Hitomezashi Sashiko Cloth
March 29, 2024

What is Hitomezashi and how to do it

Hitomezashi stitching is a type of sashiko stitching made up of small straight stitches. The pattern grows out of the accumulation of the single stitches.
What makes it Hitomezashi rather than simply sashiko?  The designs are made up of dense single stitches arranged to build a pattern, while a the same time adding extra strength to the fabric(s) they are stitched on. Usually used for reinforcing areas of fabric that get a lot of wear (knees, elboes, collars...) and in smallish areas for decorative details.
 The larger pattern Sashiko (moyozashi sashiko) designs make larger overall patterns by stitching a repetitive pattern. Usually this style of sashiko is used to bind two or more layers of fabric together (like quilting with big stitches).
Although these stitching patterns can look challenging, they share the same simplicity as all Sashiko designs. 
They are made by stitching simple straight stitches in lines across the fabric.  The stitching is done by stitching first all the horizontal lines, then all the vertical lines, then all the diagonal lines.  The pattern emerges as the single stitches accumulate.
The easiest way to learn Hitomezashi stitching is to start with a pre-printed ready to stitch fabric. The print will wash out of the fabric after you have finished the stitching. 
Most pre-printed hitomezashi are printed on cotton fabric and come in  12" X 12" squares, which is enough to cut up and sew into a small project.  You can also get smaller 4" X 4" pre-printed pattern collections, usually sold as "coasters", but suitable to use in other projects and as patches on clothing.
Many of these pre-printed fabrics come with a printed area for stitching and a plain fabric area which you are meant to fold behind the printed area so that you are stitching through both layers. You will get a better effect if you stitch through both layers.
Here is the order of stitching for hitomezashi designs:
  • Begin at one side of the fabric and stitch all the horizontal marked dashes in the row.  Stitch all the rows in that direction.
  • Then stitch all the rows in the vertical direction.
  • Then stitch all the diagonal rows from left to right. 
  • Then stitch all the diagonal rows in the other direction, right to left.

Do not change directions as you stitch across the fabric, go all the way from one side to the other carrying your thread on the back of the fabric if there are longer spaces in the marked pre-printed dashes.

I like to leave a 'tail' of thread at each end of the fabric and to use one thread for each row so I don't have to start new threads in the design. I leave the tails hang loose (no knots) and I generally leave the ends hanging sort of messily. This is because I will add a border and backing to finish the piece, or sew it into another project, so it will never show.
But you could also hide the tails between the 2 layers of fabric :-)
Tip: Leave a couple of inches of thread at both the beginning and end of each line. You'll think you don't need too to that but by the time you get well into the stitching you'll be glad you did. This is because the more thread you add into the fabric the more it will want to tight up.  Most of those long loose ends will gradually be pulled into the fabric to keep it laying flat. 
That is all there is to it!
When your stitching is finished soak and rinse your hitomezashi in a bowl of clear lukewarm water. The printed markings will wash away completely. Air dry and press face down with steam iron.
This is an Olympus 12" x 12" pre-printed fabric - Morning Glory 
Stitching with a friend is always a good way to spend a day!
Happy Stitching.
Talk to you again soon,