I’ll Be Needing Stitches – Part II

Front of sashiko pattern

Back of sashiko pattern

Step by Step

In the previous blog post, we read about visible mending and introduced sashiko and its modern applications. If sashiko has piqued your interest as it did for me, here’s a step-by-step guide to get you started:



You will need:

  1. Sashiko thread/Embroidery floss (thicker threads will work better to produce a pattern)
  2. Fabric that you want to stitch onto
  3. Sashiko needle/embroidery needle
  4. Sashiko thimble/ring thimble
  5.  Thread cutter/scissors

Optional items:

  • Needle threader
  • Chalk/transfer paper
  • Ruler



I prefer doing sashiko freehand and will be doing so in this demonstration. You can draw guides or use transfer paper if you would like to do so. Also, I will be demonstrating a basic chiku chiku running stitch but the steps will still apply for other patterns. I will also be stitching with two threads (2本取り) in this post. There will not be any knots used in the entire process, just as how traditional sashiko was done in the past.



Select your pattern and mark out the area you would like to do the sashiko on. Flip to the wrong side (usually the rougher side for most fabrics) and mark with chalk. I mark the wrong side with an ‘X’.



Next, thread your needle. You can choose a colour that will contrast nicely with your fabric or use thread of a complementary colour to make the stitches stand out less. The length of your thread does not really matter even though some guides suggest a range of 20-24 inches long.


Bring the needle to the middle of the thread, such that both ends of the threads are the same length when suspended from the needle.


Start stitching from the underside, two to three stitches from where the pattern will begin. Let’s call this the starting point.


Work your way to the end of the pattern.


Once you have have reached the end of the pattern, flip to the underside and thread the needle through the two to three loops that have been made.


You have now reached the starting point again. Poke the needle through the fabric at the spot of the next stitch.


Flip over to the right side and pull the thread through.


You will start the running stitch here. Traditional sashiko is done from right to left but you can do what is comfortable for you. My suggestion – let your master hand control the needle while the other hand manipulates the fabric.


Keep your stitches even and spaced apart at regular intervals, while also keeping the fabric on the needle without pulling the thread through.


After a few stitches, the fabric would have gathered forming a stack on the needle.


Use your sashiko thimble/ring thimble to push the needle through the fabric.


If fabric is puckering afterwards, slacken the tension of the thread. However, it is normal for sashiko-embroidered fabrics to have some bumpiness as there are now alternating stitches on both sides of the fabric.


Continue stitching until you reach the other end of the pattern.


Once you have reached the other end of the pattern, flip to the wrong side and thread the needle to the start of the next row. Pull the needle through, while leaving some excess (seen as a ‘U’ shape here). This slack accommodates any movement of the thread when the fabric is worn or manipulated and in turn makes the stitching more durable.


Thread the needle back to the correct side and continue stitching. You will now be stitching in the opposite direction from the first row. Flip the fabric around for easier stitching.


Remember to keep some slack at the ‘U’-shaped loop while you’re at it.


Repeat this process until the pattern occupies the space you have allocated.


When ending the stitch, thread the excess thread into the loops on the wrong side, similar to step 6. Start the stitching with the new thread two to three stitches before the intended start point and work your way back again (step 4). Also, it is normal to start with a new thread in the middle of a row when the previous thread runs out. Just start the stitches three stitches away from where it has to begin and work your way there (see step 4).

Finished front side of free-hand sashiko pattern

Finished back side of free-hand sashiko pattern


There are many sashiko patterns out there. Some of the more common ones include seigaiha (青海波) and asanoha (麻の葉). Regardless of patterns, all sashiko stitching share a few fundamental concepts: even stitching, moderate tension based on the fabric used and leaving some excess thread at bends and turns.

Modern interpretations of sashiko or sashiko-inspired stitching utilise knots and break away from traditional patterns. There are even sewing machines that replicate sashiko stitching as seen in Mutsu’s videos on YouTube. These might not be sashiko per se, but they bring more eyeballs to this ancient craft and helps spread awareness.

Give sashiko a try and bring the sashiko spirit with you as you breathe new life into your current wardrobe and stay in the present while you stitch!

– The Kind Oddball, 優しく個性的な人

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