Sashiko project part I – getting started

Before I start, I’d like to bring something to your attention and ask for your hand in helping others. Recently the plight of the Decker family came to my attention, and they are in need of funding to deal with immense medical bills and help for Carol Decker’s recovery. After an emergency Cesarian section delivery, Carol lost her legs, one arm, and her sight due to complications. The family of four is now swamped with medical bills that are not covered by their insurance and with two small children, they need all the help we can give them. Please take a moment to read up on their story and give what you can.

On with the tutorial!

  1. WASH your fabrics. If you are working with new cottons, this is vital. Prewashing will size the fabric, allow and dye to bleed out, and soften the fibers.
  2. Ironing the fabric is a good idea, but I tend to skip this step until later.
  3. Since I decided to emulate the vintage boro style that I’m rather fond of, I just pieced the fabrics in a random way until they looked interesting to me. You’ll notice that I went for a wide rectangle. My intention here is to fold the finished block in half and use it for a table centerpiece.
  4. Note: I used different fabrics than the ones in the kit, mainly because these were bolt ends or other odd sizes. The amount of fabric is roughly the same as in the kit, however, and some of the fabrics I’m using are still available in my shop if you’d like to try working with them instead of the kit. They are all indigo yukata cottons with a similar weight, texture and touch.
  5. Once you’ve got an idea of how you want the fabrics to fit together, it’s time to pin and sew. I take photos like the one above just so I remember where everything goes in case things get moved around when I’m not looking.
  6. When sewing a lot of pieces, it’s a good idea to do them in batches and sew them in a line. That way you don’t waste a lot of machine thread by sewing, stopping, cutting, then starting the next piece. Sew them one after another with enough of a gap between each set so you can separate them when you’re finished.
  7. After sewing, definitely iron. Do not skip this step. Iron the seams open and put them back with the other puzzle pieces you’ve got going, take a step back and see if there is anything that needs to be moved around to fit better.

You’ve probably noticed I don’t put a lot of effort into making edges meet up. While my sewing style is a bit more “flying by the seat of my pants” than “neat and orderly”, it still works. The textiles I collect most are antique Japanese homespun cottons, woven on a handloom, dyed by country folk who tended their indigo vats with care. Seeing how a farmer’s wife pieced her husband’s winter coat together out of stray bits of this and that gives one a certain perspective on just how durable even a motley collection of fabrics can be, as long as they are adequetly assembled.

Not that I have anything against a more metric sensibility, it just isn’t me. I have the deepest respect for those of you who can manage to make everything fit just so and would love to see your work! Feel free to post a link to photos of your current indigo or sashiko related project, or email me photos and I’ll post them as we go.

Part II coming up tomorrow…

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Diane says:

    I think this project looks wonderful! But what prompted me to comment is that awesome sewing machine! I would love to see more pictures of it and learn more about sewing on a vintage machine.


  2. Hi Diane! Thanks for bringing that up. That’s my little beauty Emma, she’s a 1955 Singer and I’ll write more about her later this month.

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