Sashiko stitchers

Wow, hello! It’s been a while. Is it me or does Summer seem to be rushing by at an incredible pace? So many plans I made have just not happened. But I’m not letting it stress me out, going with the flow and enjoying our current heatwave. Recently there have been alfresco tea and knitting evenings, spending time with good friends, and having a great time at Larmer Tree festival in Dorset with Salle Pierre Lamy. August is even more jam-packed, with multiple birthdays, more trips away and planning for friends’ weddings in the Autumn. Phew!

One of the lovely things that happened this month was having Helen of Trees and Whatnot to visit. She came to teach a workshop at our weekly knitting group, all about Sashiko stitching. Helen is coming to the end of an MA and needed to conduct a workshop as part of her dissertation research. We knitters were more than happy to oblige! We spent a lovely evening learning about Sashiko: hailing from Japan, it is a form of decorative stitching traditionally used to reinforce points of wear with stitched patterns or patches. Nowadays, Sashiko is often used for decorative purposes in quilting and embroidery.

Helen first explained some of the history of Sashiko, and we talked about how society’s view of clothing (at least in the UK) has, in recent years, leaned towards a throwaway culture. With the advent of the online crafting movement, thankfully people are now embracing mending their clothes and other items to give them a new lease of life. We talked about the importance of “upcycling”, and how, by mending something that has been damaged, you can add to its history and increase its sentimental value.

We were then given pieces of navy blue fabric to practice our stitching on. Helen had drawn out our pattern for us already – there are many different decorative patterns to choose from in Sashiko, but we were to begin with the shippo tsunagi or interlocking circle pattern. Helen first demonstrated how to stitch in the Sashiko style, which I found very interesting: it is a straightforward running stitch, but instead of passing the needle up and down through the fabric between stitches, the fabric is gathered up so that many running stitches can be created in one pass of the needle. So simple, and so therapeutic! Everyone got the hang of the stitch really quickly, and we all loved seeing the pattern emerge on our indigo swatches.

After we’d practiced, we began work on other pieces which we’d brought along to mend or decorate. There was a vintage silk dressing gown, a skirt with a hole in it, and I began stitching interlocking circles onto the pockets of a pinafore dress. We had such a fun evening, and all the girls thoroughly enjoyed learning this new skill. Our friend Nia even finished her practice swatch that evening and turned it into a holder for her paintbrushes! Gal got skillz.

If you’d like to learn more about Sashiko, this book is a great resource. There is also a wealth of information all over the internet.

Finally, here are some photos from our evening…

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