Sashiko is a form of hand- stitching the Japanese had developed hundreds of years ago. I strive to leave this culture to the next generation by sharing the stitching technique and stories behind its history.
I believe the Sashiko is the process of mending, repairing, strengthening the fabric with putting thoughts of the family. Also, it was the Fashion the Japanese tried to enjoy in the limited resource and regulation. There are many “Sshiko looks” fabric available in the market. I hope people start enjoying their own Sashiko by appreciating the fabric they are already in Love.
If you are interested in any keywords below, the information in this website may be beneficial.
Upcycle / Repurpose / Sustainability / Janaese Traditional Stitching / Boro / Nogari / Mingei / Mending / Japanese Hand Made/
Recycle (Upcycle) what you love instead of Replacing it. You will love the item more if you repair it by yourself, with your hands.
Another great opportunity to learn Sashiko Stitching from Atsushi Futatsuya. We are offering the Sashiko Workshop in Gladstone NJ. In a very calm area with beautiful scenery, we will be offering the exact same workshop contents as we do in the center of New York City. Drive up to the beautiful town, Gladstone NJ, and if weather permits, we may be able to have a stitching time outside under beautiful sunlight.
After covering the core and basic of Sashiko (for about 4 hours), I will talk about how we apply the Sashiko technique to a mending project. You may bring your own garment with damage and/or a hole so you can actually apply it while learning the Sashiko stitching from Atsushi.
Join Sashiko Workshop in Gladstone NJ
Date and Time: Saturday, October 19th 10 am to 4 pm
As I have been mentioning on this website and SNS, the Sashiko stitching workshop is a learning opportunity. The workshop will be intensive stitching time with Atsushi’s guidance to understand the core and basic of Sashiko stitching. Atsushi will be there prepared for your needs.
Per request from A Maker’s Circle, I will spend about an hour to talk about how I apply the Sashiko technique to the Mending, including the visible mending project. Sashiko gets its popularity over the visible mending and slow stitching, and you will have time to use the technique you learn in the workshop to your own garment in the workshop.
It is a Maker’s “Circle”
When I learned about what a Maker’s Circle does to create a community for creators, I immediately open my heart to them. I made a visit to learn what they do. Creating and maintaining a place where creators, artisans, and artists can get together is our dream. It is our honor to be part of their programs as Sashiko Workshop in Gladstone NJ.
I received a question about types of Sashiko Workshops. With receiving so many requests, we limited the types of Sashiko Workshops by Atsushi. However, you may get confused because of the different locations and offers. Please read this article carefully, and hopefully, I can meet you in one of the Sashiko workshops in NYC.
Only One Workshop to start. Only One.
There is only one workshop for you to start enjoying the Sashiko as we practice. It is “Sashiko Stitching Workshop (Core and Basic)”. We offer it in NY/NJ area and Online.
Then, you may think, why are there so many workshop choices (advertisement) sent from Atsushi? I will explain the difference here. However, the baseline is that all of the workshops I teach in NYC provide the same contents. When I do something completely different, I will clearly mention (and most likely, it will have a prerequisite of the Sashiko Stitching Workshop – Core and Basic).
Difference: One type, yet types of Sashiko workshops
One of the biggest reasons I offer the same workshops in different locations is that I do not have a physical storefront in NYC (in fact, nowhere in the world yet). Therefore, I humbly accept the offer from those “thoughtful” organizations who would like to share the Sashiko with understanding my mission and philosophy. Starting in 2018, thanks to the biggest supporter Sharon, I can offer the workshop organized by my company, Upcycle Stitches LLC.
1) – Who organizes the workshop
If the workshop is offered in TriBeCa and/or registration is on our website (https://upcyclestitches.com/), then the Sashiko stitching workshop is offered by Atsushi & Upcycle Stitches LLC. This happens a few times a year, usually in Spring and late Fall.
If the registration page for the workshop is on other organization’s website, then it is organized by the third party, which I respect enough to offer the workshop under. For 2019, I plan to work with organizations below.
Regardless of who organizes the workshop, the contents are the same. Atsushi teaches with using the exact same materials.
2) – Class Size of the workshop
Another difference is the Class Size. Generally speaking, the workshop offered by Upcycle Stitches will have a smaller class size.
Workshop by Upcycle Stitches – 6 Participants (Max of 8).
Workshop by the 3rd party – 10~14 Participants.
Since one of the important parts of the workshop is the individual attention with my hands on your hands, the bigger class size requires the longer workshop, which leads to the difference in duration below (3)
3) – Duration of the workshop
Generally speaking, the workshop offered by the 3rd party have longer workshop time.
Workshop by Upcycle Stitches – 3.5 hours of duration (no break)
Workshop by the 3rd party – 6~7 hours of duration (include a break)
The core of Sashiko will be delivered in the first hour of the workshop. Then, with stitching intensively with Atsushi’s individual attention, the participant will get a rhythm in Sashiko stitching. Since I would like to have a room in mind to spend at least 5~15 minutes on everyone, this is the least length for the workshop.
For the longer workshop, I may add some of “more stories” related to Sashiko stitching. Some organizers ask me to plan the “extra stories” in advance, like “please talk about the visible mending”. Otherwise, I will ask the participants for their interests and accommodate the “extra stories”. This will not likely to happen in the workshop organized by Upcycle Stitches because I will be talking non-stop for the 3.5 hours of the workshop.
Other Note to unconfuse you.
It takes a bit of time to schedule the workshop in TriBeCa offered by Upcycle Stitches LLC. The seats usually get sold out after several announcements. I recommend you fill out the form here to be on the priority email list to get the very first notification from us. We also offer the “pre-paid ticket” which can be redeemed for Sashiko Stitching Workshop offered by Upcycle Stitches LLC (not by the others). This pre-paid ticket also have the limit because of the size of Sashiko workshop (about 6 per session).
Occasionally, to accommodate the organizer’s request, we offer the bigger size workshop which may limit the individual attention to participants from me. Regardless of the size of the workshop, as long as the duration is more than 3 hours, I will do my best to deliver the same message and technique to the audience.
For Graduates of the Sashiko Stitching Workshop by Atsushi
We occasionally offer another workshop so-called “HitomeZashi Workshop“. This workshop is only available for those who took the Sashiko Stitching Workshop (Core and Basic) with more than 3 hours length session.
