Sashiko is a form of Japanese folk embroidery using a form of the running stitch to create a patterned background.
This form of embroidery, which is also popular in quilting, uses straight or curved geometric designs stitched in a repeating pattern. The Japanese word sashiko means little stabs and refers to the small stitches used in this form of needlework.
This pattern features the first of eight different designs so you can try sashiko stitching. You will find the full-size patterns for each design, as well as a diagram showing you how to work the sashiko stitch, on the following pages.
Sashiko patterns are worked in continuous lines and knots are not used. Sometimes sashiko is worked on two layers of fabric so that the tails produced by starting and ending a length of thread are hidden between the layers. This also results in a double-sided piece. For designs that are not to be seen on both sides, a temporary away knot can be used, and thread tails threaded through the back side of the stitching.
For more Japanese embroidery, look for the second set of sashiko patterns and visit the Sashiko Resources List.
01 of 09
Working the Sashiko Stitch
The sashiko stitch is worked in the same manner as a basic running stitch. The only difference is that the space in between each stitch must be half the length of a full stitch. The stitches are longer and the gaps are half the size of the stitches.
Sashiko patterns should be worked in heavier embroidery threads such as all 6 strands of embroidery floss, a size 8 pearl cotton or traditional sashiko thread, which comes in different weights and many colors.
Work sashiko on plain weave fabric with a slightly loose weave, such as a medium weight linen. The fabric should be heavier than broadcloth but lighter than denim. The loose weave allows the needle to move in and out of the fabric with ease. Bottom-weight fabrics such as denim and twill are too heavy for sashiko, but cotton/linen blends are usually a perfect weight. You may need to experiment to find the right fabric.
Use a long needle with an oval-shaped eye that can easily accommodate the thread. Darning and milliners' needles are good choices for sashiko.
When marking the sashiko patterns on the fabric, use a water-soluble marking pen or a pencil for best results, as you do not want the marked lines to be permanent. This is because it is much easier to mark solid lines, even though the stitches create a dashed line.
As you stitch, you can load several stitches onto the needle before pulling it through. Be careful that you don't pull the thread too tight, which will cause the fabric to pucker.
Also, when working on a pattern where the lines meet, work the lines of stitching evenly and so that the stitches don't cross each other. They should also not touch, which means that at a corner there should be a small open space at the point where the lines would usually meet.
02 of 09
Sashiko Pattern 1
This traditional sashiko pattern features 3-dimensional cubes. Download the JPG pattern here.
See this pattern in action on the easy sashiko kitchen towel project.
03 of 09
Sashiko Pattern 2
This pattern features repeating, elongated diamonds. Download the JPG pattern here.
To extend any of the repeating patterns, trace the first set of the repeat and then line up the design and trace another section. Continue until you have traced all that you need.
04 of 09
Sashiko Pattern 3
This traditional sashiko pattern features semi-circular shapes meant to signify fish scales, clam shells and sometimes rippling water. Download the JPG pattern here.Continue to 5 of 9 below.
05 of 09
Sashiko Pattern 4
This pattern features double bars arranged in a pattern that resembles a woven mat. Download the JPG pattern here.
06 of 09
Sashiko Pattern 5
Boxed circles are a traditional and common motif in sashiko embroidery. This design has a motif that is similar to a style and shape in quilting which is called orange peel. It can be worked with or without the boxes. Download the JPG pattern here.
See this design worked without the boxes and using standard embroidery stitches on a DIY Embroidered Tissue Case project.
07 of 09
Sashiko Pattern 6
Overlapping circles with bands of straight lines create a pretty, geometric effect in this design. Many of the design in this set of patterns can be worked in a single row, rather than an all-over pattern, and this one would look especially nice that way.
08 of 09
Sashiko Pattern 7
Triangles form this sashiko pattern, and as you look, the triangle form diamonds, hexagons, and other geometric shapes.Continue to 9 of 9 below.
09 of 09
Sashiko Pattern 8
In this sashiko pattern, straight lines are worked in an intricate pattern. At each bend in a line, try to leave a bit of "give" in the thread on the wrong side of the work. This helps prevent the thread from pulling too much and is a tip you can apply to any sashiko pattern.
Download the JPG pattern here.
Although all of these patterns are designed for traditional sashiko embroidery, they also work for other types of embroidery or even quilting patterns!