Book Review – Sashiko

Clay, Jill
Sashiko: 20 projects using traditional Japanese stitching.

Lewes, East Sussex,
Guild of Master Craftsmen Publications, 2019
ISBN: 978 1 78494 487 2
136 pages

This is a beautifully designed book. As soon as I opened it, I found it appealing. The font is attractive, the layout is very good and the illustrations are seductive, especially if you like the indigo blue fabric and white thread in which sashiko is traditionally worked. Right from the contents page, this book drew me in.

I discovered in the introduction, that the ‘i’ in sashiko is almost silent and that sashiko means ‘little stabs’. Jill Clay gives an oversight of the origins of this Japanese style of embroidery, as far as it is known. One of the older designs originated in Persia (Iran). Who knew? Jill ends her introduction by expressing her view that she prefers to think of sashiko rules as guidelines and urges us not to take them too seriously. Her advice is to relax and enjoy the process. That’s so encouraging.

The first section covers tools and materials with the proviso that all we really need is a needle, some fabric and thread. There is guidance on various items which may be useful for transferring patterns onto fabric and advice on needles and threads, with options suggested to replace the Japanese materials, which may be difficult to source for those of us who live outside the country. Other items which may be useful are also listed, but there’s not a vast array needed. There follow a few pages on techniques which Jill assures us are quite simple. There is a stitch dictionary – very small – and basic instructions for making up some of the projects. More detailed instructions are given with each project.

The Projects! I just love them all. There are greetings cards, brooches, cushions, a pincushion, the most wonderful project bag, table linen, a scarf, a wrap-around apron and more. They are all worked on that beautiful, deep indigo blue with white, red and variegated threads – well maybe not all of them. If you want to find the exceptions, I recommend that you borrow the book from the Auckland Libraries. Each project has a list of materials needed and what look like very clear instructions, all well illustrated. There are useful tips throughout.

The book finishes with a pattern library and oh, what fascinating, appealing patterns they are. Many are geometric, some have curved lines and yet others are traditional and not so traditional motifs. Most are illustrated using the traditional colours of white on indigo but there are also some given in colour. There must be something there to tempt the most reluctant needle worker. Jill has even included blank graphs with varying grids which can be photocopied in case you get carried away and want to design your own sashiko patterns.

I hope a copy of this book is bought for our library. I think it would be well used!
Erica Marsden