The workshop description will say the prerequisite of Sashiko Stitching Workshop (Core and Basic), so you will know which one is different from the others.
*I occasionally offer the preview version of Sashiko Workshop for the length of fewer than 2 hours. I sincerely believe the participant needs at least 2.5 hours of stitching with the instructor in presence to feel the core of Sashiko stitching. Please understand that those who took the preview workshop will not satisfy the prerequisite for the other advanced workshops.
Also, I started a project of Sashiko subscription throughout the platform Patreon. As the same as the Sashiko workshop, I won’t disappoint you for this journey as well. Please check the Patreon Page and look for “Sashiko Continous Learning” option.
Other Types of Sashiko Workshops by Atsushi (in Past)
Sashiko Mending Workshop
Sashiko Denim Workshop
We have done quite a variety of types of Sashiko workshops (in related) in the past. It was fun and a pleasure to share my knowledge and expertise. As of 2019, I only offer the Sashiko Stitching Workshop (Core and Basic) and occasional Hitomezashi Sashiko Workshop to share the core of the Sashiko we practice.
It is my pleasure to announce that I will be coming back to Purl Soho. A happy announcement of Purl Soho Sashiko Workshop Fall 2019. This is our 3rd opportunity to offer the Sashiko Workshop in Purl Soho studio. All of them have been our most pleasure with very good feedbacks from the participants. I will bring “everything about the Sashiko we practice” to you, with passion and details.
I share many photos of Sashiko on the Internet, especially on Instagram. As much as I enjoy sharing the beautiful photos, the true beauty (fun) of Sashiko can be communicated over touching and feeling. The workshop is a rare opportunity for me to share the Sashiko collections of I have been adding and enjoying. I also share many “stories” about Sashiko. I believe you will find “what Sashiko is like” from the Japanese perspective.
It is a Learning Opportunity
We call it “Sashiko Stitching Workshop.” However, it is not a type of workshop like “Let’s do Sashiko together.” It is a learning opportunity for you with intensive stitching with Atsushi – the Sashiko artisan who was born in Sashiko family.
If you have not to figure out how to use the unique round-shape thimble in Sashiko stitching, I can promise this workshop will be the eye-opening experience for you.
Join us, Sashiko Workshop Purl Soho
Sashiko is not all about making one perfect stitch. It is about enjoying the process of stitching – we call it “Rhythmical (mindful) stitching”. By joining the workshop, I will teach you everything you need to know (do) to master the Unshin (needlework) movement.
I look forward to meeting you there and sharing the Sashiko we have been practicing.
I have been sharing a lot of Sashiko stories (history, traditions, culture, and wisdom of Sashiko) on Instagram and Facebook. It was my pleasure to share what we are proud of and receiving many comments with respects. However, from time to time, I received some thoughtless comments that bothered me very much. 99% of the comments were encouraging, so I probably should ignore the haters… However, by nature of the core message of Sashiko we practice, I couldn’t ignore the uncomfortable comments. I wish I could help them understand why we share the Sashiko (although they did not even read what I wanted to share). After long consideration, I decided to move our platform to Sashiko Patreon Page. There, I will only share the stories with the supporters. It is not the best outcome to ask for the fee $5.00 / per month and up), I couldn’t think of other ways to filter those “thoughtless” people that I encounter. I would rather continue this journey of Sashiko Sashiko rather than completely cease spending my time on that. Here, this is a favor to ask to join the Sashiko Patreon Community to share the beautiful photos and stories about Sashiko. Also, I explain how to use the Patreon Page more efficiently to share the Sashiko we practice.
To read the Sashiko Journey on Sashiko Patreon
Most of the contents I make on the Sashiko Patreon page will be available for those who became the patron for our Sashiko activities. Once you become a patron, please enjoy our posts as Sashiko Journey and other announcements.
I named the “story sharing” I had been enjoying on IG and FB to “Sashiko Journey”. After clicking the Post tab, please filter the posts by choosing the “Sashiko Journey” tag. You will see a list of the stories I share. Usually, the article complete as one article. No matter where you start reading, it should be enjoyable (although I recommend reading chronologically). When I would like to share the story over several articles, I will mention “To be Continued” or “Continued” on each article.
Announcement of what we do
Besides the Sashiko Journey, I plan to share the useful information on what we do. Most of the core information is already on our website & previous posts. However, it is challenging to find the one you would like to know since the amount of writing I made is quite huge. I will optimize the information so you will enjoy what we write easily.
I sincerely appreciate the patrons. They are the one who actually took action. So, I would like to provide the priority and privilege in that Patreon community as well.
Why Patreon. Why Fee?
When I started sharing the stories about Sashiko on IG and FB, I did not expect that much return to what I did. I simply wanted to share the Sashiko we practice, the Sashiko we are proud of. It is not my best interest to ask for the fee.
However, over time, I received many “same” questions and similar thoughtless comments from the audience. I confirmed the similarity in those contacted me without thinking through. They did not read what I wrote – and asked for the quick solution or answer.
By setting the fee, I thought I could filter those who want to get a “quick” answer. If their interest is shallow, they wouldn’t spend money on reading what I share. That was the only filter I could think of to protect myself.
Also, with receiving the fee, I can be more attentive to answer the questions and requests, which I had been doing with fun on IG and FB. I will no longer answer the questions on IG and FB (unless it is a very thoughtful question). On Patreon page, I will answer pretty much all the questions about Sashiko (only cultural, historical and spiritual part of Sashiko – Please take the Sashiko workshop for the technical questions).
I sincerely appreciate your support on Patreon. I enjoy sharing what I have accumulated over 10 years, or 25 years including the childhood I was wondering in a Sashiko family environment. It seems I have unlimited words in my brain to share. The more I write, the more I would like to share. I try my best to keep sharing the quality information there.
The core of Sashiko exists in practicing (actual stitching). However, sharing the words would be so much embracing who we really are.
In 2019, I experienced the steep increase of inquiries asking me to write my insight, opinion, or understanding of Sashiko in the form of the contribution to an article to magazines, brochures, and books. As much as I would like to be their help, I have very limited capacity in 2019. So here is the policy for Sashiko Contribution that I can offer.
