Origin of Sashiko
Most museum or collector’s collections of Sashiko existing today are from the late 19th century (Edo Era in Japan) but some records show that similar techniques were used for garments in the 17th century.
Sashiko originated from the working class and remote communities. Due to the low social status of those communities, people’s lives were restricted by laws that only certain classes could wear cotton and bright color clothing. (Cotton was introduced to Japan in 15th century but was too expensive for the majority of citizens to afford.) The blue indigo dye was hard-wearing and was considered to repel insects and snakes.
Clothes made from hemp were more favored in the areas of farming, coastal and northern parts of Japan where climates were severe. Sashiko provided such a practical purpose of strengthening and giving warmth to homespun fabrics. This simple running stitch was born from the necessity of conserving and repairing garments at a time when cloth was not so widely available to farmers and fishermen. Their wives made sashiko items at home, particularly during the long winters when the ability to work outside was limited. Once garments were well worn to the point of looking like a rag, the good sections of the garment were cut out and pieced together like patchwork to make a new garment. Passed down from generation to generation, sashiko was a skill learned at a young age. Later on, this skill would also be used to judge one’s suitability for marriage.
By layering cloth and stitch closely, Sashiko became popular for making firefighters jackets to protect bodies from fire and injury in Edo Era (1603 – 1867) until World War 2.
[Above images are the property of Sri Threads and have been used with permission.]