There is no such a thing as Right or Wrong in Sashiko. However, it doesn’t mean there is no “form” or “standard” in Sashiko stitching. There are many reasons why I am so passionate about sharing the Sashiko as a process. I made a video explaining why learning Unshin Sashiko Stitching is so important to fully enjoy the Sashiko we would like to share.
Many ask me, “How can I make stitches so even like you?” There is a precise answer to that “Don’t try to make it even”. The video explain how to make the stitches weven without “trying” it.
Unshin Sashiko Stitching
Sashiko became popular by following the pattern pre-printed fabric with the specific stitches sizes pre-determined. Many teachers tells the students which rules they need to follow. For example, a teacher may say that the center of Asano-ha needs to be adjusted. Another teacher may tell you to accumurate stitches on the needle. Their lesson is not “wrong”. However, there are other forms of Sashiko which tells completely different things. So, my insight here is that “they are not wrong, but insufficient”.
Among these difference, there is one common standards that many teachers teach how important it is. It is called “Unshin (運針）”, and it is the word for the needle movement. The video above introduce why it is important to learn the Unshin Sashiko stitching.
Transcript of Unshin Sashiko Stitching Video
As much as I would like to incert captions on the video so that anyone can enjoy the video & learn about the importance of Unshin Sashiko Stitching, I do not have time, skill, and funds to make it happen yet. Instead, I share the full transcript here so you can read & watch together.
Hello, this is Atsushi from Sashi.Co
I believe many people would like to know how to make even stitches in Sashiko. To answer the question, I have a kind of proverb that I always tell my friends in my workshops.
I use an example of “slicing the onion” to explain what “the rhythmical stitching” is like. I hope the series of my video will give you a hint to grasp this proverb. Online Sashiko Class is also available for you.
In this video, I would like to explain why stitching on the fabric with certain sized stitches lines pre printed is not my preference.
An example is on the video. The horizontal line has stitches sized lines pre-printed. Well, in this case, I prepared it by myself since I do not have one.
The purpose of this video is NOT to criticize other Sashiko stitchers on Youtube or other platforms. I just want to share how we enjoy Sashiko stitching without focusing on the results. I am not saying that everyone should enjoy the Sashiko as we do. What I am trying to say here is that it does not require so much time to stitch like we do. Many people have learned the technique through our videos, workshops, and Online Class.
I am trying to mimic one style of Sashiko stitching I can find on Youtube. The style is holding the needle with the thumb, index finger, and middle fingers and trying to control the needle tip to meet the stitches guide, which is the dot on the horizontal line here. Please pardon my clumsy work since I don’t have much experience in this style.
I believe many people stitch with looking on the front size of the fabric. Starting the stitches from the backside, which is hiding-side, with making a knot at the end of the thread. Then, come up and follow the stitches pre-printed with very good attention.
Some advice to keep the stitches on the needles as we move the needle forward. I feel as if I am enjoying a form of embroidery. I would probably make a great benefit from using the embroidery hoop if I keep stitching like this. It is difficult to align the excessive fabric, and I need to carefully pay attention & control where the needle goes in and comes out.
Everytime I try to do this method, I experience the hard time relaxing my hands. When it is a regular embroidery, I can relax and see the image and then stitch. However, in Sashiko, since the stitches are simply on the line, I feel the pressure to neatly cover the printed stitches.
I am a bit embarrassed here, so I will fast-forward the video.
Again, please be advised that I am not criticising the other stitches. Obviously, I am not well-experienced in this method. However, there are reasons many Sashiko artisans in history did not have the stitched-sized-line pre-printed on the fabric. I hope this video introduces a piece of that information.
After a line of Sashiko stitching with this posture, my hands were very tense and I got tired. I will continue stitching with switching the posture to the one I share & teach.
Well, I am used to this method. I can stitch faster and even.
The point is that I am not paying so much attention to making beautiful stitches. When we do not focus on making even stitches, the line with stitches-sized-dot pre-printed is merely an obstacle. The goal is to be on the rhythm, not to try to make the even stitches by controlling the needle with focusing on the stitches with both your eyes and hand.
So, I summarize it to 4 reasons that I prefer rhythmical stitching rather than stitching on the “stitches-sized-dot” pre-printed fabric.
