The Japanese used to say; “When you have a piece of fabric as large as the size you can wrap three soy beans, you should keep it so the piece of fabric may be useful in repairing.” We respect this concept in appreciating the fabric. We repair Boro with the small fabric, and we make a larger fabric as the Sashiko Patchwork.
A way to appreciate fabric: Sashiko Patchwork
The Japanese have an interesting word, which became quite famous outside of Japan, “Mottainai（もったいない）.” This term conveys a sense of regret concerning waste. Personally, I would like to translate this term to “appreciation to the resource” instead of “regretting the waste.” When a person throws away the food, we say “Mottainai.” Although it indeed describes the regretfulness of the waste, I prefer respecting the concept behind the regretfulness of the word, the appreciation for the food as the limited resource.
The same concept applies to the fabric. We try to keep as many small pieces of fabrics as possible. By using them in Sashiko Patchwork or Mending Projects, we intend to give the fabric another purpose. Our main activity is to repurpose something which could be just a piece of garbage. Turning waste to the beautiful & useful things are the basic concept we follow.
Needless to say, it is easier to use a sheet of fabric to make a bag.
Patchworking with small fabrics is a troublesome and time-consuming process. However, we believe the beauty of Sashiko patch working can influence many people who love arts, and contribute to the sustainable society by up-cycling and repurposing the limited resource.
One of Keiko’s specialty is to find the best small patch from a pile of “To be waste fabric” and create the beautiful piece. Keiko and I share the same goal of bringing the old fabric which people no longer need (use) back to the main stage of fabric. The main stage as the items being used by us.
Another way to appreciate: Repairing and Boro
A process of repairing the fabric with Sashiko and the resulting in Boro is another way to appreciate the fabric. We also repair Boro. Please spare some of your time to read another section of this website. We share many stories and projects of Boros.
I am grateful that I received some active reactions to the article I wrote about “why does Keiko create the Natural Dye Sashiko Thread.” After working hard on studying the Natural Dye Thread, we have a Natural Dye Sashiko Thread List for the Summer of 2017. All available for sale. This is the list of natural dye thread we can re-create. In other words, even after they get sold out, we can restock the very similar color (almost identical) Sashiko thread.
Each of the beautiful gray colored threads has its uniqueness by adding a hint of other colors such as purple, green, beige, and indigo blue. Although the gray color collection is not as fancy as the pink color collection, the gray color matches to the vintage fabric very well. In fact, these gray colored threads are most often used thread in Sashi.Co & Keiko Futatsuya collection.
Pink Color Collection
Pink Color Collection is our all time favorite. It looks beautiful on any color of fabric, and it adds the colorfulness to Sashiko.
It was challenging to stabilize the pink colors as the re-stackable thread. As you can see, one dye material, such as Lac Dye and Madder, can create several colors based on the condition and dye catalysts. Enjoy the beauty of purple to pink. They are even beautiful to just look at.
Yellow Color Collection
We learned that our valued customer finds it difficult to use the yellow color in Sashiko. The yellow colors from Natural Dye could be a good substitute (or even upgrade) for the white thread. For example, the indigo blue fabric and yellow natural dye get the result of white looking. Both colors from Mountain Peach and Myrobalan will open up another possibility to your Sashiko project!
Is Sashiko Expensive in the contemporary textile market?
The answer is, unfortunately, “Yes.” Sashiko artisans spend a huge amount of time into a project, and therefore, the Sashiko art/craft can be expensive in comparison to the other textile products. For example, Sashiko Bags produced by Sashi.Co & Keiko Futatsuya costs in a range of $100 to $500. Although the price isn’t crazy compared to the high-end product, for the small handbag made from cotton fabric, the price is relatively expensive.
Is Sashiko supposed to be Expensive? Was Sashiko expensive?
In my understanding of Sashiko history and its origin, the answer is “No”: Sashiko shouldn’t be expensive. I believe that Sashiko was found as the “art (craft)” in the movement of defining Japanese Folk Art, Mingei. (About Mingei Movement in Japan.) Sashiko was everywhere in Japan a few hundred years ago. It was the technique to appreciate the fabric for the ordinal people by the ordinal people. In fact, Sashiko was developed because people didn’t have enough money to purchase the new clean fabric. The culture arose in the completely opposite side of “expensive”.
Why is Sashiko Expensive now?
