Sashiko (“little stabs”) is a running-stitch form of embroidery that was used by Japanese peasants from approximately the 18th-early 20th centuries to repair or reinforce cloth, or to piece together scraps to make larger items.  In philosophy and origin it shares much in common with sakiori, being born of necessity and a lack of suitable textiles.  What it has developed into is a Japanese form of art quilting and embroidery that has become very popular internationally, as well.

Since meeting Susan Ball Faeder in one of my Western Sakiori Scarf workshops several years ago, I have wanted to join her for one of her sashiko workshops.  Last weekend, I finally got my chance, and headed out to her home on Saturday for an afternoon of sashiko, Japanese fabrics, and other treasures.

Susan began by talking about the reasons for the development of sashiko in Japan, which are very similar, again, to those for sakiori.  She also showed us some beautiful vintage examples, as well as her own contemporary work. We then began stitching by trying to make even stitches, properly proportioned, in a straight line–which is not as easy as it sounds!  After we had a chance to practice for a while, she got out her collection of stencils and showed us how to trace our chosen stencil on to hand-dyed indigo squares and prepare for stitching by making design decisions about how corners should meet, how to fill in the gaps in the lines from our stencils, and whether we wanted to add anything into empty areas.

After a tea break, we were able to get started stitching our chosen designs, though many of us chose instead to continue to peruse the stencils or browse the many Japanese fabrics she has for sale in her treasure room.  All in all, I had a wonderful afternoon and feel like I have finally gotten a good start on learning sashiko!

(I’d love to post some pictures, but unfortunately, I didn’t take any at Susan’s house and my own pieces are not camera-ready–but if you do a quick search for sashiko, you can see many examples.)

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