Hello! We had a good showing for the First Friday sashiko demo, but if you were too cold or too far to come, I wanted to give you a brief review.
What is Sashiko?
Sashiko has an interesting origin as a Japanese method of quilting layers of rags and scraps to increase the warmth and longevity of garments. Dating back as far as the 1600s, the peasant classes had little access to fabrics and thread, yet were often those needing resources the most. Fishermen and farmers spent long hours exposed to the elements while being pretty hard on their clothing. Nothing went to waste. The method of using sashiko thread in the signature running stitch patterns strengthened the weave, in addition to holding all layers in place. Simple Sashiko by Susan Briscoe is a good introduction to more traditional methods of this folk art.
Contemporary western use includes methods like those found in Mending Matters. In a time where most people can go to Walmart for four-dollar t-shirts in 15 colors, some are reconsidering how their garments have come to be, and what we should value in clothing going forward. Rather than tossing out a stained top, or worn jeans, we can add to their value by repairing them. If our clothes tell the story of how we’ve lived, we have the opportunity to consider what that tale could include. The social and environmental cost of what we think is “cheap” is worth revisiting.
A Word about Tools
Old or new, the only things you need for sashiko are:
- Needles – Thicker, sharp, in various lengths.
- Thread – Sashiko thread looks like embroidery floss, but doesn’t split into thinner strands. Traditional white or contemporary colors.
- Thimble – Different than western thimbles, this metal or leather thimble covers the pad beneath the middle finger.
- Fabric – Mid-weight cotton for traditional work, or heavier denim for more contemporary patchwork.
Simple Sashiko has good beginner options if you’re interested in decorative projects. Susan Briscoe explains how to create designs on the fabric of your choice.
If you’re more interested in using sashiko to mend worn items, it may be helpful to consult the Mending Matters book. A longer needle is better for thicker layers. You can chose a high contrast thread to celebrate your repair, or use something that will blend in more if you don’t want to draw attention to it.
I really enjoyed learning about the history and method of this very functional art. Contemporary western applications are a far cry from the traditional. Still, they honor the sashiko tradition of making the most of what you have, and finding the beauty in that.