Sashiko Contribution for Academic Purpose
If you would like to have my writing for your research in the academic organization such as a university, please contact me with your academic background, the name of the institution, and possibly the thesis statement for your research.
I am happy to contribute to the development of Sashiko in the academic setting. The Sashiko contribution will be free of charge, and I will do my best to share what I have.
Although it is free of charge to write, it would be very much appreciated if you could take the workshop Atsushi offers (In-person and/or Online).
Sashiko Contribution for Commercial Purpose
If you would like to have my writing for the commercial purpose, such as publishing a book, a brochure for your organization (including the one with Non-Profit Organization), and your business, I will ask for the fee based on your requests and the purpose for the writing. When you contact me, please offer the fee you are thinking of. I will consider your inquiry attentively and get back to you. If you are not willing to pay for my writing yet would like to have them on your media, please try to follow the basic procedure below.
Please do not handle this lightly. A page of me writing about Sashiko may sound an easy job. However, if I am the one who writes, there will be a responsibility to what I write.
I am not a professional writer. English is my second language. However (therefore), I have to be very careful in writing what I would like to communicate. I cannot just write up without careful.
Free Sashiko Contribution?
I no longer accept the Probono work. I learned that people will handle the “free stuff” very lightly and less mindfully.
However, I also understand that it is unusual to pay compensation for just simply writing. So, here is my boundary. Please follow the list below, and I will be happy to be part of your work.
provide me a few copies of publications when it is in the market
For the Probono (No fee) work, please understand that the writing itself is my property, and you will just use them as the reference on your book.
Other than Sashiko Contribution
For non-native English amateur writer like me, “Writing (leaving the solid documents)” on something deeply related to Japanese culture is very challenging and scary. There is a huge risk of misunderstanding when I do not write the paragraph attentively and carefully.
The fee is for my time to be careful and thorough to what I write. If it is a matter of you writing based on what I write (Interpretation of what I have written), then I wouldn’t ask for the fee. Again, I am not a professional writer.
In those cases, please kindly inform me that you are referring my writing (when, where and about what). Please apply the appropriate citation standard as well. I will give you permission to use as the reference, but I will not give up the copyright.
Interview as the Alternative
Phone or Video-chat interview would be a good alternative to save the fee. Although at this point, I am not sure if I should do the interview for free of charge, I would like to see how it goes. Since it will be my merely talking about Sashiko, and you summarizing what I say as your interpretation, then I wouldn’t probably need that much return in this process.
If you are interested in interviewing me, please provide the list of information below.
The media that you would use the interview on.
The list of question in advance to the actual interview
Why you would like to have my comments on your media.
I had been sharing many stories about the Sashiko we practice on Instagram with many photos. With some unfortunate events, I decided to stop writing so many contents on Instagram – where anyone can see and say what they want out of their mind. Instead, I will keep the journey of sharing the Sashiko insights on the Patreon, where I ask a monthly contribution so I can spend a good amount of time to share & discuss if there is any conflict.
When you are interested in the Sashiko we practice to the level of asking me to write about the Sashiko we practice, it would be so much helpful to be a supporter and read through what I have been sharing first.
I am a human after all. As much as I respect the policy I implemented here, I have a preference in who I will be working together. When you ask me questions indicating you have not read my words mindfully before, then I will be discouraged to work with you. When I can tell you read and respect what I write, then I will be happy to work with. I may accept the offer even without the fee and specific purpose on the media.
I believe what I am asking here is reasonable. When you ask for someone to spend their time, you would either need to compensate for their time, or you spend the same amount of time in knowing who you are asking for.
Thank you very much for your understanding. Enjoy Sashiko Stitching and also reading my writing on Patreon. Remember, though. The truth exists in practice (stitching).
Cultural Appropriation can be very hurtful when it is done intentionally. Although it is not less painful to see the Cultural Appropriation regardless of the situations, when it is done unintentionally, we can consider it as a good opportunity to learn each other. We all make a mistake. It is very important to accept the difference. When a person crosses the boundary of cultural appropriation unintentionally, a simple apology would be just enough. It is a good opportunity to have a cultural mutual understanding. In order to promote good cultural mutual understanding in Japanese culture, I would like to introduce the concept of High and Low Context Culture, which lead to a topic of Super High Context Sashiko Culture.
Crossing the boundary in Cultural Appropriation intentionally, knowing that could hurt the origin, would be unacceptable. However, occasionally, I observe the 2 groups stay on the different page although they both try to mean good. They hurt each other with hoping to understand each other. It is not a matter of intention. There gotta be some situation behind the communication itself. The answer can be the concept of High and Low Context Culture described by Edward T. Hall, 1976, “Beyond Culture”
Here, this is my assumption (with learning High Context Culture) for the unfortunate discussion regarding the Cultural Appropriation in Japanese culture. It may be very much affected how the Japanese language is structured. Again, I will always stand up for the Cultural Appropriation with intention of hurting and/or repainting the culture. Minimizing the culture and repainting the origin will insult the people who live in the Japanese culture. At the same time, it is our Japanese responsibility to consider why it happens -if one means good, then it may be because of the language difference.
Reading between the lines of sentences.
Japanese is the language to expect an ability to read between the lines of conversations. Edward T. Hall once described this as the “High Text Culture (Language)” in his book “Beyond Culture” published in 1976.
Here is a bit more detail. Surprisingly for English speakers, the Japanese language sometimes doesn’t require the subject and object in the sentence. Here is an example.
Let’s say you and I are enjoying a road trip. We talked about where to go but we do not have GPS on. When you want to ask me if we will get to the destination soon or not, you would say, “Are WE gonna get to the _____(destination) soon?”.
In the Japanese language, in the same situation, you would just say “Soon, (We) get there, right? – もうすぐ着くよね？”
In this example, the word “We” is omitted because it is already assumed mutually. We expect others to anticipate what the one is saying.
This can get to the extreme when the relationship is close (like family or close friend). A Japanese may say, “Soon Arrive? – すぐ着く？”. It is not about being polite or not. We omit the words that are considered as a mutual assumption. Of course, it is not the polite language we also have. However, this is the matter of mutual understanding we expect in between. The more amount of information we expect to share, the fewer words are needed.
