Introduction to Stitching all Hitome-sashi & Kuguri-sashi Sashiko Samplers

By Susan Fletcher
Hitome-sashi & Kuguri-sashi Sashiko Samplers

Overview How to Stitch Hitomesashi & Kugurisashi Sashiko designs.

  • Reading this before you start stitching will answer questions you probably have!  

As popular as these stitching techniques have become the instructions they come with are still usually in Japanese and although the diagrams are excellent, not everyone finds them enough :-)  

Here are some things I hope will help.


What are Japanese Hitome-sashi & Kuguri-sashi Sashiko?

Like traditional Moyo-sashi Sashiko, Hitome-sashi and Kuguri-sashi Sashiko create beautiful stitched, sometimes quite complex looking, fabrics yet they are surprisingly relaxing to stitch.

hitome-sashi sashiko stitching being used for the base of a kugri-sashi design

samples of stitching kuguri-sashi Asagao design

Asagao design finished and sewn in a zip pouch

sample of zippered pouch made from kuguri-sashiko sashiko stitched sampler fabric

You will frequently see somewhat different words for these Sashiko techniques. This is caused by the translation from the Japanese. Here is a short definition of each and how you might see them written:

  • Moyo-sashi: The design is stitched following continuous lines in the design (Moyosashi, Moyo-zashi, Moyozashi, Moyo sashiko, and most often just Sashiko)
  • Hitome-sashi: The designs build up as single stitches are made in each direction on the cloth (Hitomesashi, Hitomezashi, Hitome-zashi, Hitome sashiko)
  • Kuguri-sashi: These designs build on the Hitome-sashi stitching.  After the single stitching part is complete, more threads are woven under those stitches to create a more complex & textured design. (Kugurisashi, Kuguri-zashi, Kugurizashi, Kuguri sashiko)

some sampler designs combine both hitome-sashi and kugursashi and moyo-sashi sashiko designs

(some available pre-printed fabrics combine moyo-sashi, hitome-sashi and kuguri-sashi stitching to beautiful effect)

 The easiest way to begin stitching any of these sashiko designs is by using one of the  pre-printed fabric samplers available. These are printed with the stitches for the design. You can open the package and start stitching.  After you have finished stitching the markings wash away completely with a warm water rinse.

Do not iron before you have washed out the markings.

How to start stitching your sampler:

All the sashiko samplers from Olympus Japan are printed on the same sarashi-momen cotton fabric (These include Olympus Hana-fukin & Traditional Sashiko, La bouquetiere, & Ayufish int. Samplers).

This traditional 100% cotton Japanese fabric is woven on the traditional width narrow looms. This means it has selvedges on two edges. The 12" x 12" design is printed on one side of a 26" length of the  fabric and you are meant to fold the unprinted half to the back of the printed half and stitch through both layers. 

If you would like your cloth to have finished edges, fold the cloth in half with the printed side inside and stitch together the raw edge. 

Now, turn the cloth right side out (print side on the top) and finger press the seam flat (no ironing!)

You will still have two open edges but both will have finished selvedges.

Before we leave this general information section here are two photos to review two sashiko basics:

  •  Putting more stitches on the sashiko needle at a time will give you straighter more even stitching, and it goes along much faster.

putting sashiko thread on your needle

  •  Leaving a little loop of thread on the back of your cloth when you carry threads across the back is important. 1/4" will do. These loops will disappear as your project continues - they are to give the fabric enough slack thread to keep it from bunching as the stitching becomes more dense. Check frequently as you stitch to be sure you are not pulling your stitches too tight. 

leave a small loop when you carry threads across the back

Prepare your sashiko thread
If your sashiko thread is skeined it will want to become a tangled mess!
You can avoid this headache by opening the skein into a long loop and cutting through one end of the loop.
This will give you a good length for the Hitome-sashi and Kuguri-sashi designs. I cut through both ends and stitch with shorter lengths for regular Moyo-sashi sashiko stitching. You will find what is comfortable you.
Braid the skeins loosely and tie the ends. After that you can pull out a single thread without tangling. It's like a little magic trick!

Braided sashiko threads

Do you knot the end of the sashiko thread?

You can, and hide it between the layers of the cloth. There are several methods for sashiko stitching without using knots. Click on this link for a blog for one method.

Where to start stitching?

You can stitch the outer lines around the design before or after you stitch the design. Some people feel the fabrics need to be stitched together before they start. I like them open. Its a choice.

There is an order of stitching which will make your piece look nicer if followed. Each design will vary a bit on the order of stitching, but usually it will be marked on a diagram that comes with the printed cloth sampler.

Washing and Use: 

These samplers wash very well as long as you remembered about leaving those little loops on the back and not pulling your stitching too tight. If you didn't remember, the cloth may become a little too "quilt-y" when washed! 

You can soak and rinse out the print markings in a bowl of water, towel, dry, press from the back.  I do this for Kuguri-sashi, but the others when I have made them into table mats or runners, or just useful cloths for around the kitchen, I throw in the washing machine and dryer with my towels. 

 I think that is about all you need to know before you start you design.

Thread your sashiko needle.

I hope this was helpful and you are excited to start stitching. Its addictive, but that's okay, there are a lot of designs available!

Wishing you peaceful stitching,