I summarized the wisdom of “Sashiko Overlay stitching (not making knots in Sashiko)” in the previous blog post. I tried my best, but I felt that the writing wasn’t good enough to share the whole picture I wanted to express. So I made a follow-up video about Sashiko Boro Knots and much more & its transcript.
Sashiko Boro Knots are on the same page
We tend to fantasize the words, especially when it is not in our language, but Sashiko Boro Knots are on the same page & category. They are all on the one line of “how to appreciate the fabric and care for the others”.
I hope I explained well in this follow-up video.
Script for the Follow-Up Video
Thank you for watching our Sashi.Co videos. This is Atsushi.
Today, I would like to talk about a topic of, “Do we make a knot in Sashiko stitching?” from a cultural perspective. I was raised in an environment that every artisan usually did not use knots in the beginning and ending of Sashiko stitching. Therefore, it wasn’t even a question for me to explain if we use knots or not. I hope I can share the reasons why we do overlay stitching instead of making knots. It is wisdom in Sashiko.
Do you see that the little thread tale there? That is the point we stop the thread by doing overlay stitching. We could have cut the thread tale completely off to make the backside of this piece as the finished side. And, yes, it is the backside, wrong side, or hiding side of the Sashiko stitching.
The side you are looking at now is the front side or finished side of this Sashiko project. And then, we flip the fabric, and it is the backside of the Sashiko project. The goal of the wisdom in not making knots is to finish both sides of the fabric as beautiful as the finished side.
At some point in the history, in some rural village in Japan, they didn’t have enough fabric to use for lining. Therefore, they needed to use the single layer fabric as the “finished” piece. It is wisdom & technique to maximize the fabric by Sashiko.
For the technique of “Sashiko with not making knots”, please check another video in this Sashi.Co Channel. I have explained how to do overlay stitching there.
How about Boro and knots in stitching.
It is case by case and hugely depends on your preference. Therefore, I would need to explain it by using several examples such as Boro-inspired, and Boro to piece, and Boro we revived over time.
The fabric on the screen is the finished side of Boro-Inspired piece we made. We find the vintage Japanese fabric with severe damage, and patch them to make the fabric look like Boro. This piece requires many spot mending with “flayed fabric”, so we needed to use the knots to keep the fabric secure. Please confirm that the knots are relatively big in comparison to the other sewing projects. It is because the vintage fabric is so fragile that the small & tight knots could damage the fabric instead of holding it together even if we use the Sashiko thread we recommend. It is kind of the part where “art” kicks in to make Boro-inspired fabric with using the appropriate fabric with the appropriate knots, as knots as the part of Boro.
Boro to be fabric.
The fabric on the screen now is so-called “Boro to be fabric” that we have been working on. When we get a good vintage fabric with good condition, we enjoy patchworking them with thinking to make it Boro in the future by using it in our ordinary life. I started working on this fabric in 2018, so it is a pretty new piece. I try to avoid knots as much as possible. It is my preference that I would like to have the softness of overlay stitches. The fabric isn’t frayed or severely damaged so I can secure the stitches with just overlay stitching and our Sashiko thread. Please understand that I am not saying, “I never use knots”. There are some parts that I use knots in this project as well. This is an example of Boro to be fabric with as fewer knots as I can.
Boro we revived.
The last piece I introduce is the Boro we revived. I think there are many ways to define the Boro. One definition we have is that the Boro is the piece of fabric after so many usages and continuous repair. The fabric on the screen is one example we followed this “using” and “repairing” process. It looked like the Boro to be fabric at the beginning of the project, and over time, we kept practicing Sashiko on it. This fabric needed to use the knots to repair, and also we kept stitching with overlay stitching. You can see both of them in the piece.
I hope this video explains that there is no such thing as the “definitive answer” to the question for Sashiko stitching knots or not. After all, it is all about the preference, and you can do what you would like to do. As a Sashiko artisan who was raised in the Sashiko environment, I just wanted to share that there is more than “technique” in these topics.
It is one of the frequently asked questions regarding the Sashiko we practice; Sashiko without making knots. We usually (traditionally) do not make knots in stitching. then how do we secure the stitching in the beginning and ending?
I have explained about the technique of “Sashiko without making knots” here. So I will not mention the topic of “Sashiko without making knots” from the technical perspective. Instead, I would like to share “the resons of why” we practice the Sashiko without Making knots.
Being proud of our artisanship & aesthetics
As you may have learned already (as I kept mentioning all the time), Sashiko was developed as the process of appreciating the fabric. The “appreciation” include the mending and strengthening the fabric. In the rural village where people needed to do Sashiko, adding the back fabric (lining) on top of the “wrong side = hiding side = back side” of the fabric was kind of too luxury to do. In short, the Japanese did Sashiko stitching because they couldn’t get the extra fabric. For this reasons, we respect the original form of Sashiko stitching by using the single layer fabric without hiding the backside of fabric we stitch on (We practice Sashiko stitching by looking at the backside of fabric).
When we work on a project with the purpose of making both sides as the finished side, the knot can be a bit of obstacles. Personally, I feel the knots bother the rhythm and evenness of Sashiko stitching. In other words, I feel like the knots interrupt a good dialogue between thread and fabric.
So, the first reason we try to avoid knots is merely to satisfy our standard. We simply prefer the way it looks without the knots.
Photos of Sashiko without making knots
I hope you “do not” see the difference between the backside of the Sashiko item below. It is our goal to finish the both side, front (finished) side and back (hiding) side as beautifully & equal as possible.
How about knots in Boro?
We also try to avoid making knots in a process of Boro making as much as we can. However, depends on the project, making knots will be the only method to keep the fabric on.
