Introduction to Sashiko

The origin of sashiko is not very clear. However, through the last few centuries, this type of embroidery has been practiced in many districts in Japan.

There are 3 variations of sashiko still commonly used, which are simple sashiko, hitomezashi and kogin.

Simple Sashiko, Hitomezashi, and Kogin

Simple Sashiko, Hitomezashi, and Kogin

Early homespun fabrics were woven from grass, tree-bark fibers, ramie, hemp and wisteria, then hand-dyed. The stitching was traditionally done with white thread on indigo fabric. The Indigo plant could be grown anywhere and made into an affordable dye. Cotton was introduced to Japan around this Era but lower classes were not allowed to wear it.

It was so necessary that the clothing be recycled for as long as possible. Sashiko was used by farmers and fishermen to mend and reinforce their clothing.

In the Edo Era, a firefighter’s coat called hikeshi sashiko hanten in Japanese, which is a several-layered garments, was closely stitched and soaked in water to protect them from bruises and burns while working.

Firefighter Jacket - Early 1900's

Firefighter Jacket - Early 1900's

Sashiko was also applied to the corners of a wrapping cloth called Furoshiki for durability and a decorative purpose.

Froshiki - 20th Century

Froshiki - 20th Century

[Above images are the property of Sri Threads and have been used with permission.]

As time went on, living standards got better and the introduction of man-made fibers changed the way ordinary people dressed. But rather than disappear all together, the focus shifted to more decorative rather than functional purposes.

Today, Sashiko has became useful for surface embellishment on a single layer of fabric, and as an alternative to traditional western quilting. Sashiko is often used with patchwork or appliqué to create more complex designs.

Modern day uses of Sashiko

Original Sashiko designs by Miho Takeuchi

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