Learning Sashiko

What means by Learning Sashiko

“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.

It is also our responsibility to make it easy to find the answers. Here is the list of answers for the Sashiko frequently asked questions.


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.


Learning Sashiko with Atsushi

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.

Beta Version of Upcycle Stitches Sashiko Databese here.

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.

[Side Note]

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.

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