When we have a chance to do Sashiko stitching with an intention to make it Boro like with fairly good strong fabric, we try to do backstitching more often, then hide the thread tales under the fabric. In order to make a Boro-looking piece, we need layers of fabric, so it isn’t that difficult to hide the thread tale. A bit of thread tale helps to avoid the unfortunate event of thread coming off.
I hope you aren’t confused about the technique. It is all about preference & availability. We are making Boro after all. Making Boro (& enjoying Boro) means that the fabric may require the continuous mending & stitching. So a bit of thread coming off isn’t a problem at all.
ersonally speaking, I prefer the smoothness of Boro rather than having the knots. So we try to avoid them when we have a choice.
Again, In order to “patch” or “stick” the completely shattered fabric on the other Boro piece, we do use knots. Please understand that it is not a rule, it is merely a choice based on the preference.
The possible problem with Knots
Let me share some of the possible problem with knots in enjoying Sashiko. Although I strongly believe “You can do what you want (preference)” for this issue, I would like to share some of the possible concerns from our experience.
A: Fabric can shrink and stretch
The purpose of Sashiko thread is different from the other sewing thread: to be the part of fabric over time. Over time, many washing and wearing, the fabric can shrink and stretch. When we make knots at both edges of the thread, it doesn’t allow to wiggle in a process of stretching and shrinking (I believe). It is very insignificant, but I feel the “harmony” of the fabric & threads can be better when the thread can move in the fabric a bit.
Back stitching (overlay stitching) secure the stitching by the unique twists. It is more like letting the threads entangled naturally rather than making a knot artificially. So I prefer not to make knots when I work on Sashiko.
B: Thread is stronger than fabric. The knot is much more strong than thread.
Another problem is that the thread is made from cotton, and the new cotton can be pretty strong in comparison to the vintage fabric (even it is 100% cotton). The knot can end up with making a hole or damaging the fabric, so be attentive when you work on Boro & knots.
B: Too much time to make knots.
This may sounds kind of crazy, but this is a significant issue for me. It is much time-efficient to NOT to make knots.
Sashiko for the ordinary days
Sashiko was developed as the stitching method to fulfill the ordinary needs of the fabric in the Japanese ordinary life. Therefore, we believe there is no rule and restriction. It is sincerely up to you to decide either you want to make the knots or not. However, if you do not know how to do it, I recommend trying it. I prefer not making knots over the experience I have in making the knots.
When do we make knots, then?
Regardless of this blog contents, there are occasions for me to apply the knots in our Sashiko projects. Here are a few occasions I can think of.
When the pattern requires knots for decorative purposes. For example, in the center of flower design, we may want to have bigger dots than the stitches. In that case, we make knots.
When the patches require a strong connection to the patch. For example, when I need to patch the denim, I occasionally use knots to make sure it is secured. The denim is stronger than the cotton thread.
When we work on the “Boro-looking” fabric for the purpose of making like a Boro. We attentively use the severly damaged fabric to be patched on. It requires knots to patch.
I have asked around my friends and teachers if they make knots or not. All of them answered, “Usually no”. So for us, not making a knot is pretty normal idea of enjoying Sashiko. In short, it was my understanding that the Sashiko requires overlay stitches until I move to the U.S. so I didn’t think of explaining it with so much details.
It is very important to verbalize the culture to share. At the same time, we all know that the words cannot express everything in it. I hope, one day, I can meet you in person and share the items I took photos with. When you touch and feel the actual item, you will understand much deeper what I am talking about.
I appreciate questions & opportunities to share the culture & its development.
Our goal is to share the Sashiko we enjoy & love. It is our pleasure to receive a feedback and answer questions regarding Sashiko. However, over years, I have been receiving “too casual” inquires. Although I could have just ignored these emails, I decided to spare some of my time to share what is the Japanese manner when contact someone. Sharing the Japanese culture is one of my goals in sharing Sashiko and the Japanese culture related to that.
Japanese manner when contact someone.
While I am writing this, I start thinking if this is even a matter of cultural differences… but anyway, let me share the Japanese manner when contact someone over the email.
Introduce who you are.
Explain what you would like to the person to do with the details
Explain what is the “benefit” of the person’s doing if it is for the first time.
If you ask the question, make it specific
Umm… Your opinion as “Non-Japanese” would be very much appreciated here. Is this the manner only for Japanese? I kind of doubt it now.
If you are not following the steps above in contacting someone for the first time, the email will be considered very “rude”. Being polite and humble is very important in Japanese culture to share something professional. The person is contacting me because he/she is interested in Japanese culture AND Sashiko AND Boro. If he/she doesn’t follow those manners, then they have something else to learn first before Sashiko and Boro.
*I am not a perfect human being, so I forget the person’s name. I usually remember the workshop participants’ name and our customer’s name, but there is a possibility that I forget. It is my rudeness to proceed conversation with this type of misunderstanding, so it is very important that you introduce yourself.
So here is the detail explanation for each step if you are writing to me for the first time. If you have met me already in the workshop, there is no need to follow the procedure below. You are my friend already.
Introduce who you are
Please, please introduce who you are.
If you are writing for the first time, introduce who you are. Starting the email with “Hi Atsushi,” and ending the email by “Thanks! ○○○.” are considered very rude in the first communication.
Explain what you would like me to do with the detail.
You are contacting me because you want me to do something. I understand that. So, be specific. If you want me to write an essay of what I think about Sashiko, then share where those writing will be published (or even copy and pasted). If you would like to meet me or Keiko in person, then explain where, when, and the reason for your visit.
“I was wondering you would want to meet me for the interview about Sashiko” is rude even if you own a publication. There should be a formal procedure to make things happen.
Explain why I should answer to your request
It is so surprising to me why everyone thinks I would like to work for them for their interest. Yes, it is my goal to share what Sashiko we enjoy is. However, the “too casual” conversation is already outside Sashiko mindset, so please do not misunderstand that I am a “google” who can provide the answer.