English as the ultimate tool to communicate.
*I am not an expert in linguistics. Please forgive my misunderstanding if you find any. I am more than happy to consider re-writing.
In contrast, English is very well-optimized for the purpose of communication. Telling, “who does what, when, where and how (which)” is the fundamental of English. Even within a close family, we naturally use the subjects, and rarely omit it to avoid misunderstanding.
English is the language with adapting so many difference in the history of immigration and globalization. In order to avoid misunderstanding, it has to be clear about what we are communicating. On the other hands, the Japanese languages were (are) mainly spoken by Japanese. We communicate based on the fact that the conversation partners know the language and culture of Japan.
It is too much to ask non-Japanese people to understand the Japanese language and the logic behind it. However, I believe, it is reasonable to ask everyone to appreciate the Japanese language when they are willing to learn the Japanese culture.
This perspective – High and Low context – is another perspective why it is so difficult for Japanese to learn English, and the English speaker to learn Japanese.
Importance of Assumption (Premise)
When we learn about the new culture, it is very important not only learn the practice itself, but also the mindset behind it. The mindset often involves the assumption (premise). When the premise is not mutually agreed, the discussion can go very painful for both parties.
In Japanese, as the language difference I introduced above, we expect all of the parties to anticipate the premise mutually without verbalizing it. For example, when I see someone who would like to learn Sashiko or enjoying Sashiko stitching, I naturally assume that the person is interested in the Japanese culture, and therefore, it is reasonable for me to expect that they “try” to respect the basic Japanese Courtesy.
I learned that it may not be the case all of the time. Some may be calling their stitching Sashiko without knowing it is from Japan. They may be calling only because of its image… Well, in that case, I hope they can find their own name for their stitching because Naming Does Matter as Ms.Makiko mentioned in her blog. (I will discuss this issue in the separate article).
High Context Sashiko
In fact, Sashiko requires even more “High” context for that matter. It is very challenging to find the documents that are describing the origin of Sashiko (or even practices of Sashiko in Japanese history.)
As a Sashiko artisan, I honestly expect others to anticipate to learn by watching instead of asking questions. The verbal discussion, like asking questions expecting for the answers, requires a lot of sentences. In contrast, in most Japanese traditions, the questions (and following answers) were not welcomed because a student was supposed to learn from the master by just watching it. The observation was the only method they could take back in Japan.
Expecting others to learn Sashiko by them just observing our Sashiko stitching is very inefficient. I understand that. In order to share the Sashiko we practice, I have established the Sashiko Stitching Workshop (Core and Basic) both in-person and Online. I will answer any kinds of questions once you take the workshops.
*I wish I could do it to the general public, but because of limited capacity and that I also need to support the family, I restrict my support to who are willing to support my days & activities. For those who are financially challenging to take our workshop, please enjoy our Youtube Channel. If you are willing to learn by observing what we stitch, you can probably learn the Sashiko we practice. It may take 20x more time to understand, but possible, and again, I would like to share the Sashiko we practice to as many people as possible.
Our Sashiko Can communicate by themselves.
I believe that our Sashiko can communicate what is the importance of Sashiko and Cultural Appropriation in Sashiko, even without explaining the High Context Sashiko character. We believe in the power of fabric, hand-stitching, and cares we perform on our Sashiko items.
When you enjoy the Sashiko with respecting the Japanese culture, you are already a part of High Context Sashiko. It isn’t difficult to at all to practice the High Context Sashiko. Simply, respect and care the others. When you care the others, we can all assume that we will be attentive to the boundaries. No more opinion and judgement – more empathy and cares.
The word “Boro” in textile gets its popularity day by day. Boro means a piece of rag (torn fabric) with patches and mending. With its concept of up-cycling the fabric and the beauty of patch-working, many textile artist/practitioner enjoy the hand-stitching patchwork with inspiration from Boro. I enjoy the unique interpretation of Boro and the result of interesting patchwork. Many people respect the original culture of Boro. I really appreciate that they refer their work as “Boro-Inspired” work. The question you would have is, however, what is the Authentic Boro, then? What defines Boro as authentic? Can we make the authentic Boro today?
This is my insight as a Sashiko practitioner who sincerely respects the Japanese practice that leads the Boro as a result.
*Please find the link to learn more about Boro at the end of this article.
Impossible to make the Authentic Boro?
The authentic Boro pieces (Jackets and rag) we can look at the museum are made many years ago. The poverty and repetition of mending the fabric created its authentic beauty over so many centuries.
The faded color (one of a kind color) the time created. The patch-worked fabric with fraying (or even falling) thread. The fabric which the Japanese used almost every day heavily and kept repairing for the purpose of survival is the definition of Authentic Boro (in my opinion). The fabric has to be continuously used and repetitively repaired. I believe it is the basic definition of authentic Boro.
The Japanese spirit in appreciating the fabric and all the pride to be beautiful (even in the severe circumstance) made such a unique and beautiful textile.
So, technically speaking, it is impossible to make the authentic Boro tomorrow. It requires enormous numbers of patching and fixing. The color would need to be fade in the Sun and regular wear and tear (fiction). In this textile rich society, the maximum we would comfortably enjoy would be the “Boro Inspired” patchworking. There is nothing wrong with that.
However, I believe, we can try to follow the path to make the Authentic Boro. In fact, Sashi.Co & Keiko Futatsuya and I try to recreate the Boro with the vintage swatches which are too small to be a good Boro piece.
Boro in an ordinary day – Authentic
Since we believe the authenticity of Boro is defined by 2 categories, (1) being used regularly for a long time and (2) repeatedly mended as needed, we try to follow the process by making and using the Boro Jacket and Boro rag (placemats or throws).
We believe that Boro is the result of ultimate repetition of Sashiko stitching. We are Sashiko artisans so it is not a problem to keep stitching and mending. So Atsushi tries to wear the Jacket below, and when it gets damaged, we simply mend it as the Japanese many centuries ago would have done similarly.
The Boro fabric itself is quite fragile already, so it requires the continuous care. Therefore, we also share how to make a good Sashiko stitching not only to stitch the beautiful pattern but also enjoy the process of stitching.
