In the Winter, Japanese women and girls used to gather around the hearth and practice their needlework. Their running stitches came to be known as Sashiko, meaning "little stabs", and were said to resemble snow on the ground.
Being an accomplished seamstress was greatly admired, and since most outdoor chores were put on hold because of the weather, Winter was the perfect time to catch up on handwork and improve their skills.
During the Edo era in Japan, commoners were banned from wearing brightly colored clothing and large patterns. Commoners were allowed to use indigo, so they wore hand woven and hand dyed indigo cloth embroidered and strengthened with sashiko stitches, stitched in small-scale patterns.
Fabric was revered in Japan and was even used as currency. Sashiko was commonly used in Futons, traditional sleeping mats, as well as garments, it was used to make clothing warmer and to strengthen cloth-- a thrifty measure to extend the life of fabric which was very valuable. But over the years, these practical stitches became more intricate, patterns emerged and were passed down from mother to daughter.
Here's a beautiful Sashiko piece I saw this year at the International Quilt Festival in Houston. (I tried to photograph all the nameplates that went with the quilts, but I must have missed this one. If you know who the maker is, please let me know!) I love the contemporary take on this beautiful style.
We learned all about Sashiko in Meander earlier this year, and we've been having fun incorporating these lovely stitches into some of our work!
I'd love to hear from you-- what are you sewing this Winter? Have you ever tried your hand at Sashiko? Leave a comment below.