The Origin Of Sashiko Stitching

Sashiko stitching is a traditional Japanese embroidery technique with a rich history that dates back centuries. Originally, it started in Japan during the so-called Edo period from 1603 to 1868. Firstly, the Sashiko technique was used by farmers and fishermen as a simple and cheap method to repair and reinforce their clothing. This to extend its lifetime, but also to layer old(er) pieces to stay warm during colder periods. Especially in the North of Japan. In this case, old fabrics were used as a patchwork as most people were quite poor. Performing the Sashiko technique was mostly done by women during Winter time.

Next to clothing, Sashiko was also used for repairing textiles in general. For example, as bedding and other household items that were used daily.

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The Meaning Of Sashiko

Sashiko means little stab. A stitching technique that is done stitch for stitch. One for one to create (horizontal) lines. Originally, the stitching wasn’t bigger than a grain of rice. And it still isn’t most of the time. The most authentic thread color to use is white on deep indigo fabrics for a contrasting effect. These fabrics, first hemp and later cotton, were dyed with natural indigo from the Indigofera Tinctoria plant. The same is used to color the threads to weave a denim fabric for pairs of blue jeans. This indigo color was chosen as it was one of the few colors that were allowed to wear as a lower class.

sashiko

sashiko

The Original Patterns

Each Sashiko stitch is done with a small and straight line. In the end, the stitches will form a pattern. This can be any creative form, but in the beginning, they were based on geometric patterns and motifs. Most of the time inspired by nature, such as waves, hemp leaves, and geometric grids. Other motifs that were used frequently are Hishi-moyō (diamonds), Uroko (fish scales), Kōshi (checks), and Toridasuki (interlaced circles of two birds) to name a few.

Overall, Sashiko designs are simple line representations and can be divided into three categories: the natural world (plants, animals, the elements), ideas (hope, health, prosperity, fortune, longevity), and the celestial world (blessings).

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sashiko

sashiko

The Use Of Sashiko Nowadays

Nowadays, Sashiko is part of the Japanese culture and embodies the main principles that are linked to this authentic stitching technique: mindfulness and sustainability. Mindfulness as it takes time to achieve your result. And it is sustainable as you can give your beloved item are longer or second life. On top of that, the stitching technique is also used these days as a decorative method in fashion, accessories, and home decor in general.

Craftspeople On Instagram

Today, Sashiko is practiced and admired by many all around the world. There’s a huge community behind Sashiko nowadays. It’s a lifestyle for many people who embrace this old technique to create the most beautiful and unique styles. Whether it’s to repair worn-out jeans, a fine blue-collar French worker jacket, or a piece of (indigo) decoration for your wall.

On Instagram, some fine craftspeople are using the Sashiko stitching technique to create unique pieces of denim and indigo art.

Below are 10 skilled and experienced people using this authentic technique. There are way more of course, but this list is a good starting point. Follow them to get inspired!

The 10 Sashiko craftspeople:

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sashiko

Sashiko Stitched Levi’s Trucker Type 3 Denim Jacket

In this article, an original Levi’s jeans jacket was decorated by yours truly many years ago. A denim jacket that was originally introduced as the 557XX in 1962. It is also nicknamed the ‘Type 3’ because it was the official third denim jacket style by the American denim brand. A follow-up on the 506XX (Type 1) and the 507XX (Type 2) jacket styles. The 557XX could be identified by its yellow thread stitching, pointed flaps, and v-stitched pleats on the front.

Five years after its launch, in 1967, the lot number of the jacket was changed to 70505-0217. The 70 refers to the jacket. The 505 to the model number, while the 02 refers that the jacket is made with a pre-shrunk denim fabric, and lastly, the 17 to it’s dark color.

The lot number of the jacket probably changed as it would match better with the new jeans style that was introduced the same year. The now legendary 505 model. A jeans style with a zipper fly and slightly tapered legs. The 557XX / 70505 denim jackets were produced with a ‘Big ERed Tab until 1971. After 1971, it was followed up with a ‘small e’ tab. This popular denim jacket design is one of the most copied denim jacket styles ever.

The jacket shown in the article is the 70505. American-made and branded on the back of the buttons with digit 526.

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sashiko

40 Hours Of Stitching

In total, I spent around 40 hours to Sashiko stitch the entire jacket on the front and the back. The sleeves feature tiger patches and on the back, there’s a big red circle. This symbolizes the sun from the Japanese flag. It is known as the Hinomaru in Japanese. Meaning ‘circle of the sun’. The red sun was painted by hand. For the thread, I picked three diffrent color versions. A classic white, blue thread and a special one from Japan. The special version is colored with different tones of indigo.

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sashiko

Inspirational Denim Lectures

The outcome of the jacket is a showpiece that I use for my denim lectures. This to inform and to inspire people with denim power! In case you want to know more about these educational lectures, just shoot me an e-mail at: wouter@long-john.nl.

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sashiko

Upcycled Denim Jacket

This special Levi’s customized denim jacket is part of my archive. A good example how you can easily upcycle your denim jacket, or jeans. Highly recommended to experience it yourself!

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Written by Wouter Munnichs
I'm the founder of Long John. Next to running this daily magazine, I'm working as a freelance denim specialist for the industry. Titled as 'Denim Influencer 2020' by Rivet 50. Celebrated my 10th anniversary with Long John in 2021.