The sashiko tutorial project I started last year was never officially completed. It ended up, like so many other projects, packed away and not to be seen again for months after our move in October. But sometime in the past few weeks I got twitchy fingers and dug it out again, located my sashiko needle and some thread and got right back to work on it.
As you can see, I’m not much of a traditionalist when it comes to something like this. So many of the online tutorials show the exact same Olympus sashiko kits that I sell in my shop or offer patterns that are, again, pretty much just copies of the Olympus kits or copies of other traditional designs. They are lovely of course, and when completed you have a pretty and useful little cloth that has neat, even stitches in a beautifully rendered traditional design.
However… the boro rag quilts that I collect don’t follow that standard. The sashiko on those quilts is uneven, utilitarian, and rarely picturesque. The stitches are there to keep the cloth from falling apart, not to display any particular skill. These cloths were patched, patched and patched again, revealing more of the desperation and pure thriftiness of the stitcher than anything else. Cotton was hard to come by for those rural quilters, a prized textile that they weren’t going to part with until it simply disappeared, one thread at a time.
Somewhere in between ornamentation and desperation I find inspiration. I choose cotton yukata fabrics that compliment and harmoniously contrast each other, then rip them to pieces. With this first project I chose only indigo cottons with white designs, but since then I’ve branched off into other colors, as I will show in my next post. For this first project I decided to follow the lines most of the time with some creative interpretation thrown in for good measure. I didn’t count stitches or make certain my stitches lined up just right; I just wanted to let my creativity flow and find its own way.
I also endevoured to make the piece reversible, just as a vintage boro quilt would be. This piece is quite small, only 18″ x 16.5″ (46 cm x 43 cm), but it’s a nice size to work with as it is extremely portable.
What can be done with a small piece such as this? It makes a nice cloth wrapper, or furoshiki, for small items, for a start. As there is no batting, it is not bulky or thick, which makes it a nice small towel as well. In my next post I’ll cover more about technique and piecing ideas. Please let me know if you have any questions or ideas to share.