The Ultimate Kogin collection

Briscoe, Susan

Projects and patterns for counted sashiko embroidery.
Pines Hill, Exeter, F&W Media International, 2019
ISBN: 978 1 4463 0732 8
128 pages

Life is just too short to try out all the different types of embroidery which are out there and I really wish I had the time to become competent in sashiko and kogin. I’d not really thought much about the differences between the two until two new books, one on each technique, were acquired recently by Auckland Libraries, but different they are. Follow the link below for an excellent, easily understood description of each.

After a brief introduction which explains Susan Briscoe’s interest in and understanding of kogin, she outlines the regional histories of the technique and then describes its revival in the middle of last century and the Japanese people and institutions who were involved with that. She also lists the books which have contributed to its increasing popularity. The original materials used are still not easy to come by, even in Japan, so her inclusion of several ideas for substitutions is really helpful. Evenweave fabric is a must and threads chosen must cover the fabric well so that there are no gaps between the rows.

Basic techniques are clearly described, starting with how to work from charts – essential to know if you are going to give kogin a go. There is even a boxed paragraph on how to correct mistakes, which, in my case, could prove quite useful! There is a page on how to design kogin (you will need graph paper), but you really won’t have to do this unless you are keen, as about half of the book consists of a library of graphed patterns, so you can jump straight into the technique. I would recommend though, that you jump carefully as some of the patterns do look quite complex. Each page of patterns is printed in one colour and I do find the ones done in red make my eyes (or brain?) a bit overwhelmed. At the beginning of the pattern library there is a list of pattern names and their symbolism and which I found really interesting.

Preceding the pattern library are several projects, including for the buttons and brooches which illustrate the attractive cover. Most of the projects are for home décor items and bags, along with some ideas for greetings cards, which would be nice, relatively simple things to start with. Materials needed to make each item are listed and the instructions for making them up seem straightforward and easy to follow.

This is a really nicely produced book, with a clear typeface, lovely photos and helpful hints. The instructions appear clear and logical. If counted work is something which you enjoy, or even if it isn’t, try kogin, or at least, borrow this book from Auckland Public Libraries. It’s a bit different. I tried to find out the correct way to pronounce ‘kogin’. I am still unsure as checking on the internet didn’t really help. It was pronounced with both a soft ‘g’ and a hard ‘g’, so go with whatever you prefer.

Erica Marsden