It is simply because the people who engage their life into Sashiko is very few in the 21st century. The demand for Sashiko drastically shrank, and the Sashiko craftsman/artists needed to find other jobs to survive. The economic growth based on the capitalism introduced the mass-production and mass-consumption (replace rather than repair), and the culture of repairing fabric with Sashiko became the inefficient, unproductive, and non-logical solution for the society.
In Hida area, our family took a quick move to make Sashiko into the local crafts and souvenirs for tourists who visited the old town in Takayama. They followed the concept of Mingei Folk Art movement and made a division of labor, such as Sashiko stitching, tailoring, pattern designing and drawing, and even the management in form of company. Until the end of 20th century, Sashiko (in Hida) was very reasonable crafts for many ordinal people.
After losing many Sashiko artists and craftsman in each division of labor because of their age, the management had to shift the organizations’ policy to produce more expensive “one-of-a-kind” products with respecting the remaining artisans, in order to keep Sashiko culture alive in next 10 years, and hopefully in next 100 years. In order to compensate to the works they do & to the value they create, the Sashiko became expensive.
Sashiko became unusual, therefore, sashiko became Expensive.
*There is only a few craftsmen/artists who make their living with only doing Sashiko. At least, I know some Sashiko artists in Japan, but they do have other jobs to make living, or they have another source of income besides the Sashiko. So do I, and so does Keiko.
I would like to make Sashiko (Art) to everyone, again.
Personally, I favor the concept from Mingei Japanese folk art movement. I believe Sashiko shouldn’t be crazy expensive art only for the wealthy people. We would really appreciate the support from the wealthy people to sustain the culture. However, our goal is not to make a fortune and be successful in the definition of capitalism. I even feel that the society where Sashiko expensive seems a bit unhealthy for the human being.
Our goal is to make Sashiko available to everyone, again, as ordinal people did a few hundred years ago in Japan.
Sashiko was popular in every (poor) place in Japan. Therefore, the ordinal people stitched to help the other ordinal people. Mingei Movement found the beauty in these ordinal work. I also believe the ordinal Sashiko work is so beautiful, and as the result, it can get the reputation as the art.
After the big wave of the age of mass-production and mass-consumption, in another word of fast-fashion, people start realizing the inside problems. Most of the fabric can be repaired before replacing them. The ultimate result of repairing without replacing by making stitches with Sashiko is the famous textile so called Boro.
Wouldn’t be nice if you can repair your cloth by yourself as you wish, or ask someone with reasonable price instead of replacing it every year? However, please do not misunderstand. I am not trying to change the fashion field by denying the mass-production culture. I appreciate the accomplishments of the industrial revolution. What I am trying to say here is, it would be nice to spread the “repair culture” so we can have the option to our fashion, the human nature of what we wear.
As I mentioned above, I am also one of these Sashiko artists who cannot make the own living by only doing Sashiko. Therefore, we sell Sashiko supplies and materials for profit and provide the Sashiko workshops with fees. I believe I am providing the value equivalent to the money I receive. At the same time, I would like to spread the technique and culture who cannot afford the money by uploading the video, articles, and tutorials.
(For example, Youtube Channel is free to watch from anywhere.)
Your understanding is always appreciated, and your voice is always encouraging.
Until the day I really have to take care of my family, I will continue the way I ideally (idiotically) dream of. “Sashiko Expensive” to “Sashiko Appreciative”.
I cannot thank enough to my wife who provides the quality life to the family, and my daughter who understands what her daddy wants to share to the world. Without them, I wouldn’t be able to pursue the unrealistic goal.
For a long time, I never doubted myself that the Sashiko is the “handicrafts art” which was found in Japanese Mingei Art Movement. I’ve read some books about the theory by the founder, Yanagi Souetsu (or Muneyoshi), of this Japanese folk movement. I’ve visited the folk art museum in Tokyo where Mr.Yanagi established. I still believe that Sashiko in a large category of fabric wouldn’t be famous if the Mingei movement didn’t occur in 1920s and 1930s. Sashiko wasn’t the main crafts Mr.Yanagi focused. He significantly worked on the pottery, especially those were used in the Japanese Tea ceremony.
None of my understandings changed. However, I come to realize that I had never tried to explain what Mingei Art Movement was in English. Although I had briefly introduced it throughout my Sashiko workshops or when I introduce Sashiko, it was merely a quick mention with a very shallow explanation. Introducing “how” to do Sashiko is important in the workshop. However, introducing Sashiko’s history by explaining how it came to the surface of art-culture is also a very important aspect of passing Sashiko down to next generation. We, as Upcycle Stitches LLC, will try our best to describe it in English.
