Sashiko Stitching – Using Sashiko Mending To Repair Clothes

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Mending clothes is one of the mainstays of having a sustainable home. I always have a pile of clothes that demand mending, and love the whole visible mending trend. But today I am going to show you an ancient form of hand mending stitches called Sashiko stitching. This article and tutorial will show you how to Sashiko stitch. How to start the art of Japanese Sashiko embroidery and how to use this Japanese stitching technique to mend clothes. 

One of my favourite things about Sashiko sewing and the Sashiko technique of repairing clothes is that it utilises fabric scraps as part of the process. The whole history of Sashiko Japanese embroidery stems historically from Japanese peasants wishing to repair and reuse the textiles that they owned. They used a wide variety of both simple and intricate Sashiko stitch patterns to do their Sashiko mending. I am incredibly on board with these ancient Japanese sewing techniques and wonderfully decorative Boro Sashiko stitching patterns to mend my clothes. So are you ready to learn how to do Japanese embroidery? Well here is a Sashiko embroidery tutorial and how to do Sashiko mending.

Sashiko Stitching For Beginners – Mending Clothes Using Japanese Sashiko Embroidery

If you are thinking of learning the stitching technique and wanting to know how to start Sashiko stitch for beginners then you could go out to buy all the authentic tools, threads or even a full Japanese Sashiko stitching kit to do so. There are a host of Sashiko embroidery kits and Sashiko embroidery patterns for sale out there. However, if this is your first Sashiko project then before you make one stitch it may be more prudent to use what you probably already have in your sewing box. 

Equipment needed for sashiko sewing

What Is Needed For Japanese Stitching Sashiko Embroidery?

Sashiko Thread vs Embroidery Thread

Traditional Sashiko thread is quite a thick sturdy yarn. It is easily bought online. However, standard embroidery floss or embroidery thread makes a great Sashiko thread substitute. All you need to do is use all the strands at once instead of splitting the threads. Wool could also be used, however most wool yarn is a little too stretchy for Sashiko stitches.

Sashiko thread and Sashiko needles

Sashiko Needles

Authentic Sashiko needles are long and do not yield or bend. The reason for this is the the traditional Saskiko technique (Sashiko literally translates to ‘little stabs”) is to make several stitches at once with the needle through the mend, and so a strong needle is necessary to hold all this fabric. The eye of a Sashiko needle is also large to accomodate the thick thread. Finally, a traditional Sashiko needle is incredibly sharp.

However, you can find good substitutes in long embroidery needles. I found a long, very strong sharp embroidery needle with a large eye in my sewing box, and think it is perfect for Sashiko stitching.

Using The Correct Thimble

If you are thinking about doing a fair amount of Sashiko projects, then a Sashiko thimble may also be a good idea. Traditional thimbles are made from leather and are worn on the middle finger of the working hand. This finger sits behind the needle and helps push the needle through the multiple layers of cotton fabric when sewing. This can be quite hard if you are trying to mend thicker fabrics such as Sashiko stitching denim, so a thimble is definitely useful here.

My tip would be to practice your first stitch on a lighter and less dense fabric such as linen or a light cotton.

Sashiko Patterns

You can find a lot of Sashiko stitching patterns free online and in books. My own particular favourites are the Seven Treasures and Persimmon stitches, but it may be best to start with a simple cross stitch lines pattern when starting out.

Here is a Sashiko Stitching PDF of some of the most common patterns.

 When you have chosen your pattern, it may be worth using an air erase pen, heat erase pen or white transfer paper  to draw your chosen design onto your project before stitching. The length of stitches is up to you, however it is important to keep each stitch identical in length as possible. 

Once you have become a master of the technique, you may be able just to count stitches as you make your designs, but when starting out I found that drawing the designs onto the fabric first made for a more aesthetic finished project!

Finally, one of the other important things about Sashiko is ensuring that you use the most economical Sashiko stitching order to use the smallest amount of thread. This means that you may need to work up and down the project in horizontal columns before then working horizontally on the rows. It is all about being as frugal as possible!

A Mending Tutorial

I said earlier that when thinking about Sashiko patterns and projects for beginners then light cotton fabrics and a basic Sashiko pattern is best to start with. My Sashiko tutorial today shows how I mended and covered stains on my partner’s cotton shirt using a basic Sashiko cross running stitch.

Hole in shirt to be repaired by Sashiko

One of my other half’s favourite shirts had a stain and a small rip. So I decided to use Sashiko stitching to mend this tear. I have lots of fabric scraps, and among them I found this lovely piece of chambray which fits in well with the colour scheme of the shirt.

Chambray fabric scrap for the mending process

Firstly, I trimmed the hole and cleaned up the edges. Then I pressed all-around the scrap patch and pinned the resulting square as a backside fabric to the hole that I had created. The inner patch has a sufficient allowance around the edge of the hole.

 patch pinned into place

Next, I like to make a grid of dots using a ruler or template. You don’t need to do this, but I think it is best to do this when first starting. From this, I then add dots in my chosen pattern. In this case I chose lines.

Dot grid and lines for sewing

Now it is time to start stitching. Using thread and a large needle, sew along the lines. The real Sashiko method is to push through all the line of fabric onto the needle, then use the thimble to push the needle easily through all the fabric at once. 

I finished my horizontal lines and made sure that the fabric remained flat by pulling it into shape after each line of stitching.

Horizontal stitch lines

Next, I took another piece of thread, and made vertical stitches across the lines I had already made, turning the small lines into crosses.

Finished Sashiko stitching project

It is finished! All that remains is to give the mend a good press. I hope you agree, the mend is stylish and hopefully will ensure that the shirt will be worn for many more years to come. 

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Have You Enjoyed This Post On How To Repair Clothes?

I have loads of sustainable upcycling, sewing and craft tutorial ideas and projects on my site.

Want to discover how sustainable the fabric is in your own clothes? Check my post out.

Want another visible mending tutorial? Visit my post on using a Speedweve loom to get some advice.

And see other ways to make your clothes last longer.

Do you think that you will be using this Sashiko technique? I love to see your projects. Comment below, or why not find me on social media?

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3 Replies to “Sashiko Stitching – Using Sashiko Mending To Repair Clothes”

  1. Anne says:

    I love the way the Japanese favour visible mending and make it into a feature. Sewing is really not my forte but I think you’ve made an excellent job and it was so interesting to learn about this art.

    Reply
  2. Stephanie BWL says:

    That looks great – and like you I always seem to have a list of clothes to mend, but I’d much rather do that than get rid of them! Thanks for sharing with #PoCoLo

    Reply

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