1- Beautiful Results
The result of even stitches is the 1st reason I do not prefer the pattern pre-printed fabric. It is challenging to keep concentrated to make even stitches when I focus on the printed stitches sized dot pattern. If it is a matter of 30 minutes or so, I may be able to keep it up. However, I do Sashiko for more than a few hours, sometimes more than 24 hours. It is almost impossible for me to keep concentrated for more than an hour for anything.
Since I cannot keep my concentration for more than an hour for anything, I do not concentrate on stitching when I enjoy Sashiko. Instead, by focusing on the process and the movement, because I do not pay attention to make the stitches even, I can make the even stitches as the result.
2- I can change the stitches size based on the project.
The second reason is as significant as the first one. I would like to decide the size of the stitches based on the project I am working on. When I see the stitches-sized-dot printed pattern, I feel like, “Why does it tell me what to do in Sashiko!” ,
With the same posture, I can make any size of stitches as I wish. On the denim where I need good visuals, I make bigger stitches. When I need to present more sophisticated stitches to make the smaller pattern, then I make the stitches smaller. The stitches I make represent who I am as the Sashko artisan. It is good to have a guide on the stitching, but at the same time, I don’t want anyone to tell me the size of stitches. Similarly, I want everyone to be creative in enjoying the process and finding their own stitches.
3- Focusing on other things.
The 3rd reason is that I can focus on the other things while not focusing on Sashiko stitching. The Sashiko live Streaming on this Youtube Channel is a good example. I do not focus on stitching much, and therefore, I can stitch and talk simultaneously.
I believe the original scenery of Sashiko is like this. Sashiko was the Japanese ordinary stitching to survive through the severe winter. In between the difficult days, I imagine, the women got together and stitched with sharing their similar circumstances. In that “gathering”, I believe, they stitched and focused on talking, which is probably mainly complaining, not the stitching itself for making the beautiful stitches.
With stitching and talking, in a process of not worrying about the results, not judging the evenness of stitching, I feel that I am following the Sashiko they had practiced in a few hundreds years ago.
4 – Be mindful
The 4th reason is kind of abstract, and kind of link to the 3rd reason.
When I do not talk while stitching, and when I decide to not to watch TV or listen to the music while stitching, I feel I can empty my mind relatively easily.
Sashiko is not difficult, but it cannot be done with one hand. It always requires 2 hands moving all the time. No one can use the smartphone for quick research while stitching with 2 hands. It is quite difficult to have the visual information to input, and therefore I can empty my mind with focusing on “nothing” while stitching.
I feel like this is a similar mind of state to Zen.
Zen teaches us that the truth cannot be explained fully by word, only by practicing it. I feel it from time to time. Also, I have heard from my students that they understand what I meant by actually experiencing it while practicing Sashiko.
Sashiko is getting popular as the destresser. It is very true. Therefore, in order to enhance its byproduct, I would like to share the importance of learning the posture.
I hope this video explains the reasons why I am so passionate in sharing the Sashiko with the method we practice. Sashiko is a simple form of stitching, and anyone can do it. However, there are many stories behind “why” and “how”. It would be great if you could care to learn the basics & tradition as well. As I mentioned in the beginning, the series of videos on this channel shares a great amount of information.
On top of that, if you would like to learn efficiently and comprehensively, please consider taking the Online Sashiko Class. It will help us as well.
In the Sashiko Online Class (and In-person workshop whenever I can offer), I share how you can achieve this posture & movement which we call “Unshin”. It is not difficult at all. I believe everyone can do it. However, since everyone’s hand is different in their own shape, personal attention may be necessary. One may find the rhythm & posture by just watching our stitching. That’s what I did for many decades. The online class & workshop is the comprehensive lesson to share what I learned in these 20 years or so. Therefore it is efficient & easy to learn.
Some students can stitch as fast as I do in a matter of a few months when they follow the direction carefully and focus on “rhythm” instead of “focusing on the results”.
For some Japanese like me, Sashiko is more than a trendy word in crafting or fashion – it has been our life, and it was our ancestors’ ordinary. Your understanding & support is very much appreciated. Thank you for watching.
Resources to learn about Unshin Sashiko Stitching
The best way to learn Unshin Sashiko Stitching as we do is to take our Sashiko Workshops / Online Sashiko Class. Due to Covid-19 pandemic, all of the in-person workshop for the year 2020 has been cancelled. Please consider taking the Online Sashiko Class. After sharing the class with many students, I am confident that I can offer the exact experience as an in-person workshop can do.
Also, more information about Sashiko is available in our new website: https://www.japanesesashiko.com/