Sashiko is traditional Japanese embroidery. It is a running stitch done with white thread on indigo fabric. Originally it was done by farmers and fishermen to mend and reinforce clothing, but today it is a delicate surface embellishment on quilts, bags, mats and garments. (Sashiko pillow, below right, by Shirley Davies)
Susan Grant and her sister Shirley Davies became aware of sashiko when Shirley purchased a book by Kitty Pippen called Quilting with Japanese Fabrics. Shirley, a quilter, was interested in the beautiful Japanese fabrics and in learning how to do sashiko. Susan, a rug hooker, was intrigued by the geometric designs used by Kitty. Their collaboration is shown, left.
In 2015, they decided to do a piece together, combining rug hooking, quilting and sashiko. They chose Kitty Pippen’s design of a all hanging called “Iris”. Step one involved getting permission from the designer to adapt it; this was given by Sylvia Pippen, her daughter. The next step was getting the picture of the original enlarged and traced on linen.
Susan started by doing the rug hooking portion She developed an eight value swatch of Primary Fusion #23 of -2, -1, 0 and values 1 to 5. For the background she used Multiple Fusion Spots #22 cutting and hooking the strips in sequence. When she was finished she handed the work over to her sister to do her parts.
For the quilting, Shirley layered the pale blue 100% cotton pieces on top of white cotton, as batting was too thick to use, and hand quilted a diagonal pattern; then, using a template, she cut the pieces to fit and inserted them on the linen using a needle turn method of applique.
For the sashiko, she selected 3 patterns to fit the theme: grasses, bamboo and a bellflower placed amid diagonal lines. Having traced the patterns on a 55/45 linen-cotton indigo fabric, she embroidered the designs with white 100% sashiko cotton thread. She backed the pieces with black cotton and using a template, cut them to fit and inserted them into the wall hanging using the same needle turn method.
The wall hanging now alternates between Susan’s and Shirley’s homes.
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Samples of Shirley’s Sashiko work.
Article first appeared in the Summer 2016 OHCG newsletter/magazine.
(Ed note: I was fortunate to see Susan and Shirley’s presentation at Georgetown/GRHG. It was fascinating and the artwork decidedly beautiful)