Last Tuesday at our staff’s weekly show & tell circle, our newest colleague, Stitch magazine Assistant Editor Abby Kaufman, showed us a small quilt she’s working on. We were all very impressed with the project, especially as she is quilting it by hand.
It takes more time to hand quilt wall hangings or bed quilts, but the stitching adds to the handcrafted appearance. Even a little decorative stitching does the trick.
Sashiko stitching is a Japanese quilting technique using a heavy thread and evenly spaced, slightly modified running stitches to form decorative geometric patterns. It’s easy to do, but there are a few tricks of the trade.
Here are some tips from designer Rachel Houser, whose sashiko work was featured in the Spring 2012 issue of Stitch magazine.
- Some quilt and needlework stores stock heavy thread and needles specifically made for sashiko, but you can also use a large embroidery needle with pearl cotton thread.
- On the right side of the work, aim for stitches that are longer than the gaps between them (in other words, the stitches on the wrong side of the work will be shorter than those on the right side). Keep your stitch length consistent.
- Where pattern lines cross, avoid letting the stitches cross or meet each other–there should instead be a gap at the pattern intersection. Before starting on your actual project, you may want to sew a sample of the stitching pattern to determine how many stitches you can comfortably fit in each line to prevent crossed stitches, then maintain this number consistently throughout the work.
- For straight-line stitching patterns, you can work faster by loading several stitches onto the needle using a rocking motion, again being sure to keep the stitch length consistent.
- When stitching diagonal lines, first sew all lines angled in one direction. (You can return in the opposite direction of travel on parallel lines.) Next, sew all lines on the opposite diagonal (lines that are at a 45-degree angle to those already stitched) in the same way. Because woven fabrics stretch on the diagonal (bias), diagonal lines are more difficult to stitch. After every few stitches, pause to ease the stitches by pushing the fabric with your thumbnail away from the direction of travel, dragging your thumb right over the stitches just completed. After finishing a line, gently pull the fabric to ease any tension in the stitches. When stitching lines with sharp turns, be extra careful to ease the stitches this way to prevent puckering.
- To hide knots, leave a tail when starting and ending a thread, then sew the tail in over the pattern stitches. However, knots are visible on the wrong side of some traditional Japanese sashiko work, and knotting thread ends may be an easier approach for projects that hide the wrong side of the work.
Stitch magazine features a wide range of sewing projects, from garments and accessories to home decor to quilted wall hanging patterns like the one shown here. I always find several projects I want to make. Find inspiration for your next project when you check out past issues of Stitch magazine.
P.S. Do you hand quilt? Why or why not? Leave your comment below.