Thursday, October 5, 2017

Sashiko Stitching

Last post I showed you the thread and needles I bought to stitch my Sashiko panel. I've had the chance to play with it over the past few days and I can say it's highly addictive.

First the needles. The needles are made by Tulip. They are called Hiroshima needles but the factory is actually in the Kake region of Japan, 50 kilometers upstream of Hiroshima Bay. You can read more on the history of these needles here. Straight off, I just love their packaging. The needles come in a little tube.

Here is the paper that came in the box with information on the company and quality of the needle.

The tube I got is the Sashiko Needles Assorted Short. It comes with two needles in three different sizes. Below you can see the needles with a Bohin size 26 tapestry needle at the bottom. The longest one in this set is 45.5mm but they have even longer needles available (at 66.7mm). Since I'm still a beginner with Sashiko I didn't want to start off with a really long needle. In Sashiko, you only use a running stitch. It is actually the Japanese form of quilting. You use needles to pick up multiple stitches in one shot. When I tried it, I could comfortably pick up 3 when stitching a straight line but picked up a single stitch when going on a curve.

They have many other types of needles (catalogs). I already know I want the beading needles, but I noticed that they also have silk needles which I think would be very interesting to have as well as a bullion knot needle which is different from a milliner straw needle.

Now onto the thread. Sashiko thread is 100% cotton. Traditionally you use white on a navy cotton fabric, but since my panel is pink I selected a navy thread. They come in large bundles of 100 meters like the one I got or skinnier ones of 20 meters. They also have skeins that have striped colors very similar to DMC varigated threads. The threads are really smooth so that you can pull the thread through the stitches without it getting too worn.

The skein is folded several times. I was actually shocked on how big the bundle was once I removed the tag.

I unfolded it once.


Three times! I can't remember what size my mat is, but the bundle was larger than the width of my mat. That's a lot of thread to play with.

I did a quick search online on the best way to setup my thread and found this site. It actually says to cut the bundle where there is no knot. I didn't. Instead I cut the knot itself, ending up with a small piece I could use to tie around my bundle, and then I cut through all the threads at that end. Afterwards I braided it to keep it neat.

Now all I need to do is pull out a thread from my braid and start stitching. I did notice that my braid was a little tight, but it will loosen up as threads are pulled out.

Olympus, the company that makes the panels has an excellent video tutorial (in Japanese) on how to thread the needle, start and end stitches and the correct stitching paths to take. In the case of my panel I don't really have a path to follow, but it's great to see a piece stitched in order to know the correct tension that's needed. You don't want your fabric to pucker, especially in places where there is a sharp turn. For those, you leave a little loop at the back. You also leave a tiny bit of thread at the beginning and end of the knotted thread.

Loops on sharp corners
Start and End of thread
I was planning on taking pictures of the cherry blossom panel being set up for stitching, but once I started I got carried away. It's a really relaxing embroidery technique. I can see myself doing many of these, if I can only figure out what to do with the finished piece :P

Stitching in bed. Sorry lighting is horrible. The pink is actually really pretty.


  1. Very nice! I enjoy doing sashiko and have stitched several of those panels since coming to Japan. I made one into a bag and several into table runners. I want to check out those needles.

  2. Timely post as my local guild wants to do this technique. It is fun!

  3. I originally learned about Sashiko for garment sewing. It really makes lovely fabric for jackets, vests, etc. You are stitching a floral design, but I've only seen geometrics done in Sashiko. All are beautiful.

  4. I'm afraid the "What Shall I Do With It?" question does tend to be an inhibitor. Otherwise, my goodness, the number of panels we would all have done!

  5. Lovely post and introduction to Sashiko stitching! This is definitely something I want to try out soon-ish.

  6. this has reminded me that I started a sashiko panel before i broke my arm! Must dig it out... I really enjoy sashiko but agree, what do we do with the panels?