Therefore, explain the reason why I should work for your request.
Again, if you are a graduate of my workshops or a customer from my website, there is no need for the explanation. It can be a part of customer support and I would like to do as much as I can for the support I receive.
However, if you are the first time visitor, then what is the “benefit” I get for that kind of time that I use for your request.
Interestingly, there is a common thing for those who write the rude emails. They never offer the “commission” for what I do. The inquiry I receive with asking for the estimate of “commission” or “fee” are typically very polite and humble.
I am not asking for the money here. I am happy to work for free of charge if I can contribute something I value.
For example, if you are part of academic research (in an University) researching about Sashiko, I am happy to provide what I know.
If you are part of Non-profit organization to support the people (let’s say with hand-disability to do the rehabilitation), then I will do whatever I can without asking for the fee.
However, if you are just writing a blog or a book, or an editor on the web magazine, or an instructor of a hand-stitching workshop, then convince me why I would like to work for you with the detail.
It is just shocking to receive these email with many requests & “without the details”.
And lastly, and this is what makes me upset the most.
Make your question specific
Come on. If you are sending a professional to ask a question, be specific. I get numbers of questions saying
What do you think about Boro and/or Sashiko
Why do you think Sashiko and/or Boro is popular in Western Culture.
The worst question is
What is Sashiko? Can you explain that?
Just READ this website… or even watch the youtube… I started writing this blog in order to share the Japanese manner when contact to someone. Now I just realize this may be something universal… are those considered to be okay in the western culture…?
What a world do we live in now.
I am not that friendly after all.
I try to be as friendly as possible. However, I am not “everyone’s friend” after all. If the person took my workshop, I consider him/her friend. You can just email me saying, “hey, what’s up!”.
If the person has purchased some items from my website, I consider him/her as the supporter (Purchasing item from me means he/she is supporting my activities). The appreciation for support leads me to consider him/her my friend, and I will be happy to answer his/her questions and requests.
Interestingly, those who send me “casual (rude in Japanese culture) email” are the people who haven’t done anything above. I sometimes feel that they do not even read my website or follow SNS (Instagram & Facebook) to understand what I do.
If the one is looking for the “instant answer” by finding some of the photos about Sashiko or Boro, then I really do not want to answer the emails because those “instant communication” is the last thing I would like to share throughout Sashiko.
Also, those people who seek for the “instant answers” usually do not make a follow-up to the replies I make. I spent a good amount of time to reply to the email. Sometimes, I even make research to answer the questions. It is just unbelievable, and I sincerely hope it is more like the individual issue rather than the cultural issues.
By reading this article, if you think you are the one of many who made the mistake (and not have followed-up to the reply), please take this advise and do not make the same mistake again, especially because you are “interested” in Japanese culture.
I am upset and it is good that I care
I am pretty upset in writing this article.
However, I believe this anger is a positive emotion because I still CARE those who are interested in Sashiko. If a person is contacting me about Sashiko, I would like him/her to understand the humbleness & politeness in the Japanese culture (or for that matter, in non-Japanese culture as well).
As I keep saying, Sashiko is a process of stitching with CARE.
The contact I described above happen because the person with question didn’t have enough care to me and my time. I would like to change that. Be respectful to someone & his/her time would make this world a bit less stressful.
Again, I could have (and may have in the future) chosen the path to ignore these rude emails. However, it is not part of my activities of sharing the Sashiko we love. I hope we can learn from each other.
“Sashiko & Boro is getting so popular, especially in Western Textile Culture.” The numbers of questions I receive tripled in 2018. Our goal as Upcycle Stitches is to introduce the beauty of Sashiko stitching and its mindset (culture & philosophy) behind it. I am happy to answer the questions regarding Sashiko. However, please understand that I (Atsushi) is the only one who can answer these questions in English among Sashi.Co & Upcycle Stitches. It would be great if viewers, readers, workshop participants, and ultimately anyone who is interested in Learning Sashiko read our website first before asking questions. Here is a list of things I want you to understand in Learning Sashiko.
First of all, most importantly, please understand that What I want to share is NOT ONLY the technique but also the Culture (mindset and philosophy) of Sashiko.
I do teach Sashiko technique, but it isn’t everything. There are many stories to explain Sashiko, Boro and the Japanese people who developed this beautiful culture. I hope you enjoy learning Sashiko, not only the technique but also the culture & mindset.
You can find a series of stories in writing as well as on Youtube.
It would be great to read this article before you jump into asking the questions. This is more like a manual to learn Sashiko from Upcycle Stitches & Sashi.Co (Keiko & Atsushi Futatsuya), with respecting each other, us and you.
1. Most of the questions are explained already
I understand that it is my responsibility to make all the information accessable to find the answers easily, yet, most of the questions are already explained on this website and our Youtube Channel. Please spare some of your time to search the keywords in the website or read through some of the latest blog posts. You probably will find the answer to a question you have right now.
Anyhow, it is my job to make it easy. I am working on another website with easy categories & FAQ page where you can find answers very easily.
The most Sashiko frequently asked questions (which you can find the answers here) are:
How to transfer the pattern onto the fabric
Why does Atsushi leave a loop in Sashiko Stitching
How to not to make knots in the beginning and ending of Sashiko Stitching
The workshop (Online and in NYC) will teach you everything in the well-organized package. At the same time, if you read all of the blog posts I write and watch all the tutorials video I upload, you can get a good grasp of what you need to know in enjoying Sashiko. It takes some time in learning Sashiko.
