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Sashiko Embroidery Designs

There are many traditional sashiko embroidery designs. Some are traditional and some are modern creations.

All of the traditional patterns are geometric and repetitive making sashiko embroidery a kind-of meditative process but, did you know that you can create your own patterns? 


Sashiko has a funny meaning too. Sashi comes from the verb sasu (to stab) and ko means child.

You could infer then, that it means "little stabs" (which is better than "stab children"!)

Recently on instagram, I saw the work of a Japanese sashiko crafter where some of her repeating patterns were Christmas stars, Santa Claus and kitchen saucepans! The result was cute and very unique! 

If you are looking to follow sashiko embroiderers on Instagram, try using the following hashtags  #sashiko  #さしこ  or   #刺し子 when searching for people's work.

traditional sashiko embroidery designs

Hishiseigaiha wave pattern
Kakinohana flower pattern
Tatemimasu pattern
Asanohana flower pattern
Shippotsunagi prosperity sashiko pattern
Marubishamon sashiko pattern

why is sashiko done with white on indigo?

Indigo was always a very popular colour in Japan but, you'll notice that there are patterns here on both indigo backgrounds and white backgrounds. The traditional colouring for sashiko embroidery is done on an indigo background, but do you know why?

Indigo is a natural dye extracted from the Indigofera genus of tropical plants. The dye makes fabrics somewhat more flame-retardant which was a very useful feature. Therefore, it became renowned as the primary colour for the working classes and merchants of Edo Japan.

But, just because it was "traditional" in this sense, doesn't mean that you cannot do sashiko embroidery on any other colour of fabric to hand! Modern day Japanese sashiko enthusiasts create with many colours!

Go wild, and create an embroidered masterpiece on funky purple or orange!


Now, I have specified that traditional patterns are done in the geometric style however, more modern patterns have emerged over the years which are not necessarily geometric but they are often repetitive.

Some of these sashiko embroidery patterns are absolutely beautiful.

If you do a Google search for "sashiko flower pattern", there are many repetitive, yet beautiful, patterns for sakura and other flowers available for sale here and there.

so, how do I create my own sashiko embroidery design?

You may wondering how to create your own sashiko embroidery designs, right? Well, they're actually quite simple to do. To start with you need to sketch a design onto a scrap piece of paper until you're satisfied with it, because drawing the pattern freehand without thinking about it prior is a recipe for frustration!

So, how do we do it?

Step 1: You can use any paper you like but I often find that a sheet torn out of my daughter's math grid notebook (sorry honey!) is a great place to start because it is pre-ruled. I usually work in centimetres and so do most Japanese people, but you can work in inches if you prefer.

Example of simple sashiko embroidery design pattern being drawn up.

You can see by this image that I started with a 1cm2 grid and I drew the pattern that I wanted directly onto this grid.

Any other sashiko pattern is created in the same way.

Once you're happy with your design you just need to grab a ruler and a fabric pen (or fabric chalk) and draw up the grid onto your chosen piece of fabric (100% cotton is recommended).

Then go ahead and draw in the lines to create your pattern.



The fabric you use is up to you but do be aware that you must be able to run a long sashiko needle through it comfortably. Tightly woven cottons will make your embroidery experience frustrating but, loosely woven cottons might make the end result look a little sloppy even if you've given it your best shot. To do away with these problems, I always take my sashiko needles with me to the fabric shop and have a few stabs at loading up my needle with a running stitch (no thread, of course) to see how easy or difficult it is to sew, before I buy it.

We have a whole day doing boro sashiko at one of the stops on our art and craft tours of japan.

Why don't you check it out?

I also use a dedicated sashiko thimble to help guide the fabric onto the needle.

Finally, you begin stitching your pattern. If you are after a more 'organic look' then you can just stitch along on your merry way. Some stitches will be longer than others, but that's ok if this is the look you're going for. If you want regular and even stitches, I recommend that you draw the stitches onto your cotton (just like a sampler stencil does) so that you can stitch accurately and evenly at all times.


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