I discovered Sashiko embroidery more than 15 years ago. I bought and read a couple of books on the subject, which described methods for marking the designs on fabric, as well as the stitching technique, but I was never quite ready to actually try it. Over the years, I encountered an article or two on the subject, which I read with interest, but didn't pursue further.
When Needleworks Inc. opened their Danville store at Threads of Time in March 2010, I was delighted to discover that Threads of Time carried a line of stamped Sashiko pieces from Olympus, as well as the Olympus threads, needles, and thimbles.
I immediately purchased some of the pillow pieces, and worked the first one in the traditional white embroidery on indigo fabric, stitching through both layers of fabric. The six-pointed star/hexagon pattern is the "hemp leaf" motif. I'm not sure what the flowers are - but I don't think they're "sakura" (cherry blossom). I'll eventually make this into a pillow.
public side of work
back side of work
You can see in the second photo that I used knots, and wove in ends. There are methods of starting and ending threads (especially if stitching through two layers) which result in completely reversible work -- desirable if you are making a table runner, curtain, or some other item which might be viewed from both sides. For a pillow, I figured it didn't matter so much.
Next I'll stitch these dragonflies, also in white on indigo; you can see the stitching lines, but I'm afraid the label washed out from the flash. It doesn't have instructions on it, though, just an image of the design and the Olympus item number (240, if you're interested).
dragonflies pillow fabric
I have several pieces of blue & white yukata fabrics a dear friend sent from Japan, which I'll use as the backing, and perhaps to frame the embroidery. The finished pillows come out about 12.5-13", so some embiggening would not be amiss.
Japanese yukata (summer kimono) fabrics
When next I returned to the Danville shop, I purchased some more fabric pieces and several more colors of thread. I put an inventory of my Sashiko threads on my iPod, so I don't duplicate colors. I don't think I necessarily want to own all the colors available, but that's usually how it works out for me.
This summer I stitched a pair of Sashiko pillows for my daughter & son-in-law's new home. You may recognize the patterns. The color is "off" in each of these photos, in oddly inconsistent ways (both fabrics are actually the same color, and I used the same threads for both), but the right-hand pillow in the first photo is probably the closest, albeit a tad darker than reality.
For these pillows, I stitched through a single layer of fabric, so that I could use the other layer as the back of the pillow. I believe (from the markings on the fabric, which are in Japanese) that this was the intended method. I prefer the stitch-through-two-layers method, however: I like the look, and "heft" of the result, and it's the way Sashiko embroidery was done traditionally.
I have a few more printed pieces to work up, some in dark blue and some in other colors. When I've completed those, I expect to start working my own designs on blank fabric. I'm glad I finally got around to trying it!