Fourteen keen ladies gathered on Sunday morning to attend a class on Sashiko stitching, with tutor Claire Smith, organised by my quilt club, Town and Country Quilters. Claire started her workshop with a brief history of sashiko stitching. Sashiko originated in rural Japan in the 18th century where women made garments for the family and the people developed ways to recycle fabric and extend the life of their clothes. The stitching was originally designed for strengthening a single layer of fabric or for patching worn clothing or quilting together several layers of indigo dyed fabric for warmth and durability.This simple running stitch was born from the necessity of conserving and repairing garments at a time when cloth was not so widely available to farmers and fishermen. Their wives made sashiko items at home, particularly during the long winters when the ability to work outside was limited.
Before we were let loose with fabric and thread, we practised drawing the designs first on pre-printed gridded paper. I quite liked the curvy design marked with a coin over 1 inch sqaures. We were shown how to mark up other designs too, some curved, and some made with straight lines. Once we were sure of the process, the next step was to mark the chosen design on our fabric. This was surprisingly time consuming, as the grid lines had to be drawn in first.
Our tutor was teaching the traditional hand stitching, and most in the class decided to use this method. Another option was to stitch the pattern by machine, and Marjorie was going well using this method. Her choice of black thread on natural coloured linen looked very sophisicated indeed.
My sashiko was done by hand, using green thread on cream fabric. The stitches should be the size if short grain rice, the tutor informed us – my stitches were more like jumbo sized grains, I have to say. Later in the afternoon as we were flagging a little with all the concentration, we had a pick-me-up with a Kiwi speciality, Pineapple Lumps. For those who have never tasted this Kiwi delicacy, imagine small chocolate covered pieces of confectionery with a soft, chewy pineapple-flavoured middle.
At the end of the day we put our samples together on one of the tables to see what everyone had been working on during the day. Some had chosen to work on the traditional blue fabric, others cream, and there was also green and burgundy fabric used – anything goes these days. It was a very interesting class, and I’m pleased that my placemat was almost completed. Just need to stitch the other one to go with it, and I’ll have a matching pair to use at the breakfast table – that’s the plan.