*Most of the writing is based on my (Atsushi’s) interpretation. In other words, they are merely my opinion based on books from the past and talks from people. When I refer the definition or sentence from existing book, I, of course, will refer the origin. However, the reference may be only in Japanese.
*As I mentioned above, Mr.Yanagi described Sashiko only a little bit. He mentioned the beauty of Sashiko in Tohoku (Northern part of the main island). I haven’t found any articles about our Sashiko in Hida region and Mingei Movement. However, I believe, there are many handicrafts that Mr. Yanagi didn’t find yet to follow the concept of Mingei Art Movement.
Terminology of Mingei
There are a few words I need to define first. These word-definitions are my personal understanding. If you think of the better definition, please kindly let me know. I am still in the process of learning Mingei Art Movement.
Mingei (民藝）: Folk Art. Min (民）means (ordinally) people. Mingei is the art produced by (ordinally) people. In contrast, Kan (管）means (governmental) officers.
Kougei（工芸）: Industrial handicrafts. Explaining the difference between Mingei and Kougei is my challenge here, too.
Gei-Jyutsu (芸術）: Art.
I will keep updating the terminology while I proceed in updating the website regarding this topic.
What is Mingei?
Mingei is the art produced by the ordinal people for the daily life of the ordinal people. The art produced for loyal family, noble people and government people are not in a category of Mingei. Therefore, Mingei often has different look comparing to the other well-known Japanese art. Mr.Yanagi defined Mingei with the 8 criteria.
Practical: made for practical usage, not for the display.
Nameless: made by unknown craftsman, and the craft is not made to be famous.
Mass-produced: In order to meet the demand from the people, the item were made in mass quantity.
Reasonable Price: Inexpensive price so the ordinal people could purchase and use.
Locality: The art item has the local characteristic such as color, shape, and patterns.
Division of Labor: For the mass production, the art item was made in division of labors by skilled craftsman
Tradition: Following the tradition and wisdom the ancestors cultivated.
Collectability: The creation depend on the local tradition and climate rather than the individual skill
The Wikipedia describes the definition like below. I plan to explain each criteria based on my understanding to Sashiko. This is not a research paper, more like an essay to introduce what Sashiko is more clearly.
The philosophical pillar of mingei is “hand-crafted art of ordinary people” (民衆的な工芸 (minshū-teki-na kōgei)). Yanagi Sōetsu discovered beauty in everyday ordinary and utilitarian objects created by nameless and unknown craftsmen. According to Yanagi, utilitarian objects made by the common people are “beyond beauty and ugliness”. Below are a few criteria of mingei art and crafts:
made by anonymous crafts people
produced by hand in quantity
used by the masses
functional in daily life
the representative of the regions in which they were produced.
Mingei Art Movement influenced not only to the Japanese who didn’t focus on the beautiful art by ordinal people, but it also influences the western culture by introducing the Japanese, Korean and Chinese culture regarding handcrafts. In order to explain the whole picture of Mingei Art Movement thoroughly, I would need to start writing about the aspect of religion. For now, I am not ready to start the deep discussion of the whole picture of Mingei Art Movement.
I will keep writing about the Sashiko, and Mingei Art Movement regarding Sashiko.
Since I started hosting Sashiko workshops, I often hear the word of “Slow Living Lifestyle” from the people I met. The goal of my activities regarding Sashiko is simply to introduce Sashiko. I do not intend to advocate the importance of Slow Living Lifestyle throughout introducing Sashiko to the world. I just simply want to pass this beautiful handcraft culture to the next generation. However, I realize, in the result, I enjoy the Slow Living Lifestyle with Sashiko, by following the Sashiko tradition.
Regardless of my intention, since I am sharing the slow living lifestyle, I would like to learn about what Slow Lifestyle is.
I was longing to be the capitalist.
The world focuses on its speed. How fast you can reach the goal gets validated. The result is more valuable than the process.
In my 20’s, I wanted to be the capitalist. I wanted to invest my asset to the organization to make the world better. Innovation and Productivity were the keywords I focused on. I studied Business in the college. I worked hard without sparing the effort and time to require the necessary skill and asset to achieve my goal.
