Blackcabbit (aka. Dionnie Takahashi) is an illustrator living in Japan. She loves drawing whimsical animal characters, as well as doing handmade crafts to beautify the world she lives in.
Sashiko (刺し子) means quilting in Japanese, and it mainly uses Running Stitch (aka. Straight Stitch). It was originally used by common folks to mend and reinforce cotton garments into heavy outfits (designed to keep out the cold), as well as to decorate tea towels, cushions, bags etc.
White Sashiko stitches on indigo fabrics were very popular back then in olden Japan. Of which, over a hundred of traditional sashiko designs were dominated by geometrical patterns. However, season-related or free-form designs are gaining popularity in recent years. Here is a Sashiko artisan in performance at Hidanosato (飛騨の里/Hida Folk Village) in Takayama City.
This week, we are going to Hanabi no Yube (Firework Night), a summer event in my son’s school. Most Japanese will take the opportunity to dress up in their traditional summer wear. Jinbei (甚平) is typically worn by men, little children and even babies, because of its casualness and comfort. Ladies (mothers), on the other hands, seem to prefer to adorn themselves with the Yukata (浴衣/summer kimono).Because I find it too much work to wear a Yukata, I am substituting it with a plain black male-version Jinbei. Now, Blackcabbit just had to add her magic touch to make it pretty!
From a distance, the 100% cotton Sashiko threads look very similar to embroidery floss. The key differences are that Sashiko threads has no brilliant sheen; they are loosely twisted but are NOT made to be separated into strands (unlike embroidery floss); Sashiko techniques do not require the embroidery hoop.[S=Sashiko needles & threads / E=Embroidery needles & threads]
The Sashiko needles I bought come in two lengths. Traditionally, Sashiko needles are longer so that they can take on many stitches at a time. This is how the nice, straight running stitches are achieved.
Whenever I pull a single cut thread from this bundle, I will get a 135 cm long thread. Of which, it is more than sufficient to work with.
Ajisai (紫陽花/Hydrangea) was my number one choice for the embroidery motif. These flower clusters can be seen everywhere during this season. The national favorite is strongly associated with Tsuyu (梅雨), a rainy season that begins in early summer. And having two gorgeous shrubs in my Father-in-law’s garden, sure provided me with lots of beautiful references!
Like the Travel Pillow Embroidery Pattern, I will share these freely, as long as they are for personal & non-commercial use. Click on the links below to access my PDF files. You can enlarge or reduce these sashiko/embroidery patterns to fit your project, using a photocopier or by changing your printer settings. It’ll definitely make my day to see your work with any of these designs. Please send me a link or a photo coz I’d love to feature it too!
Free Sashiko Embroidery Pattern A.pdf
Free Sashiko Embroidery Pattern B.pdf
After I was happy with the size of my Hydrangea motifs, I used a pink carbon tracing paper (チャコペーパー) to transfer the pattern onto the Jinbei.Because I worked on a hard surface, the transfer was good and crisp, and it didn’t leave any chalky powder residue. However, after a while, the lines kind of disappeared because of frequent handling, and I had to figure it out along the way. So please note that this pattern can be challenging if this is your first embroidery attempt. :P
To achieve near-perfect Sashiko embroidery, one has to follow certain rules diligently. Here is just a few examples:
Well, since my design was very ambitious, I almost went crazy trying to follow the rules above. So I decided to cut me some slack and just have fun. And to make life easier for me, I deliberately started and ended my threads with knots even when my Jinbei has no linings. I also discovered that it was better to do one needle stab at a time to achieve better curves for this pattern.
Presenting my beautiful Jinbei! Not bad for a Sashiko amatuer, huh? I’m all ready to look pretty for the Hanabi Event. Yeah !