With the trend toward slow stitching, it’s only natural that more and more needle crafters embrace Sashiko as a meditative decorative hand stitch. Beautiful designs emerge from artfully placed running stitches, the simplest of all embroidery stitches. Sashiko means “little stabs”, and it’s just that simple – the threaded needle follows design lines with rhythmic up-and-down (or in-and-out) motion.

The hundreds-year-old Japanese folk art has traditional beginnings repairing and reinforcing clothing, making textiles stronger and warmer for farm work and other tasks. The layered cloth even protected firefighters long ago. Sashiko elevated repaired clothing to objects of admiration. Today, you can find it stitched onto stylish home dec, bags and clothing. Even on the latest jeans, just for fun.

Traditional Sashiko designs reflect the natural world in a repeated geometric format – leaves, waves,clouds, grasses and flowers are favorites. Most recognizable when stitched with white thread on indigo fabric, you can stitch Sashiko in any color combination that pleases you. The patterns can take an unexpected turn in contemporary use. But they all share repeated, evenly spaced stitches, each about the size of a grain of rice.

Supplies are minimal, so Sashiko is popular as a portable art form. Once your pattern is marked, all you need is fabric, heavy thread, Sashiko or long embroidery needle, Sashiko thimble and small thread-trimming scissors. And if you really want to just grab-and-go, check out the beautiful array of pre-printed Sashiko panels available – even the stitch length is marked for you!

Our Spotlight artists Sylvia Pippen and Carol Ziogas are leaders in the new generation of Sashiko artists.

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