As a Sashiko artisan, I would need to answer to a fundamental question; “What is Sashiko?”
The answer to this question would require a serious of explanations on its background. Yes, this website “Upcycle Stitches” has the exact mission to explain and share what Sashiko is. Before establishing the database of Sashiko history and culture, I would like to share my conception of Sashiko. For the series of articles to define what Sashiko is and for the answer to the question of “what is Sashiko ?” please visit our cornerstone page for Sashiko definition and terminology.
Sashiko is a Process, not a Result
Sashiko is a form of stitching.
The purpose of stitching originated from repairing, mending, patching and reinforcing the fabric. Also, in some regions, the Japanese performed Sashiko for the decorative purposes. In the current society, we enjoy Sashiko to decorate the fabric like embroidery. We also use Sashiko techniques to repair the damaged fabric to recycle (upcycle) and repurpose the fabric to something unique. We can see the Sashiko stitching in Fashion Industry Trend.
There are various styles of Sashiko stitching. The Japanese developed Sashiko in many locations in Japan. Wherever a town (or a village) is surrounded by mountains and had a lot of snow over the winter, the place likely to have the Sashiko culture or similar stitching customs. In short, Sashiko is a culture developed in poverty and inconvenience because of poor logistics. The Japanese who originally performed Sashiko didn’t have enough fabric to make the new clothes.
We can see more than 100s of patterns in the Sashiko history. Sometimes, it doesn’t require the pattern to make beautiful Sashiko stitching, especially when they focus on mending and repairing the fabric. It is not productive to discuss what is Sashiko and what is NOT Sashiko based on the patterns and stitching techniques. However, to clarify the understanding of Sashiko a little bit more clearly, here is the list of aspects (elements) of what Sashiko is, and a list of what is NOT Sashiko.
- Appreciation to the fabric
- Concept of Mottainai – too good to waste
- The main purpose is repairing and/or decorating the fabric
- Repetition of mending, repairing and using the fabric
*There is a Sashiko sewing Machine. Personally, I do not think it is Sashiko.
What is NOT Sashiko
- Printed Pattern | Some says that the printed Japanese geometric patterns are Sashiko.
- Decorative Embroidery (They are beautiful, but not Sashiko)
- Products made from Sashiko Weave Fabric
*The list is based on Atsushi’s understanding. No intention to deny anybody’s understandings.
*Sashiko Weave Fabric is the sheet of textile woven imitate the Sashiko Stitching.
In the market, there are many products named Sashiko.
I am fine when the seller mentioned “Sashiko-Like” on the product description. However, when I see people using the word of “Sashiko” for only the marketing purpose, I feel pretty irritated. Sashiko isn’t about neither the Japanese geometric pattern nor the fabric similar to Sashiko hand stitching. It is about the hand-stitching with appreciating the fabric as well as the people who wear the fabric we stitch on.
Sashiko isn’t the result. There are Sashiko products made AFTER the Sashiko stitching, and we call it “Sashiko Jacket” or “Sashiko Bag.” However, Sashiko cannot be Sashiko without the process of appreciating the fabric and hand-stitching it. Therefore, my conclusion is that Sashiko is the process.
Sashiko is the process, not the product.
I hope we can share the fun process of Sashiko and the beautiful result of sashiko stitching.
*Well known Boro is the ultimate result of Sashiko.
Enjoy Sashiko | with thinking less of Right or Wrong
There are many tutorials in form of books, DIY kit, and online materials such as video and websites. You may have arrived this website by searching what is the correct way to do Sashiko.
I usually tell my students that there are no rules or restrictions in doing Sashiko. It is much more important the people continue enjoying stitching than giving up continuing because of its obstacles such as regulation and rules. In short, I believe there is no such a thing as “Right or Wrong” in Sashiko.
However, please do not misunderstand my words. I am not saying that the books and tutorials about in the market are “mistaken” because some of them explain the rule, like what to do and what not to do. In fact, I sincerely respect the contribution to this Japanese stitching culture from many people, in and out of Japan. I am happy that I am part of it to embrace this beautiful upcycle and repurposing culture.
I am not saying that the books and tutorials about in the market are “mistaken” because some of them explain the rule, like what to do and what not to do. In fact, I sincerely respect the contribution to this Japanese stitching culture from many people, in and out of Japan. I am happy that I am part of it to embrace this beautiful upcycle and repurposing culture.
Some rules. No restriction. Never Right or Wrong
What I try to share is the most efficient and enjoyable way to embrace Sashiko from my family’s experience. I will share some of the rules to make looks better. Many of books and online tutorials are sharing their perspective to make stitching more beautiful. It is up to you to decide what is beautiful or not. So, I want you to feel free to investigate as many techniques as possible to expand the experience.
There are some rules to make it better, but no restriction you have to follow. There shouldn’t be any “right” or “wrong” in Sashiko art. As long as the art has the purpose of “appreciating the fabric by repairing, stitching, and strengthing.”
Make it available (Open-Source) for people who wish to enjoy
One of my goal of establishing this website is to make Sashiko open source, available for anyone who would like to enjoy. The best way to learn from me is to join the workshops. However, I understand that not everyone can make a trip to wherever the workshops are available. Also, I would like people to have access to the information so they can continue enjoying Sashiko.
Please visit my tutorials to enjoy the technique and its culture.
What I am trying to do is simple. I want to share the joy of Sashiko to as many people as possible. I hope you can be part of the movement, to appreciate the fabric and make what we have to beautiful and wonderful art. Upcycle and Repurpose it.
I am still looking for the answer to “What is Sashiko?”
I am sorry that I didn’t provide the complete clarification of what Sashiko is. What I could provide was the pieces of information and my understanding toward Sashiko.
In summary, I wanted to share the fun of Sashiko by simply enjoying stitching instead of worrying what is Sashiko. At the same time, I understand that there is a need to define what Sashiko is, with perfect clear clarification.
I used to have the solid definition of Sashiko . However, after learning other types of Sashiko in Japan and learning their culture, I start doubting myself. It is a good thing to doubt and re-define what Sashiko is. I am still on a journey of looking for the answer to the question. “What is Sashiko.” You are now a member of this jouney. Thank you for reading the long article.
I hope I can reach to the definition with you, by enjoying the research on Sashiko and creating more Sashiko Pieces.