After several life-changing experiences, I end up with being a stay-at-home father to look after my daughter. Regardless of my shame to not to work, I couldn’t get a job because of my immigrant status. It was the only way to keep the family together, so I changed my mindset.
When you suffer from the fact of not getting any money coming in, you may focus on not spending money on things.
That’s how I started enjoying the home-making with DIY concepts. In addition to the regular house-making chores like cooking, cleaning, and laundry, I build the furniture, I repair things like auto, small appliances and such. It is completely the other side of being the capitalist. I am the labor. However, I enjoyed it a lot.
Instead of paying $138 to Toyota Dealer for headlight restoration, I could purchase a kit of DIY for #20 and complete it within a few hours. Some people say it is a waste of energy and professionals do better jobs. Some people like me may say that the I enjoy not only the result by my hands but also the process of learning the new things. I am not trying to make the argument of who is right or wrong. I would like to just share the other view of happiness in life.
This life changing term reminds me that I was raised in the culture of “upcycle,” in Sashiko family.
Enjoying the Slow Living Lifestyle with Sashiko
I also start questioning if the human future with focusing on innovation and speed would provide us the happiness. The race will never end. Do human really need to leave part of a human who is not as productive and speedy as the rest of us?
Honestly speaking, I do not intend to advocate the Slow Living Lifestyle against to the current speedy life style. I enjoy the IT innovation and receive the benefit from mass-production. I don’t think I can go back to primitive lifestyle.
However, I would like to introduce the beauty of Slow Living Lifestyle throughout introducing what I can do, Sashiko.
We used to have Slow Living Lifestyle everywhere in the world. Boro wouldn’t be created if the mass-production benefited people 200 years ago. Throughout my life-work of introducing Sashiko, I will try my best to make a research on the Slow Living Lifestyle with Sashiko. Moreover, I would like to share the enjoyment with the Slow Licing Lifestyle with Sashiko.
The topic will continue. Come visit our website again.
A friend of mine asked me an interesting question regarding Sashiko. “What is the difference between learning Sashiko from professionals and teaching it to oneself?” Since my life was always surrounded by Sashiko, I wouldn’t come up with this good question by myself. I would like to share my opinion why learning sashiko from professionals is important.
Sashiko is simple, yet so many possibilities.
Sashiko is based on very simple Japanese style running stitching technique. It seems to be very simple, and in fact, the core technique is very simple. After taking a 3-hour long workshop for basic stitching, you would learn the core of Sashiko stitching mainly focusing on how to use Sashiko thimble and needles. In addition, here and there, if the one who graduated from one workshop would like to re-learn the Sashiko, joining another workshop to refresh the understanding would be a good idea. However, that’s about all. There is no need to spend a fortune of money to learn Sashiko like the other traditional art.
After learning the core techniques, it is up to you to expand your project.
Since the Sashiko is not yet systematic tradition, Sashiko professionals even do not know the whole history and technique of Sashiko. We, as Sashiko artists, are still in the process of learning Sashiko from different regions. There are so many more possibilities in Sashiko history and its future. Sashiko and Boro always surprise us when we find new culture art pieces like “Boro from the ground.”
*We define “professional” by “doing Sashiko for compensation.” We used to call us simply Sashiko practitioners. However, the artist we respected told us we should refer as Sashiko professionals since we receive money from customers.
Then, why do you learn Sashiko from professions?
Join one of our Workshop. You will see Why Learning Sashiko would be a good idea.
The reason is the speed of Sashiko stitching you can learn from us. In order to make many Sashiko project, stitching one stitch by one stitch will not be good enough. We would need to make 10 to 30 stitches by one pushing. It is difficult to explain in the text. I upload some video to explain better. And the best way to learn how to use thimble and needle to speed up your stitching is to learn it by professionals in the hands-on workshops, face to face.
Take a look at this photo.
It is an example of workshop materials I offer in our Sashiko workshops. The fabric size is about the US Letter size. I have a question for you.
“How many hours would you need to make this pattern stitched?”
In order to keep Sashiko business alive in the market, we would need to complete the Sashiko within an hour. We cannot spend more than 3 hours on this stitching when we make the product. Otherwise, one Sashiko piece becomes $100 of worth and even more like $10,000 if the piece is big. When a person do Sashiko stitch by stitch, it would take more than 3 hours for sure. By learning how to use the thimble and needle, when you learned it and got used to the tequnique, you would be able to finish this pattern within 3 hours. The faster you can stitch, the more project you can enjoy. The more project you enjoy, the better your Sashiko stitching will be. In order to have the beautiful result in Sashiko, the even stitches are the key. By doing more Sashiko project, you would have more even stitches.
