Preparing the Sashiko Thread
- Open the skein and remove the paper band.
- Look for the extra loop around the skein and cut through all threads at this point.
- Cut the other end of loop.
You will have two separate bundles of thread. Flip one of the two bundles of threads 180 degrees. Sashiko threads have a twist and this will ensure the twist is going the same way throughout the bundle. Hold onto the entire bundle and pull out one thread, cut it into three pieces, and tie the bundle in three places tightly with a square knot.
Sashiko thread tends to fray so use lengths of thread no longer than 20-24” long.
The thread pulls more smoothly and tangles less if it is threaded so you are pulling with the twist instead of against it as you stitch.
To test the twist, hold up a single thread and pinch close to the top of the thread between your thumb and forefinger and run your fingers down the length of the thread. It will feel rough one way and smooth the other. Tie a colored thread at the top of the thread bundle thread that feels smooth as you run your fingers down it. Always pull your threads and thread your needle from this end.
Run your Sashiko thread through beeswax or a silicone thread conditioner. The Sashiko thread will glide through the cloth and will be less likely to separate.
Stitching a Sashiko Design
- Either pull one thread from your traditional sashiko bundle or cut a 20”-24” length of DMC or other thread, thread it through the large eye of a sharp needle, and make a single knot at the end.
- Bring the threaded needle up from the back of the marked background fabric. You may start stitching at any point along the design, but do plan a stitching route that does not require too many twists, turns, or long skipped spaces on the back.
- Place the point of the needle flat on the design line a short distance from the point at which the thread emerges, and measure. This helps you gauge how long the stitches should be before you pull it through the fabric. If the needle is angled or held straight up before taking a stitch, the point may not stay on line or you may misjudge the stitch length.
- In Japanese sewing the needle is held still and the fabric placed on it in a pleating action. Put some light tension on the fabric and rock it, gathering several stitches onto the needle.Traditionally, the stitch on top is slightly longer than the space in between. However, evenness is more important than stitch length.
- Pull the needle and thread through to the knot.
Take 2 to 3 stitches onto the needle. Keep the length of the stitch the same, 5-7 inches per inch.
- After stitching an inch or two, pull up on the thread a little; then, using your thumb, carefully stretch out the stitching. The idea is to keep the work loose, especially the thread on the back, so the stitching does not pucker.
Traditional sashiko instructions provide detailed directions regarding the stitching routes to take and the number of stitches per leg of the design, but as you acquire experience and confidence, you will develop your own methods. The main concern is to keep the stitches even and the lines smooth.
Here are a few tips:
- A stitch must end at the turn of a corner, either with the thread going to the back or coming up to the top. To stitch tight curves, shorten the stitches slightly.
- Threads that skip across the back should not measure longer than half an inch. Leave the strand loose on the back to avoid puckering. Sometimes a longer skip can be avoided by weaving the thread through several stitches on the back to reach a new section of the marked design.
To finish off a line of stitching, pull the threaded needle through the back and weave the thread tail through several stitches before clipping the thread.
Always iron your finished work from the back so the sashiko stitching isn’t crushed or becomes shiny.