Do you know that the final destination of the fabric is not the landfill? The Japanese used to say, “Use the fabric until it dissolves in the water”. When the one keeps using the cotton fabric over and over, like Zokin (雑巾 – cleaning rag *1) the fabric starts fraying and being like a liquid. Don’t take me wrong. I know it is disgusting. However, please understand that the Boro is one step before the fabric dissolving in the water. So, many Authentic Boro can be very dirty and smelly – and sometimes, it is not washable because it is too fragile that the balance of patchwork will be completely destroyed by one single gentle hand-washing. (Trust me. We have done that…)
Fresh Boro it is
So, we call our Boro (to be Authentic) piece as Fresh Boro. It is ironic naming because Boro means “tattered”, opposite of fresh. In order to recreate (revive the process of) the authentic Boro, we would need to use it repeatedly. It means that the fabric has to be in a washable condition. When we obtain the vintage fabric, we wash them thoroughly and make sure it is strong enough to be patched on our existing Boro. I also introduce what is the good vintage fabric for the Boro (to be authentic / Inspired) project.
This may introduce another perspective of Boro. Does the fabric have to be the Japanese vintage fabric? The answer is “Not at all”. It can be any fabric and any garment we have. While I “age” this interesting Boro Jacket by mending, I enjoy mending & patching my own denim. The boro project doesn’t have to be Japanese-related because the core principal of Boro is to appreciate the fabric. Repurposing the garment with a purpose of lasting longer would make a fantastic Boro many years from now.
I hope I shared my knowledge and wisdom clearly here. Please understand, any kind of Boro-related project with respecting the Japanese culture & appreciating the fabric would be just fine. The Japanese (including myself) would be offended by anyone calling their stitching Sashiko or Boro as long as they try to understand the origin. I am here to share the information and technique associated to Sashiko as the process, and Boro as the result.
Have you heard the term “Zokin” in your Sashiko research? I have found several discussion about Zokin online and surprised how fancy Zokin became in non-Japanese culture.
For the Japanese, Zokin is a very common word, especially for parents who have children between the age of 4 to 12 or so. A lot of kindergartens and elementary school require a few Zokin at the beginning of the school year for the children to clean their school with the Zokin (*1). Every Japanese knows the word of Zokin (Some Japanese do not know the word of Sashiko – Sashiko was common but the Sashiko we practice is more like a revival version. – Zokin is still a surviving concept.)
It is merely a cleaning cloth. Due to the demand (let’s say every kid in school need to bring several Zokin every year), we can purchase them in a dollar store or other general store in Japan. Some schools require Zokin to be (made from) new. The others do not care about the condition so the parent can make Zokin from old towels or rags.
What is Zokin?
Zokin is a piece of fabric (Rag or Fabric) for cleaning. Zokin (雑巾 – ぞうきん）：Zo (雑) means “Miscellaneous” and Kin (巾）means cloth. The term itself means a Cloth for Miscellaneous purpose.
As I mentioned above, we can get the clean new Zokin from the store. However, the word itself includes the nuance of “dirty” because of our custom. For example, we wouldn’t like to wipe the dishes with Zokin, even if the Zokin is new and clean.
Alternatively, we have a word for the cleaning with more cleanness requires such as food and dishes. It is called Fukin (布巾 – ふきん）. In our Sashiko tradition, we have been making many Sashiko stitched Fukin using very high-quality cotton gauze fabric. Let’s say, we start using one Fukin as the dish wiping cloth. When the Fukin starts getting dirty, we get the new Fukin and old Fukin will be the cloth to clean the tabletop or countertop. When the old Fukin starts tearing or severely getting dirty, we start using as “Zokin” which we wipe on the floor or other dirty areas in the house.
For the purpose of the word has, we can make Zokin by using the new Fukin or other piece of fabric, or by stitching the old fabric that we won’t be able to use for the original purpose – like T-shirt or towels.
Zokin is another Japanese culture where “everyone” was doing in Japanese history. So there is no rule at all – just try to understand that the Japanese didn’t throw away things that easily. Zokin is just a name for a piece of fabric – in a long life of the fabric with appreciation.
How to make Zokin
Since there is no rule for Zokin, please understand this tutorial as “one example” of how to make Zokin. I am recalling my mother making one for me when I was a child… so any input from Japanese people would be appreciated.
Prepare the Fabric
Trim the Edge (if necessary)
Stitch the Edge (and flip if necessary)
Stitch to strengthen the fabric.
(1) Cut the fabric
Any kind of fabric would be fine for Zokin. After all, it is the last step of the fabric lifetime. I prefer cotton for the easiness of cleaning. First, cut the fabric for the ideal size. Usually, I prefer 2 layers of fabric to make them appropriate for cleaning. Too thick layers would be difficult to dry after cleaning (which create the bad odor), and a too thin layer (one-layer) may be too weak to use as the cleaning rag. There is no rule for sizing (unless you bring Zokin to school – if you are reading this article in Japan for bringing them to school, please follow the requirement from your school guideline). I like the size of a bit bigger than my palm. It is purely for the easiness of cleaning.
(2) Trim the Edge (if necessary)
This is another preference kicks in.
Let’s say you repurpose the used dish towel as I do in the video. The dish towel already have the side sewed up for avoid fraying. Some do not like the thickness of the edge of fabric. Some prefer to keep the edge so the fabric won’t fray in using the fabric as Zokin.
It is up to you. In the live streaming on Instagram, I made 2 Zokin with trimming the edge and leaving the possibility of fraying the fabric in the process of using them. In the tutorial video, I left the original dish towel edge so that the Zokin won’t fray as easily. Again, it is very much up to your preference and requirement in the cleaning project.
(3) Stitch the Edge
If you decide to trim the edge (and if you cut the fabric to your ideal size), you have an option to avoid fraying by stitching the edge and flip the fabric. Find which side if the front. Then fold it with front facing each other. Then, stitch the side, and flip the fabric so the Zokin have the “front side” on both side. It is not necessary for all the project, but this process will protect the Zokin from fraying easily.
(4) Stitch to strengthen the fabric.
The 4th step, actual stitching, is the most important part of making Zokin. The more you make the stitching, the stronger the Zokin become. There is no rule or regulation what kind of pattern to stitch. For the purpose of making the fabric stronger, the geometric pattern with the straight line would be ideal, such as pattern I performed on the Youtube Video or a Grid that has systematically stitched.
