Sashiko; the beautiful art of Japanese embroidery

Sashiko; the beautiful art of Japanese embroidery

What is Sashiko? Sashiko means “little stabs” referring to the distinctive running stitch that defines this technique of Japanese needlework. Traditional Sashiko was used to reinforce or repair old clothing with simple stitches to strengthen and mend. Today, the traditional art of Sashiko has become an art form in itself and is used for primarily decorative purposes like visible mending, quilting and embroidery.

Sashiko designs consist of geometric patterns and tesselating shapes. Common motifs include designs inspired by nature like clouds, bamboo, rippling water and waves and persimmon flower. Traditionally Sashiko was known for its graphic style and light colour cotton thread on indigo fabric. Modern Sashiko uses many colours and any geometric designs you can imagine with options to use as many or few colours as you want.

We have just received some beautiful Sashiko 100% cotton cloth samplers in several colours from Daruma in Japan. These large fabric pieces measure over 1 metre by 50cm and have a grid printed on the fabric with a dissolvable ink that disappears with washing. The grid acts as your guide to help you create your design. Each cloth comes with an extensive printed guide that shows you how to create your stitches and ideas for what to make. When finished, you’ll have an incredible work of Sashiko stitching for practical use or to keep as a beautiful textile artwork. We also have some beautiful Sashiko Sampler kits from Temaricious of Japan. This kit includes the naturally dyed Temaricious thread, pre-printed fabric, a sashiko needle and hardware for making a tassel to fasten to one of the corners of your sampler.

If you are purchasing the Temaricious Sashiko kit you’ll be all set with the right tools but for the Daruma sampler and any other Sashiko work, there are a few essential materials you’ll need – needles, thread, thimble and fabric.

For needles, you may want to try our Tulip Sashiko assorted needles or the Clover Sashiko needles in long and standard lengths. Sashiko needles are longer than most embroidery needles and very sharp. Their design allows you to fill your needle with multiple stitches before pulling it through the fabric. For beginners and curved lines, the shorter assorted needles are a bit easier to handle.

With so much stitching it helps to have a needle threader like our Clover yarn threader or Embroidery threader to make threading your needles much easier. We also have two new thimbles, the Clover adjustable ring thimble with plate is a must-have for Sashiko stitching as it protects the base of your finger when using a long needle. The natural fit leather thimble adjust to fit and is perfect for all kinds of stitching.

Most Sashiko thread is 100% cotton with a tight twist used as one strand. Our Temaricious cotton threads, both in naturally dyed indigo and other plant-dyed colours, are perfect for this type of stitching. We still have some of the wonderful Temaricious box sets of 32 and 100 coloured threads which make a beautiful gift! The Finca Perle no.8 cotton thread would make an excellent substitute but will give your finished piece a slightly different look as the Finca Perle thread is mercerised cotton and not as matte. If you are stitching on knitwear you can also use some wool threads like the Mehlsen Naturally dyed threads, Teinture Sauvage naturally dyed wool or Sajou Laine St. Pierre embroidery and darning wool.

One more thing you may need is a good pair of thread snips. The LDH snips are a fantastic solid tool that is excellent for snipping threads and very comfortable to hold in hand. The Cohana Shozaburo Thread snips made in Japan are a pretty luxurious and exquisite pair of snips. We also have lots of small scissors that would be great for popping into your project bag when you’re on the go.

It’s easy to get hooked on Sashiko Embroidery, and there are so many applications for its use. We have an excellent book at the moment, called Simply Sashiko, which includes over 36 templates to use to practice your stitching. Everything from decorative pouches, placemats and napkins to covered brooches and buttons.

Sashiko is a relaxing and meditative process. It’s easy to master this traditional skill and doesn’t require a considerable investment to start exploring this beautiful craft. We hope you’ll be inspired to give it a try.

Recent Arrivals

More textile beauty from Japan has arrived in the Minä Perhonen Fabric Swatch packs. These little packets of fabric scraps sum up the minä perhonen ethos of creating as little waste as possible. Each collection includes 6-7 pieces of beautiful bits of fabric with a mix of all kinds of cotton, voiles, and silk blends. Some embroidered, others printed with beautiful graphic motifs from the minä perhonen fashion collection. These beautiful swatch packs will be available online as of Sunday the 28th of March.

For new patterns we’ve recently received a new sweater pattern from Ruke Knits . The Mohair Weekend sweater is a lightweight V-neck jumper that works well as a basic staple for your wardrobe. It’s knit in a 4ply wool with a lace weight silk/mohair held together but would work equally well with a DK weight mohair like the Biches et Buches Le Gros Mohair for a super light and soft fabric. For a 4-ply we would recommend the CaMaRose Yaku held with any of the lace weight silk and mohair blends like Isager, Ito Sensai, Gepard Kid Seta or Shibui.

For silk and mohair yarns, we’ve just received some beautiful new colours of the Isager silk mohair in various earthy shades of green,chocolate brown and gold. Qing Fibres have also sent us some gorgeous new colours in their Kid Mohair Silk and Merino Singles base. Damask, Jazzy, Illusion,Oceanid, Pink Lemonade, Sea Glass and Whale are all new for spring!

Francine Toukou’s Simply Scarves crochet scarf pattern is made to be easily accessible for knitters who want to try their hand at crochet. And for the cutest little baby slippers there is the simply baby slippers crochet pattern. The pattern allows for 4 different sizes, ranging from newborn to 12 months old. Both patterns use worsted weight wool so there are plenty of options.


We are all stocked up on Laine Publishing books 52 Weeks of Socks and Strands of Joy at the moment. We are eagerly anticipating their new book 52 Weeks of Shawls as it’s sure to be a beautiful addition to the series.

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