Sashiko Stitching: leave some slack on the back!

by Susan Fletcher

Sashiko Stitching: leave some slack on the back!

If I come back to this again and again when explaining sashiko stitching  it is because it worries me! If you don't leave some slack thread on the back of your sashiko stitching the fabric will pucker, especially after a washing or two.

Study this photo a bit. You can see I have left the thread quite loose where I have carried the thread from one line of stitching to another. 

 sashiko stitching example

But it is also important to leave little loops of thread in the stitching lines themselves. I suggest about a quarter inch every six inches as a rule of thumb. Another good rule of thumb is to leave about a quarter inch loop whenever you turn a corner. 

sashiko stitching example

If you are confused by the 'white fabric' I'm stitching on, you can see what it is and why its there here  (and no, you don't need it :-)

The more dense the sashiko design you are stitching, the more important this is. For example, this design needs a lot of looseness:

hitomezashi sashiko

This dense sashiko stitching style is called hitomezashi. You can lean more about that here. 

sashiko stitching sampler

This design won't need as much looseness in the threads, but it still needs some. 

Two factors cause the fabric to tighten up as your stitching progresses. One is just the fabric grain being tightened as more of the thick sashiko thread is stitched into it. The other is that sashiko thread is 100% cotton and will shrink a bit when it is washed. This is a good thing, it makes it plumper and prettier. Presumable your fabric is a natural fiber and will also shrink a little bit. This is what creates that beautiful 'quilt-y' look, but it is not a happy effect if it over tightens!

Can you leave too much slack thread on the back? Not Really. Sashiko thread tends to stay where it's put :-)  It isn't likely to loosen up on the front after it has been washed once (or even before). And if that did happen you  could simply pull it back onto the back of the fabric. I have only ever had it happen if I snagged the stitching on something - and it was easy enough to pull back to the back.

What to do if you didn't remember to leave enough slack and your fabric is puckered?Cut a thread or two on the back and ease the stitching /fabric flat, then restitch the area where the thread pulled out.

Happy Stitching



Susan Fletcher
Susan Fletcher


Owner A threaded Needle

Also in Sashiko Blog

Japanese wagara  cotton fabric
Wagara & Wagara Kasuri Pattern Fabric Collection on A Threaded Needle

by Susan Fletcher

     I've been buying these wagara fabrics for A Threaded Needle from Olympus Manufacturing in Japan for a few years, and as I am adding a few new ones to the website today, it seemed like a good time to tell you more about them.
Wagara Kasuri Japanese Fabrics
So first, what does wagara mean?
and why Olympus fabrics versus less expensive versions of these designs?

View full article →

making matters
Why Giving What We Make Matters (More)

by Susan Fletcher

Why giving handmade gifts matters more now.
Giving handmade gifts has always mattered, but with all the isolation covid is causing, this year it matters more.
Please make. And give to family, to friends, and to anyone you know is isolated (or might feel alone) right now.
We all need the connection we feel when when hold something handmade by another person.
When we give things we make to other people, we prove to them they are in the thoughts of someone else, therefore they are alive and connected and they matter.

View full article →

quilting a sashiko quilt
Sashiko Quilting with Pre-quilted Batting

by Susan Fletcher

How do you quilt a large sashiko quilt?

It's a dilemma. You don't want to machine stitch over your hand stitched work, but you also don't want the filling and backing layers to separate from the top. And you really don't want the filling layer to bunch up or fall apart because it isn't quilted.

Over the years I have used different methods, depending on my project. This one, using pre-quilted batting, is easy and suited to almost any sashiko project, I think. It uses pre-quilted quilt batting.

View full article →