Experimenting with Sashiko Embroidery

I was really inspired by this post on the Coletterie blog on sashiko embroidery. Especially the blouse example. So simple! So pretty! So of course, I want to try sashiko, too. What a gorgeous way to make a project even more unique, personalized and special.

But the sashiko starter kits sold out, so I went searching. In my searches, the internet tells me it’s pronounced SASH-i-ko. Not sash-EE-ko like I originally thought. (I like to know how to say things correctly so I thought I’d post that bit.) Updated: Shannon has advised me it’s actually sa-SHEE-ko, here’s a link to a recording of the pronounciation. Thanks Shannon!

Luckily, I found a local Canadian (BC even!) source for sashiko supplies, A Threaded Needle. From their site, I made my own starter kit. And then very quickly afterwards (got to love ordering from within the province), the kit arrived!

sashiko starter kit

I bought a stencil, needles, thread, thimble, and some special sashiko fabric. It feels like a plain cotton so I’m guessing cottons or cotton-linen will work just as well. (But I wanted the real thing to find out what it felt like!)

I traced the stencil…

sashiko stencil

and prepared the thread, following this useful tutorial on how to manage the thread. I forgot the ‘braid loosely’ part, which is so you can get the thread out to sew with. Good news, you can still get a single thread out if you braid tightly, but it’s a bit more work to wiggle it out.

For the actual stitching, this is a good tutorial.

sashiko stitching

Things I found a bit challenging:

  • Keeping my stitches the same length. You’d think it’s easy, but when they’re this obvious, bright white on navy, even a little crookedness or unenveness shows!
  • Not pulling tight. Pull tight and you create gathers!
  • Knowing where to go next once I got to the end of the petal, or the circle. I just guessed.

Also, I hold my breath when I’m concentrating. I only realize when I have to take in a really big breath to compensate! It’s like I need to remind myself, breathe! while doing handwork and concentrating.It’s quite relaxing when I do remember to breathe.

But! Check it out, I embroidered a flower:

finished sashiko embroidered flower

Pretty neat, eh? Plaid navy fabric, plain white thread, simple flower design, yet it looks really good. To me, anyways! The stitches aren’t perfectly even but I think that adds to the handmade feel of it. I haven’t washed it or pressed it or anything, so I hope the bumps flatten out. (That’s why we are supposed to not pull tightly, otherwise it gets bumpy…)

Pros of sashiko embroidery:

  • Simple. In and out, it doesn’t get much simpler than basic running stitch. Intricate embroidery seems like a lot of work to me. I love the idea, I know I’ll never actually do it. This is one colour, one type of stitch. This I can do!
  • Classic. With something this simple I think it will always look good.
  • Inexpensive materials. A couple of needles, some thread, and a design are all you need. No fancy machine, no hoops, nothing overly complicated.

To sew this one flower, I used less than one string of thread from the braided loop. So I’ll have thread for a long time, or enough for larger projects. The stencil was awesome, I’d prefer to use stencils for everything rather than transferring a design from paper. More stencils! The ones in the Gifts for Crafters kit looked really good.

I like this, it’s so very simple and easy to do. I could see myself using this technique on a blouse, or along the hem of a garment, or on feature sections like a yoke or pocket.

Here are some more links I found once I started looking around:

What do you think? Have you tried sashiko embroidery? (Anyone get a starter kit from the Gifts for Crafters shop before they sold out, and did you try it yet?)


38 Responses to Experimenting with Sashiko Embroidery

  1. Skaapie January 13, 2014 at 6:13 am #

    Such a cool little flower!
    Did you see the Sashiko that Yoshimi’s mum did? It’s awe inspiring!

    • Tasia January 13, 2014 at 10:32 am #

      Wow! That is amazing, what beautiful and intricate work. Thanks for sharing the link!

  2. Kelly January 13, 2014 at 7:07 am #

    I love sashiko, such simplicity and elegance! I’ve had a hard time keeping stitches even in my few experiments as well, but I’m determined to keep at it. Your flower turned out beautifully!

