We’re all about personalising the things we wear, and Sashiko Embroidery is the perfect way to give a plain garment a bit of wow-factor. This ancient Japanese embroidery technique offers the opportunity to show off your sewing skills and subtly customise a simple item of clothing or decorate homewares.
A form of decorative reinforcement, or functional embroidery, Sashiko stitching originated in Japan out of practical need during the Edo era (1615-1868). Originally it was used to stitch together layers of fabric for extra strength and warmth, and also for mending worn garments. It’s created from running stitch, which is one of the easiest embroidery stitches to use and learn. Modern Sashiko takes inspiration from traditional designs and uses them for more decorative purposes on bags, garments, quilting panels and many other creative projects.
Using a clean contrasting thread, Sashiko is effortlessly elegant, and it’s a clever (and quick) way to add a personal touch to shop-brought garments and gifts. Oh, and did we mention, it’s really easy to get to grips with too? Try our two plant pots which are the perfect Sashiko projects for beginners and then try adapting the technique to use with shapes with our free Sahsiko pattern PDF to add cloud motifs to fabrics. These three items are prefect Sashiko projects for beginners to help you make the most of this easy technique.
- Head to Plant pot Sashiko patterns and projects for beginners
- Head to Free Sashiko pattern PDF – Clouds
How to do Sashiko embroidery
There are different ways of transferring designs onto fabric and for this project we have used a grid base that can be marked directly onto the fabric. Measure and cut your fabric and then press flat. Lay the fabric on a table, securing with masking tape. Using a marking pen and a clear ruler, create a 5mm grid. Choose a colour of pen that will show up on your fabric.
Tie a knot in your thread and work Running Stitch over and under the fabric following the pattern on the fabric leaving a gap where the grid lines meet. Don’t pull the stitches too tightly and try to keep working in rows. Use a specialist Sashiko needle if you can, as these tend to be longer than regular embroidery needles, which enables you to work more stitches at a time.
When you reach the end of a row, leave a longer stitch/loop loosely on the back of the fabric to ease from one line to another. This is really important to ensure the tension of the stitching is even. When you come to the end of the thread, create a knot over the thread on the back to secure. Start another thread with a knot, making sure it is securely fastened on the back.
Build a design up by stitching in straight lines in different directions. Where the grid lines meet, space the stitches so they don’t touch each other. This makes a much neater and smoother finish to the stitching. The gaps between the stitches can be quite small as shown here or larger spaces can be left if you prefer. Experiment until you are happy with the design.
Designed by Cara Ackerman for Love Embroidery magazine issue 2, these two plant pots will show you the basics of building up Sahiko patterns and are ideal Sashiko projects for beginners.
You will need
- Cotton fabric: (large pot: 40x110cm, navy), (small pot: 40x60cm, yellow)
- Medium weight iron-on interfacing:(large pot: 40x60cm), (small pot: 30x35cm)
- White fabric pencil or black heat-erasable pen
- Clear quilter’s ruler
- Sashiko thread: white
- Sashiko needles
- Basic embroidery kit
Cut the fabric as follows:
Large pot: two pieces 21x50cm, for the body outer and lining; two 17cm diameter circles for the base outer and lining.
Small pot: two pieces 17x30cm, for the body outer and lining; two 11cm diameter circles for the base outer and lining.
Take the body outer and mark a 5mm grid positioned 2cm from the short side edges and 2.5cm from the bottom long edge. Use a white fabric pencil on dark fabrics or a black heat-erasable pen on light fabrics The grid needs to be 18 squares high for the large pot and 15 squares high for the small pot.
Using white Sashiko thread and a Sashiko needle, stitch the design using Running Stitch. The small pot is stitched by working pairs of vertical lines down the fabric.
Next, work vertical lines between the pairs, then work horizontal lines across. Work one line at a time, turning at the end of each line. Remember not to cross the stitches but to leave a gap between them.
To work the large pot, stitch the first line following step 02 on the How to do Sashiko embroidery section. Work one line at a time, turning at the end. Work the next line horizontal to the first remembering not to cross the stitches.Finally, work diagonal lines across the fabric – first from bottom left to top right, then from bottom right to top left.
Once the Sashiko stitching is finished, cut interfacing to the same size as the outer body and base. Trim the 1cm seam allowance off all around, then press to the WS of each. Sew the short edges of fabric RS together. Make quarter marks on the circle and on the bottom edge of the outer body. Pin the outer body and outer base RS facing, matching the marked points. Stitch together all around, clip the seam allowance and press the seams open.
Assemble the lining in the same way using the lining body and lining base, but this time leave a 3cm turning gap in the centre of the body side seam.
Place the lining inside the outer so they are RS facing and matching top raw edges and side seams. Pin and stitch together. Turn RS out through the gap in the short seam, then slip stitch to close the gap.
Push the lining inside the outer and press. Topstitch around the top edge to neaten and hold the lining in place. Turn the top edge over to make a cuff, then proudly display your favourite plant in the Sashiko pot.
This design was created by Mollie Johanson for Simply Sewing magazine.
Download our Free Sashiko Embroidery pattern pdf to get started.
Sashiko Embroidery for Beginners: step-by-step
Download our free sashiko pattrn PDF and trace the cloud design onto a sheet of tissue paper, using a dressmakers pencil or a pale blue pencil, as we have here. Blue is always a good colour to use as it doesn’t have the dirty appearance that a graphite pencil tends to have if any residue is picked up through stitching.
Next, position the traced design on your fabric and tack it in place. Keep the stitches small and neat as this will help to prevent the tissue paper from moving. For larger designs, you’ll find it helpful to tack across the middle of the paper as well. Trim any excess tissue paper as necessary.
Sashiko needles and threads are available but we used white stranded cotton and a sharp crewel needle. Starting at the base of the design, follow the outline by weaving the needle in and out of the fabric along the pencil lines, taking care not to pucker the fabric.
Continue working across the design in a logical order. When turning corners, don’t pull the thread through completely – leave a loop on the back to prevent puckering. Finish threads by weaving them through the back of your stitches. Once complete, carefully tear away the tissue paper – hold the stitches as you do this to prevent them being pulled by the tissue paper.
Now you get hooked, you’ll be wanting to stitch Sashiko clouds on everything!
More Sashiko patterns and projects for beginners
Looking for more free Sashiko patterns for beginners? We have more for you on Gathered! Try our Sashiko quilt pattern to add some Sashiko embroidery to an easy quilt project. Or take a look at our 5 top tips for Sashiko stitching to find out more about this technique.
Looking to try more embroidery stitches? Click to discover our How to do Stem stitch guide.