As you may realize, this process of stitching, for the purpose of making fabric stronger, can be called Sashiko. It was(is) very ordinary custom to repurpose the used fabric to make the cleaning rag. The Japanese used to say that we should keep using the fabric until the fabric dissolves in the water. Zokin is just the name of one form of fabric in its long life. The result of the continuous process of using the fabric & mending (fixing) it, and stitching (to stabilize the fabric) is Boro.
Hand-stitching and Machine Stitching
As the other sewing culture, the Zokin has also a discussion of either hand-stitched or machine stitched. Personally, the way of stitching doesn’t really matter because it is for the purpose of cleaning with old fabric – the most important concept here is repurposing.
Here is some advantages for Zokin made by hand-stitching.
The bigger stitches made by hands will be more flexible in terms of tensioning the fabric. The machine stitches can result in destroying the fabric. Also, the Zokin stitched by machine may require the second repair because of its tension.
No need for the big preparation of sewing machine. Once you know “Unshin (運針）” it will take only 10~15 minutes of your time to make one Zokin. It can be done with watching TV…
Again, there is no rule so follow your preference and enjoy the repurposing process.
Sashiko thread or not for it?
I strongly recommend using Sashiko thread on the regular Sashiko project in making Jackets, bag, tapestry, and other small fabric items with Sashiko stitching. (Please read another article why I recommend Sashiko thread so strongly here). Your project in Sashiko is so valuable that I want to respect the fabric with the best thread instead of whatever available in the market. It will make a difference.
In Zokin, however, I think it doesn’t need to be Sashiko thread. It is merely a cleaning rag. The Zokin will have a massive amount of friction in comparison to the regular Sashiko project we enjoy. The purpose of Zokin is rubbing and therefore the Sashiko thread will be damaged quickly anyway. It may be damaged even before the thread become part of the fabric. So, it is perfectly fine to use a reasonable sewing thread.
However, when you are thinking of making “Boro-looking” fabric from Zokin and using the fabric as Zokin, which looks like a piece of fabric start melting by itself, then Sashiko thread may be a good choice. Generally speaking, the (used) fabric itself should start fraying before the (new) Sashiko thread. The regular sewing thread will snap sooner than the Sashiko thread.
The contrast of old weak fabric and strong new Sashiko thread may create the Boro-looking image of melting fabric. The fabric will be dirty, but with patching and continuous stitching, we may be able to make “the Boro” in today’s society.
Some sample photo of actual usage in Japan
In Sashiko Live Streaming on Instagram, I asked Japanese viewers to share their Zokins in their ordinary days. I sincerely appreciate them providing the photos. It is a big deal for them to share because sharing something so personal (inside of the household) is strongly related to the feeling of shame. However, in order to share the actual image, the picture was something I really would like to share. Please share your Zokin, if possible, so we can connect your place to Japan via Zokin, cleaning and repurposing the fabric.
Again, ANY FABRIC is fine. It is my goal to make a Zokin with my own daughter with using some fabric she likes.
*1: It is another beautiful Japanese culture that I would like to somewhat pass down to my own daughter even in the United States: How to clean with our own hands. The Japanese school require students to clean their classrooms, desks, chairs, and pretty much everything they use. I of course didn’t enjoy it when I was a kid, but I beleive it was a good custom to learn.
Live Streaming related to Zokin Topics
Script for the Youtube Video
Hello. This is Atsushi.
I found it interesting to encounter the word Zokin in browsing the photos of Sashiko. Zokin is quite a common word for the Japanese, and I wrote the blog about Zokin.
On top of sharing the information, here is a quick tutorial of how to make Zokin by yourself.
(1) Cut the fabric
Any kind of fabric would be fine for Zokin.
First, cut the fabric for the ideal size. Usually, I prefer 2 layers of fabric to make them strong enough to clean yet light enough to handle. There is no specific rule for Zokin, so the size can be really up to your preference. I prefer the size of my hand palm so I can clean comfortably.
(2) Trim the Edge (if necessary)
The second step is about another preference you may choose from.
Please check the website for the detail explanation. In short, you may trim the edge of the original fabric for the less bulkiness. Or keep them as is to protect the fabric from fraying.
(3) Stitch the Edge
If you decide to trim the edge (and if you cut the fabric to your ideal size), you have an option to avoid fraying by stitching the edge and flip the fabric. Find which side if the front. Then fold it with front facing each other. Then, stitch the side, and flip the fabric so the Zokin have the “front side” on both sides. It is not necessary for all the project, but this process will protect the Zokin from fraying easily.
Flipping the fabric is completely optional. It will make the fabric more durable and look less bulky, but stitching 4 sides are also a good way to make Zokin.
(4) Stitch to strengthen the fabric.
The step of actual stitching is the most important points of making Zokin. The more you make the stitching, the stronger the Zokin become. There is no rule or regulation what kind of pattern to stitch. However, for the purpose of making the fabric stronger, the geometric pattern with the straight line would be the ideal pattern, such as pattern I performed on this Youtube Video or a Grid that has systematically stitched.
As you may realize, this process of stitching, for the purpose of making fabric stronger, can be called Sashiko. It was a very ordinary custom to repurpose the used fabric to make the cleaning rag. The Japanese used to say that we should keep using the fabric until the fabric dissolves in the water. Zokin is just the name of one form of fabric in its long life. The result of the continuous process of using the fabric & mending (fixing) it, and stitching (to stabilize the fabric) is Boro.
2 main questions about making Zokin would be… 1. Is it have to be hand stitched? 2. Do we use Sashiko thread?
It doesn’t have to be hand-stitched. Again, it is very much up to the preference. Personally, the way of stitching doesn’t really matter because it is for the purpose of cleaning with old fabric – the most important concept here is repurposing.
One big advantage of hand-stitching is the durability of Zokin. The bigger stitches made by hands will be more flexible in terms of tensioning the fabric. The machine stitches can result in destroying the fabric over time.
For the thread, any kind of thread would be fine for the Zokin unlike the other Sashiko project to make Jacket and bags.
