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Tutorial: How to Sashiko Stitch, Part 2, beginning without a knot, deciding stitch length and making good corners

In a recent tutorial we covered my favorite method for how to get your sashiko design onto your fabric.  This is part two of that four part sashiko tutorial. This time we will cover

  • how to start your stitching without knotting your thread,
  • how to manage your stitch length,
  • and how to decide what the stitch length should be,
  • also, how to hold your fabric, load stitches on the needle, and turn a sharp corner.

Sashiko Pattern Dragonfly Over Diamond WavesHere is the sashiko pattern we are using for this tutorial Dragonfly Over Diamond Waves This patterns and sashiko supplies are available in the sashiko supplies section

Ready to continue? 

You should have your sashiko design fused to the back of your fabric and ready to stitch.

Hopefully you have had a look at how to use sashiko thread without it becoming a tangled mess  and you are ready to thread your sashiko needle with a length of sashiko thread.

Step 1.

Thread your sashiko needle.  Choose one corner of the outside rectangle to begin your stitching.  About an inch or so along the line, and away from the corner, insert your needle and take several stitches back toward the corner.  You will feel like you are going backward because you are! It is important that your needle come up right in the corner on the last stitch.
starting your sashiko stitching without a knot
There are three things to keep in mind here. 
1. You are stitching from the back with this transfer method. Try it. After a couple threads, you will find it comfortable. (I mentioned before, but just an aside again, those yellow grid lines on my interfacing in the photos have nothing to do with our tutorial. They just happened to be on the interfacing I used)
2. Sashiko stitches are always longer on top (the finished side) of the fabric than they are on the undersideand it is important to keep your stitches the same length.  This is to say, whatever length you make your stitch on the top, make all your stitches on the top that length, and make all you stitches on the underside 1/3 that length.

3. How long should the stitch actually be on the top (the finished side of the fabric)? About the length of a grain of rice! For this weight cotton I am using 4 or 5 stitches (on the finished  right side) per inch.  You should find the length that feels comfortable to you.  Sashiko stitching is like handwriting, distinctive to the individual. 

Step 2
Bring your needle back through the stitches on the back of the fabric to secure it. 
sashiko stitching without using a knot 
Begin subsequent threads by passing them under a few stitches on the back of your fabric, and end them in the same way. The first thread is the only one you need to do the stitch backward technique.

Step 3
Take several more stitches along the sashiko stitching line, collecting them up on your needle. If this is awkward at first, collect only a few before you pull them through.  With practice it will get easier.  The important thing to think about at this stage is keeping your stitch length and spaces even.  Here is a tip: watch the end of your needle when it comes through the fabric, and pull it back until you see the same amount of it's tip each time. 
It takes some practice to get your stitches to flow along evenly spaced, but not a lot of practice, so try to relax and be okay with 'good enough' for now.  If you get to the end of the thread and hate what you have done, its easy to pull it out and do again!  It's better to move forward than to try to perfect this first few stitches.  

When putting the stitches on the needle I hold the needle in my right hand quite still, and feed the stitches on with my left hand. Persevere, the knack of it will come to you!
loading the sashiko needle with stitches
I also gather the excess fabric up in my left hand so it is held out of the way as I stitch.  It doesn't matter how much you wrinkle it, the design won't wear off and the fabric will just get nicer.  If it gets to wrinkled to work on after awhile, press it out and carry on.
Step 4 
Pull the needle through the fabric and smooth the stitches back by running your fingers back over them.  A problem you want to avoid is having the fabric pucker, so every time you pull your needle through it is a good practice to check that the fabric and stitches are stretched flat and the thread is not tight. 
smooth stitches
Continue to stitch along this first line until you reach the corner. Your last stitch must end exactly on the corner.  If that doesn't happen you will need to adjust your stitch lengths a little on the last few inches to make it happen.
A tiny bit of variation in the length of your stitches is not going to hurt your project, rather it is what gives that quality we value so much in hand sewn textiles. 
Step 5
Turning a corner. When you have reached the corner and your last stitch is exactly on that corner, you want to take your next stitch near but not touching that corner stitch. 
sashiko corner right side of fabric
And, this is important, you want to be sure you leave a  bit of slack in the thread on the back at  corners (like a little loop). This loop should still be there after you have pulled all the stitches smooth and flat. Sashiko thread is 100% cotton and it is going to shrink a little when washed. This is as it should be, and will give you a beautiful bit of texture, but if you don't leave slack on the back of your stitching, over time it will become too tight and ruin your design. The denser the sashiko stitching on your project, the more important this becomes.
sashiko corner, wrong side of fabric
I think this is enough for this blog entry :-)  In the next part we will look at 
  • order of stitching in sashiko designs
  • carrying threads across the back
  • and things you want to avoid in your sashiko stitching
Talk to you soon,

Susan Fletcher
Susan Fletcher


Owner A threaded Needle