Sashiko, Japanese traditional pattern stitching, is an interesting geometrical challenge. Equally interesting is discovering the meaning of the old Japanese patterns; some refer to nature scenes. Like ‘Linked Plovers or Chidori Tsunagi’:
‘Wind blowing Grasses or nowaki’,
‘Diamond Blue Waves or hishi seigaiha’.
With the help of transparent geometrical templates bought Aliexpress, I copy and design the Sashiko patterns on paper and later transfer them to fabric. What I also like about the stitched geometry of Japan is the level of abstraction of the designs. Iron Age artists mastered abstraction; think about the Uffington White Horse in the UK.
As I love using details and details in details, abstraction is a great challenge to me. Which lines can you erase and still have a flower, bird, or horse? Which lines are essential? And how does a geometrical design help the human brain to perceive abstract images and connect them to our life?
On my desk: Hannah Green’s notebook that I use for Sashiko notes, my booklet ‘Birds, Butterflies, Fish & Botany’, my Sashiko cloth with autumn colours, and its beautiful hand dyed, multi coloured yarn, as well as my Ex Libris.
There are so many projects to work on; one life isn’t enough! Apart from that, I wish to live multiple creative lives in different times; like that of a Celtic blacksmith in the late Iron Age or of a prehistoric stone cutter. Or that of a Medieval weaver. But, who knows… I might have live these lives already. Which creative life does appeal to you, apart from your current one?
Artist & Author
‘Birds, Butterflies, Fish & Botany’
For the sole purpose of inspiring you, I like to show you what dropped in my mail box from Japan; two lovely packages with beautiful Sashiko threads. I chose these colours for representing Earth and Ocean. The earth being dressed up in autumn colours and the ocean with different hues of blue and green.
You can travel the world by car or plane but you can also travel through the world of crafts. I wrote in a former blogpost that I can’t exactly remember how I ventured into the world of Sashiko. But by dwelling in the world of Sashiko, I noticed how beautiful some Japanese hand-dyed threads are. I come across a lot of thread that I can’t order because I can’t read Japanese. However, these threads I found at the Japanese Amazon and they will soon assist me in creating a Sashiko display that is both experimental and (hopefully) decorative. Before you think, ‘Paula has traded her pen and pencils for needles’. No. Certainly not. Please, return soon for more creative updates and inspiration.
Love from Paula
P.S. Being back in the Netherlands, I designed a new, bilingual name card. I also re-activated my Etsy shop. It needs some tweaks but it shows that I am back again after a long Irish sabbatical.
What have I learned so far about Sashiko? A lot! I should preform 10x better by stepping up in neatness, using better colours, and that the backside of the fabric shouldn’t look like a migraine. I can also speed up by using a longer needle. I wish that I could buy Kazu thread but I can’t read Japanese, so I can only buy Sashiko yarn via the English version of Amazon.co.jp. Last, by posting about Sashiko, I gained some very inspiring contacts, like Watts Sashiko who has ventured into the world of Sashiko much deeper. My artist friend Sybille Tezzele Kramer spontaneously invented Sashiko. You should see her process. And Megan Williams, who makes Sashiko a creative meditation in which she remembers her beloved father. Sashiko is a world that bubbles with creativity.
Sashiko (刺し子, literally “little stabs” or “little pierce”) is a form of decorative reinforcement stitching (or functional embroidery) from Japan that started out of practical need during the Edo era (1615-1868). Traditionally used to reinforce points of wear or to repair worn places or tears with patches, making the darned piece ultimately stronger and warmer,this running stitch technique is often used for purely decorative purposes in quilting and embroidery. The white cotton thread on the traditional indigo blue cloth (said to recall snow falling around old farmhouses) gives sashiko its distinctive appearance, though decorative items sometimes use red thread.
The indigo blue fabric, beautiful pastel coloured thread, and traditional Japanese patterns captivate me. I can’t help but finding Sashiko irresistible.
Artist & Author of ‘Birds, Butterflies, Fish & Botany’
(Prices vary like the Dutch weather; at the moment the price at Etsy is the best).