Making a Sashiko Handkerchief – iine kits from Olympus – いいね

いいね (iine) = Nice! And it is a nice little project. Make it in a weekend.

While one may argue that these kits aren’t really sashiko, they are definitely a happy diversion from everything else going on these days. So yes, I’m in. Here’s what you need to know about the kits so you can make one yourself.

When you open the package you’ll find a long piece of white cotton cloth with a pre-printed design in a 6″ square. Dotted lines show where you’ll stitch, and longer lines show where you’ll fold the fabric once the pattern is complete. The rest of the cloth is blank.

Sparkles! That’s science working to keep your fabric odor-free.

The fabric has three soft, gauzy layers. The middle fabric is woven with a unique material that helps prevent mold and odors, ideal for a damp handkerchief that may sit in a purse or pocket longer than you intended. I’m not judging. We’ve all been there.

The high tech material is explained (in Japanese) in the kit, but here’s the one thing you need to know: do not machine wash the fabric as it will damage the material. It’s a small handkerchief, you can handle hand washing and giving it time time to dry. It’s no bother.

This kit includes two different colored threads – purple and magenta. Each kit varies by design, complexity, and color. I chose this one as it was the easiest to complete in a short amount of time.

Here’s where I ran into a mental block with this kit: After years of telling people not to use embroidery floss for sashiko, and explaining that thick, plump thread is one of the things that makes sashiko so beautiful, I found the instructions were telling me to take the enclosed embroidery floss and split it into individual threads. Excuse me, what?

Turns out some of the key features of this handkerchief are that it is cute, fluffy, and delicate. And it works. The thin thread lies flat and is less likely to snag, it’s bright enough to stand out without being loud, and it just feels nice. You will have a lot of extra thread, so if you want to try doubling it to two strands, that might work. I haven’t tested that hypothesis.

Unlike hanafukin kits where you fold the long fabric in half and stitch through both layers to make a towel, with this kit you stitch through just one layer (ok, technically it’s three layers, but as one triple gauze fabric).

Start stitching the same way you would start a hanafukin, by stitching the box that contains the whole design. Remember, sashiko is not quilting, so you don’t want to start in the middle and work your way to the edges. With sashiko you start with the edge to stabilize the base and then do everything else. Keep your stitches slack, think soft thoughts.

It’s confusing, but trust the process. It does work.

Here’s where this kit diverts again from traditional sashiko: progression of stitches. I assume the logic here has to do with tension and how one pulled stitch might affect the rest of the composition, but maybe I’m overthinking this? At any rate, I would never do shippou tsunagi (Seven Treasures or linked circles) this way, but… ok.

Front and back once the first set of circles are completed. Yes, I tied knots.

They suggest back stitching rather than tying knots and I am definitely a big fan of that, but nope. I tied knots most of the time because I was having a hard time trusting this kit and the thread was so thin.

Try one curve at a time.

If this is your first time trying sashiko, you’ll want to get comfortable with stacking your stitches rather than taking them one at a time. With practice you’ll find this makes for smoother progress and the back of your projects will look better, too. Smooth out the stitches as you go, keep up the slack, and just let yourself putter.

Use a good bright light to refer to the pattern and your threads so you can make sure to put the purple where it is supposed to go and you don’t mix it up with the magenta. The differences are subtle. And they gave me a headache.

See? Magenta and purple over blue just look… dark purple. The colors will pop a little more once the cloth is washed, but not yet. Soon.

Time to fold the fabric face to face and stitch it (almost) closed. Pin as noted on the printed instructions and as shown below.

On the instructions you’ll see two dotted lines, one red and one black. The red is where you stitch the handkerchief seams, and the black dotted lines are where you’ll cut the fabric to a roughly 1/4″ seam allowance.

Look for those printed blue lines that are on the front, they’ll show through to the back just enough to guide you. Stitch your seam there.

You can use any regular hand sewing thread for this part, including the thread included in your kit if you don’t mind a dark thread showing through your seams. I used a plain white thread as suggested in the directions.

Double up your stitches to secure them for when you turn the fabric right side out. It can get messy if your thread unravels, you know? Do do that. Keep it together.

Trim the corners carefully, and turn the fabric right side out. You can trim them closer than I did. As noted before, I have trust issues with kits.

Take your time and use a tool to poke out the corners neatly. Don’t be like the younger me and shove something sharp in there like a pencil or pair of scissors. Just… don’t. Be like the more adult me and use something like this applique hera (shameless plug, I know, but it really is what I use these days after damaging so many other projects with pencils and scissors over the years).

Yes, we will have the Daruma “Home Thread” in stock soon. I’ll update here when it’s available.

Woohoo! Looks good. Time to wash up and get rid of those blue lines.

Wash the handkerchief gently in a basin or sink with tepid water and mild soap (I use Dr. Bronner’s Castile soap or SOAK wash). Fold the handkerchief into a dry towel and wring it out, then hang it to dry. You can press it flat if you prefer a crisp look, but I couldn’t be bothered to unpack the iron and set up the board. My cat was in the way and she looked cozy.

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