Book reviews: Sashiko books in English part I

I’m going to take this in stages as there are so many books to choose from! Some of the more recent books that I will review tomorrow include those by Sylvia and Kitty Pippen, authors and textile artists who are comfortable taking sashiko and developing it into more than just the typical white-thread-on-indigo look that is so familiar.

The following listed here today are books written with the sashiko traditionalist in mind. These cover the basics and then some, usually a few easy projects such as placemats or bags. They are listed in order of publication date from the 1980’s through 1990’s. Look for these in your library, local secondhand book shop or on Amazon.

Underlined comments below give you my summary in just a few words my opinion as to whether it is worth it to buy a copy or not.

Sashiko: The Quilting of Japan from Traditional to Today
by Bonnie Benjamin. Needlearts International, 1986. 68 pages.

This book has a self-published feel to it, with none of the bells and whistles you will find in a more modern book. It has few photographs and none in color. Several basic and traditional designs are rendered one to a page so you can make copies. As this out of print book is difficult to find and there are so many better ones on the market, I’d give it a miss.

Sashiko: Traditional Japanese Quilt Designs. Nihon Vogue, 1989. 42 pages.

Filled with the sort of step-by-step color photos we all know and love in Japanese craft books, this thin little book starts out with basic drafting and moves on to how to stitch. The 59 traditional designs featured are crammed three to a page, but you can get at least an idea of what you’re working with. Includes less background text than most US published sashiko books, thus sparing a lot of words when what you want are more pictures anyway.

I was introduced to this book by a student in one of my classes earlier this year and have found it to be a fairly decent sashiko primer.  I’d recommended it for those with at least a background understanding of sashiko, but it is suitable for just about anyone. Once you have the knack for sashiko, you’ll be glad to have this around for design ideas.

The Classic Quilting of Sashiko. Ondorisha, 1990. 92 pages.

More of a craft project book than a primer, this is another Japanese craft book by Ondori, the publishers connected with Olympus sashiko supplies. Basic sewing techniques show up halfway into the book, somewhere after the featured projects have been introduced. Basic through intermediate projects include simple towels (fukin), potholders and placemats to cushions, tote bags and cute “mascot cats”. Not what I’d consider a “must have” book, it’s still good for some creative inspiration.

Sashiko and Beyond: Techniques and Projects for Quilting in the Japanese Style
by Saiko Takano. Chilton Book Company, 1993. 128 pages.

Of all the books in today’s review, this is in my opinion one of the better resources for a sashiko beginner, especially if you already enjoy quilting. Starting with the basics and moving on to more involved projects, it includes instructions on making decorative knots and tassels. Fifteen traditional designs are given two entire large pages each, one page with examples and one rendered large enough to easily to trace or copy. These are followed by several aplique and quilting projects.

Drawbacks include the lack of sashiko thread or fabric in the examples, which bothers me. Nearly all of the examples are done on plain cotton fabric with what appears to be embroidery floss that has a slight sheen. List price is $19.95 but it can be found on Amazon for less.

Next up, more sashiko books in English.

One Comment Add yours

  1. avlor says:

    Excellent! This is so timely for me as I’m gearing up to teach this fall. Thank you for your thoughtful review!

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