Tips for Decorating Your Wall Quilts with Sashiko

7 Oct 2013
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.

quilted wall hanging by stephanie berganini
Fluttering Leaves wall hanging with sashiko-style stitching
from the Fall 2013 issue of Stitch magazine,
by Stephanie Berganini.

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.

I'm so pleased to announce you can now subscribe to Stitch!

P.S. Do you hand quilt? Why or why not? Leave your comment below.

 


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Comments

Carolijn70 wrote
on 8 Oct 2013 11:25 AM

Quilting by hand was literally a pain.  The needle poked through the leather guard so I switched to a metal thimble which was difficult.  I used a small needle but still had a problem getting through the seams.  I might try again on a whole cloth quilt with better quality material and batting. :)

Carolijn70 wrote
on 8 Oct 2013 11:26 AM

Quilting by hand was literally a pain.  The needle poked through the leather guard so I switched to a metal thimble which was difficult.  I used a small needle but still had a problem getting through the seams.  I might try again on a whole cloth quilt with better quality material and batting. :)

Sarahbeader wrote
on 8 Oct 2013 7:36 PM

I would like to quilt by hand someday, but right now I need surgery for carpal tunnel in both hands. I also have pretty bad arthritis, so I don't know how well I'll be able to do it. But machine quilting is a bit tough on the hands, too, so why not try it by hand?

Sarahbeader wrote
on 8 Oct 2013 8:01 PM

I would like to quilt by hand someday, but right now I need surgery for carpal tunnel in both hands. I also have pretty bad arthritis, so I don't know how well I'll be able to do it. But machine quilting is a bit tough on the hands, too, so why not try it by hand?

dianek39 wrote
on 9 Oct 2013 5:57 AM

I hand quilt all of the time.  Lately I have been working on a project that is all had stitched.  It is a crazy patchwork of recycled denim with patches of fabrics that I have done some surface design on stitched in a boro or kantha style.  I am not doing the quilt sandwich and will leave the back of the top exposed.  I plan to use it as a bead covering.  All of the hand stitching is very meditative.  The sections are small enough that I can take the project with me at waiting rooms and the like.  I am trying to be very improvisational with this project and I think it will be a journal piece.  I am almost done with the whole thing.

dianek39 wrote
on 9 Oct 2013 5:57 AM

I hand quilt all of the time.  Lately I have been working on a project that is all had stitched.  It is a crazy patchwork of recycled denim with patches of fabrics that I have done some surface design on stitched in a boro or kantha style.  I am not doing the quilt sandwich and will leave the back of the top exposed.  I plan to use it as a bead covering.  All of the hand stitching is very meditative.  The sections are small enough that I can take the project with me at waiting rooms and the like.  I am trying to be very improvisational with this project and I think it will be a journal piece.  I am almost done with the whole thing.

dianek39 wrote
on 9 Oct 2013 6:02 AM

I love hand stitching.  I find the stitching very meditative and I try to always have a project that I can take with me.  I find the stitching a great way to wait.  I am currently working on a bed covering using recycled denim and fabrics that I have done surface designs on stitched in a boro or kantha style.  There is a lot of meditation going on there.

Juliest wrote
on 12 Oct 2013 6:57 PM

I love hand quilting.  It is meditative like knitting.  I use a metal thimble. I load several stitches at a time on the needle before pulling through. I do many projects by hand that could be done on the machine because I like the experience of hand stitching.  

Julie in San Diego

on 13 Oct 2013 7:44 PM

I love hand quilting.  It is calming and mostly stress free!   I recently made a baby quilt for my great nephew, featuring a bare branched tree with birds, leaves etc.  I had pieced a two part background and quilted it then appliqued the tree and birds on it.  So satisfying to have done it all by hand!