    • Tasia January 13, 2014 at 3:05 pm #

      Thanks! It’s hard to keep them even, isn’t it? I was surprised as I thought running stitches would be super easy, but it takes patience to make them evenly spaced, and make sure not to run out of space to make the last stitch of the line. I think it will get easier with practice, we’ll develop that eye to’see’ where the stitches should be spaced. Imagine how good we’ll be if we did a whole garment?

  3. Jenny January 13, 2014 at 7:09 am #

    That’s lovely! I tried myself at home a while ago and made a Kindle case.. it’s not *that* neat but I like the look :)


    • Tasia January 13, 2014 at 10:28 am #

      Pretty! I think I came across your post when searching for images, I couldn’t resist clicking on the rainbow circles.

  4. Shannon January 13, 2014 at 7:44 am #

    Looks great! I love sashiko embroidery — something about the simplicity of the white running stitches on that blue fabric, I can’t get enough.

    Though it *is* pronounced sashiko, sa-shee-ko — written, it’s 刺し子. That second character is shi, pronounced like shee, not shy, and together, that means “little stabs.”

    This recorded pronunciation is a bit slow and overly enunciated, but http://www.forvo.com/word/sashiko/.

    • Tasia January 13, 2014 at 10:23 am #

      Oh thanks! Guess I can’t believe everything I read on the internet :) I’ll edit my post then. I was saying it right all along!

    • Tasia January 13, 2014 at 10:27 am #

      ps. Your sashiko looks great!

      • Shannon January 13, 2014 at 10:40 am #

        Thanks so much! Hooray for sashiko!

  5. Beth B. January 13, 2014 at 8:12 am #

    What a coincidence! I did my first embroidery project over the weekend (though not sashiko). I embroidered a label for a coat I’m making my husband. It was such a nice break from endless coat-making steps!

    • Tasia January 13, 2014 at 3:04 pm #

      Oh nice! I love the idea of an embroidered label. Did you follow a pattern or design your own? PS. I have your notebook, it’s great! Planning a post on it shortly :)

      • Beth B. January 14, 2014 at 5:31 am #

        I was inspired by this label (http://www.running-w-scissors.com/2012/01/mens-dress-coat.html) so I didn’t use a pattern. I sketched “for KB” (his initials) a few different ways, then lightly drew it on a piece of linen. I used a split stitch to fill it in, which ended up looking so pretty!

        And yay! about my book :) I’m so glad you like it. I love seeing posts about it…it’s so cool to see someone else’s handwriting inside of something that came out of my head!

  6. maddie January 13, 2014 at 10:04 am #

    I’m a horrible knitter and I think this would be a great alternative to get that repetitive, cathartic motion most knitters talk about. Plus, it has a feminine, vintage vibe to it, which I love!

    • Tasia January 13, 2014 at 3:03 pm #

      Oh yes, I could totally see it having the same appeal, that slow, repetitive, calming motion. I find things like this peaceful because you can’t rush them, so you get to just sit back and enjoy the slowness. This flower is very feminine but there are plenty of designs that are more geometric and modern.

  7. nothy January 13, 2014 at 10:15 am #

    I really admired the Colette examples too. Thanks for doing the research and sharing. This is so wonderful. A Canadian supplier!

    • Tasia January 13, 2014 at 3:01 pm #

      I know eh? There was more than one Canadian supplier too! I picked this one because it was so close but I believe the other online shop was in Ontario somewhere – closer for the East Coast side!

  8. Julie Culshaw January 13, 2014 at 10:22 am #

    Interesting how the same idea pops up in different places at the same time. A blog I follow shows examples of her mother’s sashiko embroidery. One jacket took a year to complete!


    • Tasia January 13, 2014 at 3:00 pm #

      Gorgeous – thanks for the link!

  9. Virginia January 13, 2014 at 10:58 am #

    God, I love embroidery. Learn a couple of techniques and you can make things look so intricate and lovely. :-)

    • Tasia January 13, 2014 at 3:00 pm #

      And this one you hardly have to learn anything, it’s just running stitch! So simple yet very intricate-looking.

  10. Vicki Kate January 13, 2014 at 11:54 am #

    That is so beautiful? I love the simple beauty of it.

