How To Sashiko Stitch

By Susan Fletcher
How To Sashiko Stitch
This is a basic quick sashiko tutorial.  Watch for our 4 part tutorial blog series called "Dragonfly over Diamond Waves" for more detailed instructions. It will be visible here starting October 5th, 2017.

Materials for sashiko stitching are minimal: some fabric to stitch your designs on, a sashiko needle, sashiko thread, scissors, a sashiko pattern, and some white fusible lightweight non woven interfacing (OR sewing carbon paper)

 sashiko materials

It is worth it to buy sashiko needles, they have strong shafts and large eyes and make sashiko stitching much easier.

You can stitch on any fabric but it is important to test it by stacking up some stitches on your sashiko needle and pulling the needle through. If you have to tug hard to pull it through, change fabrics. Sashiko stitching should flow easily. If your fabric is too tightly woven you won't enjoy doing it, which would be a shame. Try changing fabrics before you give up!

It is always a good practice to pre wash your fabrics before you begin a project. Sashiko threads wash well, so if you know your fabric can go in the washer and dryer, then you can throw your finished project in later with no worries.

Transfer your design:

trace your sashiko design on to fusible featherweight interfacing

 Start by transferring the sashiko design to your fabric. To do this, tape your sashiko pattern on your work table and place a piece of white lightweight non woven fusible interfacing over it, glue side (the rough side) down. Tape the corners of the interfacing down. Using a fine tip permanent fabric pen and ruler, trace the design onto the interfacing. Now you have easy to see stitching lines that won’t fade with handling.

Trace all the pattern markings onto the interfacing

Tip: Use a piece of interfacing larger than your sashiko project, and trace the cutting, sewing and any other pattern markings onto it as well.

Lift the interfacing and position it on the back of your fabric, again with the glue side down. Fuse it in place using your iron, and beginning in the center of the design. Lift and set, rather than sliding the iron. This will keep the design from pulling out shape.

Fuse interfacing to back of fabric

Alternate method: Use sewing carbon to trace the design to the front of your fabric and stitch from the front. I don’t like this method because the traced lines tend to get hard to see with handling, but for small projects its okay.

Begin your stitching:

Thread your needle with a comfortable length of thread (about 20") and choose a long vertical or horizontal line (if possible) to begin your stitching.

The following directions are for how to begin your stitching without knotting your thread. If you are using a heavy fabric and the knot will not affect the finished look, you may want to skip this step and use a simple knot. Otherwise: Insert your needle about an inch and half along that line and take several stitches back toward its beginning.

start your stitching

There are two things to keep in mind here. Sashiko stitches are always longer on the top of the fabric than they are on the underside, and its is important to keep your stitches the same length. This is to say, whatever length you make your top stitch, make all your top stitches that length, and whatever length you make your underside stitches, make all your underside stitches that length. (A rule of thumb for what length stitches should be is to make the underneath stitch 1/3 the length of the top stitch, and 4 to 8 per inch)

starting your stitching without a knot

To complete securing your first thread, pass your needle back through the stitches on the back of the fabric. Subsequent threads will be started by passing the needle under a few stitches of a previous stitched area. Threads are ended in the same way.

Begin stitching where you began your first thread. Put as many stitches on your needle as you find comfortable, then pull the thread through.


 Every time you pull your needle through, be sure you pull the thread and fabric flat or the fabric will pucker. Its better to have it too loose as you can pull a stitch from the back to tighten if necessary, but you can’t loosen the stitches if they are too tight - see the chart at the end of this for a guide to allowing some slack thread on the back of your stitching. This is important if you are stitching large pieces or a piece with dense stitching and is one reason stitching from the back is easier.

last stitch much come up or go down exactly on the corner

 Repeat putting stitches on your needle and pulling it through. Your last stitch must come up exactly on the corner. If that doesn't happen, you will need to adjust your stitch lengths a little on the last inch or so to make it happen. Begin your first stitch in the next direction quite close to the corner stitch.

showing front of fabric, sashiko stitched corner

When you turn a corner be sure to leave a slack bit of thread on the back.

when you turn a corner, leave a bit of slack thread

 When you cross spaces such as the center of this flax design you want to try to get the first stitch on each side of the space to begin the same distance from the center of the space as the other stitches surrounding the space.

showing right side of sashiko stitched fabric

Here is what the stitching on the front of the fabric looks like. 


Sashiko stitching chart:

 Chart for sashiko stitching

This is a sample of this project when finished.  You can buy the pattern as a download or a paper pattern "Flax Leaf Drawstring Bag" on our website. 

Sashiko Asa-no-ha design drawstring bag


Happy Stitching,