In summary, by learning Sashiko from professionals, you would learn how to make Sashiko stitching much faster, and in result, it will be much better stitching.
Although I have other small reasons why learning Sashiko from professional is beneficial, the main reason is the speed based on the technique how to use thimble and needle. I plan to upload more videos regarding Sashiko stitching, but the best and the most efficient way is to participate the workshop. You would get the follow-up support from me after meeting me in the workshop as well.
I enjoy hearing from Sashiko Workshop participants after they finish their project at home. A Sashiko Workshop Graduate makes very beautiful Sashiko pieces. Today, let me introduce a beautiful Sashiko patched Jacket from a student who overcame the challenge of learning how to do Sashiko stitching.
Beautiful Patches by Sashiko Workshop Graduate makes
A workshop graduate patched a vintage Jacket with Japanese vintage fabric with Sashiko stitching. The patching and stitching make it “one-of-a-kind” jacket. It is so unique and exclusive. This jacket could be displayed on the shelf of fashion store, I believe. I am so proud of her continuing her stitching experience.
I do not teach how to make patches in the workshop, but the basic Sashiko stitching technique can be very useful in your stitching project.
Our Sashiko Workshop will give you more possibility
In 3 hours basic Sashiko workshop, I focus on sharing how to use the Sashiko Thimble and long Sashiko needles. By learning the method, you will experience the “speed” of Sashiko stitching. The faster your stitching goes, the more project you can make. It is the first step to makes “more” to have “better” result. Only practice makes it perfect.
Learning the new method can be challenging to many people, especially those who have previous stitching experience. However, I will not give up teaching you unless you decide not to follow the technique we use.
*Please be advised that the method we use it NOT the universally “right” method. We established the stitching techniques and follow it since we believe this is the most productive and efficient. There is no need to follow it. It is up to you. Our goal is to share the Sashiko stitching to the world.
I hope you can join our team to enjoy Sashiko more by stitching more!
Upcycle Stitches LLC is an official distributors of Coron Sashiko Thread in the United States. Sashi.Co & Keiko Futatsuya has a good partnership with Coron manufacture and Keiko obtain the permission to distribute their thread in the United States for us.
We have in stock these colors.
15 Solid Colors
5 Variegated Colors
2 Original Colors (Dyed Synthetic but looks natural)
Store to purchase Coron Sashiko Thread
We have 3 online channel to sell Coron Sashiko Thread. Please choose the channel in your preference. We occasionally offer coupons and deals.
In our official store, the bulk discount and open-order are available.
When they are out of stock
Because of our business size, we do not have a large inventory. Therefore, from time to time, the threads get sold out. Especially these colors of #10 and #15 are very popular, and they may be sold out. In a case of unavailability due to inventory, please contact us for open-order. We will make sure that you would get as soon as possible without extra fees. Waiting time will not exceed 2 weeks after receiving the open order.
Coron Sashiko Thread is one of the best Sashiko thread.
We have been so many years of relationship with Coron Thread Manufacture Company. We sincerely believe their thread is one of the best thread available in the market. They are made in Japan and made from Egyptian Cotton 100%. They aren’t the cheapest option, but the price is reasonable considering the length of thread (145-meters) and the quality. In fact, it is the best option to get the better Sashiko result. I always use Coron Sashiko Thread and merely use the other brand thread.
I hope you find these thread appropriate (the best) to your Sashiko project.
Keiko Futatsuya is a founder of Sashi.Co & Keiko Futatsuya and a Sashiko artist herself. What makes her so special is her Sashiko designing sense. She always surprises me with her new Sashiko design. I believe she is a type of genius in Sashiko designing.
30+ years of Sashiko experience
Keiko studied a dressmaking in vocational school after she had graduated high-school. When she was in early 20’s, she married to Yuichi Futatsuya, who was the second generation of Sashiko business. First, she wasn’t allowed to make Sashiko art pieces for sale since she was an outsider and didn’t share the traditions. However, regardless of strict restriction, she learned how to stitch from other Sashiko artisans and enjoyed the beauty of Sashiko. Even when her products didn’t line up on the store shelve, she kept making Sashiko art. It is simply because she liked Sashiko.