2. Understanding Sashiko Prerequisite.
Upcycle Stitches offers several kinds of Sashiko Workshops. We ask all the participants to take the Sashiko Stitching Workshop (Core & Basic) regardless of the level of participants’ sewing skill. It seems that “Unshin (運針) = the needle movement to make running Sashiko stitch” is quite unique for many people. After sharing the Sashiko workshop with more than 150 participants, I have never met anyone who knew or mastered the needle movement prior to the Sashiko Workshop.
You may have learned Sashiko from other instructors. You may have been enjoying Sashiko based on books of how to do Sashiko for more than decades. I respect those instructions and your skill. However, in order to be fair to everyone who takes the Sashiko Workshops that Upcycle Stitches offers, “Everyone” needs to be on the same page. So please consider taking the Sashiko Stitching Workshop (Core & Basic). If you aren’t 100% sure how to use the thimble, the workshop will be an eye-opening experience.
If you are 100% confident that you know how to use the round-shape thimble and the needle with appropriate posture, please contact Atsushi with a video filming your hand-stitching. I am happy to review the video and decide if you can be qualified for the other Sashiko Workshop. Please make sure you watch some of Atsushi’s stitching on Youtube before sending the video.
Some people seem to understand that I set this prerequisite because I just want to do more basic and core workshop. No, it is NOT about my preference. I hope I can share the various Sashiko Workshops to anyone who is interested. However, I can anticipate (and had experienced) that the participant without the basic understanding Sashiko will take other participantsants‘ time in the advanced workshop. I proceed the advanced workshop as everyone knows how to use the thimble and needle. And the one without the proper information & practice will have a pile of questions. The Prerequisite is NOT my personal preference. It is the requirement to keep my workshop fair to everyone who respects what I would like to share.
Sashiko Stitching Workshop (Core & Basic) doesn’t have any prerequisite or previous experience. It would be nice if you have the basic sewing skills such as threading the needle and such, but not necessary.
3. Sashiko Philosophy comes before Business
Some people may find me difficult to work with. In 2017 and earlier 2018, I thought it is because of my unique personality or character that is making some communications difficult.
However, at the same time, it is interesting to find out that I have had no problems with some people (customers & workshop organizers). In contrast, I could feel that some of them were frustrated to work with me, like emailing or phone conversation. I barely experienced it when I was working in Japan, so I kept thinking how I could improve it. It is always good to have the smooth and comfortable conversation, right?
After several unfortunate and uncomfortable experience, I learn what is the cause of this difficulty.
I put Sashiko Philosophy first before making it Business (=convenience to the customer).
Upcycle Stitches LLC is a for-profit legal entity. Please do not misunderstand that I work as a Non-Profit or other mutual organization. I work as a business, make a profit out of my activity, and pay Tax and support sashiko culture in Japan & in the world. However, Upcycle Stitches & myself (Atsushi) have a very vivid and strong philosophy in our business activities = introduce Sashiko and its mindset (Culture). In order to achieve this mission, our philosophy comes first before making our activity profitable (business-like), like making it convenience or attractive to the customer (& participation).
I share a few examples.
Easy to get a replacement but it is NOT Sashiko.
When a person takes the workshop after the first “Sashiko Stitching Workshop (Core & Basic)”. I always ask him/her to bring the needle & thimble I provided in the first workshop. I do not include the needle and the thimble in the second or 3rd workshop.
Some participants may think: “why is Atsushi making it so difficult? It is only a thimble and a needle. Why isn’t it available in the workshop and why do we have to bring these?” Some organizer may feel: “It is wrong to put customer convenience so low. It is the organizer’s responsibility to make it easy and, if the cost of preparation is not significant, it should be available regardless. It will lead to the better customer satisfaction.”
Yes. I understand that the business is about how to make the customer happy. If there is a way to make a customer happier, we should follow that. I agree with it and I am trying to do as much as I can for that. However, when customer convenience across the sashiko philosophy I would like to share, I respect the philosophy first.
Sashiko was a form of stitching developed in “Poverty.” They probably didn’t have the second needle because of their situation. Therefore, they appreciated what they had: fabric, a thimble (probably not metal), thread, and everything they used. The Japanese believed the Animism, in which every material have a spirit (God) in it. Providing the materials for the workshop participants are very important. However, I cannot agree with the idea of “getting everything ready for you without respecting the culture they are about to learn.” Sashiko & Boro, the basic concept is “Repair (Mend) instead of Replace.” Why do I encourage the participants to replace what they already have?
I am not saying it is the absolutely bad thing to NOT to bring the tools she/he received.
The accident can happen. They can lose them unintentionally. It could bend, damaged, destroyed, anything. I will prepare the numbers of tools ready before the workshop for “Purchase” just in case someone had an unfortunate event to lose them. Telling the participants that they do not have to bring anything, in fact, encourage people to “forget about what they already got”, and that is what I would like to avoid.
For the “professionalism” about me as the lecture, you can trust what I provide as a professional Sashiko lecture. I will do everything to deliver what we agree on regarding Sashiko. For the topic above, “wasting what they have” is one example of communication error which could potentially develop a bigger conflict.
Reusing the Packaging supply
For some of the Online Orders, I reuse the packing supply we got from our private (or business related) purchase from other online businesses. Of course, the accurate delivery with clean and neat packaging is the must for business. We set the standard, and yet, we try to reuse the packaging supply.
It is easy to dispose of things now.
However, we would like to try to balance it out, as much as we can, to be customer friendly and ecologically.
(Please don’t worry to much. I am not trying to go extreme on this. We package every box/envelops very carefully. The water damage is the worst so we seal them very tightly. Although It may not be “fresh shipping supply,” we try 100% our best to “Care” how you would receive the package. We put care rather than using the brand new clean packaging.
I would like you to understand that even one packaging is an opportunity of Learning Sashiko.
