Sashiko existed in ordinary days of the ordinary Japanese people, hundreds of years ago when Japan was still isolated from the other part of the world. We, as Sashi.Co & Upcycle Stitches, try to trace how the Japanese have created some Sashiko big pieces, like a Jacket or patchworked tapestry. Back in 17 century, Sashiko was either a product within a family or by a group of women in a local community. In 2019, Keiko and I try to make “it” happen by connecting artisans over Internet and logistics. This is our Sashiko Challenge Jacket by Atsushi’s friends in Japan, class of 2018.
*The blog is mostly translated from the Sashi.Co Article in Japanese.
Sashiko’s transition in its history
Sashiko was probably like a house chore for women. A not long time ago, in some region, the Japanese women were not allowed to sit down while the other family members were awake; the only time the women could sit down was when they use the bathroom, and stitch. It is a story from my friend.
Some women were proud of what they did, by being good at stitching. Asking mother-in-law to help her to stitch was so shameful for a Japanese woman. Therefore, they visited stitching (Sashiko) master and asked for the advise, like sharing their hand-moving and the patterns for Sashiko. As long as I assume, they didn’t have a type of “class” or “workshop”, so they visited the skilled friend and asked them to stitch together, so they could learn by just watching what the master (so-called) does.
After the severe era ended, Sashiko became more like a culture instead of survival. As Sashiko became a choice instead of necessity, the Japanese started forming a “guild” and “company” to enjoy Sashiko more, to pass down Sashiko to the next generation. We have several guilds left, and my family is one of those who tried to apply Sashiko to the new form.
At the same time, Sashiko became somewhat a form of “Community”. Both in necessity and culture, it was their enjoyment to make something together, sharing the stitching experience. Sashiko probably started its form as the individual work, but then Sashiko extended its possibility to be a medium of sharing the experience, both positive and negative, happiness and complaints in the ordinary days. We can see many beautiful pieces that the “community” made a long time ago.
I learned the power of “Community and Sashiko” throughout the experience in Northern part of Japan after the Earthquake in 2011. Although Sashiko is ultimately a time by oneself, stitching with the needle on the fabric, we can share a lot of fun and create something incredible by getting together.
Internet makes “it” happen.
In order to fully enjoy the “Community Sashiko,” he/she had to be in the community physically. Unless he/she lives in one of the small towns famous for Sashiko stitching, it is difficult to even find a friend who shares the same enjoyment of Sashiko. (You are lucky if you have someone who can share the same passion!) Therefore, many people tend to think Sashiko is just making a small coaster or kitchen items. It is more than that.
Now, the Internet can change this restriction. It can form a “community” without being there physically. “Sashiko Challenging Jacket” is a project of connecting Atsushi’s friends in Japan, all over Japan, to one place where Keiko lives, and then we make a Jacket together, over the Internet and logistics – until the day we all got together for one Sashiko project.
UnshinKai – Brief Sashiko Workshop
As a part of my activities to introduce Sashiko to the world, I had offered several “Brief Sashiko Workshop” in my mother language, Japanese, so-called Unshinkai (運針会 = a gathering for needle movement). UnshinKai is also the preparation & practice process of Sashiko Online Workshop in English and Japanese.
UnshinKai is Atsushi’s activity to share how fun the “moving a Sashiko needle” is. Because of the rich information availability (Books, Videos, and kits) in the Japanese language, there are many Sashiko fans who know about Sashiko. UnshinKai is a place to share (&teach) how to move the needle efficiently, rhythmically, and with more fun. Technically speaking, the participants are Atsushi’s students. However, since I do not like being called as teacher (and Sensei), I prefer considering them as my Sashiko friends.
“Sashiko Challenging Jacket” is a project by Atsushi’s Sashiko friends. If I use Music as the analogy, Keiko (as the designer) is the conductor and my friends are the musicians on the stage. They have their own rhythm and favorite stitching size. Keiko only
The packages of materials are dispatched already. Some of the fabric with their own Sashiko stitching are coming back. It is Keiko’s work to combine together, and make a Sashiko jacket out of community over Internet. Sashiko Challenge Jacket is coming in 2019.
To the world. With more friends.
The Sashiko Challenge Jacket is our first step to make my dream come true. To make a community where people can join with just one common thing – a love to Sashiko: without any pressure, fear, worry – completely judgemental free zone.
It is very important for me to secure the community first before opening it to the public. Therefore, I wanted to start with the “beta-version” with my friends who understand our philosophy and Sashiko.
The experience from UnshinKai (& Online Workshop in Japanese) and Atsushi’s Sashiko Stitching Workshop (Core & Basic) will be combined soon so we can offer the long-waiting, Sashiko Online Workshop.
After the online workshop (or Atsushi’s Sashiko Stitching Workshop in NYC), I would like to make a community where people can share their passion to the Sashiko. I hope, one day, I can offer the similar project to the world. (There are many more challenging because of international logistics are not as easy as domestic one.)
Bear with me. We are not gonna go anywhere.
After all, I am Japanese.
I view things from Japanese cultural perspective, and my expectation to the things are the same as the other Japanese. I feel easy in speaking Japanese, and therefore most of my live streaming is in Japanese.
My goal is to share Sashiko
If my goal is to share only the technique, I probably can do a workshop as quick as tomorrow. However, I want people to understand the background, and mindset of Sashiko when they enjoy Sashiko stitching. I am moving forward, little by little, but surely. I will update the information of this Sashiko Challenging Jacket as well as the future project in English here.
One day. We will enjoy Sashiko more, “together”. Until then, please follow us to understand what we think, feel, and value on. After so many life-events of dispatching us from Sashiko, we decided we will not give up on our fate.