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How to Sashiko Stitch

Materials for sashiko stitching are minimal: 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)

materials for sashiko stitiching

It is worth it to buy sashiko needles, they make sashiko stitching easier.

You can stitch on any fabric but it is important to test it by stacking up some stitches on your 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 on the craft!

It is always a good practice to pre wash your fabrics before you begin a project.

Trace design onto featherweight fusible interfacing

Transfer your design:

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 design lines

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.

fuse to the back of the fabric

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.

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 24 – 30′′) and choose a long vertical or horizontal line (if possible) to begin your stitching.

Begin 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.

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)

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 stitcing

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 careful that the thread is not pulled too tight 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)

smooth out stitching

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.

 stitched corner

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

showing sashiko stithces on back

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.

sashiko stitching on front

This is a sample of the finished project.

Asa-no-ha design sashiko stitched drawstring bag

Sashiko Stitches Chart

sashiko stitches chart