4. Try to be “reasonably” responsive
You will be surprised how quick I make a reply to the emails or inquiries. Some of you may have experienced it, and you will receive the email as fast as in a few minutes. The reason is that I cannot “hold” tasks and work something else. I receive so many emails every day and if I do not reply it when I see it, I will probably forget to reply it after all. So when I get a message, I just reply without even prioritize it.
Please respect this “a bit crazy” e-mail exchange, and try to be on-Time (reasonably responsive).
I am not saying you should be replying to me in hours. However, please make a reply within a few days if you are interested in receiving more information. After a few days, like 5 days, I will lose the concentration to the topic and you may not get the full response.
And, PLEASE READ WHAT I WRITE.
English isn’t my first language. As much as I would like to make it simple and short, the writing tends to be long, especially when I need to explain the situation more. Please read them even if the email is long. If I wrote it that long, it means there is something YOU NEED TO KNOW in that email.
If you do not receive the reply within a few days from me, the reply would be sent to your junk email box or some other accidents happened in email delivery. Please contact me for the follow up. When I do not receive the “reply” to the reply I make, I understand that the conversation is completed.
5. Learn by just Watching
Can you guess why I offer the “Live-Streaming” without any editing or modification? One live-streaming is at least 60 minutes long, and it may not be enjoyable video because I mainly talk in Japanese. However, I write the title in English, and I want everyone, including those who do not understand Japanese, to watch it and learn it. There is a mindset even in Learning Sashiko or other Japanese culture.
The Japanese craftsmanship (artisanship) has a tradition of “Learn by watching what the teacher (master) does.” I didn’t have any “class” or “workshop” in my life. I just watched the other artisans do Sashiko, and had to learn by just watching.
This applies to many Japanese professions. For example, in a traditional Sushi, a disciple for the first year will not be able to touch the rice or fish. For more than a year, he/she will be only allowed to wash the dishes and clean the restaurant. While he/she does his job, he is “allowed” to watch what master do. he/she may learn something by eating what the master didn’t finish.
Someone may think it is not efficient at all. They may say it is a waste of time and the masters should make a school where the disciples can learn how to make Sushi within a year or so with a well-organized curriculum.
To be honest, I agree with both.
I believe there is something one can learn by just watching what the teacher does for a long time, like thousands of hours. It is probably not only about the “technique” they can “learn” in the curriculum. I appreciate the wisdom we can get by spending so much time in one thing.
At the same time, to pass down the culture, it is also important to organize the information, technique, and skills into one package. A school, a workshop, a class… when they are well-organize, it is the most efficient way to learn something new.
Since I agree with both approach, I offer the both. The opportunities for anyone to watch what I do without editing and modifying. By watching what I do in Sashiko for more than so many hours (like more than 1,000 hours), you will probably get the core of Sashiko.
I understand that not everyone have more than 1,000 hours to watch my stitching. Therefore I have the workshop to systematically teach the participants Sashiko: what I learn by spending more than 30 years of my life.
The goal of Upcycle Stitches is to share Sashiko as well as the Japanese culture behind Sashiko. As much as I am an amateur in marketing and advertising, I try my best to put thoughts into what I do. From time to time, I get emails or contacts giving me some advise, like “You should make a short version of your stitching so the video catches the viewers attention.” Or “I don’t have time to watch your long videos. Make it shorter and direct to the point.”
Well… I guess I do not have to actually write what my replies to those “advice” will be like.
I hope I shared the mindset I developed over time in Learning Sashiko. The online workshop will be ready soon, Spring 2019.
Since I started introducing Sashiko online (here and Youtube)in 2017, I have been receiving many questions. As a group of Sashiko artists, we would like to provide all the answers and solutions regarding Sashiko. To achieve the goal, please take a look at this list of Sashiko Frequently Asked Questions. I have been receiving similar questions, and your question is probably someone’s question. I will keep updating this list of Sashiko Frequently Asked Questions
[last updated in 2019]
Sashiko Frequently Asked Questions
Please find your question and the answer to that below. If you do not find the answer, please contact Atsushi for more information. I will add your question to the list to make an answer.
About Sashiko Supply and Tools
What kind of thread can I use for Sashiko Stitching?
Frankly speaking, you can use ANY KIND of thread for Sashiko stitching. However, in order to fully enjoy the Sashiko experience we would like to introduce, please consider getting the Sashiko thread from us. Some of the technique and wisdom do not function when you use non-Sashiko thread or even the Sashiko thread from the other manufacturers.
This is one of the most frequent questions. Please find the article explaining about the Sashiko Thread.
I also explain “Why” Sashiko thread is so important on Youtube. It is because of the purpose of the thread, not only the quality but the thread itself have a different purpose in stitching.
What kind of fabric should I use?
To be honest, any kinds of fabric would be fine for Sashiko stitching. I prefer the good quality cotton 100% fabric, preferably woven in the Japanese traditional style. However, any kinds of fabric, silk, canvas, and anything else you have in your house may work as a good Sashiko fabric.
For some tips, if I had the same budget, I would spend it toward the thread. The appropriate Sashiko thread makes a lot of difference in the result.
Please find the video of me enjoying the “cheapest fabric” that I can get from the retailer.
What are the recommendation for books?
There are many good books about Sashiko available in English. However, unfortunately, I do not know a book which covers the principal, philosophy, and techniques comprehensively. Therefore, I keep writing our principal, philosophy, and techniques here to share the Sashiko we practice.
If you read Japanese, then the recommendation would be books written by Ms. Eiko Yoshida.
What is the difference between Boro and Sashiko?
Sashiko is a form of hand-stitching (=process), and the Boro is an ultimate result of repeating Sashiko. The definition of each word, Sashiko and Boro, can be wide-interpreted, but Sashiko and Boro are not equal. In the Japanese language, Sashiko can be a verb, but Boro doesn’t work as the verb.
More information can be found on Youtube Video.
What is Sashiko? Your Sashiko looks different from mine.