However, when you are thinking of making “Boro-looking” fabric from Zokin and using the fabric as Zokin, which looks like a piece of fabric start melting by itself, then Sashiko thread may be a good choice. Generally speaking, the (used) fabric itself should start fraying before the (new) Sashiko thread. The regular sewing thread will snap sooner than the Sashiko thread.
The more information is available on our Engish website, upcyclestitches.com
Keiko (from Sashi.Co & Keiko Futatsuya) visited Otsuchi to share the workshop with members of Otsuchi Recover Sashiko Project on June 13th in 2019. The administrative group in Otsuchi Sashiko updated their blog with her visit, so here is a translated version for their writing. I appreciate their time to share the previous time with Keiko. It is the translation from their article part.1.
*The Original blog in Japanese, as well as the other articles about Otsuchi Sashiko, is available at the end of this article.
Keiko visits Otsuchi Sashiko
(Tried direct translation)
We offered a Sashiko Workshop by Keiko-san to our project members. Keiko told us that she would like to see us again and stitched together, then she drove more than 10 hours (one-way!) to make this workshop happened.
The members (they call them Sashiko-san) enjoyed the workshop with passion with longing to see Keiko for a long time. It is a lot of writing to summarize in one article, so we will write the series of articles.
Keiko arrived from Takayama (in Gifu Prefecture) to Otsuchi (in Iwate Prefecture) a day before the workshop with bringing many Sashiko samples, supplies and a mountain of hand-dyed Sashiko thread (This is one reason she prefer driving over flying). Look at her smile after so much driving. The photo is with the administrative staff of the project and Keiko in the project office.
The day of Keiko Sashiko Workshop
The entrance with Sashiko-san visiting the workshop space with Kanako san at the desk.
Sashiko-san were so happy to see Keiko after so many days. They all enjoyed the conversation with Keiko.
Keiko brought many Sashiko Jackets and bags (what Keiko made) for sharing the Sashiko ideas. Keiko even wears one of them. Look at the smiles.
17 members in the project participated in this workshop. With sharing the photos of excited Sashiko-san’s photos, we will conclude the article here. We will write more about the actual workshop.
I just wanted to share this article as soon as possible. I will summarize them later on with more information (like link to our philosophy to make the article easier to understand. This is one of the biggest reasons I continue Sashiko. I am very happy with this opportunity, and more importantly, their smiles (& serious faces).
The recent discussion about Sashiko started on FB group following in Instagram & our FB group taught me a variety of views to look at things. In order to grasp this discussion, please read the articles of “Why Do you call it Sashiko” and “Mindful Reading“. These 2 articles would be good-to-read materials to understand who I am on top of what I do. Regardless, it was a necessary learning experience for me to keep this journey of sharing what Sashiko is. However, there was one assignment I took home with me to study: learning about Cultural Appropriation in Sashiko.
Japanese Cultural Appropriation
The word, Cultural Appropriation, was a too complicated concept for me to explain with the Sashiko we practice. Therefore, with knowing the recent discussion about the word “Kimono” and its cultural appropriation (My Kimono is not your couture), I couldn’t express my insights to the public. I wanted to make sure that I understand what I write before asking someone to read. A follower on Instagram introduced me the brilliant article, written by Ms. Maki – Japanese potter lives in Yorkshire. Her writing encouraged me to express how I feel about Cultural Appropriation in Sashiko.
Her powerful writing is must to read if you are interested in being creatively inspired by Japanese culture (or any other culture, for that matter). Please take a moment here to read through her writing, then please read how I feel about it. I sincerely respect her writing and appreciate her courage and time to share.
I encourage you to call it Sashiko
With my sincere respect to her writing, I encourage you to call your stitching Sashiko as long as you “try” to understand and respect the Japanese culture. I am not asking you to be a master of Japanese culture, nor practice the Japanese custom thoroughly. What I am asking is your attitude to understand who the Japanese are.
Do I sound like contradicting between what I write and what Maki wrote: “Naming DOES matter”? Please let me explain it here.
“Kimono” and “Sashiko” is a bit different
I came to the conclusion to not to consider “Calling your stitching Sashiko” as the Cultural Appropriation based on the 3 factors below.
Sashiko may be too ordinary in the concept of Cultural Appropriation.
Many Japanese also misuses the word of Sashiko.
The word Sashiko is mainly used in the non-commercial situation.
(1) Is Sashiko Japanese culture?
Kimono is a Japanese clothing culture. When they try to research what the Kimono is, there are numbers of books and article to read. However, in Sashiko, there aren’t many documents published to understand Sashiko as the culture.
In fact, I am not sure if we can call Sashiko as the Japanese “culture” yet (therefore I keep asking to respect the Japanese culture in Sashiko – not Sashiko Culture). The ordinary Japanese practiced Sashiko in their ordinary life. The hand-stitching to repurpose the fabric was just too ordinary for the Japanese. We do not have enough documents and testimonies left to define Sashiko as the Japanese culture. However, I believe I can say that Sashiko has a lot of Japanese cultural characteristic – and without that, I wouldn’t want to call it Sashiko. (One of the characteristics of Sashiko and Japanese culture would be a concept of Animism in Sashiko.)
When we aren’t 100% sure to call Sashiko as the Japanese culture, it would be better to keep it as non-Cultural-Appropriation matter. Kimono is different. It is the defined clothing culture. When they disrespect the Japanese culture in Sashiko, then I would get offended. I don’t know how to call this anger or frustration yet – but probably not the Cultural Appropriation.
(2) Is Sashiko common for Japanese?
The second factor is that Sashiko isn’t so common for Japanese neither. Every single Japanese knows what the Kimono indicates. Not all the Japanese know what Sashiko looks like.
In fact, the Sashiko we practice now may be a bit different from the Sashiko the Japanese practiced a long time ago. The culture transform itself. It isn’t about good or bad. It just happens. However, there are many stories behinds each Sashiko or Sashiko related fabric. This website and our SNS accounts are for sharing those stories – like difference between hand-stitching Sashiko and woven Sashiko as well as the difference between Boro and Sashiko.
Since Sashiko isn’t so common in Japanese, it may be harsh to name someone’s stitching as the Cultural Appropriation.
(3) We enjoy Sashiko stitching with no intention.
