashi pattern is embroidered, and in the second step, these stitches are underwoven with needle and thread. 

You can do it in a result-oriented way and in a process-oriented way. 

In this case, the stitching technique comes to the fore, and here the Japanese are again detailed and distinguish two ways, both of which describe the forward stitch:

Unshin is a hand sewing technique that creates a forward stitch and is almost as fast as a sewing machine. It is rhythmic sewing and refers to the movement of the needle. 

Unshin which requires a finger ring on the middle finger inside the palm and Wasai as the way for sewing kimonos where the finger ring is on the 2nd limb of the middle finger. Both push the needle through the fabric in rhythmic movements using the ring thimble (finger ring inside the palm), with the other hand guiding the fabric. Those who master this technique can sew very quickly and the process becomes more meditative and also easier. 

The Pattern and motifs:
Sashiko uses mainly geometric patterns, which can be divided into two main styles: Moyō-sashi, (Moyo means pattern) in which the patterns are created by long rows of stitches, and Hitome-sashi, in which the pattern is created by arranging individual stitches on a grid. They can be used together.
Kuguri-sashi belongs to the moyōzashi and is a two-step stitching technique that creates beautiful, textured patterns on fabric. In the first step, a hitome-sashi pattern is embroidered, and in the second step, these stitches are underwoven with needle and thread.
Kogin-zashi is one of the techniques of sashiko, which originated in the part of today's Aomori Prefecture and involves counting threads.

For me, with the exception of kogin, sashiko is somewhere between sewing and embroidery and is certainly one of the most effective yet useful textile design and manufacturing techniques that exist.

 

How do we transfer the pattern?

We can draw it ourselves directly on fabric or copy a template on paper. For this we need a transfer pen or pencil with carbon paper. 

More Information, books and suppliers:

Atsushi Futatsuya. https://upcyclestitches.com/introduce-japanese-upcycle-craft/

https://www.kiseki.de/

https://www.prym.de/p/schneider-kopierpapier-16104630?gclid=Cj0KCQiA3rKQBhCNARIsACUEW_a8YiySOnXXR1fGPeZWQ-IkYPTGpdfffpkOyCdUKt6KBL3Bq0-k0TIaAhKsEALw_wcB