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first sashiko, or: hey mom, i’ve been sewing!

I saw it here first, which probably is true of a lot of people. It didn’t grab me right away; probably I got distracted and went back to my knitting, and anyway, I’d already made a proclamation that I was definitely never going to get into embroidery. That stuff’s too hard and too fiddly; it didn’t take when I was a kid and couldn’t figure out how to make a French knot.

Well: sometime after the corresponding FO post, something inside me snapped, and I’ve now been told in no uncertain terms that, going forward, I shouldn’t say “never” about any textile-related activity, at least not without recognizing that I’m opening myself up to intense mockery. Fair enough, because sashiko embroidery has now grabbed me and doesn’t show any signs of letting go — and who knew? It isn’t very hard. The purlbee tutorial, a printed sampler, and some notions I had lying around were enough to get me going. I have a couple of books now, and some stashed fabric, and a head full of plans. The brilliant thing about sashiko is that its historical origins and the way it’s evolved as an idiom combine to provide scope for all sorts of different projects: making pretty decorative things and just plain fixing holes. During the Edo period, before there was any such thing as “upcycling”, the little running stitches were used for patching holes and repairing tears. In modern sashiko, the technique also gets applied to fancy pictorial designs for embellishment, and somewhere in between, a whole series of traditional patterns developed and took on symbolic and spiritual significance. My first sampler’s one of those traditional patterns, called segaiha. It’s meant to evoke ocean waves, and the thread colors I picked suggest a sunset over the water.

(This is a crummy phone picture of where the sampler hangs in my cube at work; I’ll take a better one for posterity.)

indigo background, red border, waves in pale blue, orange, gray

sashiko sampler: segaiha

These samplers come with two layers of fabric which I’ve been sandwiching with thin quilt batting after finishing the stitching on the top layer, then machine-sewing together on three sides and blindstitching by hand on the fourth. I guess it’s like a mini-quilt minus the actual quilting; I like the substance it gives the finished samplers even though they’re just going to hang on my wall. At this point it feels too cumbersome for me to do the embroidery through both layers plus batting, but there may be a better way to do this that I haven’t caught onto yet.

(Just a tiny side note: that machine stitching is happening on my new Bernina. I haven’t made anything impressive with it yet, but am falling deeply in love with it.)

I finished my second sampler tonight. This one’s in a modern style. It has bunnies!


sashiko sampler: bunnies

Wider shot forthcoming when I have a little natural light to work with. I actually tend to favor the neat, repetitive geometry of the old-style patterns; it’s incredibly satisfying to work on as well as just to look at. But the bunnies are irresistible, especially the ones poking their noses into the frame from outside. I’m looking forward to making up my own patterns and it’s quite possible that someday I’ll design one that incorporates tessellating rabbits.

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