The last factor I would like to mention is that many of us calling their stitching Sashiko do not intend to disgrace the Sashiko stitching. They enjoy Sashiko (or any form of hand-stitching) with no intention of the power of the word. I can say so because not many people use the word for the non-commercial setting.
I am aware that some companies/people use the word of Sashiko to sell their “Non-stitched” item. For that, I would get upset as the form of Cultural Appropriation (as Ms.Maki mentioned in her article). However, those who are interested in my messages are the people who simply enjoy Sashiko stitching for non-commercial purposes, so I would like to avoid scaring them to enjoy their Sashiko stitching.
The fear I experienced in the discussion
Yes. I encouraged you to call it Sashiko. However, I still have the fear I explained previously. Maki explained the fear I had experienced in the discussion very well. It is “言葉の一人歩き”.
言葉の一人歩き (kotoba no hitori aruki) literally translates as “word walking on its own”. It’s the Japanese expression of the state of misused and misinterpreted information, that has nothing to do with the origin, are spreading selfishly in the society.
This happens when we use the word without good understanding of what it actually means. I personally feel that the word “Wabi-Sabi” is a good example of this. Interestingly, once the word start walking on its own, there is no way to stop it – because we tend to listen what we want to listen and we use the most effective aspect of the word.
If the one who uses the word is aware of their action – let’s say Sashiko is the Japanese hand-stitching culture – the word walks toward slowly implementing the other values. However, when they start using the word without knowing the background, the word rapidly and drastically starts absorbing what they want to reflect on the word.
The word is a wisdom, not a tool. However, without an attitude to understand the culture and background, it could be hurtful for many people.
A good example of this matter would be the word of “Sashiko as the recycle method.” I have read some statement that we can use “whatever we have” because Sashiko’s core principal is to recycle what we have. I do not think so. Yes, Boro is the ultimate result of upcycling and recycling what they had. However, the core message of Sashiko is to appreciate & care what they had like blanket or Jacket. In order to mend the Jacket for better use in the future, they would have used the better thread (if they had a choice.) Using whatever we have in the box because of convenience is not the Japanese culture in Sashiko. By using the supplies designed for Sashiko purpose, not only the result will be more beautiful and long-lasting, it can help to preserve the industries in Sashiko.
The words of “Respect” and “Appreciation” requires Action.
In the FB comments, I was accused of overreacting. I do not believe that I overreacted to the issues. Sashiko is something very deeply rooted in my identity.
In Zen practice, the Japanese believed that the word doesn’t contain the truth. I followed this concept, and therefore, I also practice Sashiko on top of writing and sharing. Although the word “cannot” contain the truth by itself, the word can have the power and responsibility. It leads to the concept of being mindful in our ordinary days. I hope, by enjoying Sashiko, we can be mindful and think of the responsibility of what we say/write.
Again, I do not consider someone calling their hand-stitching “Sashiko” as the form of cultural appropriation. I worry more of the cultural transformation by quick read what is available online. Therefore, I would like you to call your stitching Sashiko especially when you have read my writing this far and trying to understand the Japanese culture. Your contribution can help to preserve the Sashiko culture, and I appreciate your action very much.
I am still sad and angry about the comments I have received in the previous discussion on Facebook. I felt insulted – without them even trying to understand what I am trying to do. However, at the same time, it was very grateful to experience because I receive so many more messages to encourage what I do. I receive 100 times more positive messages in comparison to those insulting comments. These warm & understanding messages are the motivation of writing this article. Here is an interesting story. Those who “care” to understand the Japanese culture in Sashiko are the one who worried if they use Sashiko inappropriately – as a form of Cultural Appropriation, like you who have been reading this far. This is the writing for you who care what I do so that you would send me the encouraging messages when I get confused. I hope this article helped you to enjoy Sashiko more. The fear I feel is not from you.
I used to suppress the negative feeling such as anger or sadness. Now, I understand those feeling is what define us as human – when someone disgrace something I value the most, I should get emotional to protect it. With the fear, I would like to be as natural as one human being can be.
The Fear of alternating Sashiko
Above, as you know, I mentioned that I wouldn’t consider “calling a form of hand-stitching” Sashiko as Cultural Appropriation. Furthermore, when you “care” to understand the Japanese culture behind Sashiko, I would like to encourage you to call your stitching Sashiko. It isn’t about the stitching result much. It is about the mindset to practice Sashiko, at least the Sashiko we would like to pass down.
Let me share, once again, that I still have the fear deep down there: Sashiko may alter its form so rapidly, by those who try to “understand” Sashiko as their own way without caring, that Sashiko may lose the original form of what it actually is (was). Therefore, I keep sharing my view of the Sashiko we practice – mainly on Instagram- to encourage people to enjoy more than just stitching but something more than that.
By the way, I do not intend to control someone’s feeling or actions. If they want to practice “Sashiko” as they want, unfortunately, I have no control over it. Because I cannot control it, I just keep sharing what I believe in so the other will receive the core messages I would like to pass down. There are always people who twist the messages I am trying to communicate.
I am an idealist but I know the reality. We have all our view to look at things. One called me that I am arrogant, and accused me of acting as the authority of Sashiko. Another commented that I am intimidating to others. Well, again, I cannot control how they receive my messages.
(However, I hope, when they read what I have been writing, the words of “Arrogant”, “Authority” and “Intimidating” are the opposite terms for what I have been doing. I can say that confidently because many more of people encouraged me to keep sharing them with appreciation. I hope you understanding my point here. If I wrote something arrogant or intimidating, please let me know with the specific part that I wrote so I can self-reflect and edit them. I am a human. I make a mistake. )
It is okay that they take my message in a different way. However, for those who do not like what I share, I don’t want them to learn the Sashiko from what I write, upload as videos, or provide workshops or supplies. If they learn the Sashiko from me yet thinking that I am arrogant, then it is the fear I am worrying the most; alternating the Sashiko culture. “Convenience” isn’t the first principal of Japanese culture.
(It is fair… right? I always provide the 3 politeness replies before I get offended. Again, everyone makes mistakes and we all deserve a chance to re-do things.)
After all, Sashiko is like my family. When I see the intentional action of alternating the Sashiko culture like above, I will fight back no matter what.
Oops. The editors note got so long. I am here to share & support the Sashiko you would like to enjoy – unless you try to “care” others. Thank you for your time to read this far.