Tutorial: How to Sashiko Stitch, part 3, order of stitching, carrying threads or not, and and things to avoid

By Susan Fletcher
Learn How to Sashiko Stitch

Continuing Sashiko tutorial, this is part 3

(Note: There are 4 parts to this tutorial. In an effort to make it easier to find these parts I'm putting the links for all 4 here, plus a link for if you are starting stitching with a pre-printed (wash out) Sashiko design.  I hope this will make navigating to them easier.

This time we look at 

  • where Sashiko stitches cross intersections or meet at angles,
  • the 'order of stitching' in Sashiko designs,
  • when to carry threads on the back of your Sashiko stitching,
  • and some things you want to avoid in Sashiko stitching. 

Sashiko pattern Dragonfly Over Diamond Waves

This is the Sashiko design we are using for this tutorial. In parts one and two we transferred the design to the fabric, learned to start stitching without a knot, decided on our stitch length, and learned to turn a good corner. And just to review, we grasped the importance of leaving some slack in our threads on the back of our project, right? 

If you didn't finish stitching around the outer line of the design do that now.

Ready to continue?
Step 1
The first thing we want to do now is to stitch all the long diagonal lines from left to right, then all the remaining long diagonal lines (these are the diagonals that go from edge to edge of the design, we'll come back to the shorter 'diamond waves').  Thread your needle and begin at the outer edge. Secure your thread by passing it under a few stitches in the outer rectangle near where you intend to start stitching. End your thread in the same manner.

There is only one new thing to think about while stitching these lines. 
 You want the tip of your needle to come up right on the intersection of each place where a stitching line is crossed when you stitch the left to right diagonals. In this photo I think my stitch is just the tiniest bit too far, but as I have said before, Sashiko stitching is very forgiving and this tiny bit of "not perfect" will not be noticed in the overall piece at the end, so I am will leave it and move on :-)

When you stitch the crossing diagonal lines you will space your stitches over the intersection as shown in the photograph, being careful not to catch your needle in the stitch that ended in the intersection.
This will come easily after a couple intersections as it is what common sense makes you want to do anyway.
Step 2 
When all the long lines have been stitched it is time to stitch the diamond waves. 
This is where we encounter the 'order of stitching' sometimes referred to in Sashiko stitching.  Not being inclined to waste precious time or thread, early Sashiko stitchers used an order of stitching to get the most possible stitching out of each thread.  The concept is simple, instead of stitching individual shapes, stitch the long continuous lines, and when this is not possible, plan your work so that the spaces are as short as possible, and carry the thread across the back.
Remember: whenever you turn a corner or carry a thread across a space on the back you want to leave a little slack in your thread.  This is important. If you don't do it you will find your fabric beginning to pucker as you get further along in your project.

Here are photos to show you the stitching order for the diamond wave designs:
start by weaving the end of your thread under an existing few stitches
sashiko order of stitching
carry your thread too the nearest stitching line (leaving some slack)
sashiko order of stitching 2
continue, going to the next nearest set of waves 
right side of sashiko sample
Here is a finished wave section and some notes about the sample photo. The top of the middle wave is the best done in this sample, but when the piece is finished the difference in the others will not be noticeable.

Also notice in this photo how the first stitch of the wave meets the long diagonal line in a sort of y shape. This is another place where you want your stitch to be a little closer than your usual spacing. The one on the right edge is the best example here.
(For the detail oriented among you; yes, you are right, I did not stitch all the long diagonal lines before stitching this wave section :-)
Sashiko is very forgiving. Many irregularities will disappear in the overall finished stitched design, but here are a few things that will jump out in the finished piece, which you will want to avoid:
  • stitches that are unusually long or very short (compared to the rest of your stitches),
  • stitches that catch into another stitch,
  • stitches that run into intersections or beyond the line they are meeting
  • stitches in places that should be empty, like the center of flax leaf designs.
Below is an example of Sashiko stitches meeting but not entering an intersection
    sashiko stitches meeting but not entering an intersection
    Other than that, little variations in your stitching will just add to the uniqueness. And that's a good thing :-)

    Now you are set to finish all the diamond wave stitching.  I'll write one more blog to cover the specifics of stitching the dragonfly, but really you already know everything about how to do it that you need to know :-)

    Happy Stitching,