Sashiko is a traditional Japanese form of decorative reinforcement stitching, that literally translates as “little stabs”.
It has been used to reinforce areas of wear, and to repair tears for hundreds of years, and is currently making something of a comeback. ‘Modern menders’ such as Katrina Rodabaugh (read my interview with her here) have championed the technique and showcase the repair and how it can be used to make mending a feature, and a thing of beauty.
Traditionally, it uses white thread, on a indigo fabrics, but the modern take is less prescriptive, and anything goes:
There are all kinds of templates for the more decorative stitches, but the easiest way to get started using sashiko for repair just needs lines of simple running stitch.
If you’re tempted to have a go…
This is what you need:
- A long needle – there are ‘proper’ sashiko needles that are extra long, but I just tend to use a long darning needle. The key is to pick something reasonably long, and that has a large eye hole to fit your thread through
- Thread – again, there is ‘proper’ sashiko thread, but I tend to use embroidery floss, as I have a stash, and in a great range of colours too – I split it into two, three or four strands depending on how thick I want the stitches to be
- Scissors – for snipping your threads
- Fabric to patch your hole with (optional) – depending on how big the hole is, you can get away with sewing sashiko stitching over it without a patch, but if it’s a large hole, then it might be better to use some fabric to fill it with
- Pins – to hold your fabric patch in place if you are using one
This is what you do:
- If you are using a patch, decide if you want to have it behind the hole, or in front of it. Cut a patch that is at least a couple of centimetres bigger all round than the hole, and pin it in place
- Cut a longish piece of thread-about the length of your arm from your shoulder to your wrist works well. Thread the needle and tie a knot in the end of the thread
- Have a think about the pattern you want to create-for a first attempt horizontal lines work well and are probably the simplest
- Imagine a square or a rectangle all around the hole that encompasses any weak areas of the fabric around the hole. Pick a corner to start at and poke your needle and thread up from inside your jeans, and pull through
- Then simply sew lines of running stitch. Ideally, there should be a 3:2 stitch:space ratio, but I just aim to have my stitches longer than the spaces in between them
- For ‘proper’ sashiko, you should sew several stitches in one go – so weave the needle in and out of the fabric several times, before pulling the thread through. I am sure the Sashiko experts would be horrified, but my advice would be not to worry too much about getting it technically correct, but just to have a go
- When you get to the end of a line, sew a stitch on the wrong side of the fabric that is at 90 degrees to your line of stitching, so that you can start a new line and sew again in the opposite direction
- When you run out of thread, sew over the last stitch a couple of times to secure it and/or make a small knot on the wrong side of the fabric. Then re-thread your needle, and simple start again where you left off
- Once you’re happy with your repair, secure your final stitch and snip off any loose threads
- Stand back and admire your handiwork!
Since I started using this technique, I’ve been having a play at different ways to use it on both of my pairs of jeans (which have kindly obliged by providing me with lots of holes to practice on…). I’ve done simple lines, little crosses, and even managed a vaguely circular circle…
There’s just over a week left of Mend It May – if you haven’t already, please do pop over to Facebook and join the Mend It May group. It’s such a great place to get motivated to tackle your mending, and also to get help with anything you might be stuck with. There are almost 400 people in there now (which is AMAZING! And I’ve set a new target of 500 by the end of May-will you help me reach it?!) and I’m really looking forwards to adding up how many things we will have collectively saved from landfill 🙂
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