It is a whole purpose of this website to introduce the Sashiko we enjoy. For the quick start, please watch the Youtube video here.
Which side of the fabric should I draw/transfer pattern on?
Traditionally, we draw/transfer the pattern on the “hiding” side. The “hiding” side can be called “wrong side” or “bad side”. In short, we transfer the fabric on the side people will not look at much. The finished side will be on the other side of stitching. However, there is no rule for that. You can stitch from either side. I simply follow the tradition, and the Japanese traditionally performed Sashiko from the “hiding” side because they wanted to both side beautiful (presentable) in a poor economic situation.
Why do you make loops during the stitching?
This is one of the most frequently asked questions from our Youtube Channel. I understand it because I often make loops when I make stitching in Live Streaming. I wrote a blog post about it to share the reasons for loops.
What do you do with the thread tale & loops after Sashiko.
We stitch from the back side (wrong side = hiding side with lining) fabric. All of the thread tales from the Kasane (Overlay stitching) and loops are going to be on the back side you are looking at.
We clip all of the thread tales and loops after the stitching & putting the fabric into the water. By doing Kasane, when you use the appropriate thread, the stitches will be secured in a process of putting the fabric through the water and drying it.
When we plan to use both side as the finished side, we clip all the Sashiko thread tales and loops (In fact, when we use both side as the finish side, I do not leave the loops). However, it is more common to put lining on the back side, so we leave some amount of thread tales and loops.
How do you stop the stitches without a knot?
There is no problem of making a knot when you end the stitching with Sashiko. However, traditionally, we do not make a knot to secure the stitching. Please find a video of “how to NOT to make a knot.”
My fingers and wrist hurt after making the stitch. Is it normal?
Umm… the pain isn’t normal. I can keep on stitching for hours of times and will not have any pains on my finger or wrist. Please check my actual stitching, and see what is the difference. If you can take my workshop (In NYC or Online), I should be able to give you more specific solution.
In order to grasp the quick overview of Sashiko, Youtube videos are the best way. I have been creating some videos explaining what Sashiko can do, so please take a moment to watch the Sashiko “Stories”.
I received a question regarding “Aikido Gi (合気道着 = Uniform for Martial Art called Aikido)” with Sashiko. The famous fashion website, Heddles.com, released the article below, and I understand why I received a question about what we do in Sashiko. Although I don’t find it much value in categorizing many forms of Sashiko, I have been trying to “define” what Sashiko is. I thought it may be a good opportunity to introduce my understanding of the difference between “Stitched Sashiko and Woven Sashiko.” There is one basic distinction there.
First of all, please understand that I am NOT making any criticism of the article. The article is very well-written and accurate in my understandings. A few “wording” could confuse the readers, and I believe the question I received is because of “good editing (The article didn’t fully explain to make the article compact and improve the readability)”
As the article says,
The martial arts Gi worn in Aikido has been, for quite some time, woven in the sashiko style.
This pretty much answers to the question. The martial arts Gi were “woven” in the Sashiko “Style”, not Sashiko stitched. In order to clarify what Sashiko is, I define Sashiko is the “Stitched” items. Therefore, I do not categorize Woven Sashiko as the authentic Sashiko.
Woven Sashiko is often called “Sashiko-Ori” or “SashiOri”. It creates the Sashiko-like looking with the unique technique to make the textile. It is not the matter of which is better or not. It is the matter of preference and the difference of origin & its purpose.
Regardless, please understand that I have sincere respect for those who continue producing the woven Sashiko. It requires a lot of skill & techniques, and only honorable artisans can do that.
History of Martial Arts and Sashiko
I just wanted to make sure if I appropriately understand the timeline (history) of Sashiko and martial arts. This is a result of quick research.
*Please kindly let me know if I made a mistake in the description below. I do not mean to disgrace the history or someone’s culture.
Many Japanese Martial Arts formed “Do (道 = Way)” after Edo period after Japanese opened the country over the national isolation. Sashiko was largely performed in many areas in Japan over the national isolation, which is before the martial arts start forming their own way. The most popular martial arts in Edo period was with a sword, which leads to Kendo later on (剣道 = sword fighting). We can find the hand-stitched Kendo Gi (Uniform) in the history. Also, the firefighter in Edo period wore the jackets with hand-stitched Sashiko.
After the Meiji period, the weaving and textile manufacture started producing the textile inspired by Sashiko stitching. They used the unique technique to weave the stitched patterned textile. Because of its thickness and durability, people started using the textile to make their Dogi (道着 = martial arts uniform). We can see it in Aikido, Judo, and Kendo.
I believe the hand-stitched martial art uniform still exist. However, it is not the mainstream because of its price. Instead, the Dogi, which requires a type of mass-production use the weave Sashiko textile. That’s the hisotry behind the sentence of Haddels, “Sashiko Style.”
The difference between Stitched Sashiko and Woven Sashiko
My intention to write this article is to share my understanding of what is the difference between Stitched Sashiko and Woven Sashiko. Please understand that I am not comparing and ranking these two cultures. Both of them have a great history, and both of them are great Japanese culture. After all, it is about your preferences and availability in the society.
Here, I would like to mention a few points that differentiate Stitched Sashiko and Woven Sashiko significantly.
Sashiko stitching for the ordinary people. Anyone can do that
I believe Sashiko was (is) an ordinary needlework that the ordinary Japanese practiced in the necessity. The people performed Sashiko for the purpose of mending, repairing, strengthening, and decorating the fabric. Anyone could do that in their household, and anyone can enjoy Sashiko without much preparation now. This simplicity is one of the key point of Sashiko; that one person can make stitches for their need.
I call the process, “Caring”, that the person is thinking of someone by making Sashiko stitch. It was a culture within a household for a long time. In contrast, Woven Sashiko requires machines and investment. It is a culture of industrialization, I would say.
