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Using Eleganza thread for Sashiko embroidery

by Christine Baker

Yesterday on QUILTsocial we talked about 4 ways to transfer embroidery designs to fabric. When I’m doing punchneedle embroidery I often just place my design under the fabric and trace it using a fine marker since the weaver’s cloth that I use is fairly easy to see through. Today I’m going to use Eleganza thread for Sashiko embroidery on a darker fabric, so I’ll have to use one a different technique such as one of the four that we discussed yesterday.

What is Sashiko?

Sashiko is a traditional form of embroidery from Japan. Most of the samples in existence today are from the late 19th century but some records show that similar techniques were used for garments in the 17th century.

This form of embroidery, which is also popular in quilting, uses straight or curved geometric designs stitched in a repeating pattern. The Japanese word sashiko means little stabs and refers to the small stitches used in this form of needlework.

Originally Sashiko provided the practical purpose of strengthening and giving warmth to homespun fabrics in clothes worn by the lower social class citizens of Japan. The simple running stitch was used to conserve and repair garments at a time when cloth was not widely available to farmers and fishermen. The skill was passed down from generation to generation and was learned at a young age. Later on, the skill would also be used to judge a young woman’s suitability for marriage.

Nowadays Sashiko is used to embellish garments and quilts and the designs can range anywhere from simple grids, to ornate nature scenes.

Getting Started Stitching Sashiko – YouTube

Here are various ways to start stitching using the Sashiko style. Options are discussed as well as the tools required and…

Practicing my Sashiko

I decided to practice my Sashiko first using a fairly simple grid design. Instead of tracing this design from paper, I just used my rotary cutting ruler and my Frixion pen to draw diagonal lines across my fabric.

I had some of the Northcott ColorWorks leftover fabrics, so I picked one of the turquoise fabrics and cut a rectangle approximately 8″ x 10″. I drew one line on an angle across the fabric and then used my ruler to draw parallel lines 1½” apart. I then drew one line at a right angle to these and other lines parallel to it 1½” apart.

A Frixion pen works well for marking the stitching lines onto the ColorWorks solid fabric

A Frixion pen works well for marking the stitching lines

Picking the Eleganza thread

One of the WonderFil Eleganza threads was a pale gray, so I picked it and threaded my needle with a section about 20″ long. I didn’t have an actual Sashiko needle, so I selected one that was fairly long with a large eye so that I could easily thread it. After tying a knot in the one end I brought my needle up from the back of the fabric and started to stack some stitches on the needle.

Stacking four stitches on the needle before pulling the thread through the fabric

Stacking the stitches on the needle

As mentioned in the video above, the Sashiko stitches are supposed to be consistent in size and the space between the stitches is supposed to be slightly smaller than the stitch itself. No two stitches are to cross or meet. When I pulled my thread through, my stitches looked okay, but I can tell that I need a bit more practice!

Closeup of the sashiko stitches

Closeup of the Sashiko stitches

Sashiko is meant to be stitched in continuous lines across the fabric so you don’t have to knot off at the back of the fabric very often. When I got to the end of my first line, I turned and continued stitching on one of the lines that met it at the end. I’ll continue stitching in this manner until all of the lines have been done.

The sashiko stitches are worked in continuous lines

The Sashiko stitches are worked in continuous lines

The Eleganza thread is lovely to stitch with! It pulls through the fabric nicely, doesn’t fray or get into knots. Once I got the hang of the Sashiko stitching I found it to be nice and relaxing and could see how this type of embroidery would be great for a novice stitcher. It works up quite quickly and is easy to do. It also has a modern look to it. I think a quilt made with Sashiko panels would be lovely!!

Making a more complex Sashiko design

After a bit of practice, I wanted to try my hand at a design that was a bit more complex. As I said on Monday, if you google “Sashiko” designs or patterns you’ll see hundreds of pattern ideas that you can download or buy. You can print them on your printer and then use one of the methods I talked about yesterday to mark them onto your fabric. I have a bunch of quilting templates that I use for machine quilting on my Gammill, so I picked one of them and used it to trace stitching lines onto a second rectangle of the solid fabric.

A machine quilting arc template was used to draw the stitching lines on the fabric

A machine quilting arc template was used to draw the stitching lines on the fabric

I used the same color of Eleganza thread to stitch the lines on this sample. Once all of my stitching was finished, I just used my iron to apply heat to the fabric and the marking lines disappeared.

Closeup of the stitched sashiko panel

Closeup of the Sashiko panel

Making a snap bag using Sashiko

Tomorrow on QUILTsocial I’m going to use the Eleganza threads to do some wool applique and embroidery and then on Friday we’re going to use both of these samples to make really cute little snap bags. I’ve really enjoyed using WonderFil’s Eleganza thread for Sashiko embroidery and I plan on doing more Sashiko in the future – I hope you enjoyed it too!

This is part 3 of 5 in this series.
Go back to part 2:  4 ways to transfer embroidery designs to fabric

Go to part 4: Using WonderFil’s Eleganza thread to enhance wool applique



Andrea Aitken March 7, 2017 - 6:23 pm

This tutorial is a great way to get started on Sashiko embroidery. Your large scale photos are easier to follow than some instructions I have seen. I would like to do more of this style of stitching and will try Eleganza thread.

Christine Baker March 7, 2017 - 9:00 pm

Hi Andrea – thank you so much! I’m glad you found the tutorial helpful and I’m sure that you’ll love the Eleganza thread as much as I do!

Karen January 5, 2017 - 8:36 pm

Thank you for your clear instructions. The photos help.

Pam S January 5, 2017 - 5:03 pm

Thanks for the great instructions. Sashiko is a beautiful way to embellish a quilt.

Christine Baker January 5, 2017 - 8:25 pm

Thank you! I really enjoyed doing the sashiko!


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