How to Sashiko Stitch

This is our original basic tutorial for how to do sashiko stitching

Since then we have produced a number of project specific tutorials which may be a more fun way to learn sashiko stitching.  I recommend Dragonfly Over Diamond Waves and/or Dragonfly Above the Earth for absolute beginners, but sashiko is easy so if you don’t like those, try a design you do like!

This is still a good quick overview ‘how to’ plus it explains our favorite design transfer method.  And don’t forget A Threaded Needle for sashiko supplies, patterns, projects and fabric.

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Things you need for sashiko: fabric to stitch your designs on, a strong needle for hand stitching, thread, scissors, a pattern, and fusible lightweight white non woven interfacing.  That”s it.  You can use any fabric and thread you want (I like #5 perle cotton)  Choose your thread weight and needle to match the fabric weight (the heavier the fabric, the thicker the thread and needle)

trace pattern onto fusible interfacing

Step one is to tape your sashiko design to a table surface and then tape  a piece of light or featherweight non woven fusible interfacing over it.  Trace the design on to the interfacing using a permanent ink pen.

I am using a pattern from Alderspring Design to illustrate how to do sashiko stitching.  Their sashiko project pattern pieces are printed full size on sewing tissue, with the sashiko stitching lines placed inside the pattern pieces (You can buy these patterns from www.aboutfuroshiki.com) Whatever sashiko pattern you are using, this method of tracing the design onto interfacing, fusing it to the back of your fabric, and  doing the stitching from the back will make your sashiko stitching easier and more fun.

fuse the interfacing to the back of your fabric

The interfacing  does not need to be removed, as it is on the back or inside the finished project.

Step 2.  When you have finished tracing the sashiko design, separate the fusible interfacing from the pattern and fuse it to the back of your fabric.

Step 3. In this demonstration I have traced all the pattern markings onto the interfacing, including the cutting lines, and then fused the interfacing to fabric slightly larger than the project.  The photo shows the excess being cut away along the pattern cutting line.

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Step 3.  Thread your needle with a comfortable length of thread (about 24 – 30″) and choose a long vertical or horizontal line (if possible) to begin your stitching.

begin stitching

The following directions are for how to begin your stitching without knotting your thread.  If you are using a heavy fabric and the knot will not affect the finished look, you may want to skip this step and use a simple knot.  Otherwise: Insert your needle about an inch and half along that line and take several stitches back toward its beginning. There are two things to keep in mind here.  Sashiko stitches are always longer on the top of the fabric than they are on the underside, and its is important to keep your stitches the same length.  This is to say, whatever length you make your top stitch, make all your top stitches that length, and whatever length you make your underside stitches, make all your underside stitches that length. (A rule of thumb for what length stitches should be is to make the underneath stitch 1/3 the length of the top stitch)

To complete this beginning the first thread technique, pass your needle back through the stitches on the back of the fabric.  Subsequent threads will be started by passing the needle under a few stitches of a previous stitched area. Threads are ended in the same way.

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Begin stitching where you began your first thread.  Put as many stitches on your needle as you find comfortable, then pull the thread through.

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Every time you pull your needle through, be careful that the thread is not pulled too tight or the fabric will pucker.  (Its better to have it too loose as you can pull a stitch from the back to tighten if necessary, but you can”t loosen the stitches if they are too tight)

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Repeat putting stitches on your needle and pulling it through.  When you get to a corner end with your needle inserted in the corner.  Begin your first stitch in the next direction quite close to the corner stitch.

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When you turn a corner be sure to leave a slack bit of thread.

When you cross  spaces such as the center of this flax design you want to try to get the first stitch on each side of the space to begin the same distance from the center of the space as the other stitches surrounding the space.

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This is a sample of the finsihed project.