Stitching for Caring. Woven for Spreading
Again, there is nothing wrong with industrialization. The woven Sashiko requires a lot of skill and experience to produce. Woven Sashiko spread the Sashiko Style Textile in martial arts uniform and it created its name, “Sashiko Ori”. They are beautiful, and I have some items with Woven Sashiko.
Hand-stitched Sashiko wouldn’t be able to spread that much since it takes so much time to make one Jacket. If a Dojo (道場 = a training hall) has 30 students, let’s say, hand-stitched Sashiko wouldn’t satisfy their need so efficiently.
One of the beautiful Japanese mindset that I like is Chudo (中道 = Middle way).
In other words, we (the Japanese) sometimes do not make the final decision of black or white and keep it in gray color. In modern society where the solid answer and solutions are required, it won’t lead the person to the success if he/she doesn’t have the logical and clear conclusion. However, when we care someone, it is good to have this non-dualism mindset. So, please understand that I am not saying which is better or not, either Stitched Sashiko and Woven Sashiko.
One of the frequent questions I receive when I actually show my Sashiko stitching is that I am not following the “correct way of Sashiko.” In conclusion, I believe that there is not such a thing as Sashiko Rules. Therefore, there is No “right” and “wrong” in Sashiko Stitching. No regulations. No Bad Sashiko.
What I teach & share is a technique (hint) to make the better Sashiko, more beautiful Stitches, and Sashiko stitching with comfortable hand-movement. It is an advice, not the rule. It is always your choice to follow any information. I just simply prefer the way my Sashiko goes.
Should NOT lines cross in Sashiko Rules…?
“I learned that you should not cross the lines with stitches.”
Yes. Some Sashiko books & articles online suggested not to cross the stitches when the 2 or more lines cross. You may have understood that it i the absolutely bad thing to do to make the line crossed.
Me? I don’t really pay attention when the lines cross. What I pay attention to is if I can keep the same length of beautiful stitches. Here is a reason below.
Which Asano-ha do you prefer?
The reason is pretty simple. Which Asano-ha Sashiko patterns do you prefer?
I “can” follow the so-called the Sashiko rules of Asanoha pattern Sashiko to not to cross the lines. However, the Sashiko following the specific length and modify it leave the feeling of “artificial.” I would like to decide the size of stitching based on the project theme, not based on the Sashiko rules or regulations which someone made. I simply prefer the center or right Sashiko pieces on the photo. That’s why I keep saying there is no such a thing as Sasiko Rules.
It is easier to purchase the “pattern pre-printed fabric” to have good Sashiko time. However, by learning how to draw & transfer the Sashiko pattern on the fabric, you will have the infinite possibility of your Sashiko project. Again, there are no rules. You can do whatever you want.
Sashiko is too ordinary to be the way of art.
Besides my personal preferences, I have several reasons for my belief that there is no rule for Sashiko.
Unlike Ikebana (Flower Art) and Chano-Yu (Tea Ceremony) which became considered as the way of Japanese art, Sashiko was too ordinary for many people to give it art status. As long as I know, there is no school for Sashiko, and there isn’t an organization to offer the types of certification. Sashiko was too ordinary for the Japanese to consider as the art.
In fact, the Boro, in form of the result of continuous Sashiko stitching, represented the poverty, and it was shameful for the Japanese to own so much Boros in their house. The people even buried the Boro fabric under the ground to hide the shame.
Since Sashiko was too ordinal, there are many kinds of Sashiko in Japan. I would say, the rural location with snowy winter & surrounded by mountain (or ocean) have the Sashiko culture or similar to that. The limited logistic to the fabric supply & limited opportunity for the winter labor developed the culture of Sashiko. In Japan, as you can see on the map, there are many locations that fulfill the requirement to be “Sashiko Place.”
It is simple. Therefore you can make your own Sashiko.
It is interesting to see people disappointed when I tell them that there is no rule in Sashiko.
Well. Sometimes, it is easier to learn the new craft when rules and regulation limit your ideas. It is easier to follow the direction rather than creating your new one. I understand that. I try to answer the market demands by creating the DIY Sashiko kit and starter kit.
You may have some fancy image in Sashiko.
In reality, Sashiko is merely a technique of hand-stitching the Japanese developed from poverty. I respect Sashiko. However, I believe Sashiko shouldn’t something you should suffer to learn for decades. It is very simple. Therefore, there is infinite of possibility to apply Sashiko to any other crafting, embroidery, and any kinds of project. My goal is to share the enjoyment of Sashiko. The mindfulness of hand-stitching, and the beauty of Sashiko & Boros.
I respect all the Sashiko works in the world. I may mention my preferences. However, I strongly believe there is no such a thing as “Wrong Sashiko” and “Correct Sashiko.”
I frequently get a common question when I talk about the process of preparing the Sashiko project. “Which is better, to get Sashiko Pattern Preprinted Fabric or to transfer patterns oneself?”
My answer is always on the one with transferring pattern by yourself. Why? It is simply more fun when you have better control on your own Sashiko project. Sashiko isn’t only about stitching. It is about making your own favorite item with stitching your own preferable patterns. Therefore, I recommend learning how to transfer the Sashiko pattern onto your fabric. It isn’t difficult at all.
Step by Step tutorial in how to transfer pattern
Easiness of Sashiko Pattern Preprinted Fabric
At the same time, however, I understand it seems like easy to just purchase the Sashiko Pattern Preprinted fabric. You can start stitching right after your package arrives.
There are many options available in the market. Especially for those with Japanese semantics patterns are very popular. When we had a shop in Japan, it was one of the best-selling items in the DIY section. Upcycle Stitches LLC carries some Sashiko Pattern Preprinted Fabric, too. Regardless of my preference or recommendation, I would like to follow the customers’ need.
