Sashiko Embroidery Experience from Iwate Prefecture

Sashiko - reviving communities through Japanese embroidery

Sashiko Embroidery Experience from Iwate Prefecture

Sashiko is a form of Japanese embroidery that involves stitching and quilting fabric.

Born out of the spirit of cherishing things, it is used to both decorate and reinforce clothing to increase its durability and longevity.

Sashiko originated during the Edo period (1603 - 1867 CE) when it was used out of a practical need to create and strengthen clothing that could be worn to protect against the cold. Due to the inexpensiveness of white cotton thread and the abundance of indigo-dyed fabric in Japan at the time, sashiko emerged with its distinct white-and-blue colourway, which it is associated with until this day.

Sachiko embroidery uses simple running stitches which create small pockets of air in between two pieces of fabric. These pockets work as effective insulation against the cold.

With the white thread noticeably standing out against the blue fabric, it can also be used to create beautiful stitching patterns for purely decorative purposes.

Some common sashiko patterns include cheques, stripes, diamonds (known as kogin-zashi) and fish scales.

Sashiko used in the recovery of the Tōhoku region

After the Great East Japan Earthquake and subsequent tsunami, which struck the Tōhoku region of northeastern Japan, including the prefectures of Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima, in 2011, locals have been working to revive the region through multiple regeneration efforts.

In the town of Ōtsuchi, Iwate Prefecture, many people lost their lives and over 9000 locals had to relocate to rescue shelters.

The Ōtsuchi Reconstruction Sashiko project was started by elderly women who couldn’t do the hard physical labour of removing rubble and by women who had lost their livelihoods as a result of the disaster. Though confined to the limited space of their shelters, with only needles, threads and cloth, they were able to make sashiko. The Otsuchi Sashiko brand has since emerged from the project. Its aim is to help the community rediscover joy and hope in life through needlework.

Browse Sashiko products and making kits on the Japan House Online Shop.