Our Western world has always found Oriental Art so fascinating, with a special interest in the calligraphy, the traditional illustrations, and textile patterns that reflect ancestral cultures and their rich symbols.
More specifically, in the world of sewing and crafts a type of Japanese embroidery – centuries old – has captured fans all around the world: Sashiko.
The technique originally emerged as a way of strengthening fabric. By using odd pieces of fabric, clothes were mended to last longer. This was usual for clothes, but also if you wanted your bags, curtains or other textile items to last. There was no intention of hiding the mended part but instead, the purpose was to make it stand out as a decorative patch, lending new life and beauty to what you wanted to keep for some time longer. The combination of colours that was most often used was the traditional white thread over indigo blue fabric. Embroidered patterns would be repeated geometric shapes and intricate patterns, as symbols of Nature: ocean waves, mountains, meadows, plants, among others.
In our contemporary world, Sashiko was reborn as a technique and enthusiasts use specific tools. Sashiko needles are long, sturdy, specifically designed for multiple stitches at a time. They may be short or long, though today, they are often short and with a bigger eye for threading. Sashiko cotton thread, on the other hand, is resistant, thick, and available in multiple colours though white contin
ues to be a favourite. Of course, thimbles are indispensable, as happens whenever you embroider or sew by hand.
For Sashiko embroidery, the needle will not move as in any other technique. It is the fabric you fold repeatedly the tip of the needle as you push it through as if stabbing it, and this results in many stitches at a time. These will be all in a straight line, evenly distributed, and forming the shape you planned and marked on the fabric: a circle, a square, triangle, etc. The shape may first be drawn on vegetal paper and later transferred onto the fabric with a pencil or washable marker. Beginners will find there are fabrics with drawn patterns that are later washed away.
This Japanese embroidery technique is ideas if you want to pad a blanket, mend jeans, or any other clothing item. And it also contributes to the new production and consumption philosophy in the textile sector: slow fashion. Sustainable fashion finds a good ally in Sashiko embroidery: you lend new life to clothes, while merging tradition with beauty and functionality.