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Sashiko stitching for dressmaking

Sashiko and Boro are both intertwined in history but not interchangeable. Sashiko refers to the style of embroidery, whereas the word Boro meaning rags or tattered cloth and indicates the textiles used rather than how they are put together. These techniques were born sometime in the Edo period (1615-1868) and often used white thread on an indigo base.

Fabric was very scarce and therefore expensive. It was important to make every piece count, by combining the small pieces into a larger textile held in place by stitching. The maintenance of the fabric through repair was also a valued skill. In modern times, Boro has regained popularity with the growth of the wabi-sabi Japanese aesthetic. Visible mending and slow sewing practices also helps us  rethink how we consume clothing in the era of fast fashion!

The word Sashiko (刺し子) literally means ’little stabs’!

This simple but beautiful form of Japanese embroidery has become very popular over the last few years. Many people find Sashiko highly addictive! Sashiko is basically just a decorative running stitch, but certain designs require you to make your stitches in a specific order to create the ideal finish. You’re only using a running stitch, but the secret to a beautiful finish is ensuring every stitch is even in length.

You can sew Sashiko with or without an embroidery hoop! It’s generally done without one as you can make several stitches in a single pass of the needle. But if you choose to use a hoop, don’t secure it too tightly to allow the same action.

In order to help you make multiple stitches in a single go, Sashiko needles are longer than other hand sewing needles.


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  • To mark your design onto fabric, you need a fabric with a medium soft handle and slightly open weave (such as linen or linen mix).
  • There are free Sashiko patterns available to download if you search online.
  • We also stock carbon transfer paper in many colours which you can use to transfer your design with an old Biro or tracing wheel.
  • We recommend getting your Sashiko thread and needles from Japan Crafts.

Pattern choices

Sashiko can be quite time consuming so choosing a relatively small pattern piece to add the embellishment too is the best choice. This will also give you more control over the tension of your stitches.

We’ve added pattern recommendations to this article but you can look for designs with lots of seam lines, then choose to add your stitching to yokes, pockets, panels, collars, cuffs or bands.

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N6671 would let you add a matching Sashiko yoke and cuffs.

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M7960 is a simple wrap skirt where you can add Sashiko feature pockets.

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M8030 has shoulder panels that would love a dramatic stitched finish.

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S9262 is a easy wear dress that could be embellished at the placket and hems!

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