After so many years of Sashiko experience, Yuichi and I decided to shift the Sashiko business from “making many small products as craft” to “making one-of-a-kind art.” In the process of making one of a kind art, Keiko’s sense of Sashiko designing finally got a spotlight.
It isn’t easy to anticipate the result in Sashiko
In terms of Sashiko stitching, she doesn’t have the best skill. Although her Sashiko technique is sufficient to call her artist, her significance is to anticipate the result in Sashiko and Vintage Fabric combination. For example, a woman in her 70’s, who is also a part of Keiko’s Sashi.Co team, has the supreme Sashiko technique. Her hands move like a machine and Keiko strongly depends on her skill. However, the supreme Sashiko technique doesn’t connect to the ability to make a beautiful Jacket.
*Sashi.Co & Keiko Futatsuya is a group of Sashiko artisans. Not all the Sashiko stitchings are done by Keiko, but everything is supervised by Keiko.
Keiko’s basic knowledge of dressmaking, her 30 years of observing and enjoying Sashiko, and her design sense make this completely exclusive collection possible.
It isn’t easy to anticipate the result of Sashiko product. It may look on a paper, on a computer screen, or even on a process of matching the fabric and thread. However, the result can be very different from what we imagined after stitching Sashiko on the actual fabric. It is the beauty of hand-making art.
Things Only Keiko Futatsuya can do
In addition to her Sashiko designing sense, she has a great technique to repair the BORO.
The 2 photos below is the Boro of before and after. In order to complete this challenging repair project, the artist has to have an understanding of the vintage fabric, good Sashiko techniques, and the sense of matching all the vintage fabrics. By looking at these results, I cannot change my mind that she is the genius in Sashiko stitching and Boro repairing.
Keiko Futatsuya is a supervisor of Upcycle Stitches LLC operation regarding Sashiko such as workshops, tutorials, and articles. If you have any questions about her, please contact us. She doesn’t speak English, but I am happy to translate your question and ask her on behalf of you. Please be advised that the question and answer may be shared on this website after getting the permision.
Atsushi Futatsuya offers Sashiko Workshop mainly in East Coast of the USA, NYC and Brooklyn Area. (Atsushi lives in PA, 4 hours driving from NYC.) In order to learn Sashiko from him, attending the in-person workshop is the best way. Alternatively, the Online Sashiko Class is available for those who wish to learn without traveling.
Sashiko Workshop Update in Covid-19
Under the pandemic of Covid-19, in order to secure everyone’s safety, all of the In-person Sashiko Workshop has been cancelled for 2020. Instead, I had spend as much effort as possible for developing the better Online Sashiko Class. After sharing the Online Sashiko Class with more than 50 students (who are now my friends), I believe I can deliver the same contents via Online. Please check our Online Sashiko Class.
Let me please introduce myself to share why I am running this website to share what Japanese Sashiko is.
I was born in Sashiko Family
Did you have a “planned future” in your childhood, that your family kept mentioning?
I was born in a surviving Sashiko Family in Gifu prefecture, Japan. In my childhood, my friends were Sashiko artisans who worked in our family business. There was a pile of fabric, scary numbers of needles and thimbles, and so many colored threads. I strongly remember many people told me that I will take over the business when I get older. It was the Japanese tradition for the first-born child to take over the family business, especially in the traditional crafting family.
And, of course, I hated my fate.
Regardless of my Sashiko techniques I naturally learned, I purely didn’t want to be in the Sashiko business in my adolescence. It wasn’t easy to get out of the rails many people prepared, so I decided to get out from the country. I decided to go to the university in the States.
Sashiko Business to Sashiko life-style
After I had graduated from the university, I started working in Tokyo. I still didn’t want to take over Sashiko business. My parents were still 50’s, and I thought I could avoid a serious conversation about who would be responsible to the family business later on.
However, in 2008, my father called me if I could help him to run the business. The business went into a bad debt, and they could use some help from financial aspects. After deep consideration, I decided to go back to the family business mentioning that I am only doing so to “help,” not “take over.”
