Create Sashiko Bead Embroidery with the Running Stitch

Sashiko hand embroidery offers the ultimate Zen hand-sewing experience. From the needle’s rhythmic rocking as you make the running stitch to the calming traditional white-on-blue color scheme, sashiko is the hand stitching equivalent of meditating while walking a labyrinth.

I could do sashiko handwork forever. But let’s say you wanted to add a little wasabi to your Japanese embroidery. Kick it up a notch? Then, you might want to combine sashiko hand embroidery patterns with bugle beads, adding sparkle and texture to your work.

traditional japanese sashiko hand stitching
traditional japanese sashiko hand stitching with beads
Top: Traditional Japanese sashiko hand embroidery stitches. Above: The same embroidery pattern, done with bugle beads. Artwork and images by Nancy Eha.

Creative embroidery expert and “Bead Queen” Nancy Eha has taught this method for years. She knows all the tricks to making bead embroidery patterns in the sashiko style using bugle beads. Here are three of her top tips:

1. Successful sashiko stitching depends on evenly spaced running stitches, with slightly longer stitches on the right side (top) of the fabric than the ones below. Therefore, you need to leave a space between the bugle beads on the right side of the fabric ½ to 1/3 of the length of the bugle bead. After a few stitches, stand back and look at your work; if the hand stitches look like one continuous line, remove the beads and re-stitch using a longer space between.

2. You will need to vary the space between the beads in some places, especially at corners and where several beads radiate outward from a point on the pattern. You don’t want the beads to touch each other.

3. Intersections of the designs need to be left open to stay true to the sashiko style. Bugle beads should not cross the intersections of lines on the pattern.

By learning to combine beading with hand embroidery stitches, you can add interest to your fiber art, create embellishments, and make 3-D motifs.

hand sewing with beads dragonfly eha
Detail of the 3-D dragonfly and sashiko stitching on the Japanese scroll you will create with Nancy Eha.

Here’s an opportunity for you to augment your beading and hand embroidery skills at the same time: Nancy is offering an online course, Japanese Scroll with Beaded Dragonfly and Sashiko Beading. Through videos, images, patterns, easy-to-follow instructions, and Q&A, Nancy will show you and your classmates how to create a three-dimensional dragonfly and incorporate it into a beautiful fabric scroll.

Learn more about Nancy Eha’s Japanese Scroll with Beaded Dragonfly and Sashiko Beading online course, available for a limited time.

P.S. Have you hand embroidered with beads? Share your tips below.

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