At the International Quilt Festival – Long Beach I fell in love with a quilt called Sashiko I by Helene Blanchet. You can see the quilt here but the picture doesn’t do it justice. When I got home from the show, I did some research on the internet and it looks like sashiko is becoming increasingly popular, especially among machine quilters.
Sashiko is a Japanese style of needlework. Traditionally the running stitch is sewn in vertical, curvilinear, horizontal and/or diagonal lines and typically associated with white cotton thread on indigo fabric. In the 1990s there was interest in the technique and many of the hand sashiko resources are from that time period. Sashiko and Beyond is a basic technique book that can get you started on your first sashiko project but if you become addicted you will want to get a hold of a copy of the Japanese Fishermen’s Coats from Awaji Island for the detail photographs (they are pricey and hard to find these days).
Based on on-line reviews of books to learn hand sashiko I picked up Sashiko and Beyond by Saikoh Takano from the UNL library. Although, the on-line reviews listed this as one of the best guides I felt that most of the book was focused on the “Beyond” which was primarily applique and I failed to see the connection to sashiko. Takano does provide 11 of the basic sashiko patterns which are useful for tracing onto your own projects.
While I was at the library I also picked up Japanese Fisherman’s Coats from Awaji Island by Sharon Takeda and Luke Roberts. It turned out to be an exhibition catalog from an exhibit of sashiko garments in 2001 at the UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History. The close-up pictures of the sashiko make the book valuable. The images allow you to really see how sashiko was traditionally done in Awaji. For example, all of the technique books I looked at made it seem like sashiko was done with a single thick thread, but the close-ups in the book show that while the thread is thicker it is also worked double.
The catalog text consists of two essays. The first “Fishing Villages in Northern Awaji” didn’t hold my attention. The coats stopped being made in the 1920s and the authors originally goal was to interview individuals who still remembered making the coats or their family members, but by the time the research was conducted no one was found who remembered making them, and only a few people had memories of the coats being worn. This left the author without much to focus on and the essay got bogged down in small geographical details and trivia. The second essay “Waves and Folds: The Life of the Fishermen’s Coats” was informative, interesting and focused on the garments. The article had a wonderful section on sashiko and the construction of the garments.