  11. Catherine Surtees January 13, 2014 at 11:58 am #

    I saw that blog too! My wish list of creative things to do keeps getting longer. Your flower looks pretty.

    • Tasia January 13, 2014 at 3:00 pm #

      I know eh? I see things like this, I want to try them too! Inspiration overload :)

  12. Marianne isaacs January 13, 2014 at 1:15 pm #

    Hello that is very pretty . I can imagine that in all sorts of dressmaking settings . What sort of pencil/pen did you use for the tracing . It looks fantastic!

  13. Kendra January 13, 2014 at 1:29 pm #

    Lovely flower :) You have inspired me to dig out my own first attempt at sashiko – a square of red stitches on blue material – and finally make something to out of it so I can see the design instead of it hiding away under a pile of UFOs. I’m thinking a bag this time but in future a design like your flower would look great on a dress for my daughter. Thanks again for the inspiration

    • Tasia January 13, 2014 at 2:59 pm #

      Any time! So glad my little flower has inspired you to do something with yours. I think mine would make a good patch, or pocket, or something like that. A flower would be a lovely accent on a dress!

  14. Jen January 13, 2014 at 3:18 pm #

    Great idea to make your own kit! When I started doing sashiko I didn’t even realize there were kits in existence. I just had to figure it out from a book on traditional sashiko. There’s also some excellent books on modern sashimi home goods (zaka) the I have referred to. The later seem to be only published in Japanese, but the photos are highly inspirational. Anyway, it’s a fairly simple technique- once one gets the hang of it-with nice results.

    I think the key is to gather several stitches on the needle before pushing it all the way through. It helps to keep the stitches even and straight, especially with the double thickness fabric. I have found it hard to find a nice open weave cotton (for the traditional look), but I like linen as a substitute. It’s a nice technique, and the plum blossom design is a pretty one.

  15. Barb in NVan January 14, 2014 at 12:54 am #

    Isn’t A Threaded Needle wonderful! I’ve ordered from Susan a few times and have really enjoyed the service provided and, of course, the products she has! Love your Cherry Blossom!

  16. Inna January 14, 2014 at 3:03 am #

    Oh! This topic is very close to my heart! I fell in love with sahiko when I lived in Japan. I friend of mine, who lived in Japan during the same time as me, has even started designing her own sashiko patterns. Since, I’ve stitched a few coasters, placemats and other little house deco items. I now plan to use sashiko on clothes.

  17. Geo P January 14, 2014 at 3:05 am #

    I never heard about sashiko before, it looks lovely! I definitely need to add some to one of my future projects.
    I bite my lips when I’m concentrating, they always hurt by the time I stop working on something :(

  18. Jeri January 14, 2014 at 3:58 am #

    I made a Sashiko pillow from a pre-printed piece of fabric with geometric shapes and loved the result. My long term goal is to make a quilt with Sashiko embroidered squares!

  19. crystalpleats January 16, 2014 at 9:33 am #

    TOTALLY! I have been so interested in it ever since Sarai’s post about it. I’ve researched, pinned, and found patterns ever since. I guess the only thing left is to DO it. I’m going to try it on a blouse yolk. I’m sure it will be imperfect for my first try, but I’m going ahead anyway. I’ll share it with you once it’s done.

  20. Angela January 17, 2014 at 7:16 am #

    How lovely! I think your first piece looks fantastic! I took sashiko classes while living in Tokyo and was immediately hooked. I learned from a group of chatty grandmothers in my neighborhood, and at first I couldn’t understand a word they said! I just watched their hands and copied them the best I could. You wouldn’t believe how fast they’d stitch, and how small their stitches were. Amazing. It was nice to have such a wonderful group of women to learn from when I was new in Tokyo. They even sent me home with lunch! :)

    Now I put sashiko on everything. :) Can’t wait to see what else you make!

  21. Jenny March 28, 2014 at 6:55 am #

    After seeing your post I ordered a kit too, and it turned out really well! Thanks!


    • Tasia March 28, 2014 at 8:47 am #

      So pretty! It’s neat how it all comes together the more you sew and the more lines you added.