A TECHNIQUE DRIVEN Blog dedicated to mastery of surface design techniques. First we dye, overdye, paint, stitch, resist, tie, fold, silk screen, stamp, thermofax, batik, bejewel, stretch, shrink, sprinkle, Smooch, fuse, slice, dice, AND then we set it on fire using a variety of heat tools.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Inspirational Traditions: Sashiko and Boro

Hand stitching has wonderful traditions all over the world. Textiles were to be embellished, decorated, marked and after a while also mended.
Two such a mending technique I'd like to point out as source of inspiration: The Japanese Sashiko and the Indian Kantha Embroidery. (The choice is strictly a personal preference.)

Sashiko is a running-stitch technique, originally developed by Japanese peasants to patch torn and worn clothing. Areas of a garment that received the most wear were patched. It made cloth stronger, improved its thermal qualities and recycled worn-out textiles. 

Sashiko patched coat from Ogi Folk Museum
Patching was originally done with thread made from the same fiber as the garment and designs were chosen primarily for their utility. I found this short video on The Beauty of Traditional Japanese Sashiko Stitching.
Over the centuries undyed, white cotton thread gradually became available, a contrast to the indigo-dyed fabrics of the garments.
antique sashiko cloth from early 19th century
In the 18th and 19th century, sashiko stitching began to be practiced as much for its decorative value as for its utilitarian purpose. Sashiko patterns stitched on garments were considered as spiritual protections besides its primary purpose of strengthening and giving warmth to the fabric. It was believed, that placing designs around the hem of garment, sleeve opening and neckline prevented evil spirits to enter the human body.
Some sashiko patterns have thousands of stitches crossing over. They are called me or eyes. Me was thought to have strong protective power.
During the WW II - again a time of need and little means - the "boro" textiles appeared. Boro means "tattered cloth", referring to heavily patched and repaired indigo cotton.
Here is an amazing collection of boro pieces - absolutely worth to see!

Is there any traditional embroidery you've found inspirational? Please share it with us!


  1. The collection of boro pieces was amazing. Some look so fragile.

  2. Years ago I took a sashika class in Minneapolis, where I used to live. I was too busy at the time and never got back to it or finished the small purse. Hopefully your posts this month will inspire we to return to this method. I enjoy doing handwork of many kinds and especially need "travel" projects as we are often on the road. Looking forward to your remaining posts. Gjeneve@gmail.com

  3. I was taught to embroider as a girl. I did some shadow work when I had my daughter over 20 years ago... I smocked for awhile and did a piece of sashiko a couple of years ago. I hope to learn more about hand stitching to incorporate into my projects. I love the rhythm of hand stitching. It is calming and creative.


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