Sashiko is a Japanese form of hand sewing that literally translates to ‘little stabs’ and is an ancient way of repairing, mending and making fabric.
Instead of trying to hide a repair, the stitches are made in contrasting colours and beautiful patterns that draw the eye and please the heart. Made using a simple running stitch, it’s a technique that anyone can get to grips with, and has the power to be totally transformative!
Sashiko is a form of what we now call conspicuous mending; a way of repairing, patching and remaking clothes that shows that we are careful, mindful and resourceful about what we wear. As we become more aware of the troubling effects of mass production and fast fashion, this style of mending is really coming into its own. It invites us to think about what happens to our clothes after we’ve finished with them, what we can do to make them last longer and give them a new lease of life that allows us to be expressive and make them totally unique.
Originally created as a way of patching together precious scraps of material to make something durable and useable (and when every bit of material had to be hand woven it really was precious!) each stitch also shows the history, personality and life of the maker. Lots of traditional designs were inspired by landscapes, with waves, mountains and grasses inspiring geometric patterns of whorls and lines. The rhythm and pattern of the designs are also partly down to the long straight needle that was traditionally used, holding a number of stitches at a time before the thread was pulled through.
If you’re inspired to have a go yourself, then be warned! The soothing nature of this kind of hand sewing is incredibly addictive. Once you've patched up the knee in your favourite pair of jeans you’ll start on whatever else you can get your hands on!
Top tips for sashiko mending your jeans
- There are a couple of ways of sashiko stitching to repair a hole in your jeans. One is to pin the patch to the outside and stitch across the top, the other is to pin the patch to the inside, so you can still see the hole, and stitch across the top. Either way works, and you can mix and match as you go!
- Don’t sew with a great long bit of thread, this will get all tangled and knotted. 50cm lengths are a good amount to work with.
- Don’t knot the ends once you’ve finished. These can be uncomfortable to kneel on if they’re in your jeans! Instead work a few stitches into the back to your work and fasten off.
- Use a pencil or washable pen to draw some guidelines on your clothes first, this will keep your pattern straight and even.
- You can get traditional sashiko thread which is strong and durable, but in the spirit of being resourceful you can use anything you have to hand, as long as it’s fairly thick, so embroidery floss, DK cotton or a fine yarn would all work too!
Most importantly don’t worry if it’s not perfect! This is not about perfection, this is about revelling in the uniqueness of imperfection, and celebrating creativity and resourcefulness.