In a couple of weeks I will be in Tillamook again teaching at the Latimer Quilt and Textile Center. This time I will give a class on Sashiko – Japanese hand stitching that is a cross between embroidery and quilting. Like quilting, it is a running stitch often stitched through one or more layers of fabric but the stitches are larger and rendered in thicker thread. The prominent stitches coupled with the lack of batting between the layers, place it closer to the realm of embroidery.
Sashiko is considered a rustic ‘folk art’ as opposed to the elegant Japanese silk embroidery that might grace a precious Kimono or silk panel. As a folk art , Indigo fabric with white or off-white thread is traditional. Indigo is easily grown in many climates and is a common natural dye making it accessible and affordable to all. Sometimes you might see a natural color fabric with Indigo thread though these days anything goes and Sashiko thread and fabrics come in many colors.
Sashiko fabric, typically made of cotton (sometimes a blend of cotton and linen), is a looser and coarser weave than domestic quilting cottons making it easier to stitch with the large needles and threads used in the stitchery. You will not usually find it in regular quilt or fabric stores. Two good sources are: One World Fabrics and Shibori Dragon. One World Fabrics is online only (though local to Portland) while Shibori Dragon sells online but also has a retail store up near Tacoma WA. You will also find an assortment of Sashiko thread and needles at both shops.
Of course, you can stitch Sashiko on any fabric that you can get the needle and thread through hence my samples shown below of Japanese Yarn Dye fabrics. I have also stitched on Linen and denim (though denim is hard to pull the needle through) as well as a variety of domestic cotton fabrics. The thread can also be substituted if you cannot find authentic Sashiko thread. I find Floche (made by DMC) is a very acceptable substitute but I have also used linen thread, wool thread and even Pearl Cotton. Pearl cotton is rejected by many ‘purists’ as it has a distinctly visible twist. Susan Briscoe (author of a number of books on Sashiko) advises against using it. Speaking of Susan Briscoe, of the numerous books she has written on the subject of Japanese quilting my favorite is The Ultimate Sashiko Sourcebook. It lives up to its name as being the ultimate book on that topic.
The Sashiko class is scheduled for Tuesday October 20 from 10-4 at the Latimer Textile Center. The following day (Wednesday) I will be teaching a Thread Painting class there as well, but more on that in a future post.