Sashiko is a traditional form of Japanese hand sewing that uses running stitches to create repeating over-all patterns. It is a technique that is easy to learn and produces beautiful results.
Like all needlecrafts, having the right tools will make sashiko stitching easier and more enjoyable.
Sashiko needles are long, rigid, and very sharp. They are designed to let you "load" multiple stitches on the needle before pulling it through the fabric.
Sashiko needles come in various lengths. Shorter needles are easier to handle, so they are a good choice for beginners or for when you are stitching curved lines. Longer needles let you load more stitches, so they are good for straight lines. They take a little getting used to, but once you get the hang of it, longer needles can make your stitching go faster.
Tulip produces some of the best-quality sashiko needles (and their packaging is amazing), but other options include Daruma and Clover. Each of these brands sell their needles in variety packs, so you will get both short and long needles to try.
Sashiko needles typically have small eyes and can be a bit challenging to thread. A needle threader can help, but be sure to use one that is designed for small-eyed needles or you risk breaking the needle. This hummingbird needle threader is a good choice.
Sashiko thread is traditionally made of 100% matte cotton. It is strong and soft with a tight twist. Sashiko thread is non-divisible, meaning it cannot be separated into strands like embroidery floss, so you stitch with the full piece.
Size 8 pearl cotton or regular cotton embroidery floss can be substituted, but both have a different sheen and twist than sashiko thread, so the final piece will look a bit different.
Sashiko thread is available in 20-meter skeins in both solid and variegated colors. Some colors are also available in larger 100-meter skeins. Depending on how detailed the pattern is, a sashiko piece may require more than one 20-meter skein to complete.
Sashiko thimbles are not worn on the end of your finger like traditional sewing thimbles. Instead, a sashiko thimble is worn at the base of your finger with a pad that extends down toward your palm.
Place the ring of the thimble over the middle finger of your dominant hand. After you load several stitches on the needle, place the end of the needle against the thimble pad and push the needle through the fabric.
Sashiko thimbles are available in metal and in leather. Both versions have little dimples that the end of the sashiko needle nestles into so it doesn't slip as you push the needle through.
Sashiko samplers and kits
You can create your own sashiko pattern, but when just starting out, it can be easier to use a preprinted cloth. Sashiko cloths are available in white and the traditional indigo, as well as other colors.
Sashiko cloth samplers have a pattern already printed on them, so you know exactly where to make your stitches. The ink washes out when you're done stitching. It's important not to iron the cloth before you stitch because the heat of the iron will make the ink permanent.
You can also find sashiko kits that come complete with a preprinted cloth along with thread and a sashiko needle. Thimbles are generally not included. These are a great option for beginning sashiko stitchers.
Preprinted sashiko cloths are usually about 12 inches square when finished. In Japan they are commonly used as dish cloths. You can do the same, or sew the finished piece into a pillow or tote bag, or frame it for display.
Ready to start your own sashiko stitching project? Check out our full range of sashiko patterns, kits, thread, needles, and supplies!