Please do not ignore, however, that it is quite simple to transfer the pattern on the fabric. Although it may take a bit of practice to make it neat, the practice will be rewarding in your long journey with Sashiko.
Upcycle Stitches provide the tutorials online
Well. Yes. It may be easy for me to say it. I understand your worries.
Therefore, I uploaded a free online tutorial video how to transfer the Sashiko pattern onto the fabric. In the video, I introduce all the necessary materials to process it. Upcycle Stitches even sell the DIY kit for the practice of transferring the pattern with a reasonable budget.
Once you get used to it and keep the essential items in your box, it is completely up to your imagination to have Sashiko pattern on your Sashiko project. I want you to enjoy the freedom and the result with it.
Silk Screen the pattern for the bigger project.
The more I introduce Sashiko among my workshop participants, the more we understand the needs for Sashiko Pattern preprinted Fabric. Therefore, Sashi.Co & Keiko Futatsuya and I start considering to invest into silk screen printing. This allows us to prepare a bulk number of pre-printed fabric for customers without adding enormous variable (labor) cost.
It is, however, going to be a big investment, and we would sincerely appreciate your support on our Patreon page. You will get the exclusive deals there, too. Also, we would like to know what kind of patterns would suit to the U.S. market. Would you prefer the traditional geometric patterns? Or something I like such as Kamon family patterns? I wouldn’t make the picture based patterns since the customers’ preferences would vary a lot.
A.Traditional Geometric Pattern
B.Kamon Japanese Family Pattern
Please let us know by leaving the comment. Which do you like better? Geometric or Kamon?
Here is a Sashiko Q&A to give you a general understanding of what Sashiko is. Please contact us if you cannot find the answer here. I will update the Q&A periodically to answer questions.
*Revising Ongoing. Send us your questions to enrich the Sashiko Q&A contents.
What is Sashiko? What is Boro? Any difference?
Sashiko is a form of stitching developed in Japan a few hundreds years ago.
In my definition, Sashiko is a process of repairing, mending, reinforcing, strengthing and decorating by hand stitching. Boro is a result of Sashiko or a piece of fabric work in the process of Sashiko. Boro (mean worn fabric in the Japanese language) doesn’t mean the technique or process. Sashiko doesn’t mean the product of Japanese symmetric patterns. Sashiko is a process, and Boro is the result. This is my definition in between them. You may use any kinds of fabrics, threads, or how many layers of fabrics to do Sashiko (typically 1 or 2 layers of fabrics). Boro can be anything unless it is the result of mending or repairing with patches: patching the worn part of the fabric.
I am still on the research to understand what Sashiko and Boro are. Please refer the links below to read more articles about Sashiko and Boros.
Almost every product I list online is for sale. If the price is listed, it is the last product the producer (either me or Keiko) decided the artwork is in the completed shape. If the price is not listed, the artwork is still under the small process to make them better. When the photos are listed, the product is almost ready to be in completed shape. Usually, the price is not listed because we feel “we could do something more.” Please contact us for the further details if you find something interests you. We will send you more information with the price.
Our artwork is “one-of-a-kind” product. Once it is gone, we will not be able to create the exact same one. We may ask you to let us have some time to take photos for the records.
Thanks to customers finding our Amazon Store, I am enabled to build a much bigger inventory for Sashiko thread. Since we have some allowance for the inventory, I will provide some Sashiko Thread Bulk Discount. A purchase of our Sashiko threads excluding (Now including) the Natural-dyed thread throughout this website will be eligible for the discount based on the amount of your order. Please contact me first if bulk discount matches your interest, or simply use the coupon code available below in the rate table.
Without the effective code, the discount will not be applied.
Sashiko Thread Bulk Discount Rate
Here is a price table for the bulk discount. If you have question, please make sure to contact me first by mentioning “bulk discount,” and shop throughout the online store by using the discount coupon I issue to you, or available here.
Order of 10 Sashiko Thread Skeins
Order of 20 Sashiko Thread Skeins
Order of 50 Sashiko Thread Skeins
Order of 100 and more Sashiko Thread Skeins
*Depends on the stock, we may make the shipment from Japan. In that case, we cover all the possible shipping fees, custom, and duty.
*No other seasonal coupon may be used with this bulk discount.
*The coupon will deduct the percentage amount from the total price of your order of the Sashiko Thread on our online store.
A regular skein of our Sashiko thread has the length of 145 meters / 475 feet.
This is long enough to complete a few small Sashiko project. However, if you would like to try Hitomezashi stitching or a larger project such as Sashiko jackets, a few skeins would be great to keep in stock. Although I may promote our products with some seasonal discount on this website, such as Black Friday Deal, I promise that the discount code will not be more than 20%.
Sashiko Thread Wholesale
Upcycle Stitches LLC has not obtained the license for the wholesale business in the U.S. Therefore we do not offer an option to make a wholesale deal besides Sashiko Thread Bulk Discount. However, although we do not offer the wholesale price for now, please contact me if you would like to sell our products in your store and meet the requirement below. I may be able to help you as a curator to make a deal with Sashi.Co & Keiko Futatsuya and other manufacturers in Japan.
Some of the possible agreements are following;
Agreement to purchase more than $2,000 of thread and/or products for the initial order. The wholesale rate varies depending on the amount of your purchase history.
Own a retail store with a physical store front.
I would love to visit your store to discuss not only the financial deal but the support we can provide regarding Sashiko. Please read the article about my plan, the Sashiko Road Trip.
This offer only applies to personnel/company who has the address in the US. If you live outside of US, and interested in being a distributor, please contact Sashi.Co & Keiko Futatsuya for more information. We are happy to discuss the detail. For wholesale option in Australia, please contact our representative in Australia.