Sashiko as Business is very difficult to operate
After I spend some weeks checking the financial sheets, I realize that the Sashiko as a business could be very difficult to operate. In Sashiko, almost everything is hand-made. The keywords for business models of ordinary manufacture industry such as productivity, cost reduction planning, just-in-time system, and a lot more didn’t apply. I tried to understand the reason of debt. After all, recalculating all the possible cost, even if they are all done by hand and unique by one, helped to figure the “right” price. After two years of looking Sashiko with numbers, the company could avoid the bankruptcy. However, I couldn’t see the future. I didn’t find the possibility of growth.
Share what we are proud of
In 2010, I changed my mindset. Instead of focusing on growth, I started planning on “soft landing” of the business. It is almost impossible to make a fortune of money. However, I thought, it may be possible to “soft-land” the business so everyone can avoid the miserable bankruptcy. At that point, my mind shifted from numbers to what Sashiko actually is. I realize the beauty of Sashiko. It is the time I start trying to repair my denim jeans.
Around this time, I started introducing Sashiko in English. Then, I had opportunities to perform workshops in the Netherlands.
Why am I doing this?
As much as I enjoyed introducing Sashiko, the beautiful culture we were proud of, I started to wonder if why I was doing this besides the fact I was born in the family. I couldn’t find the purpose of sharing Sashiko, especially after I realize that Sashiko as a business may discontinue after elderly artisans stopped working for us. I coulnd’t reason myself to continue Sashiko business with sacrifice my days in 20’s.
Then, the Tohoku Earthquake occurred in 2011.
By supporting Tohoku throughout Sashiko, I realize the meaning of continuing Sashiko culture, to pass down the culture to the next generation.
After my father had passed away
In 2013, on October, my father had passed away unexpectedly.
Although my mind wasn’t ready to take over the business without my father, I had a determination that I was the one to take over his will to the company. I didn’t hate the fate I had as Sashiko Business Manager.
Long story short, life is full of dramas, my mother and I were fired by the new stakeholders who found out that the company had some cash. We knew the reason for this inhuman action. My mother and I were troublesome to deal with. We didn’t care about the short-term profit. We focused on how to continue the culture in form of a business entity. In 2013, I lost the identity as Atsushi Futatsuya as Sashiko business manager.
Upcycle & Sashiko Culture as Atsushi Futatsuya
After the unbelievable moment that our life changed, I decided to move to the United States. It was just too painful to stay in Japan. I told my mother that she could come with me, but she decided to stay in Japan. She had many friends, her precious dog, and my brother who just jumped into the society. She couldn’t just leave things behind. As much as I worried about her, we decided to start our new life without Sashiko.
Sashi.Co & Keiko Futatsuya started in 2015
About June in 2014, my mother called me with a serious voice, saying “I would like to do Sashiko…”
She loves Sashiko. She couldn’t live without it. She could enjoy just stitching, but she also wanted to make big pieces and entertain people who love Sashiko. She asked me if I could help her to make her Sashiko as a business again. Although I was expecting to be a stay at home dad in the coming year, I agreed to help her to be Sashiko business owner. Then, she started the project called, Sashi.Co & Keiko Futatsuya ~ Designing a life with Sashiko ~ with many helps around her.
What can I do as Atsushi Futatsuya?
Sashi.Co & Keiko Futatsuya is getting bigger, and my mother enjoys her projects more and more. She provides beautiful Sashiko fabric to a fashion brand, she repairs the most beautiful vintage fabrics for a fashion designer as “To-Be-Boro”, and she makes great Sashiko pieces with her friends. Her income itself isn’t enough to support her days yet, but her enjoyment is what I value the most.
In 2017, I established a company called Upcycle Stitches LLC. This website is the company’s website.
I host Sashiko workshops. I provide Sashiko supplies and materials with sharing Sashiko techniques and skills. Based on my experience, it is my time to think what I can do as Atsushi Futatsuya, not as the 3rd generation of Sashiko business family.
It is our new journey to embrace Sashiko. My mission is to share what Sashiko is, to the world. Again, Hello world. This is Atsushi Futatsuya. I am a Sashiko Artisan and Curator of Sashiko Story.
Support Atsushi & Keiko’s Activity
In 2019, I learned that there is a platform to support the artisans/story-teller. It is called “Patreon”. We made a platform mainly to support Keiko, and I share many Sashiko stories on there (As of November 2020, I have about 100 stories to read). Those stories are not about “How-to do Sashiko”, but more like “What is Sashiko in the Japanese culture”. I have many more stories to share to the world. Your suppport is very much appreciate for us to continue our activity.